- Best model: V12
- Worst model: Anything bodged/ratty
- Budget buy: Daimler versions
- OK for unleaded?: Yes
- Will it fit in the garage? (mm): (mm) L4815 x W1770
- Spares situation: Trim can be scarce
- DIY ease?: Fair, but car is pretty heavy duty
- Club support: Very good
- Appreciating asset?: Strangely struggles
- Good buy or good-bye?: Who needs an XJ-S?
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An XJ6 in a sleeker coupe body could be the classic you’ve been looking for. Add keen prices to the equation and the Jaguar XJC should be the purr-fect cat
Pros & Cons
With the E-type celebrating its half century this year, spare a thought for the XJC. Why? Well, it’s a sleeker two-door take on the simply brilliant XJ6 that’s better looking and far more practical and roomier than an equivalent XJ-S and better value for money. So what’s the catch? Search us… but throughout most of its all too short life the XJC has been the forgotten XJ and has rarely caught the imagination of classic car lovers. Until now, that is?
Rare cabrio is like a Rolls Corniche!
The coupe XJ was announced when the Series 2 was introduced late in 1973. S2s differed little from the original XJ6, the main differences being at the front end, where a revised bumper height (demanded by US federal legislation), shallower grille and indicator lights slung now below the new bumper, gave it a much cleaner look. But the overall svelte silhouette of the original, even in two-door mode, was thankfully retained. Weighing some 50lb lighter than the short wheelbase saloon it derived from, the XJC didn’t actually materialise until 1975, due to production diffi culties with those big frameless doors not sealing too well at higher speeds (and they rarely did in service either).
Two versions were made; the 4.2 XJ6C and the V12C, the latter at this time now running on fuel injection with a higher fi nal drive all for better economy (although this was never a strong point on this 5.3-litre monster!). Also, a Daimler range was offered of which 1600 were made, although you rarely see one around. Technically, the S2 boasted four-pot calipersand vented discs up front, which were a big improvement over early XJ anchors, while the optional auto box was now the superior Borg Warner Model 65 design. Aside from the Jag model, there was also a plusher Daimler Sovereign variant, although with the XJ-S only months away from launch, the XJC was never going to be anything other than a short-term fl ing. By 1977 it was killed off (along with the XJC saloon racing programme) after 6505 XJ6 versions and 1873 V12s rolled out of Browns Lane. Hardly a major seller for Jaguar then!
It’s an XJ6, which means amazing modernity, even after four decades. A Rolls-Royce-beating ride and sports car like handling that stunned the world all those years ago still impress today – or would do if the car is still in good condition; sadly, many won’t be. The three-speed auto was a popular pick over the four-speed/ overdrive manual combo, since it suits the XJC’s laid back attitude much better. However, in modern terms, overall gearing of the auto (even at 24.7mph/1000rpm!) is a touch too low at modern motorway speeds. It feels like it still needs an extra cog when compared to today’s six and seven-speeders. A popular fi x is to bolt on a four-speed auto from the later XJ40 models (not diffi cult, but seek a specialist for expert advice fi rst).
In terms of performance, the 4.2 straight six with its 245bhp is adequate for today’s roads (60mph in under 10 seconds) plus 20-22mpg is on the cards. The magnifi cent V12 with its still mind blowing pace (0-60 in eight seconds or so and virtual 150mph top whack) won’t better 13-15mpg, even with fuel injection. But, if you are only covering 3000 miles a year or less, does it matter that much for the sheer pleasure this masterpiece of a car provides?
Naturally, the XJC loses a bit of practicality over the saloon, although getting in and out isn’t that diffi cult thanks to those big doors. Once inside, it’s typical old school Jag, meaning limited rear legroom but it’s miles, and smiles, better than a poky XJ-S. So long as those door frames are sealing okay, it should be as quiet as any XJ. Given the plaudits heaped on this Jag you’d think it would have sold like hot cakes. Autocar gave the XJ 5.3 model maximum marks for smoothness and reckoned that, “Handling on wet roads is a revelation bordering on the magical”. Apart from front seat comfort, which the magazine felt had to be improved (short seat backs, mainly) it felt that the car set new standards of excellence for Browns Lane. So what went wrong? Probably the poor sales were because the XJC was launched just when Jaguar produced what’s mainly – and wrongly – seen as a duffer of an XJ, in the shape of the S2. Although it was a superior car to the original, it suffered poor reliability and build quality during the 1970s – the nadir era for Jaguar. Even an audacious racing programme to take on BMW in the European Touring Car Championships in 1976/77 failed to raise image and sales because the car, although mighty quick, failed to make it to the chequered fl ag.
XJC prices used to change like the weather a few years back. Sometimes they were hot stuff, other times they give cold comfort to their owners. Today expect to pay a sizable premium over normal XJ values, irrespective of the age and condition. In general terms, basket cases start from a couple of thousand pounds, with a good example that’s worth preserving around £6000 or so. Truly top cars may well be worth double this but that’s the limit and, let’s be honest, hardly dear for what they offer, are they?
What To Look For
- Sadly, the XJC’s ’75 launch coincided with a downturn in Jaguar’s build quality and later Series 2s gained a poor reputation, especially when it came to the electrics. Don’t expectMercedes-like sturdiness!
- Like all Jags, XJs rot and some believe that the XJC suffers the worst. Common areas are round the headlights, lower front wings, doors on the edge which meets the front wing and where it joins the sill, the rear wheel arches and windscreen surrounds (beware, it is usually worse than it looks here).
- And that’s just the obvious areas! Ideally, raise the car off the ground for a nose underneath, checking the lower front valance and crossmember below the radiator, while the rear valance, comprising of the spare wheel well, is another iron oxide target area.
- Open that huge bonnet and observe its leading edge, where the hinges are, the inner wings and suspension turrets. You’re unlikely to get a car without at least a few of these tell-tale signs of corrosion.
- Interiors can get very tatty indeed. Door cards, leather seats and the felt headlining all perish, the latter being particularly troublesome; when that starts to sag, the only surefi re way of fi xing it is to remove the front screen and install an all-new headlining – expensive stuff.
- Remember that, apart from the headlining and the dash/centre console, the rest was unique to the XJC, and so is a lot harder to source. Electric windows were standard on the XJC, but they can be problematic.
- Check those thick pile carpets for any signs of damp. Beneath it a thick foam lining resided, which insulated the cabin from any engine or road noise. Sadly, if there’s rust in the fl oor due to a leaky windscreen, or rot-ridden screen surround, water ingress plays havoc here. Check the vinyl roof (if fi tted) – if ratty bank on up to £700-£1000 to replace, and watch for rust bubbling underneath.
- Watch for door drop as the XJC uses big doors and hinges and will accordingly suffer. Even when new, the window pane seal to the door frame was touch-and-go, and ratty cars will suffer from excess wind noise.
- Although well known and relatively simple, the XK twin cam unit can prove fi ckle, especially in what’s known as the latter ‘long stud’ guise. These XJ engines could suffer from specifi c head and block problems, causing the piston liners to move. Some prefer the old 420/E-type engines and retro-fi t them.
- The alloy head and cast iron block really needs quality anti-freeze to not only prevent the potential overheating or freezing of the engine in extreme weathers, but also to prohibit corrosion and silt build-up of the internals.
- As ever with all XK lumps, watch for excessive oil usage, leaks from the rear crank oil seal (most common), decent oil pressure (40-50lbft@2500rpm), over-silent tappets (meaning a head off decoke/re-shim) and rattling timing chains.
- The V12 unit suffers similarly, but unless really knackered rarely needs a full rebore. The oil pressure needs to hover around the 60-80lb mark to prove it’s healthy. Lucas electronic ignition is infamously poor and may have been swapped with better aftermarket types. The Efi system needs proper servicing if it’s to function at its best although it’s hardly high tech.
- Most XJs came with a Borg Warner three-speed automatic, although some were specifi ed with a four-speed manual ‘box (usually fi tted with overdrive). From 1977 a GM three-speed automatic gearbox was employed in the V12, since this could better handle the massive amounts of torque. If cared for, they all last the distance and should be smooth and silent.
- The Salisbury rear axle is sturdy enough, but it can weep oil round the pinion seal. Leaks emanating from the driveshaft seals should be viewed seriously as the escaping lube contaminates the inboard rear brake discs.
- That much-heralded E-type-derived independent rear suspension needs to be dropped down to gain access to the rear brakes. If the rear suspension is looking a little tired, consider changing the brakes at the same time as this will save a lengthy job later.
- Sub frame, radius arm mounts and inner wishbone bushes dry and crack with age. Renewing this little lot will transform the way an XJ drives, back to the way it did when new. Spongy steering will probably be down to tired rack bushes while a clonking noise is typically universal joints past their prime.
- Cheap tyres fi tted as a cost-saving exercise are sadly all too common. Ideally they should be on VR rated 205/70VR-15s – and the specially designed Dunlop Aquajet rubber to be precise, if you want the best out of your XJ… but this classic rubber doesn’t come cheap so most cars lack them.
- Said to have been Lucas’s lowest point, the S2 Jag was beset with problems due to pennypinching. Switchgear, alternators etc were all unreliable so check everything works okay.
- The great thing about the Jaguar XJC is that there is a vast army of specialists in the UK who can advise, service, repair and even upgrade this model, while parts are usually readily available direct from Jaguar via the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust (log on to www. jdht.com, or call 024 7640 2141). Failing that, big independent players like SNG Barratt and David Manners will be on hand with OE and quality aftermarket alternatives.
- Restorations can be horrendous in time and money and perhaps outweigh a car’s real world value. The doors are simply extended saloon items (you can see the extension in the door skin if you look hard) and the long rear quarters are just welded and strengthened. They rot particularly badly there.
- Improvements should be sympathetic and for many a good rolling road tune up and geometry reset by a Jag specialist transforms most old cats. Harder suspension aids handling but ride suffers – depends what you want. Plenty of engine tweaks available; S3 head and cams most cost effective. Good tyres make all the difference as many cars lack quality rubber but don’t go too wide.
Three Of A Kind
BMW 6 SeriesThe car which gave the big Jag such a tough time on the tracks fairly trounced it on the road too. The original coupe ran from 1965-75, when it was replaced by all new design which formed basis for the yet to be launched 7 Series. Superbly made, and with a choice of engines, it’s a much wiser and more usable buy than the Jag. Top 635 Csi is a real hot shot.
Mercedes SLCHard-top coupe spin-off of the iconic SL, the SLC had same integrity and ability but in a useable, stylish coupe body. As with the BMW, a wide range of engines means there’s a model to suit most pockets and it’s another German that wears far better than the Brit. Good specialist base means that owning one is pretty easy and not that dear either.
Fiat CoupeStunning coupe take on the capable 130 saloon that was styled by Pininfarina. The 3.2 V6 is auto only so performance is no better than lively, but the Fiat drives spiritedly with good handling. Lavishly appointed, although lacked luxury feel, and didn’t age too well either, so buy with care. Great value but restoration costs usually exceed car’s worth.
We reckon the coupe-styled XJC is the best-kept secret classic Jag (and Daimler) around. Classy and good looking, they offer all that’s best in an XJ plus sportier looks. Despite their exclusivity, they still seem great value Jag coupes that can only appreciate in price and public affection. Indeed, faced with buying a cheap E-type 2+2, we’d go for the XJC every time.
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