J258RFJ: an expensive update

I just thought I’d share an update on all the work the Jag has had in recent months. I’d booked for it to come off the road at the start of April to have all of its bushes replaced as there was some creaking and groaning over bumps and the car wasn’t driving quite as we as it should. But just like when a dog knows its going to the vets and starts playing up, the day before the Jag was due to go into the workshop it started misfiring. As it turned out later the head gasket had blown (a pattern part that wasn’t as good as it needed to be).

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The blown head gasket

I had been hoping to avoid any engine work until passing the 200,000 mile barrier but obviously this development blew any chance of that and simultaneously increased the amount of time the car would be spending in the workshop. The head went away to be skimmed, as did the exhaust manifold, and the other work continued in the meantime. There was a small oil leak to take care of, and the front brake pads were also replaced, and of course all of those bushes needed to be replaced. This all adds up to quite an expensive bill reaching easily into four figures, but all of the work was necessary and none of it is altogether unusual for a car of this age and mileage. With a few parts supplier problems and other issues it was more than a month and a half before J258 was back on the road and I was certainly impatient to have it back by that time.

Getting the car back on the road was very much a mood lifter and though I was being gentle on the old girl it was easy to see just how much a difference all of that work had made. One thing that I’ve found surprises people is just how responsive an XJS is to being hustled down a B-road. They’re certainly not the smallest or lightest cars (or sportiest, for that matter), but they are relatively narrow and they handle well. My XJS is now feeling much tighter with those new bushes really making their presence known.

This engine work also provided an interesting experiment in regards to the fuel economy. I’ve never expected an XJS to be frugal, but this particular car always seemed to have poorer economy than other 4.0 cars (mine was getting between 9-10mpg on average and others seem to reliably get into the low 20s). In the 1,500 miles I covered after all of this work 15mpg was achieved without too much trouble, which is nice for added range if nothing else. It also makes me curious to see what the actual fuel economy of the 6.5l XJ-S is…..and there is only one person to blame with what has become a new obsession in tracking that sort of thing.

There are no other plans for major overhauls in the next few months so hopefully any further updates will just include lots of driving, and maybe even cracking that 200,000 mile barrier too.

1992 Jaguar XJS 4.0

People who know me (or follow me on Twitter) probably know that I like an XJS more than most people do, and this is one of the cars that helped me to realise that. I’ve owned this particular XJS since September 2017,  after buying it at auction. I spotted the car among the listings of an ECCA auction and one of the main reasons that it caught my eye was because it had a black interior, which is pretty rare for one of these. Before I bought the car I was convinced that I was going to swap out the auto gearbox for a manual one as I’d never kept an auto of my own and didn’t find them involving enough, but after living with it for a while I realised its quite well suited to an XJS (at least in standard form).

Another of the big selling points for this particular car was that it was previously owned by a Jaguar club judge and had also just been featured in ‘Jaguar World’ magazine for seven months, which resulted in a rather healthy amount of invoices and a car that had been treated very well and cherished. I’ll happily admit that I love going through paperwork for cars at auctions, as you really do never know what you will find, and it tells you a lot about a car’s own personal story. This car came with the magazines that it was featured in and much more to display that it has quite a rich history.

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I bought the car for just under £3,500, which I think is something of a bargain for a well kept XJS with plenty of paperwork, even if it did have over 180,000 miles on the clock at the time. After that point I used it as a daily driver with no real issues until the MOT, which it failed on a few small items. The car was then sat up for a few months until I couldn’t bear looking at it sat forlornly in the corner of the yard.  The work needed to pass the MOT wasn’t major, and mainly related to the diff seeping oil.

On paper a straight six, auto XJS wouldn’t usually be something that really appeal to me, but this car has plenty of character and does everything I ask of it with minimal fuss. The 4.0 doesn’t have masses of power, but with the gearbox in sports mode it does allow you to wring its neck a little and explore the upper reaches of the rev range, and also allows the Jag to be a reasonably fast car that is plenty of fun down a country lane. The suspension is very compliant and never uncomfortable or harsh (even when it bottoms out over a big bump) and the tall tyres help to provide a real GT quality that most modern cars now miss. It is one of those cars that you could easily spend all day driving and feel no worse for it. The handling is relaxed and enjoyable and that long bonnet stretches out in front of you in a rather lovely way. The XJS is still narrow enough that you don’t have to worry on country lanes, either, and that is one of the things I love about it. If there is a bug bear that I do have with the straight six Jag engine it is that it really isn’t all that economical. That isn’t something that usually bothers me but the Vantage is more economical and a V12 XJS wouldn’t be too much worse to run, and that is always a temptation.

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As a final note I will include that after a few spots of oil were found repeatedly and growing bored of listening to creaking bushes means that the Jag now does have a short list of jobs to be completed, so I will update with a final cost in a later instalment. On the list currently is a full service, a lot of new bushes front and rear as they are quite perished (and I’m considering sports anti-roll bars), a new oil pressure switch, front brake pads and also sealing the bottom of the dipstick. I’m also considering a new set of tyres which may wait for a later date at the moment.

 

New Arrival – 1986 Rover 3500 Vitesse 4.6l

Last week my pre-Christmas purchase finally arrived, though it was only held up due to the festivities and luckily the previous owner was as relaxed about it as I was. I’d been had forewarned by the owner that he hadn’t been able to get it running a week before I was due to collect (and pay for) it, though he had been using it previously so I was expecting it when the day finally came (even if my bid had been for a running and driving car), and he was a nice chap to deal with. Sadly no real paperwork came with the car which is a shame especially since it’s modified and I feel it has something of a story to tell – so if anyone knows this car or anything about it please don’t hesitate to drop me a message. I’m going to be digging into more about the engine as it is one of the reasons I bought the car and you don’t see 4.6 litre Rovers all that often. The car was also a rare twin plenum car originally apparently (one of which has been on my list to purchase for a while), though obviously that is something of a moot point now as the original engine is long gone. It’s a little sad that the car didn’t remain a twin plenum car, but at the same time it has ended up as something interesting and thats good enough for me.

The car was described as being solid but the paint being thin in places, and thats accurate though I’ll admit I was hoping for it not to be quite so thin on hard edges that you can see through it, and dull everywhere else. I have little doubt that a good polish will help it look a whole lot better and the other paintwork can be done in time, though it isn’t too much of a worry as this car will be used and not a garage queen. The door cards aren’t fitted and there is no headlining, so those will be on the shortlist to complete to make the car useable, and it could also use a good deep clean inside and out, along with an inspection, service and whatever else we find along the way that needs fixing.

We got around to getting it running a couple of days after the car arrived and I walked into the workshop just in time to see it spitting flames from the exhaust (after hearing the racket from outside). It isn’t the greatest sign for the engine but it did entertain me and as it was the first time I saw the car running I felt it was something of an introduction to what will surely be a big character among our cars. I caught the flames on video and you can see them below along with a few extra images from the original listing and a few I have taken since it arrived.

Specs:

  • 1986 Rover Vitesse Twin Plenum
  • 4.6 litre Serpentine engine
  • T5 gearbox
  • Revolution RFXs
  • Rimmer’s stainless steel exhaust and manifolds
  • Gaz adjustable shocks