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Jaguar XJ6

Jaguar XJ6 Published: 3rd Sep 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar XJ6
Jaguar XJ6
Jaguar XJ6
Jaguar XJ6
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Stuart had to hand back his beloved Jaguar 240 in 1970, but enjoyed many miles in the luxurious XJ6 as suitable compensation

Nothing was ever too much trouble for Jaguar in the ‘good old’ 1960s and early ’70s, and when Browns Lane heard that we were having starting troubles with our managing director’s XJ6 4.2, Jag wanted it back at the factory. It was January 1970 when the car was due to be returned, and at the same time my Jaguar 240, which I had enjoyed for 24 months and 24,000 miles, was due to go back. An exchange was arranged for the Friday, but then came a message that the engineers were still not happy with the XJ6, and could they make the hand-over on Saturday.

I pointed out that I was due to go to North Wales that morning. “No problem,” came the reply from press officer Jim Graham; “give us the address and we’ll bring it over to you there.” The 240-mile journey to Machynleth was the last long trip in the 240 on Saturday morning, and we waited in all afternoon expecting his arrival.

Eventually, just after nine o’ clock, the bell rang and there was Jim, complete with a girl friend. He explained that the starting problem had been traced to a faulty alternator, and then it had been found that the battery was weak as well and had to be replaced. But this couldn’t explain the long delay, and I never heard what other ailments they had sorted out while Coventry had the car.

Jim and the girl declined a meal but had a quick cup of tea and were then off. I wandered out to the XJ6 to make sure it was locked securely and then noticed a huge bunch of keys by the transmission selector. They had been gone in my 240 several minutes, but perhaps I could catch them, though I didn’t know which way they would have gone – over the mountains to Staylittle, or on the main road to Welshpool.

I jumped into the unfamiliar car, started up and headed down the narrow driveway, and the car seemed very wide in the dark when it came to the narrow gateposts at the bottom. But there, with great relief, I saw my dear old 240 stationary with the lights on. They had stopped to consult the map.

“Do you need these?” I asked, holding the bunch of keys through the window. “Not half,” came the reply; “without them we’d have had to spend the night in the car.”

I was about to make a naughty remark about how the girl might have liked that, but refrained…

LIFE OF LUXURY

This was my first experience at driving the MD’s car, but it had been agreed that I would do several long journeys in it and then write the long term assessment report, which appeared in August. There was quite a category of faults to record by then. Starting problems were suffered again when the car was one year old, traced to blockage of the fuel filter. It was recommended to be changed every 12,000 miles, but this was reduced to 6000. Further starting problems were caused by poor electrical contacts at the battery and at the connection to the starter. Misfiring at high speed was traced to the condenser breaking down under load.

By the time my assessment was published, in August 1970, the XJ6 had been in production nearly two years, yet it was still in high demand, as we found when we took it to several dealers to seek valuation, and were assured that £2400 could be obtained, which was almost exactly what it had cost when new. Since then, the price of a new one had risen to £2753.

A number of mods had been carried out, most significant ones being the fitting of a higher ratio back axle on both 4.2-litre and 2.8-litre cars, and replacement of the Borg-Warner Model 8 automatic transmission with the later and superior Model 12 unit, giving better part throttle response. The axle change from 3.54-to-1 to 3.31-to-1 back axle ratio improved quietness, and took the maximum speed up from 116 to 120mph, but fuel consumption was still only around a thirsty 15mpg.

Oil consumption was also heavy at about 350 miles per pint, excluding about two pints dumped on my drive when a change of oil filter had been bungled and the seal incorrectly fitted!

MORE SORRY WOES BUT STILL A WONDERFUL CAR

In March 1971 another XJ6 came on strength, this time a manual with overdrive (effectively a five-speed done electrically) provided by Jaguar on an all too short six-month loan. The aim was to put as much mileage on the car as possible in that short time and one of the first long runs I did in it was to take it up to Deeside to the Witter factory for a tow-hitch to be fitted, as the planned test schedule included quite a lot of caravan towing which the XJ6 did well.

An early adventure was running the car in what turned out to be one of the most destructive rallies run by The Caravan Club, in which many caravans were badly damaged. At one time, during the night we arrived too fast at a gateway where the instructions warned that it was very narrow. I aimed as carefully as I could and hoped for the best. The left side towing mirror was knocked back, and the one on the driving side was smashed and nearly knocked completely off, but happily there was not a mark on either car or caravan.

On a more gentle towing expedition I had an Eccles caravan and took it up to North Wales. We were parked on an unofficial site near Mochras and dismayed to find in the morning that the engine would not start. I checked everything and tried again and again until finally the battery started to warn that it was about to die. I took the air filter off and put my hands over the air intakes while my wife, Jennetta, turned the starter. The trick of blocking the air to enrich the mixture worked, and the engine fired up on the last gasp of the battery. It turned out that the automatic mixture control had been defeated by the warm Welsh air and not given enough enrichment. The cold starting mixture control was modified on later cars.

After this episode the Jaguar was taken to France for the Paris Air Show in May and disgraced itself when the alternator drive belt broke and became tangled with the belt for the power steering pump, leaving the car with no generator, water pump or hydraulics for the steering. A local garage in France came to the rescue, as did another one later at Abbeville when a cracked rotor arm caused another roadside halt. Oil consumption on this second car was much more respectable, at around 800 miles per pint. Towing didn’t seem very kind to the clutch, and nor did the punishing business of standing start acceleration tests for performance testing, with the result that at 15,000 miles the car had to be returned to the factory for a new clutch, four new tyres and brake pads. Clutch replacement is a big job involving removing the engine and transmission, and it was found that the clutch plate was worn down to the rivets and had scored the flywheel.

This second XJ6 certainly came in for its share of troubles, but it had a hard life covering 20,000 miles in six months. Despite the problems, the excellence of the car always shone through, summed up nicely by tec ed Geoff Howard in the final report: “Even after three years [since launch] there is no car to match the XJ6’s unique combination of ride comfort and handling, and its power steering should be held up as an example to all”.

Read our buying guide in this issue if you want to sample an XJ6’s many merits even after all these years!

 



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