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Serendipity And The Jaguar XK8 Convertible

The purrrfect Kitty…


It goes from meow to grrrowl faster than you can read this sentence. The Jaguar XK8 known as project code X100, is a grand tourer built from 1996 until 2006. This cat is ferocious with its V8 engine. This is the first generation of the XK series. It was introduced at the 1996 Geneva International Motor Show. The Jaguar XK8 replaced the XJS series. The XK8 is the first V8 produced by Jaguar since the Daimler 250. The 1996 Jaguar XK8 with its quick, cat-like reflexes is available as coupe or convertible body styles. It’s serendipity in the form of a Jag-u-r…


Well, I say if you like Kitty…I mean really like Kitty…re-build it before it shows signs of those suicide-inducing repair bills that will vacuum the cash from your savings and then starts running the old credit card(s) out into oblivion, take your time and re-build it little by little using ONLY quality parts, ok? This means: “NO taking Kitty to Wal-Mart for tune-ups and then getting pissed when Kitty retaliates with a big ole’ ugly repair bill, then you’ll be ready to get on the internet slammin’ Kitty…when part of this was YOU!”

“NO going to NAPA expecting 100% when you gave your neighbor $50 and a brew to install a single part and then you hear “uh-oh…” I just thought I would address this before we continue with our story. Too many people want to slam the Jag when all you have to do is realize what you are working with here, accept the bitter with the sweet and bite the bullet…repair Kitty right and have a show car…ok?” Some cars are plagued with idiosyncratic behavior the moment they leave the assembly line, ask any Cadillac owner. If you like the car you just have to re-build it to make it right…otherwise, leave it alone! 



This first generation Jaguar XK series shared its platform with the Aston Martin DB7. Its four-wheel independent suspension has front and rear double wishbones, front and rear anti-roll bars, and front and rear coil springs. The quick cat-like reflexes are enhanced by power assisted rack & pinion steering. The big cat is equipped with power four-wheel ventilated disc brakes and ABS. Its 17” alloy wheels reduce unsprung weight. Computer Active Technology Suspension (CATS) was an option that included upgraded springs for increase roll stiffness and electronically controlled dampers. This front-engine rear-drive open grand tourer measures 187.4” in length, rides upon a 102” wheelbase, with a substantial 72” width.

1973 E-Type Jaguar  1

1973 E-Type Jaguar 





The Jaguar XK8 is a posh 2+2 open grand tourer. The all leather interior and burled walnut trim is luxuriously in character with the XK8. It blends traditional Jaguar elegance with contemporary style.  Its power, fully automatic folding fabric roof deploys and folds away neatly. The leather upholstered interior has 6-way power for both driver and front passenger. The center console has a storage bin beneath the armrest. The XK8 is the big cat that is as sporty as it is luxurious. With the top down…the world is your pearl –





The slooooooooooow moving power top issues are inevitable. The fluid actually goes from slime to Jell-O to solidified chunks – yes, since we love our feline friend we must take the bitter with the sweet. If you are going to keep your XK8…REBUILD the hydraulic system – I’m talking the seals, lines, especially the rams, the latch, the pump (because it will be full of what’s killing everything else), you’ve got to make Kitty new again.

People scoff Jaguars but all cars have idiosyncratic behavior as they age, ask any Cadillac owner. If you can rebuild it yourself, it will be rewarding because you know it is the correct way with not only quality, but upgraded replacement parts as you do not want to keep rebuilding this system. Or, find a mechanic you trust to put Kitty back together better than new. Do not let everyone work on it for the best results. Even Rolls Royce…snobwagen supreme has little suicide-inducing issues as they age –

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Jaguar changed the hydraulic fluid to Pentosin CHF 11S as it is suitable for extreme conditions and guarantees full performance from -40 degrees Celsius to 130 degrees Celsius system temperatures to correct this issue. It is the Univis hydraulic fluid that either dries up or turns to a gel.

Newer convertible versions are using plastic hoses which don’t last as long as the earlier versions, so one trades one issue for another…but hasn’t the joys of convertible ownership always had little quirks that we had to live with? After you put all the time and $$$ to restore your convertible top, change the fluid every 4-5 years and your issues will be over –



Standard equipment for the 1996 shown includes: automatic air conditioning, power front windows, power door locks, cruise control, dual power heated outside mirrors, fixed-position front and rear head restraints, security system, Premium AM/FM stereo seek-scan radio with steering wheel controls, courtesy lighting, driver and front passenger airbags, and a leather wrapped steering wheel. There’s just something charismatic about a Jag-u-r…




Underneath the curvaceous architecture purrs an alloy, naturally aspirated 32-valve Jaguar AJ26 4.0 litre DOHC V8. The engine uses a sophisticated electronic engine management system with electronic sequential port fuel injection and 2-step cam phasing. The engine is mated to a ZF 5HP24 5-speed automatic transmission w/overdrive.

The big cat is powerful. Its light alloy V8 produces 290 hp @ 6,100 rpm with 393 Nm of peak torque @ 4,250 rpm. It leaps at the touch of the accelerator. Longitudinal acceleration is rated as: 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds, 0-100 mph in 16.3 seconds, 0-110 mph in 20.3 seconds, and 0-120 mph in 27.1 seconds. It does the ¼ mile @ 95 mph in 14.8 seconds. Its ungoverned top speed is 156 mph.



There was concern over the Nikasil lining of the cylinder bores that was prone to wear from gasoline with a high sulfur content. Many earlier XK8’s had their engines replaced in 2000 with steel lined AJ26 engines while they were still under warranty. There is an identifiable plaque inside the engine bay. If you are interested in an XK8 from this generation; make sure that engine has been replaced. There is also an AJ27 version.

 1976 Jaguar XJ6-L 3

1976 XJ6-L

Also make sure the engine’s plastic timing chain tensioners and timing chain are checked. Timing chain tensioners make a noticeable engine noise while at idle or a cold start. Rough and uneven idle means it could jump time. Between 75,000 & 80,000 miles, things can get dicey. But look at the beauty of the car’s sleek, contemporary architecture.

The Jaguar name has become synonymous with humongous repair bills. Whatever you do, leave second-rate parts and components at the store where they are sold. Trying the “Band-Aid” approach to repair will cost you more in the long run. If you like the car…you must learn to adapt to its behavior. Make it right the first time and there will be no issues. I cannot stress enough, this is expensive if you go about it discounting all the way. You get what you pay for.

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2004 XJR Jaguar 1

2004 XJR

headlamp 1

Another concern with this generation XK8 are with the headlamps. If the low-beams have issues such as HID low-beams failing, flickering or dipped-beam not working, 99.9 percent of the time it is the ballast. Don’t let the dealers sell you the entire headlamp unit. Start by checking the fuse, then the ballast. Other related replacement parts include: gas discharge bulb, igniter, and wire harness.

1995 Jaguar Vanden Plas 2

1995 Vanden Plas


1990 Jaguar Vanden Plas Majestic 1

1990 Jaguar Vanden Plas Majestic 3

1990 Vanden Plas Majestic

1990 Jaguar Vanden Plas Majestic 4

1995 Jaguar Vanden Plas 3

Finale 1

A Jag-u-r is a thing of beauty. The big cat is as luxurious as it is sporty. Work out all of its bugs with modern components and you have a drop-dead gorgeous car. Its reflexes are quick and cat-like…it leaps into action. The 4.0 litre AJ26 is a nice engine with all of its issues resolved. It is responsive on the open road. This car is never driven un-noticed. Everyone always wants to know what year it is and is it expensive…there are some of the earlier models such as this 1996 that were virtually problem-free. Regardless, the Jaguar XK8 is highly desirable. If seduction could take the form of an automobile…the XK8 is it –

Finale 5

1973 E-Type Jaguar 2

2004 XJR Jaguar 2

2004 XJR Jaguar 3

Finale 3

1973 E-Type Jaguar 3

1990 Jaguar Vanden Plas Majestic 2

Finale 2

95 Jaguar Vanden Plas 3

Finale 4

Special thanks to Rodd Sala at Park Ward Motors Museum

Finale 6

Jaguar XK8 convertible…a serendipitous adventure awaits you

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