“I’m calling because I’m about to walk up to the door and I’m worried I’m going to get murdered in some fashion. Use the GPS on my phone to alert the officials to find my body if you hear screams in the next 30 seconds,” I joked to a friend while walking up to a trailer on a desolate rural dirt road in the exurbs of Scotts Hill, NC — in the dark, on a work night, just to check out a busted $800 Jaguar X-Type. Now, some of the greatest salt-of-the-earth folks I’ve had the pleasure of knowing live in desolate trailers down long dirt roads, so no judgment there, but this still didn’t seem smart. That is, until I saw the car; have a look and you’ll understand. Or you won’t.
Hello fellow Autopians; I’m back. It’s been a hot minute since our last rescue adventure with those four busted Benzes I bought for a song. As I said last time, it’s a pleasure and honor to be here amongst the hardest-working and best writers in this field. It’s awesome how much passion, work and time these heroes put into making this the best car-culture site out there. [Ed note: Thanks, but get on with the wrenching! -DT].
Why I Bought A Piece-Of Junk Jaguar X-Type
Ok, so why the hell was I potentially risking my hide for a busted 2003 Jaguar X-Type? First, let’s establish that most would say I’m pretty weird with my taste in cars. I’ve yet to meet anyone else (even here on this site) who genuinely gets excited at the prospect of rescuing a busted Dodge Stratus Coupe, [Editor’s Note: Actually, I always found those Stratus Coupes rather handsome. -DT] a rear-ended Grand Am or fun-colored-yet-inoperable GM J-Body [Editor’s Note: You’re on your own on those. -DT] out of a backyard. It doesn’t even have to be bottom-of-the-barrel cars either: I’ve been known to get boisterous over a banged-up formerly-$90,000 Benz boondoggle, as well.
So my taste is varied, but I still have to pick which cars to adopt, so why this particular Jag? Truth be told, I don’t have much experience with British luxury cars. And in fact, of my previous 115 cars, only one was British: a Jaguar XK8 that has been haunting my very presence in this reality since it became my pandemic project 2+ years ago.
XK8 rescue: such a deep dive, you lose track of where the surface is.
Over $2,000 and two years later from when it was first revealed here, that XK8 still is not running/driving/inspected/insured/registered/nice to me. So why on God’s British Racing Green Earth would I want to take on another Jag simultaneously? And why an X-Type? Well, there are multiple reasons:
- It was cheap. I mean stupid cheap. “$800 obo” cheap. Just like my self-professed “cheap bastard” boss David, the price has to be right, Bob Barker-style.
- I love a challenge. My XK8 disaster project was going about as poorly as could, so I was thirsty for a win — a Jag Win. One with tea and cucumber sandwiches afterwards.
- Jags are cool. To each their own, but this car hits the center of my Venn Diagram of Cars To Buy. Mopar coupes do too. It’s a weird combo (Jaguar and Chrysler), I’ll fully admit.
- Gaining some forward momentum on this X-Type will give me back some of the much-needed shitbox-repair mojo to make some strides on the XK8
- DT sub-bullet time: I’ve been asking David for two years to do an article on that car and I finally feel like I’m wearing him down. Either that or he’s just exhausted from Australia, running this site and wrenching on that HHR. Or on that LandCruiser. Maybe it’s SEMA two weeks ago. Maybe it’s LA last week. The dude never stops. So, stay tuned for the XK8 misery-adventure hopefully soon.
- The Queen Herself drove an X-Type. (It was recently for sale).
I Gambled That I Could Out-Wrench The Seller
The Facebook Marketplace ad stated that the car wouldn’t start, and showed that it was both on ramps (not a good sign) and that it had been sitting forever. The ramps scared me because they show that the owner had enough gumption and wrenching chops to “get up under the car,” try and make some moves, then ultimately post it for sale.
These are the images that were posted in the ad
That means to win here you have to have one or more of the following:
- A) superior wrenching skills than the seller
- B) superior knowledge of the car or of the repair the seller made
- C) superior effort/more free time than the seller
- D) superior luck/ability to roll the dice and get out clean than the seller
…you basically need to make this work where they couldn’t. I’m not a cocky SOB and always choose to subscribe to the mantra that a wise man knows what he doesn’t know. Maybe there was something that this poor bloke knows about this no-start condition that I don’t? Maybe he’s an ex-Jag mechanic. Maybe he’s a “19% Ford Mondeo” guy (see below). Maybe he’s from Coventry, England and shares a strange ancestral bond with these machines. Maybe life or The Monarchy just threw him a strange curveball that had him end up on this trailer on this dirt path in Scotts Hill, NC.
Anyway, I grabbed my headlamp and a jump box and checked for oil. I’d done this over a hundred times before and most car purchases have worked out really well – I got this. I held my nerve and tongue; I didn’t talk too much to the seller to show my cards before making a fair offer. And I didn’t tell them I’m originally from Upstate NY – that never seems to work well here in The South. All these items were said in my own internal conversation whilst walking up to the seller and the X-Type from my idling Stratus Coupe with the high beams illuminating the scene.
Scoping Out The Jag
The seller was a strange dude of few words (initially), who definitely wasn’t from Coventry. He told me the car was his mother’s and that she was in poor health. She had owned it for years and parked it once it broke down, in hopes of fixing it one day. He explained that the car didn’t have a battery, because he needed it for his wicked trashed Chevy truck that was also parked in the dirt driveway. I told him I wasn’t too worried about the battery and asked if he had more info on why the car was on ramps and what occurred when it died. He went straight back to talking about the damn battery again: “I was dang near surprised that leetle Jag-wiire battery could fuuur up my tuurk!”.
I gave him a polite smile and proceeded to hook up the jump box to the battery terminals, asked for the key, gave it a twist and…dead silence. It didn’t matter that this interesting character wanted to sit and talk batteries and Chevys in the dark during an X-Type sale, I already knew the lay of the land.
The silence when the key was turned should’ve been broken by the comforting hum of the fuel pump. He knew it too, which was why he didn’t want to talk about the ramps and kept switching the subject to that awesome Little Battery That Could. He probably also climbed under the car and realized what a huge job that fuel pump replacement is and wanted to talk about items of more joy and fewer tears.
So here we are at Go Time (which is similar to “Bo Time”, just without the biscuits and fried chicken; I mean, I live in southeastern NC): me, a cheap X-Type that has been sitting for years with a bad fuel pump (and a big job to fix it), a redneck dude that seems pretty wily and a sweet-ass Stratus Coupe lighting up the scene with its fan kicking on and off for the soundtrack.
Scary. Exciting. Potentially ruinous. Possibly very stupid. F-it. Dammit, I’m in.
I offered the guy $400, provided that the spare key (that he “might-could be done-dang able to find, if the Good Lord is willin’”) is included. I told him that I would pay cash on the spot and tow it on my own dollar the next day. I was whole-heartedly expecting him to counter with $700, then I would counter with $500 and we settled up at $600. This didn’t happen as he immediately accepted my initial $400 offer. This was both a good and bad thing. Good, because I saved a couple hundo that I was expecting to spend; this could now go towards the tow. Bad, because he let the car go so easily, implying that it may be much more of a project than just a fuel pump job.
[Editor’s Note: Stephen is being descriptive by mentioning the accent, here. He’s not at all disparaging folks from the South with accents. You’re all welcome here at The Autopian! -DT].
May The Wrenching Begin
Arrival at The Evil Wrenching Lair
I towed my new car to my Evil Shitbox Wrenching Lair underneath my volcano (in Wilmington, NC) the following day and dove headfirst into full-on X-Type immersion therapy. I joined the X-Type Facebook group, I read through the forums, I watched all the top YouTube videos on these cars, and I started getting really jazzed on this seemingly wicked-cool all-wheel drive British “saloon.” So, for those yet to familiarize with the car that has a name closest to any movie that features Cyclops, Wolverine and Gambit, here’s a quick refresher so that you don’t have to go over to Wikipedia. This is from an incredible look into the X-Type’s early history, courtesy of AR Online, which seems to be run by a British auto industry superfan (bold emphasis mine):
Even after Ford takeover, the new X300 was a development of the XJ40, and the X100 XK8 was developed in part out of a now heavily evolved XJS. Ford now wanted to turn Jaguar from a niche manufacturer to a full range producer to take on BMW, Mercedes-Benz and, increasingly, Audi head on. The X200 had been instigated by Jaguar Cars and funded internally through the success of X300, but the impressed Ford Motor Company was keen to throw its weight behind a new X400 compact saloon.
With no resource to develop a world-beating (well, BMW 3 Series beating) RWD platform from a clean sheet of paper, or any economies of scale in place if Jaguar could have, the only alternative was to utilise a transversely mounted powertrain in a shared architecture. This would ensure that the platform would be durable, contemporary, technologically advanced and highly suited for volume production.
Ford was developing its CD132 platform to underpin the all-new-for-2000 Ford Mondeo and seemed the best candidate to form the basis of the new small Jaguar. The Ford Mondeo, the lead recipient of the CD platform, had established itself as a class leader and, given the huge investment it would receive from FMC, its platform would be the ideal starting point for a Jaguar.
Initial reaction to the X-Type was positive, the motoring press loved the styling, less controversial than the preceding S-Type, and many applauded the apparent Jaguar heritage. Most comments regarding the Mondeo sister-car were positive, citing just how capable that car also was and, in the end, that just 19% of the cars origins were shared, many of which were perfectly suited components such as HVAC units hidden from view and which in no way detracted from the X400’s Jaguar heritage.
Right there at the end. That’s exactly the item and concept that was hooking me into this whole overnight love affair with this car: Jaguar heritage. I had a legit British luxury car in my garage and it felt jolly good. Ok maybe it’s the least appreciated Jaguar of all-time, but it still has a “Leaper” ornament on the bonnet and a “Growler” badge on the steering wheel.
Leaper & Growler
The interior smelled of The Good Leather and dash and shifter were made of The Good Wood.
Sidebar: In one of those “I cannot believe this is reality” type-of-moments in life, I can legitimately call Autopian in-house car designer Adrian Clarke a colleague. That is a wild honor. The man designs cars and drives a Ferrari. I rescue shitboxes. This site has an incredible spectrum. Anyway, he is probably going to have a few choice words for me in our editorial Slack channel for all of this cultural appropriation I’m grabbing from across the pond and putting in this British car shitbox rescue article. F-it mate, bloody doing it anyway. God save The King. God, save this X-Type.
Put down the beans-on-toast: it’s time to wrench
Bad Paint, Exhaust, Fuel Pump, Ignition Coil, A Sensor: This Thing Had Problems
Back at The Lair, I did a once-over on the car in the daylight. Other than some typical clear coat fade on the roof, and some strange paint flaking on the left fender, it looked quite decent. The interior actually looked fantastic.
After the scoping was done, I dove headfirst into the fuel pump repair. I threw the car on jack stands and started by ripping out the exhaust. It was bolt-off and strangely the nuts and bolts all came off without snapping even after 145K miles. Unfortunately, pieces of the catalytic converter the size of donut holes came out too. Major Bummer. I’ll have to approach that later, says I.
Next out was the driveshaft, which also strangely came out very easily with a hex socket on both ends and an easy-to-remove center carrier bearing with just two 13mm bolts.
The rear seat was popped up, to reveal the pump wiring harness, and the tank straps were dropped with a floor jack holding the tank in place until I could remove the fuel tank evaporative lines and the filler neck inlet. The tank slightly overlapped the rear differential, but sliding it forward a few inches provided enough clearance to send it earthbound (see picture for a visual).
“Dude! That was cake!” I said aloud. Once I realized I was alone and talking to myself it made it weird, but joyous and celebratory regardless. This seemingly really tough repair was about ½ done and was going really smoothly except for that part about the converter being toast.
In my limited shopping experience, Jaguar parts are funny in that they are either stupid expensive, impossible to find, or surprisingly available and affordable. I was thanking my lucky stars that the fuel pump for an X-type is the latter. I found one on amazon for $50 – very doable. I popped that bad boy in along with a fresh filter, reattached the tank, fuel and evap lines, put in a few gallons of the freshest Premium petrol, a $40 used battery, grabbed the key, gave a quick smirk and wink towards the Panthera on the hood, and turned the skeleton-style key. The engine literally roared to life for the first time in years – mostly due to me not having the exhaust back on the car yet. It was a great moment. It was a great feeling. It was loud; I was proud.
Being in a celebratory mood, I made myself a Stanley Tucci Tuscan Negroni to reflect upon the great success of the day. I was feeling so pumped that it didn’t even matter that whilst standing there imbibing, I realized the engine was misfiring and thus discovered the cause of the broken-up converter. The engine had two bad coils that the old woman was driving around on for what seemed to be some extended amount of time, dumping unburnt fuel onto hot cats until they cooked themselves apart.
Who cares; coils are cheap. I found a set on eBay for $70 (for all 6 coils and platinum plugs). I also found a pair of aftermarket converters for about $175, but held off, as the car is about to turn 20 in a few months (Jan ‘23) and emissions inspections in New Hanover County, NC are only needed for cars <20 years old. I could just garage it until its 20th b-day, methinks, whilst sipping away, smug in my good fortune.
A few days later the coils arrived and I popped them in along with the exhaust so that the car no longer sounded like the War of 1812. The intake had to come off to get to the rear bank of cylinders, but it wasn’t difficult at all – about a 30 min job. It was as easy as a nuclear one-liner from Mark Tucker’s old neighbor Johnny Fever.
The ABS light was also on, due to a faulty left-rear ABS/speed sensor. One $45 sensor, a harness plug and a few clips and Bob was officially my uncle.
I had never driven the car up until this point, and I was wicked jazzed to do so. Keep in mind, at this point I’m still all wrapped up in the “Jaguar Heritage” mantra/concept from above. The wood, the leather, the Redcoats, all of it. Taking it down my driveway felt great, looked great, smelled great, the whole bit. Once I started down the street though it was…okay. There was nothing wrong with the way it drove, handled, accelerated and braked whatsoever. But there was nothing great about it either. It was as if the wood and leather and Leaper were all just this fancy suit for an otherwise non-noteworthy, but totally okay car. I was underwhelmed.
Maybe it’s my rebel American heart. Coffee is better than tea, mushy peas are an odd choice and American football is way more entertaining than soccer, whilst we’re here being honest. Can freelancers do hot takes? If not, it’s been nice writing for y’all and I’ll see you in the comments from here on out.
And it’s not just me that thinks so! I polled all of my colleagues here at The Autopian and received the below highly-entertaining and rich responses that you’d expect from such an ensemble. They were asked to rate the car on a scale of 1-10 and say a few words. Most responses align with exactly what you’d think each writer/editor would say:
3/10. The availability of a manual gearbox can’t quite make up for glass transfer cases and other reliability woes. –Thomas Hundal
10/10. I’m a huge fan of the second gen Mondeo and this is pretty close. –Matt Hardigree (huge Hardigree fan here, for the record)
1/10. The X-Type is an abomination and an insult to the brand. And it was almost certainly designed in Dearborn and not Coventry. -Adrian Clarke, lone British Citizen polled
2/10. Even Ford rebranding the Mazda 929 would have been a better move. It’s a nice fancy Mondeo but just on principle I have a hard time with it. -The Bishop
8/10. The Ford Mondeo has never looked so good. -Mercedes Streeter
7/10. I like the idea, and the Ford DNA doesn’t bother me. With a manual, I’d be interested, I think. I’d be more inclined to take a chance on it than another BMW, that’s for sure. -Mark Tucker
Zero. I hate doing electrical work and that Jag seems like a nightmare. -DT
7/10. I actually like that it’s based on a boring old Ford Contour/Mondeo and I like the slightly Jag-caricature front end, with the oval lights that define the shape of the hood and that little jewelry-grille because all of these things make it something like an American take on what Mitsuoka does, dressing up Nissan Micras to look like old Jags. It’s just being done officially here. Let cars wear costumes! Have some fun, for crying audibly. -JT
It’s interesting how much the “Mondeo” theme constantly infiltrated the responses of even this group of some of the most knowledgeable folks in the car-culture journalism business. Even having just 19% Mondeo content can brand and scar a “junior executive saloon” such as the X-type for life, apparently.
Must We Part Ways?
Once I’m over a car, it’s always the same ending. There’s just no point in keeping on with it if the magic isn’t there. I can’t stand blokes that sock a car away and let it be ravaged by time sitting. Let that car be magic for someone that needs it and that wants it. Someone who falls under the “Jaguar Heritage Spell” and stays betwixt by it longer than I did (I shook it on my first drive). Someone who wants that leather and wood and AWD. Someone who wants Leapers and Growlers and semi-consistent anxiety about British electrical troubleshooting in their future.
I reached out to The Autopian’s own Mark Tucker and asked if it was ok to feature freelancer’s own cars on the Shitbox Showdown. “Can’t see why not!”, said one of the coolest dudes I have yet to meet (he lives on the other side of the country). The car was featured the following week and it was great having it on the site for the commentariat to engage with. Nice words were said. Other things were said. The car ended up winning The Showdown (thank you readers!) and beating a Lexus too (didn’t see that coming).
I sold the car the next day to an older Southern Lady named Ms. Penny, who said she thought that the car was sexy and she “felt sexy” in it. Hell yes, Ms. Penny! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. She couldn’t give a damn about a Leaper, or about Coventry, or about “Heritage”, or about how the car was manufactured under The Queen’s Consent (says so in the owner’s manual!) She just found a car that spoke to her and made her feel good.
“Such a unique item/instance to have a monarchistic approval in an owners manual.”
And I found a car for $400 that ended up being a great rescue. The car is now on the Wilmington, NC roadways, churning out the miles and making smiles. It is not sitting at the local Pick n Pull with a hole drilled in the fuel tank, fluids drained, awaiting the crusher after it is picked apart. The previous owner was scared to do a fuel pump job that honestly wasn’t too hard at all. And, the engine parts were all affordable due to it being a frickin’ Ford Duratec V6.
Here’s one I found in the local parts yard, for reference.
There are currently four X-Types in my local parts yard and there are 12 really nice retired British dentists in the FB group that know everything about the car and that are willing to help with any tech support needed. A quick Facebook Marketplace search shows these cars to be cheap and ½ broken in every town. Yes, maybe the Jaguar electrical horror stories of yore and lore from the punters are accurate. But in Fall of ‘22, most of the cheap Jags that are left in semi-decent shape and that you’re going to find available for sale are going to be from the Ford era. My 19% Ford X-Type left me smiling as Ms. Penny drove it away, feeling good about a project that had left both me and the car standing tall and proud; a happy ending. I’m quite pleased with this rescue and the decision to take it on – it was one of the most fun and rewarding that I’ve done.
So, does the next cheap, busted Jag that shows up on your daily shitbox search deserve a second chance on the roads? Maybe they are as bad to resuscitate and maintain as legend purports. But maybe they’re not. Go rescue one and see for yourself, mate.
Photo Credits: Stephen Walter Gossin