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Jaguar XJ40

Jaguar XJ40 Published: 30th Sep 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XJ40
Jaguar XJ40
Jaguar XJ40
Jaguar XJ40
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Thirty years old, is now the right time to own this forgotten but fab Jag?

What’s so wrong with an XJ40?

If you get a good one, very little! Incredible as it may seem, Jag’s XJ40 is 30 years old this autumn. The outstanding XJ6 that preceded it was always going to be a tough act to follow and the XJ40 was also Jaguar’s first tentative step into a new world – a world of modernity and electronic wizardry. And sadly Browns Lane wasn’t quite up to it at the time – otherwise this XJ is every bit a match for any contemporary BMW or Mercedes rival – except in quality in durability. Granted, Jaguar got on top of the problems and in the later years, produced a very fine car indeed. But mud sticks and the XJ40 remains fairly covered in it.

 

And what’s right about one then?

For all this Jag’s faults, to drive a well-sorted XJ40 three decades on remains an uplifting experience – good enough for the critical Car magazine to hail it, 30 years back, as the World’s best saloon! All engines are as smooth as the old XK unit and with the exception of the base 2.9, offer levels of performance way above most sportier rivals. It is a big car and those not used to this kind of bulk, may find it intimidating to pilot at first, yet this Jaguar can be hurled around like a GTi once you’re familiar with it where the bucket loads of torque on offer, fairly catapults the cat out of the bends but they are absolutely planted on the road. The brakes are well up to the job, unlike earlier Jags. Finally, unlike older Jags, the XJ40 can prove to be quite economical. Many a driver has seen 30mpg on a gentle tour and even driven hard, rarely drops below 20mpg.

Typically Jaguar, the interior space is nothing special for its size and, yes, that includes its boot, but a good XJ40 rides beautifully.

 

Best buys?

Drive a bad example and an XJ40 still feels pretty good and better than most luxury saloons of that ilk.

And that is a problem when looking at one used, especially if you’re coming from a more mundane sector of the market. Just how can the inexperienced judge between good and not so good? Simple really – drive as many as you can as XJ40s do vary greatly. And when deciding, remember that a good base model is a better bet than a so-so super luxury alternative.

 

Best models?

At the bottom of the ladder lies a cloth trimmed, four head-lamped 2.9 with no air-conditioning and probably manual transmission; it’s the ‘2.8 XJ6’ of the range in more ways than one. The more popular Sovereign and Daimler trims are much to what you expect. As a nod to Jaguar’s phenomenal success on the racetrack during the eighties, the XJR was introduced, its handling package and body kit, developed in conjunction with the late Tom Walkinshaw, who had masterminded Jaguar’s competition assault. In 1989, the 3.6 engine was enlarged to 4.0-litre (and a very quick car it became as a result, while the head gasket-blowing 2.9 was abandoned in favour of a much superior 3.2, now topped by twin cams. There was even a Majestic long wheel base model for 1992 along the V12 range at long last.

The delay is now blamed on Browns’ Lane engineers deliberately making it impossible to fit a Vee engine for fear of British Leyland forcing the old Rover V8 on them!

Jaguar was keen to rid itself of an ‘old man’s’ car image and so launched a Sport model while in its last year of production, the XJ40 was available as a top spec version badged the Gold. By 1994, it was all over for the range and the more curvaceous (and much improved, it must be said) X300 took over.

 

How cheap to buy?

XJ40s still go for banger money although are best avoided as the expense to make them good outweigh their true worth.

Contradicting ourselves slightly, pampered cats have been valued at the thick end of £10,000 although half this outlay is ample for a good one – although their rarity compared to the more wanted X300 are firming up values continually.

 

What goes wrong?

In a word – lots! Before you even start to vet a car, check out the V5 document. A long list of past owners usually means that this cat is really a dog and should be best avoided. A fully stamped ‘passport’ is worth its weight in gold. Alas, the XJ40 rotted just like many other old Jags and its lowly values meant that neglect and cheapskate bodges are rife. Check floor pans and bulkheads in particular. Find a good one and rust treat it immediately; dodgy cars are not worth restoring but are ideal for much needed spares.

 

And the oily bits?

Engines are pretty well bomb-proof and in the main, 200,000 miles is not uncommon with the AJ6 unit. Common problems though are head gasket failure on all and some piston breakage, particularly on the best avoided 2.9 (shades of the old 2.8XK engine don’t you think?-ed).

Astonishingly the transmissions are extremely tough so much so in fact that a thriving industry sprang up retro-fitting both automatic and manuals to classic Mk2s and E-types! Rear axles can be a troublesome area though. Two types were fitted, Dana and Salisbury and the latter is the more durable.

When a car sits low at the rear without a load on board, then suspect that the self-levelling dampers are past it. Linked to the braking system, green fluid (Citroën style) is pumped to adjust ride height. Fine when it works, costly if its fails, later models reverted to normal dampers and a conversion is available from both Jaguar and Jag specialists. The rear suspension geometry was never that accurate even when new and may well be ‘out’ as cars regularly left the factory with wonky wheels so have the car checked on a modern four-wheel laser aligner. The difference after a good sort out is amazing and at such little cost!

 

Oh those electrics?

Yes! Jaguar filled the XJ40 with electronic devices, and that’s where the main trouble starts. Ultimately most work fine but many faults were showing up early on in the car’s life and new replacement modules are frighteningly expensive. What you need to be wary of is past owners taking the ‘idiot’ bulbs and fuses out to stop the dash lights showing what’s wrong with the car! So when starting up, look at the dash and see what comes on – and goes out! Air bags, ABS and engine fault lights are the most tampered with.

 

Anything else?

With so many XJ40s broken up for spares, there’s no problem finding replacement parts including the interiors that are hardly of Mercedes quality. Bleached wood and lifting veneer is common while the centre console trim splits with ease. And watch for falling headlinings, too.

Oh by the way, broken door locks are very common on this model and it’s an MoT fail point so don’t dismiss the fault lightly. Early models were fitted with metric-sized wheels and tyres. As metric rubber is expensive as well as harder to obtain than normal ‘boots’, a sensible option is to convert to imperial size by sourcing from later cars or certain XJ-S models.

 

Should i buy an XJ40?

Why not if you find a good ’un? XJ40s are delights to drive and be driven in and they’re so rare. That controversial straight cut styling never seen before, nor since, on a Jaguar, makes it one of the car’s many talking points – and that’s usually the mark of a good classic…

 



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