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Jaguar XJC

Buying Guide Published: 14th May 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XJC
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Special vinyl-roofed two-door XJ that’s a better all rounder than an XJ-S as well as being more stylish, rarer and roomier. Should become increasingly collectible in the coming years but, like all XJ6s, remains amazing low cost to buy compared to a Mk2 William Lyons never penned, then the XJC must have surely been his last – and can’t you tell the difference? Where the Sayer-designed XJ-S is all odd angles and at odds with itself, the XJC takes all that’s good about the original XJ6’s style and makes it even sleeker and is a testimony to Lyons’s eye for style. You’d think that fact alone would have given the XJC a certain cache and classic status and yet for what it offers – and that’s a heck of a lot – this shapely two-door XJ saloon which was never officially called a coupé sells for little more than a normal XJ6 – itself a grossly underrated classic. With the XJ-S refusing to gain genuine classic status and appreciation, perhaps those hankering for a coupé from Coventry should take a fresh look at the vinyl roofed XJC? We think so.


1973 Announced the same time as the revamped Series 2 XJ6 was introduced late that year. Main differences being at the front, where a revised higher bumper height (demanded by US federal legislation) led
to a shallower grille plus the indicator lights were now located below the bumper. The car’s interior is slightly revised, especially the bitty switchgear and now a proper air conditioning system was offered which caused for body bulkhead changes.

1975 The XJC took longer to hit the showrooms than it was first anticipated due to difficulties in making those huge pillarless windows stay shut at high speed. Looking much like the saloon albeit with longer doors and a flatter roof line, the XJC weighed in some 50lb lighter than the short wheelbase XJ6 saloon it was derived from. Two versions were offered; the entry level 4.2 model and the V12, although the latter by this time ran on more efficient fuel injection together with a higher final drive, all in an attempt for better fuel economy.

A fluted grill Daimler Sovereign spin off was offered and an amazing 1600 were made. Amazing because, so few were ever seen on the roads!

Also that same year, the 2+2 XJ-S was introduced to rather confuse issues.

1976 To fully maximise the new coupé’s publicity, the XJC was entered into the prestigious European Touring Car Championship, taking seasoned campaigners like BMW head on. Also a road-going replica of this fat wheel-arched racer was made available for The New Avengers as Steed’s new stead.

1977 Always seen as a short-term car, until the stock of swb XJ6 floorpans were exhausted, the XJC was killed off along with the disastrous racing fiasco after 6505 XJ6 and 1873 V12s rolled out of Browns Lane.

Why the vinyl roof? Well, for starters, it gives the impression of a lower roof line but
the real reason, it’s rumoured, was to mask imperfections with the metal roof…


Anybody familiar with an XJ6 will warm to the XJC although will remark on the added wind noise. Sealing those massive and now frameless doors – four inches longer than the saloon’s – was always a major headache for Jaguar engineers and one of the reasons why the car took so long to get into production. And penny-to-a-pound that age won’t have made the situation any better…

It’s about the only thing that will spoil the serenity which made the XJ6 such a classic that even now still impresses with its Rolls-Royce-beating ride yet allied to sports car like handling. As they share the same underpinnings, understandably the XJC is on par with an XJ-S although with this two-door saloon you get much better practicality and rear seat space, but that’s not saying much as both are cramped when compared to the XJ6 saloon, itself not the most spacious of its kind.

Performance is similar to the normal XJ saloon which even in the 4.2, 245bhp XJ6 is adequate enough although economy from an automatic example isn’t distinguished. The manual overdrive combo is better (say 20-22mpg) but most came as autos so you many have to contemplate converting – perhaps as a modern five-speeder using Jaguar’s later transmission from the S3? There again, the three-speed auto (improved to the B/W 65 for the S2 range) was a popular pick because it suits the XJC’s character.

The magnificent V12 hides its 43 years well and is still one of the all time greats in terms of performance and smoothness even if it won’t better 13-15mpg despite fuel injection. But as we’ve said before (and this applies to Jensen Interceptors, we feel), if you are only covering 3000 miles a year (and most do much less) isn’t it a price worth paying for the pleasure this 150mph slingshot serves up by the shovel?

We only mention this because you won’t win any economy prizes in a 4.2 auto. When Motor tested the saloon version in 1977 it could just about wring out a miserable 16mpg and an overall test figure of just 13.7mpg, which it rightly remarked was ‘dismal’ in relation to the car’s now moderate performance. As standard, the car ran on a 3.3:1 rear axle although the V12’s taller 3.07:1 was optional and worth having.

The S2 has always been the runt of the XJ litter because it came at a time when Jaguar was suffering from poor build quality and reliability issues. Yet it boasted many welcome enhancements over the original not least four-pot callipers and vented discs up front and a better auto transmission. It was made even more refined with better insulation and – at last – an air blending heater, the latter point something Jaguar was traditionally poor on supplying.

The media got itchy feet waiting for the XJC to surface but didn’t hold back on the praise when it duly arrived in 1975. 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 it felt still needed to be improved it felt that the car set new standards of excellence for the workers at Browns Lane. Motor was similarly impressed although criticised the XJ’s lifeless steering and the heating and ventilation which despite improvements still wasn’t class competitive.

A retrospective look at the XJC by Supercar Classics 12 years on was extremely positive overall but the wind noise, highlighted by fair wear and tear understandably, was remarked upon as was the buffeting suffered by rear seat passengers. Weighing a whole cwt less than the long-wheelbase XJ12 saloon, the XJC’s added speed and agility was noted.

One point the tester did note was the non standard, smaller, thicker sports steering wheel fitted which gave the power steering system some welcome added feel. “This Jaguar engine is greatly underrated…” although its sheer smoothness “left the blood of enthusiasts unstirred,” it remarked.


It depends what you want from your XJC, a sophisticated road cruiser or a race replica and both are achievable. First step is to ensure that the car is up to spec condition- wise with the critical geometry settings spot on. Then go for uprated dampers and perhaps springs along with re-bushing the myriad of insulation points although ride will suffer. Sports bushes help firm up the steering but don’t ‘poly bush everything, advises Hyper Engineering (01844 278481) who markets a more compliant Nylon type instead. Brakes on all models are fine for most needs – even racing – although EBC Green Stuff pads are worth fitting, plus last a good bit longer too.

If you want to go further, then look at the later XK8/R set up (cheap if you used second-hand parts). Reforming the hydraulic PAS pipes to make them slightly smaller along their run effectively lessens assistance and so promotes better feel but be careful how you do it and speak to a specialist first.

Most were autos yet despite tall axle ratios these three-speeders yearn for an added overdrive cog and the transmission from the XJ40 is the answer and can be made to fi t. Manuals benefi t from the S3’s fi ve-speeder with its better ratios and a far slicker change.

In terms of power, it’s a case of how fast do you want to go? The tried and tested XK can be taken out to over 4.5 litres and there’s a host of head, cam and carb upgrades – even fuel injection and computer mapping but a good initial step is to fi t the top half of the S3 engine as it boasts better head, valves and cams; cheap too if you shop around.

The 5.3 V12 should have enough power already but again there’s no shortage of tuning gear to achieve 300bhp and more, although the car is more aimed at cultured cruising we feel – perhaps a later and lustier 6-litre is a good alternative? A better electronic ignition to replace the Lucas set up is essential while a switch to SU carbs is said to greatly improve all round performance and starting points, along with a session on a rolling road, before you add better induction and exhaust systems. On all cars it is worth investing in an uprated radiator.


By and large, XJC have tended to fl uctuate over the years – sometimes selling for appreciably more than an S2 (the least liked of the XJ6 strain) before settling back to values of the S1. Right now XJC prices are hitting fi ve fi gures for a truly top cat and outstripping values of a similar XJ-S. Bank on £8000 for a good XJC although projects can still be snapped up for less than two grand. Sounds tempting but a restoration can be as expensive as renovating an E-type. Like-for-like, the V12 is worth around £1000-2000 above the 4.2 model.

What To Look For

• The XJC’s 1975 launch coincided with a downturn in Jaguar build quality and later Series 2 cars (which included the XJC) gained a poor reputation especially the electrics and detailed work BMW got right.

• XJC specific parts are becoming rare and so pricey. Apart from the headlining and the dash/ centre console, the rest was unique to the XJC, and so harder to source. Door skins are available however and cost £240 from Jag specialists SNG Barrett.

• Interiors can get very tatty. Door cards, leather seats and the felt headlining all perish, the latter being particularly troublesome; when that starts to sag, the only certain way of fixing it is to remove the front screen and install an all-new headlining.

• Said to have been Lucas’s lowest point, the S2 Jag was beset with problems due to penny-pinching. Switchgear, alternators and so on were all unreliable so check everything works okay.


• Some believe that the XJC suffers the worst for rusting out of the XJ strain. Common areas are round the headlights, lower front wings, doors on the edge which meets the front wing and where it joins the sill, rear wheel arches and windscreen surrounds; it’s usually worse than it looks here.

• Ideally, raise the car off the ground for a good old nose underneath, checking the lower front valance and crossmember below the radiator. The rear valance. comprising of the spare wheel well, is another suspect area.

• Open the bonnet fully and observe its leading edge where the hinges are located. The inner wings and suspension turrets need a thorough vet, too.

• Carpets damp? Beneath lies a thick foam lining, but water ingress, due to a leaky screen, plays havoc here. Check the vinyl roof (if still fitted) – if ratty bank on up to £700-£1000 to replace it and watch for rust bubbling underneath (see pic overleaf).


• Most XJs came with a Borg Warner three-speed auto, although some were specified with a four- speed manual gearbox (usually fitted with overdrive). From 1977, a GM three-speed automatic gearbox was employed in the V12. If cared for, they all last the distance and should be smooth and silent.

• The Salisbury rear axle unit is sturdy enough, but it can weep oil round the pinion seal. Leaks emanating from the driveshaft seals or diff unit should be viewed seriously as the escaping lube contaminates the inboard rear brake discs and is a major job to rectify.

• 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, replace the brakes at the same time as it saves money and time later on. Subframe, radius arm mounts and inner wishbone bushes dry up and crack with age.


• XK unit can be unreliable, especially in what’s known as the latter ‘long stud’ guise. These later XJ engines suffer from specific head and block hassles, causing the piston liners to move. Some prefer the old 420/E-type engines and retro fit them.

• As 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 rattly timing chains.

• V12 suffers similarly, but unless really knackered rarely needs a 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.

Three Of A Kind

The car which gave the big car such a tough time on the tracks fairly trounced it on the road too. The original coupés ran from 1965-75 when it was replaced by all new design and which formed basis for the yet to be launched 7 Series. Superbly made and with a choice of engines to suit all pockets, it’s a much wiser and more usable buy than the Jag. Top 635 CSi is a real hot shot if you find one.
Hard top coupé spin-off of the iconic SL, the SLC boasts the same integrity and ability but in a useable, stylish 2+2 bodyshell. As with the BMW, a wide range of engines means there’s a model to suit most pockets and it’s another German made from granite that wears far better than the Brit Jag. Good specialist base means owning one is pretty easy and not that dear either as they are cheaper than an SL.
Placing a common Ford in this rather select test may seem odd, but the Granada Ghia punched well above its weight when new and the shapely two-door offers a lot of rare classic coupé motoring. Well equipped and comfortable, the V6 3-litre offers same performance as the Jag 4.2 but with better economy. Spare parts supply can be patchy but car is as rare as an XJC and almost as good in certain areas.


We reckon the XJC strangely remains Jag’s best-kept secret classic and faced with buying a cheap E-type 2+2 or an XJ-S, we’d go for this two-door XJ6 without hesitation. There’s something about its sleek handsome looks and the car’s sheer rarity that turns heads at shows. But above all else it provides GT motoring with virtually all the comfort and practicalities you get from a regular XJ saloon. All XJs are staggeringly undervalued for what they offer and the XJC is the most under-rated of them all.

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