I have to confess that I get weak kneed at the sight of a Jaguar. Like malaria, a fever comes over me long years after the bite of the mosquito.
Only my mosquito was a late-seventies Jaguar XJ-S, a sleek coupe adorned with sail panels framing the rear window like flying buttresses adorn a Gothic church. I saw my first one on the way home from forth grade. It was parked behind a chain link fence at a local import garage. For two weeks I'd rush to the fence, gazing at its captured majesty.
Two weeks at a garage. That illustrates the problem with most Jaguars and all Jaguars made in those days.
In my opinion, Jaguar never made a bad looking car... or a reliable one. Most, like the early XK, Mark II sedan, XJ-6, and XJ-S are stunningly gorgeous and prone to more bad behavior than Jesse James at a topless tattoo parlor.
But I still want one. A late-eighties XJ-S with Dayton wire wheels calls to me with its twelve cylinder siren song, tempting me towards the rocks or at least to the side of the road, overheating and on fire from a gas leak or electrical short. Jaguar owners will admit they're cursed. The smoldering ruin of their last car will have hardly cooled before they seek out the soft leather, burled walnut, and lambswool carpet of another.
But there is hope. Most of the Jaguars built after Ford acquired the company in 1989 are somewhat reliable, or at least don't overheat and catch fire. Not counting the 1988-1994 XJ sedan with its homely squared off front end, Jaguar still has not made a car that is less than beautiful. And because of their reputation for bad behavior, you can pick up a good used one for about the price of a Kia Soul.
But to be safe, just make sure you're on a first name basis with a good mechanic.