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Jaguar XJ6

Published: 21st Nov 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XJ6
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Whether you were a Duke or a dustman, there was a time when everybody could afford an XJ6

They say that modern cars have never been better, and there’s a good deal of truth in this. But, back in the good old days, you could own the best car in the world for just £500. That was some 30 years ago and the car was a secondhand Jaguar XJ6, to be precise.

This replacement for the iconic Mk2 has always been an enigma in classic car circles. On paper it has everything; looks, refi nement and performance, yet only lately have values started to refl ect the car’s excellence. Instead, for decades it became the ideal big car bargain for anybody who fancied trading up from their Zodiac, Triumph 2000 or even a Cortina GXL, for the same money.

Jaguars have always been exceptional value, and never more so than with the XJ6. Launched back in 1968 it set new standards that rivals took decades to match. Long waiting lists for this cat, which replaced both the Mk2 and S-type ranges at a basic cost of only £1737, caused impatient motorists to pay over the odds and buy nearlynew, causing canny folk to place an order, safe in the knowledge that the car would be sold for a profi t without them even paying for it!

Magazines frequently hailed the XJ6 the best car in the World, especially in magnifi cent XJ12 form, where that V12 suited the car far better than it did in the E-type. Costing under £3800 in ‘72, Hurst Park Automobiles (now a well-known classic dealer) was adverting one of the originals in a January 1973 edition of Motor for £5350. At the recent Goodwood Revival meeting, it had on sale two superb 1974 Sovereigns for £13,995! The Energy Crisis and subsequent soaring of fuel prices later that year coincided with the introduction of the Series 2 and, while it was a significantly improved car (decent heating and ventilation for starters), it actually signalled the slow but sure decline of Jaguar, where corner cutting and penny pinching on quality by parent British Leyland sullied the great name and buyer s deserted Jaguar during the 70s.

Well, that’s the usual story bandied about, but, in truth, Jaguar’s dealers frequently moaned about Lyons employing similar tactics to make his cars seem such exceptional value. They begged him to add £100 on the price, to cover the use of better materials to match the likes the Mercedes and BMW, who by this time were starting to match our XJ in most departments, and provide an after service to die for. So, the decline was somewhat inevitable.

By now the XJ’s replacement (XJ40) had got underway but development and BL politics took so long that, in 1979, an S3 was introduced to refresh the car, which had to stay in production for another seven years! But, the Pininfarina revamp (which saw a squarer cut shape, fuel injected XK engines and a proper fi ve-speed manual ‘box) was more than up to the task, even if the car’s 60s cabin felt more cramped than ever. Even as late as 1983 Car magazine hailed it as “still one of the world’s greatest saloons.”

The XJ40 which replaced the XJ was – build quality problems apart – a superior car and worth the wait, yet many couldn’t take to the square cut style. So much so that Jaguar introduced the XJ300 facelift in 1994 and brought back the curvy lines which were an XJ6 trademark.

Big wigs and brickies

A combination of banger-level prices and a longstanding ‘oh so familiar’ shape meant that people in all walks of life could enjoy XJ6 ownership and, for many, that was part of the problem. Pull up at the traffi c lights and an MD in his new one could be in for a burn up with Bob the builder in his ten year old smoker – and it was hard to tell them apart. Matching, and beating, a Roller on everything bar snob appeal, Motor said of its review of a decade of cars back in 1976; “Jaguar, we feel, came closer than anyone else - closer than Rolls and Mercedes - in getting all the ingredients right, especially with the so smooth XJ12.”

The press waxed lyrical about the XJ, and rightly so, but the best praise of all came from a passenger in a 3.4 test car, reported that same weekly when he cut through all the journo jargon. “A passenger, unaccustomed to such smoothness and quietness expressed in eight words, in a way a road tester might have failed in a hundred ‘The bloody thing even freewheels uphills!’”

Owning any XJ was a real treat, even the sedate but silky smooth 180bhp 2.8, although this small engine’s piston-burning tendencies put many off this one and the model was culled in ‘73. It was no more frugal than the better and more popular 245bhp 4.2 anyway (recalculated to 167bhp DIN) and in truth you rarely saw more than 20mpg from any six pot, and perhaps barely 12mpg from the sensational XJ12. Some ingenious owners rigged up the electric automatic chokes via a dash mounted switch, to cut them out, but whether it really saved that much in petrol is debatable.

Far more wallet wobbling were some maintenance bills for even routine consumables, like exhausts and tyres, and it wasn’t unknown for cash-strapped owners to fit highly dangerous and illegal commercial vehicle tyres, where specially made Dunlop SP Sport radials should sit. Perhaps it was the XJ’s new type of owner, not least Arthur Daley in Minder, that contrived to keep the XJ becoming the classic it deserved to be before now. At last year’s NEC show an ultra-low miles XJ12 was priced at more than £25,000 and top cats regularly breach £10,000, especially if it’s the rare svelte Coupe. Prices are on the up and the time to buy is now before they start to ape Mk2 values – small beer for what remains one of the best cars in the world?

When The Car Was The Star

Minder obviously, in the form of the silver S2 4.2 of the early episodes, but also the white S1 XJ6 in ‘Ringer’, the fi rst episode of ‘The Sweeney’, Bob Hoskins being driven in a S2 4.2 to his doom in ‘The Long Good Friday’ and the ‘69 S1 in the delightful Australian comedy ‘The Big Steal’. As for the S3s in ‘The Equalizer’ and ‘Howard’s Way’ are the most notable of them all… well, even a great car has to pay the bills! And let’s not forget of course John Steed’s XJ-C in The New Avengers which had the bodykit of the Group 2 racer of the time.

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