After Jaguar discontinued the E-type in 1975, they replaced it with the XJ-S the following year. The XJ-S had big shoes to fill, specifically those of the most gorgeous machine to ever to been made for the roads. It was natural then that many didn’t quite appreciate what they saw, and the Jaguar XJ-S was not at all well-received. The negative sentiment was only pushed more by the fact that the Jaguar XJ-S came only with a hard top unlike the E-type roadsters of before, making it loose that very little glitter that it would have garnered back.
This though, was about to change as in 1986 Jaguar contracted an Ohio-based coach-building firm by the name of Hess & Eisenhardt (more on them here)who were given responsibility to build a proper Jaguar XJ-S Convertible. For the firm, it wasn’t as easy as a mere chop job as Hess & Eisenhardt had to create two separate fuel tanks to accommodate the retractable roof of the convertible. The body of the XJ-S had to be cut in many places and then steel reinforcements had to be added which resulted in a near 10kg weight increase which, by best guess wasn’t for too much of an hit to the overall performance since the Hess & Eisenhardt XJ-S convertible models came with the same 5.3-litre V12 as their hardtop counterparts.
The Hess & Eisenhardt Jaguar XJ-S was built between 1986 and 1988, before Jaguar went ahead and introduced their own convertible in 1989. For the two years that the cars were in production, they were available through Jaguar dealerships in the United States by placing a special order.
The only distinction of the Hess & Eisenhardt Jaguar XJ-S from the regular one is with the two small badges that were placed behind the front wheels. This particular example that you see here going on sale at the RM Sotheby’s Fort Lauderdale 2018 auction is one of the few remaining pieces from Jaguar’s history during the late 80s. Photos by Ryan Merrill