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    Richard Kilpatrick
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    MY FIRST JAGUAR

    Should the fact that it’s a V12 in need of work put Richard off? #1992 #Jaguar-XJS-V12 / #Jaguar-XJS / #Jaguar

    OWNED SINCE August 2015
    TOTAL MILEAGE 91,038
    MILEAGE SINCE PURCHASE 114 on a trailer
    COSTS SO FAR £250 retrieval

    Some of the most exciting, terrifying words for a car enthusiast are ‘I know where there’s a…’ – invariably leading to either disappointment or unplanned financial woe. When admiring a newly-acquired XJS on a car forum, a comment about never having owned a Jaguar elicited those very words, followed by a figure that frankly, seemed too good to be true. Needless to say, the MG F was aimed down the A14 and M11 to a barn (yes, really) in Essex, where a sickly XJS V12 had been put to rest following head gasket failure.

    Most normal people would, I suspect, very sensibly run away from such a prospect. I have never replaced a head gasket or worked on a Jaguar, but there’s a compelling argument for taking this on. Under the almost organic network of pipes, wires and linkages lies not only a classic British engine, but reputedly an extremely tough one. A price was agreed, and after 150-odd cars, first-time Jaguar ownership was checked off the list.

    Systematic, thorough documentation and patience in getting to the cylinder heads, and then the gaskets should therefore result in a relatively easy but time consuming project. I can hear your mocking laughter now, and yes, it’s justified. Having enlisted the help of a friend with a Land Rover Discovery and a substantial Brian James trailer, the XJS was brought up to Leicestershire at a sedate pace, as balancing the weight of the big coupé proved difficult.


    A six-wheel trailer would have made much more sense, or the option originally considered of hiring a 7.5-tonne Beavertail transporter. The costs are not significantly different, particularly when the 12-hour day is taken into account. Once safely home, a quick wash and glance over the car, then it was carefully moved into the garage for closer inspection. The engine, despite he failed gasket, sounds healthy with good oil pressure. The transmission on this model is the three-speed #GM400 , a gearbox which will probably outlast cockroaches after a nuclear war. The interior is good for a 91,000-mile car, and the electrics seem to work. So far, so good. With all the best advice and intentions, the bodywork looked pretty good too, with only minor rust to the scuttle to hint at the typical inner wing maladies, good subframe mounts and inner wings and seemingly good rear flanks. As always, that first shine of acquisition did not last long, as it’s clear some poor repairs have taken place and many XJS rot spots are living up to their reputation. A badly painted bonnet and quad lights hint at past accidents, too.

    However, I’m not discouraged. This is a long-term project, akin to acquiring a neglected E-type in the 1980s, and it will be seen through to completion. What chills the blood, however, is the idea that this car was advertised for £6500 just two years ago, and looked the part. To have spent that, and to discover the rust and then suffer significant engine failure, would be a nightmare for any owner.

    Two years ago, this car was advertised for £6500, and it looked in pretty good condition.
    The bonnet and lights have been poorly repainted, hinting at underlying accident damage.
    Has anyone actually sat in the back? It doesn’t look like it.

    This is what all the fuss is about. There’s a head gasket that needs replacing somewhere in this lot.
    The interior is in very good condition, and all the gadgets appear to work.
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    Richard Kilpatrick
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