1989 Jaguar XJS Coupe

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1989 Jaguar XJS


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Well, here's the back story on how we got here..I blame my Dad.  He taught me to appreciate all things mechanical:  Airplanes, cars, guns, trucks, big civil engineering projects, you name it.  In 1980, I was 13 and relatively content with fooling with my Honda 90cc powered 4-speed go-kart and watching him work on his 428 powered 66 F100 (which I now own and will one day restore,) when out of the blue he came home and announced that he was looking at an old Maserati.  The Maserati didn't work out, but Pet Cat, a 71 Series III 2+2 E-type did.  He said he'd wanted a Jag ever since the days of his MG TD (a '53 I think?).  To make a long story longer, over the next two and a half years, the E-type underwent a complete restoration.  Down to the last nut and bolt.  With lots of tasteful chrome, anodizing, improved cooling, mechanical guages, and cool aluminum parts fabbed in his machine shop.  It was completed sometime in '82, and was featured a couple of times in EJag magazine.  (If you are familiar with EJag you have been at the Jaguar game awhile..)  The car is still spectacular, although on the rare occasions when it is shown the concours judges beat it up.  They don't appreciate a dressed up V-12 as a work of art.  They just see it as "non-original.."  Oh well, the car wasn't built for them anyway.  During the first few years, we attended lots of shows, including Western States '84.  Which is when I first got to drive the E-type.  I think I took about 10 years off of Dad's lifespan.  Or at least added a few more gray hairs.  I always had a thing for XJS's and would wander over and admire them at the shows.  I still think they are a truly classic design.

Fast forward to July 2005.  I am mindin' my own bidness, glancing thru the car ads in the Sunday paper (just in case) and I spot an 86 XJS for something like $3800.  I suddenly recall that I always wanted one.  And I am surprised at how cheap they are.  "Honey, how about a nice Jag to drive around in?  It can be 'your car'.. " (fingers crossed under the table..)  Rene' thinks this sounds great!  I poke around on-line and find something even better:  A red 1989 with 39K miles on it.  Wow!  I call my Dad for some fatherly encouragement.  He has two phrases, neither very encouraging:  Very Complicated Car (VCC) and Engine Fires.  He finally concedes that they are a gorgeous car and I should really have one.  Rene' and I drive out to Laveen, Arizona, to take a look.  In a nutshell, it appears to be a 100% original car, right down to the belts and hoses.  Except for the lower radiator hose, which failed awhile back and was spendy to replace (no overheat resulted, apparently).  Which is why the guy wants to sell it:  He knows it needs major maintenance, can't really afford it, and knows it is worth more running than not.  We haggle around a bit and settle on $3000.  At that price I am confident I can overcome the VCC and flames.  The story is that the car was originally owned by the owners of Chris Craft boats.  Ordered "special".  The only thing I have to substantiate this is that the CarFax shows it originally lived in Wisconsin and was driven very little.  Probably just a story but fun to think about.  It appears to have some but not all of the "Rouge" trim package.  The mileage checks out based on the annual inspections.  We bring it home and I start figuring out where to start.  With a bit of luck I stumble across Jag-Lovers.org and Kirby Palm's book.  What a great find!  I was commuting between Phoenix and NY every week, lots of time for reading on the plane.  Just learning how to re-build my fuel lines saved me $300 right off the bat. 

After driving the car for about a year, in spring 2007 I decided it needed some cosmetic attention to really show off the V-12.  "It will just take a couple of weeks.." is what Rene' claims I said.  I don't exactly recall, Your Honor..

-Bob, September 2007

In addition to all the usual belts, hoses, and new hardware, listed at the right is a list of "Fixes" that I have performed so far.

Several are per Kirby's book.  I honestly didn't know what I was getting in to when I started this, and maybe I still don't. 

In any case, emotions ran the gamut during this first major "go-thru" of the car.  I have to say Thanks to:

  • Rene', my wonderful wife

  • Mom and Dad - lots of emotional support and commiseration.

  • Kirby Palm for "Experience in a Book"

  • Bernard Embden for a great how-to website.

  • The Jag-Lovers forums

  • Gary Ilcyn at Jagbits.

  • Extreme Powder Coating (Mesa AZ)

  • Valkyrie Industies (Phoenix AZ)

More links where I found good stuff:

Below are various pics from the 3 month leak fix / last of the maintenance / cosmetic improvement effort.  Feel free to email me if you have questions or comments, happy to share what I learned (and learn more!)


Fixes and updates from Summer 2007 project:

  • New factory Marelli cap and rotor, shortened and potted dizzy shaft.

  • Re-worked banjo bolts on top of radiator and back of tappet blocks.

  • Dual electric fans from V12 Supercars - removed all factory wiring and replaced factory thermo switch for a 185 deg version.  Wired fans for continuous run-on (no latching ckt) and installed manual fan switch and "fan on" light in dash.

  • Replaced passenger door window motor with rebuilt unit from Florida Window Lift.

  • Replaced heater core elbow gaskets.

  • Replaced DAC4591 speed transducer (in trunk) after I did not disconnect the battery while working under the dash.  DOH!

  • Trans service

  • Radiator rodded

  • Front seal replaced

  • Both crank sensors replaced

  • Updated cam cover gaskets

  • Updated intake manifold gaskets

  • Replaced fuel rail hoses and regulators

  • Installed a service harness and bought a $100 LCD oscilloscope so I can read the wave forms from the crank sensors, and the output to the Ignition ECU, right at the Fuel Injection ECU.  I had "no start" problems for awhile..this makes it super-easy to troubleshoot the most common causes.

  • Glass beaded intakes, powder painted cam covers and lots of other stuff, chromed various tubes and brackets.

  • Fabricated new fuel injection harness

  • Re-grounded instrument panel

  • New stainless steel water rail pipes

  • Upgraded center vent

  • ..more but I can't think of it all right now

"Before" on the left..

Just getting started..

"After" on the right..

3 months later!


Cool chrome fuel cooler cover from Bernard's website..

Need to send in a good archeologist, this grime could be from the Jurassic era..


eek.. dust on the chrome!!  All the harnesses that used to hang on the balance tube and fuel rail have been pushed back to the firewall and outward to the top of the left intake.

I put the re-finished covers on and decided I couldn't stand the ugly leaky water rails any more.. a classic case of "scope creep.."

Hard to see the new stainless water rail hiding down there...




Fans are from V12 Supercars.  Initial indications are that they offer much improvement over stock.. They definitely move some air.  One good thing about the Marelli cars is the Bosch 115 Amp alternator, (knock on wood) so far it keeps up fine.

Just "After" Pics from here on..


Jeg's fuel pressure guage in inlet line - again, great for quick troubleshooting..


In the spring of 2010, the water pump started to leak from the weep hole.  I had purposely left it alone until now because it was not leaking or making noise, and on dad's E-type he had an experience where a brand new pump leaked.  I was not bothering trouble until trouble bothered me..
Here is a summary of what happened next..

  • Replace water pump

  • Install deep B&M cast trans pan

  • Install B&M shift kit

  • Weld on O2 sensor bungs on euro down pipes, ceramic coat all manifolds, heat shields, downpipe, and install,

  • Replace remainder of exhaust, custom 2.25" system with high flow cats and Magnaflow mufflers, route under IRS.

  • New Hi-tork starter

  • New PS rack, pump, hoses

  • New coolant hoses, change coolant

  • Scrub Scrub Scrub while everything apart

  • Install new trans cooler hoses

  • New belts

...keep reading for the gory details and some pics..

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First I got the car jacked up on all four corners for easy access and started taking things apart to get to the water pump.  I had already decided to take the opportunity to change all the hoses, so I got the another kit from JagBits and drained everything out.  I knew the power steering had been leaking for awhile (actually since I bought the car, periodic doses of stop leak seemed to have kept it under control..) but when I got underneath I was dismayed to see how dirty it really was.. after all, it looks pretty good from up top!  I checked around and found the best price on a reman rack at AutohausAZ.  I ordered the rack, when it arrived, it looked great, just like new.  I also got their urethane bushing kit to go with it.

The old rack came out pretty easy, disconnecting the column u-joints was not too bad, and the rest is just 3 cross bolts and the tie rod ends.  I let it hang from the hoses as I unbolted them.

I decided to go ahead and replace the PS pump and all hoses at the same time.  I think the hoses  were contributing to my leaks, and the pump was easier to get to with the lower rad hose off for the water pump swap.  Also, the new rack came with all kinds of scary warnings about failure and voiding warranty if the system was not flushed.  I figured "new" was better than "flushed."  I found a good Cardone reman pump at Checker (CSK in some parts of the country) and got the hoses from MotorCars LTD.  I set aside the pulley and brackets for a trip to the powder painters.  Powder paint is pretty cheap and looks great, IMHO.

With the rack out, I was staring right at two ugly, space sucking heat generating catalytic converters.. two on each side of the car!  Plus I knew the downpipes had the honeycomb restrictor thingys in them as well.  In 2008 I had procured Euro downpipes from Paul's Jags via eBay.  They had been sitting in the store room patiently waiting.  Well, I figured no time like the present.  I pulled the downpipes and temporarily fitted the Euro pipes so I could mark them for O2 sensors.  I had purchased the bungs from Summit Racing at the same time I bought the pipes.  A giant UniBit from Harbor Freight was the ticket for cutting the holes for the bungs, then IronKwerks in Tempe welded them in for me.

At this point I had the "oooh, look how easy that would be to take that off now.." bug bad.  I had a small exhaust leak on one of the manifolds, your could hear it under the hood if you listened carefully.  I went ahead and pulled the manifolds, and decided I really wanted them ceramic coated.  I'd had some headers done for my son's 428 Ford, and I was really pleased with the result.  As luck would have it, the powder painter also does ceramic coating.

I had to remove the starter to get to all the bolts on the passenger side manifold, and it was pretty grimy.  It's a Marelli starter, and had always seemed anemic even on a full battery.  Especially for how huge it is.  Dad has been pleased with his hi-tork unit from BritishStarters.com.  I cringed a bit (this whole exercise is getting a bit pricy) and ordered one.  Next I pulled the alternator and gave it a good scrubbing. 

The front coolant cross pipe, PS brackets and pulley, alternator brackets, and probably a couple of other things went for black powder paint.  The manifolds, all heat sheilds and downpipes went for silver ceramic coating.  Custom Finishing did all of this.

All this time the trans pan had been staring at me.. it had leaked ever since I did the last trans service.  I had purchased a cast pan for it a couple of years back, never got to it.  Well, no time like the present.  I jacked up the tranny and pulled the mount so I could get the pan off.  Sitting there staring at the valve body got me thinking about shift kits.  They're only $40.  I bought one for an 88 and newer TH400, since I could not see the build tag that supposedly exists on the side of the case.  Upon disassembly, I found my trans requires the 87-older kit.  I tracked one down and went thru the fun of lining up the 7 check balls while putting the valve body in place.  Came time to put the pan on, and it would not clear the pickup.  WTF?  I had purposely bought a standard pan.  Turns out there is a standard "deep" TH400 pan, which is what I had.  Never new one existed, took 2 hours on the web to figure it out.  Groaned again and bought a deep B&M cast pan, since I was somewhat convinced that a cast pan is a good way to minimize the chance of leaks.  And yes, there is the cool factor.  Got the pan fitted and quickly discovered it would not clear the rear mount.  A couple of careful hours with the grinder solved that problem.  Pan on, mount on, trans ready to go.  BTW, do yourself a favor and get a Fel Pro pan gasket TOS 18621 from Autozone or Checker.  The cork gaskets are junk. IMHO.

With the trans freshly conquered and while waiting for various parts I proceeded to scrub down the sides of the block with carb cleaner and stiff brushes.  It was pretty nasty.  Seems like it seeps oil from the tappet block - head junction.  Not a lot, but it had been seeping for 20 yrs so there was quite a build up.  The trans cooler lines, right by the alternator, were original, so I sighed again and ordered new.

I also removed the pipe that runs along the side of the block and up to the back center by the oil sender.  They say you can't get it out without taking everything off.  I am here to tell you they are right, I barely got it out of there.  Once everything was fairly clean I started swapping coolant hoses, doing a few each evening since they are not that much fun to do.

New parts started showing up, as did the pieces from Custom Finishing.  Now the fun part, I really enjoy the reassembly process with shiny new and freshly cleaned parts.  Manifolds and downpipes first, then the rack.  The rack was relatively easy to put in, I was careful to "clock" (center) it the best I could.  I did not use the "drill bit" method because I was not aware of it.  I just counted the turns very carefully and centered the steering wheel.  Came out fine, no interference and drives straight.  Everything else was basically the reverse of removal.  The PS hoses were tough to put on the rack, I should have done them before I put the rack in, but since there were not cats in the way I was able to reach them with some pain.

I got everything sorted and buttoned, and still had not figured out what to do about the exhaust.  The US spec intermediate pipes were rusted through, so I ordered a set of Euro spec from Just Jags.  After charging my credit card and  a month of waiting they decided they could not really get them.  I will say they were prompt with my refund.  I found 3-bolt flanges to match the Euro pipes at SpinTech, and starting thinking about fabricating my own intermediate pipes.  By this time I was about sick of the whole thing, and I really did not like where I was going to have to position the cats, right by the oil filter.

I called my friend Scott at A Speedy Tint (If you are in Phx area he is the only guy worth going to, fantastic work on everything from exotics to my Sentra to the XJS.)  Scott is big on quality and a hot rodder himself, so I asked for his favorite muffler shop.  He didn't hesitate:  Scottsdale Muffler.  I called up to check hours, then went by and "interviewed" Fred, one of the owners.  They had a couple of restored 60's American four doors on the rack, so I felt like they were comfortable around nice cars.  Fred spun around in his chair, jumped on the computer, and from some exhaust-guy database pulled up drawings of the XJS with Euro downpipes!  I told him what I wanted:  Hook in here, run along trans, cats maybe here behind trans, MagnaFlow mufflers, then squeeze under the center of the IRS and out the back with new chrome tips.  Ditch the rear silencers.  Can you do it all 2 1/4"?  He said "no problem," give me a days notice when you bring it in.

I got a flatbed and took it down the next week.  Fred did all the work himself, he was done in 6 hours, and damn did he do a nice job!  The sound is just right, the fitment is tight, and it passed emissions with the new cats no problem!  To cap it off, when I was checking out, Chris, the other owner, says "where you from?"  Turns out we knew each other in high school.. I knew his dad was an exhaust guy, and now Chris and Fred (brothers) are doing their own thing. 

Flatbed back home, then fire it up for the first time in 3 months.  I had to sort a couple of things (it sucked the PS reservoir dry right away since the rack was empty, and I left a bolt out of a throttle body which caused a nice vacuum leak) and then out for a test drive.  The sound is great, I don't think I would want any louder.  The shift kit is no different from stock under normal driving, except that it seems to downshift sooner when you  are decelerating, which I like.  If you care to shift manually, it is more responsive to moving the selector, it does what you tell it right away.  If you really step on it, it will it will chirp the 1-2 shift.  Bottom line:  A good choice for me, just the right amount of hot rod.

Thanks for reading, more pics and comments below...

- Bob, Sept 22. 2010


Exhaust from the front looking back

Right downpipe detail

Exhaust tip, no rear silencers

Plenty of room around the oil filter.  The heat shields are all ceramic coated, but they were not tumble polished because we were worried about bending them.  So, they look primer-gray instead of shiny silver.  I did buff out the heat shields that cover the top of the exhaust manifolds with a Scotch-pad, they came out pretty shiny with some elbow grease.

Rear view, tucked up under the rear suspension

Right 02 sensor location, basically put the bung in the same location as the US-spec pipes

Rear view of tie plate clearance

Left 02 sensor

Cats and cross pipe

Right exhaust manifold, ceramic coated

B&M deep trans pan

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The stock pre-facelift gauges are kind of a joke, and I should have upgraded before now, but it took me awhile to formulate a plan.  In the end, my trip computer became haunted (randomly flashing various digits and sometimes lighting them all up at once) so I decided to put 1.5" mechanical gauges where the trip computer lived.  Removing the trip computer was easy, it just pulls out.

Dad and I built a nice aluminum panel to fit in the hole, and I installed a water temp gauge for each bank and an oil pressure gauge in the center.  I wanted dual water temps because the car has dual thermostats, so if one thermostat sticks or starts acting differently, it will show up on the corresponding gauge.  Before installing I put the senders for the gauges into a pan on the stove, along with a lab thermometer that I know is accurate.  I wanted to see if they agreed with each other, so I would know if one bank was really hotter or if it was just a gauge difference.  The gauges run within 5 degrees of each other across the scale, which is not bad considering they are not very expensive.

Gauges in the dash.  Also recently replaced the stereo, more on that in the future..

I removed the front left water manifold and tapped this hole for the gauge sender.  It formerly had a thermo switch which applied vacuum to the charcoal canister once the engine warmed up.  My car seems happy without this switch.

Previously, I had left the air pump in place to serve as an idler pulley for the AC belt.  Decided to hit Dad up for some more machine work, and we came up with this setup which uses the stock air pump bracket and tension adjustment.  Someday a Sanden AC compressor will go here..

(The dirt is a bit embarrassing, have been driving the care a LOT and need to scrub behind its ears..)

The right-bank sender is located on the rear water manifold where the air pump thermo switch used to be.  This switch caused the air pump to NOT pump air into the rails once the car warmed up.  This hold just required the standard gauge bushing, it was already tapped to 1/4 NPT.

Still on The List:

  • GAZ shocks.  I could go Bilstein, but the Gaz are more adjustable and not that much more money

  • ABS ball probably needs replacing, and I need to detail that area

  • Thinking about building my own air filters, I have some thoughts on something that resembles the Growlers

  • Fix drivers seat welting, worn in the usual spot

  • Some cracks in the finish on the dash wood

  • Pan and sandwich gaskets - Probably should have done those in Summer 2010 but had to stop somewhere.  Additionally, after I cleared up all my power steering leaks, my pan and sandwich gaskets just have a very slow seep around the edges, not really enough to warrant a tear down right now..

  • Replace license plate lights

  • I am not happy with my new Sony deck and Polk speakers, I plan to install a couple of amps, a sub or two, and re-wire everything.

  • Once the new Michelins wear out consider 17's..

  • Decide whether or not to put the cruise control back in.. solenoids are corroded, needs some TLC

  • Aluminum radiator, source is TBD

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