Friday, August 7, 2015

Whew! Discussing 12 cylinder Euro cars on a beater blog? Where have I lost track? Well these are going to be a little better than a beater. The concept really revolves around picking the low hanging fruit. These cars are really pretty cheap in terms of the "buy in" price. Let's talk about my current craze, Jaguars. An XJS convert or especially coupe can be found in running condition at anywhere from 1,000 to around 3,500 bucks. Pay more and get a car in better condition. Now, you have to have done your homework. These cars are notorious for electrical, fuel, and cooling issues. I've been doing a lot of research online and have discovered the Jaguar Forum and Kirby Palm's free book. "Experience in a book, Help for the XJS owner." This book is over 750 pages long so there is a lot of info. contained within. The gist is- that these cars can be maintained and repaired by a experienced hobbyist mechanic. If you have worked on less complicated motors before, you can handle most repair jobs. You will need good basic trouble shooting skills and the ability to hunt down electrical gremlins with a test light and multimeter. The electrical troubles really revolve around the failure of the various sensor functions: crank position, throttle position , coolant temperature, etc. For example a failure of the coolant temp sensor will deprive the ECU of a vital signal that will prevent the motor from firing. The condition of the connectors, ground straps etc. are of extreme importance.

Come on, Where's your sense of adventure.

Due to the size of the motor, the crowded engine bay and problematical cooling conditions, the intense engine heat will "fry" many components and lead to relatively short service life. The wiring harness for the fuel injectors runs deep in the "V" and is subject to intense heat damage. I would anticipate replacing all sensors, cleaning all electrical connections, fabricating a new injector harness from improved materials, replacing all fuel, water, and vacuum hoses, and repairing or replacing the radiator, just for starters. This is what is euphemistically referred to in the Forums as "sorting out".  If I do all the work myself, I will save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The cost of these items is not prohibitive, but the cost of labor would be. So I will have to invest my "sweat equity" and time. Just like any other project car. But what will I end up with?

Well, these are fantastic cars. They are classic twelve cylinder super cars that the average dedicated hobbyist can afford to own. I know that I couldn't afford a new Jag then, and surely cannot afford a new one now. But I think I may be able to acquire a vintage XJS and hopefully get and keep it on the road.

Do the economics work out? Well, compare the cost to buying a classic American muscle car. The big savings is in the "buy in" price. An early Camaro or Mustang, especially a fastback or convertible builder can easily run from 7,000 to 15,000 dollars. Then all of the rust repair, body work, painting, interior, engine and chassis building and upgrades can push the build cost well over 25,000 dollars. Even if you go for a less desirable model like a Mustang coupe (like I did) you only really save on the buy in price. Even if I left the cosmetics of my car in "driver" condition I would have to upgrade to a V8 motor with corresponding transmission and chassis and brake upgrades. This would probably set me back around 4,000 to 5,000 dollars at least. This would put the total cost of my driver around 9,000 dollars or thereabouts. Not too bad to get a car that you like, and to be honest, this car would probably be easy to resell and recoup your investment or possible even make a buck or two. The Jag, maybe not. Figure 2,000 to 3,000 dollars for a fairly nice car. Figure at least that much to sort out the problems. There's no need to upgrade the performance of the motor or chassis very much, as these were outstanding performers when new. So you've got about 5,000 to 6,000 dollars into it. Not too bad to own a Classic. Will you be under water? Maybe. But I think the value of these cars is going to start climbing. How many V12s are out there? Where else can you find  a car of this beauty, performance and heritage at anything near these prices?  I saw in a recent issue of Jaguar World magazine that these cars are popular in England for vintage racing. This is sure to raise interest, and hopefully values. A "sorted out" XJS, especially a convert, would be attractive to many collectors. And at least you get to enjoy the car.

It's just a damn car. Roll up your sleeves and get to work!

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