1968... a year usually remembered for the social unrest that shook Europe but for Jaguar enthusiasts, it's the year the XJ6 shook the automotive world. A ground breaking saloon which would enjoy unparalleled success for the following 20 years (almost 25 if you consider that the V12 version remained in production until 1992...). The XJ6 is also significant being the last new Jaguar launched under the leadership of the company's founder, Sir William Lyons.
Back in 1968, the all new XJ6 had no competition as it set new standards of luxury, elegance and performance. It was drastically different from Jaguar's other offerings, the big Mark X or the highly successful smaller Mark 2 which where all based on 1950s designs. It was also light years away from the company previous generation saloon, the Mark IX. In contrast, the XJ6 was a monocoque design instead of a body on frame construction and while a certain family resemblance could be found with the Mark X / 420, the slim elegant lines stood out. Although the 420G would continue on for a while in limited numbers, Sir William Lyons vision of the new XJ replacing all of the company's saloon worked and would in fact support the company until the end of the century...
In this guide :
Driving and Maintaining
Other Resources :
XJ6 buyer's Guide by Doug Dwyer
XJ Saloons Discussion Forum
XJ Saloon Image Gallery
JCNA Technical Library
Mechanically it was also breaking new grounds for saloons with its rear independent suspension nearly identical to the one found on the E-type. This not only provided superior handling but also reduced noise and vibration thanks to its rubber mounts. The engine was the proven and powerful 4.2 liters XK inline 6 cylinder developing 175hp and 225lb/ft of torque, giving the car a solid performance edge over its competition. As with previous Jaguar models, price was extremely competitive at just over UKP 2000 despite the luxurious appointments of its interior : comfortable leather seats and plenty of wood, just like a Jaguar should be ! The dash and instrumentation was very conservative and similar to what Jaguar drivers were used to in the Mark 2, Mark X and even the E-type : twin large primary instrument ( tach and speedometer), secondary instruments in a center panel immediately above a row of rocker switches.
Victim of its own success, early deliveries were slow as Jaguar's attempt to meet the demand and were hampered by delays in body manufacturing; the first cars were actually suffering from quality control problems. Despite these, the XJ6 was so superior to its competition than buyers were willing to wait and could even resell their just delivered XJ6s at a profit should they want to. As result of the sleek lines, interior space (especially in the back) was really the only deficiency of the new XJ6, something that will be addressed by a longer wheelbase model, although not until 1972. In some markets where taxes favored smaller engine, Jaguar offered a 2.8 Litre version of its XK engine at the expense of performance (140hp) but that version was not as successful facing stiff competition from BMW.
1972 would be the year Jaguar launched the XJ12, once again setting new standards in motoring by combining the elegant lines and luxury of the XJ6 with the smoothness and power of its new V12 engine, introduced a year before in the E-type. Using the same 4 Strombergs carburettors found in the E-type (fuel injection would not come to the V12 until the XJS in 1975), it developed 255hp and a whopping 300lb/ft of torque... The XJ12 is Sir William Lyons final achievement before his retirement that same year and the numbers speak for themselves: faster production four seater in the world at 140 mph and 0-60 times of under 7.5 seconds. The XJ12 had no match even though Jaguar's competition was starting to catch up, a task made even tougher with the introduction of the Series 2 XJ in 1973.
From the top, XJ6 ... 1 - 2 - 3 - 40! Four evolutions of the XJ Saloon
1973 Series 1 XJ6 (William Sutter, SFJC)
1974 Series 2 (Scott and Linda Young, JC Tulsa)
Series 3 parked in front of a late model XJR
1994 XJ40 (Bill and Margaret Bingham, Carolina JC)
The most obvious change in the Series 2 came at the front where new bumper height requirements forced Jaguar to redesign the grille and move the signals / markers below the bumper, overall an even sleeker and more refined design. The instrument panel was also modernized with the secondary gauges moved in front of the driver around the primary instruments and the rocker switches dropped in favor of column mounted stalks.
As the Series 2 was being introduced, Jaguar unveiled what will become one of the rarest car in the company's modern history : the XJ Coupe b(badged XJ6C or XJ12C). Built on a short wheelbase XJ, the two door coupe was built without central pillars for a striking look, particularly with the windows rolled down. Built only between 1974 and 1977, this highly desirable Jaguar is now becoming a true collector especially in V12 form. About 10 000 coupes were built, and fewer than 2500 were V12. While the lack of central pillar somewhat compromised body rigidity, it is a really a more sporty version of the saloon and handles fairly well. All cars were delivered with a vinyl covered roof giving them an unusual look for a Jaguar.
The next major revision to the XJ saloon came in 1979 when Jaguar called on Italian design house Pininfarina but again restyling was kept fairly subtle. Alteration to the roofline, now flatter, changes to the rake of the windshield and changes to tail lights, wheels and trim. The new front grille was changed from horizontal to vertical slats.
The US model was still powered by the 4.2 litre XK engine, fuel injected since 1978. Again, early deliveries suffered from quality control issues, especially paint, but the updated engine, with fuel injection, larger intake valve and management system was once again setting new standards, developing over 200hp.
US market XJ6 were always fully equipped but for those desiring even more luxury, the Vanden Plas (named after the renowned coach builder) provided an upgraded interior.
Despite the investment, the new XJ6 was really just a stop gap, final evolution before the arrival of the next generation saloon. This however would take much longer than anticipated, in part due to the financial problems faced by Jaguar and parent company British Leyland in the early 80s keeping the XJ6 in the showrooms for most of the 80s.
Finally after years of development and postponements, in 1986 Jaguar unveiled its next generation saloon, still badged XJ6 but also known under its code name XJ40. This was not just a face lift or redesign but truly an all new car. On the outside, styling was radically different with rectangular design which could be called boxy if it wasn't for the still elegant tapered lines. Gone where the trademark twin petrol tanks / fillers and, depending on market and specification, the XJ40 featured attractive rectangular headlights.
Under the bonnet, an inline 6 was still powering the car but it was an all new engine: the fuel injected AJ6 launched a couple of years earlier in the XJS. With dual overhead cams and 4 valves per cylinder, the 3.6 Litre engine delivered 221 hp; more power, better fuel efficiency and less emission than the venerable XK engine could. The suspension was revised, with conventional outboard brakes in the rear and a new self leveling hydraulic system. The interior was all new, with a completely revised and modern dash featuring what would become a trade mark for Jaguar, the J-Gate shifter. The car’s tapered lines still meant that passenger and luggage space was still lacking.
Once again, the base model XJ40 was sold including all options in the US and additional models were offered like the Vanden Plas, Majestic and Sovereign; all mechanically identical with slight trim changes.
During the XJ40 development phase, Jaguar designers feared that British Leyland would impose use of the Rover V8 engine in the new saloon and made sure that the car was designed in such a way that a V engine could not be fitted. As a result, there was no way to fit the V12 without extensive modification and with the more traditional looking series 3 XJ still in demand, the series 3 XJ12 would remain in production and offered in parallel to the new XJ40. It would take until 1992 for the XJ40 body shell to be redesigned to accept the V12...
After Ford purchase of the company in 1989, a massive investment program was launched to improve quality. While Jaguars were always a step ahead of competition in the styling, performance and comfort department, they were usually behind in reliability... Ford's financial resources and technology meant that improving reliability and engineering was possible and the XJ40 benefited from this. By the final two years of its production, in 1993 and 1994, the XJ40 had become a well built and reliable Jaguar.. At last!
Buying an XJ
There is little doubt that the XJ is one of the most recognizable Jaguar on the road today even though the last series 3 XJ or XJ40 were sold some 15 and 9 years ago. This is because during it's lifespan, the XJ saloon has not changed drastically and has always remained faithful to its original design. Even the Xj40's successor, the X300, shares a lot of styling clues with the series 3 like the elegant tapered lines and the quad round headlights flowing into the bonnet. Looking at the future, the upcoming X350 is again only a styling evolution of the original timeless design, making the early cars still very attractive.
Rarest XJ of all, the XJ12 Coupe
The Series 1 is now truly a classic saloon, with 1960s technology (and simplicity) and they are, like the series 2, much more rare than the series 3. Yet, because it was so ahead of its time, it doesn't look as dated as other cars of this era and still performs remarkably well on modern roads. The V12 particularly is a very good performer if one is willing to accept fuel consumption that would make an SUV owner feel like an environmentalist...
Simplicity was still the rule back then and although some emission control devices had started invading engine bays in the late 60s, catalytic converters, oxygen sensors and engine management system were still years away. Carburetted cars featured Strombergs carburetors which when properly set up are just as reliable as anything else.
Among the series 2 XJs, the coupes are highly desirable because of their short production run (3 years). They blend the traditional lines of the XJ with the unique lack of central pillar and longer doors. The low production numbers means that few of these cars have survived and they are now becoming rare.
Series 3 XJ6s are still found on the road as daily drivers and don't have the collectibility of the earlier saloons. Because they still fall in the "used car" segment of the market, some can be seen in various states of begging for some TLC and can be a sad sight. These are 15 to 20 year old cars which can be bought for very little money, by owners who can't necessarily spend what is needed. Series 3 XJ6 can be found in classifieds for $ 3000 or less and at that price, don't expect a car that has received thousand of dollars in maintenance... The key here is to be patient and wait to find for the best car within your budget.
The XJ40, built from 1987 till 1994, is probably one of the best buys on a used car lot these days especially the later models loaded with power everything, dual airbags, cruise control, ABS, good sound system and more. If you consider that for about $ 10 000 you get a luxury car with the best leather and wood to pamper you, timeless styling and excellent performance, what more could you want? a cheap Korean import econo box ? Again, well maintained and cared for, an XJ40 doesn't look like it was designed almost 20 years ago...
As for most used cars, but especially Jaguars, the most critical part of the purchase is an inspection by someone who knows these cars. While not terribly complicated, they are some pitfalls and knowing what to look is important.
Rust is the main concern when it comes to the XJ6 series 1 thru 3... what's new?. XJ40s are less prone to rust problems since they obviously benefited from advances in paint and rust protection but some spots like boot lids, doors, etc.. can be source of problems. In addition to the obvious spots like floors, lower doors, the classic XJ6 is prone to rust below the windshield and rear window and while the repairs are terribly costly, if left unchecked damage can become extensive. Yes, there are many components hidden behind the dash that don't react too well to water... Rust can be expensive to repair and never cures itself, keep that in mind when considering an XJ6 and don’t hesitate to pass on an apparent good buy…
Engine and transmissions are rarely an issue on Jaguars and the engines powering the XJ6 or XJ12 are nearly bulletproof. The only series of engine that suffered from reliability issues was the early 2.8 liter XK engine which was not available in the US. The V12s are more expensive to maintain as they obviously have more of everything… spark plugs, heads, pistons, valves, etc… and less space to work around. They also do not handle overheating too well so any V12 with a history of running hot should be considered suspect. Otherwise, both the XK engine used in the series 1 thru 3 and the AJ6 found in the XJ40 are solid and reliable although is not uncommon for AJ6 engine to need head gasket replacement around 100k miles.
Jaguar AJ6 engine in a 1994 XJ40
And this is really the irony of Jaguars for sale with American V8 engines! A number of series XJs have been “lumped” with V8s supposedly to solve reliability problems when in fact the only thing to fix should have been the mechanic’s own ignorance… The engine is rarely the problem but the accessories, wiring, etc… are; and pushing a cheap V8 on an unsuspecting customer is easier… Lumped Jaguars are worth next to nothing because of the usually poor quality conversion and loss of originality and character.. The V12 or XK engines are very much the part of the car’s soul.
Early XJ6 and XJ12 used Borg Warner automatic transmission which work well and rarely give problems. Later V12 cars used GM transmissions, also reliable as were the ZF used on the XJ40. Transmission technology has gone a long way over the 25 years of the XJ6/XJ40 series and units have become more refined, adding a gear or two and sports mode on the later models.
Another thing to look out for are modifications made to the cars, especially to the electrical system. By pass wiring, extra switches and cheap aftermarket security system can become a major source of problems especially as the XJ became more complicated over the years.
Finally, one area where things became significantly more complicated is the climate control system and when checking out a car, do not assume that a malfunctioning climate control is just a minor accessories. It can be costly to take apart the dash if the problem turns out to be more than an A/C recharge!
Driving and maintaining an XJ
Jaguars have always offered good performance and the XJ6 is no exception. Despite the car’s size and weight, the straight 6 engine provide plenty of power making the big cats a perfect choice for highway cruising. Of course, in the performance department the V12 is king with plenty of power and low end torque for passing and accelerating. It is also a very smooth engine, perfectly at home in a Jaguar saloon. On the downside, its fuel consumption is an issue in places where gas is expensive. The later versions of the V12 benefitted greatly from changes made to the engine design and from electronic management system; they are far more economical to run.
Ride quality is also something Jaguar saloons are known for and the XJ shines there as well; soft and comfortable yet capable of good handling when the driver is in a spirited mood.
One of the most common complaint regarding the XJ saloon is lack of interior and boot space. Ever since the early days of Jaguar, the lines of the car and its elegance was crucial to Sir William Lyons who would not sacrifice them for just more space. Until very recently this remained true and Jaguar owner do pay a price, a small one, for those elegant tapered lines : limited passenger and luggage space. If you need to go on long family trips with plenty of luggage, you might have problems fitting everything! Interior space is adequate, although a bit limited in the back in short wheel base cars but the quality of the cabin appointments more than make up for this.
Unfortunately, these wonderful saloons are getting older and will need a little more attention than a new one so you'd better plan on spending some money on maintenance.... The good news is that despite their bad reliability reputation, neither the original XJ or the XJ40 will be the troublesome money pit some say they are. Parts are easy to get and not necessarily expensive; there are also a number companies who specialize in used parts, a good option when on a budget.
A good service manual will let most owners do a lot of maintenance and if really not “tool inclined”, there are plenty of independent specialists who can service the car for a reasonable cost. A word of advice here, these are not cars you want to get serviced at most official dealers but you don't want to let Joe-the-corner-import-mechanic put his paws under the bonnet either. Finding a good independent Jaguar specialist you can trust is key, and if you do, you can have the best both world... a luxury Jaguar for the price of cheap new econo box.