The XJ6 marked a new start for Jaguar and for years this landmark car has been in the doldrums. But word is now out; the earliest of the breed is a great car that’s becoming increasingly collectible.
Good enough to be crowned Car of the Year in 1969, the XJ6 marked the start of a new era for Jaguar when it arrived in October 1968 to replace the S-type, 420, 420G and 240/340. While this one-model policy could have decimated Jaguar’s sales, it did the opposite, the new car instantly making its predecessors look dated. While those previous cars from Jaguar were hardly lacking in luxury, refinement or comfort, this new model raised the bar to a level that most rivals never really matched.
Despite the XJ’s astonishing range and depth of talent, much was carried over from the old models, including the XK six-cylinder engines, rear suspension and transmissions. In 1969 a Daimler version was introduced, badged Sovereign and identical to the XJ6 in every way apart from the badging. The Series II replaced the Series I in 1974, after more than 98,000 examples had been produced.
Now, if you can find a good Series 1 you’ll be rewarded with one of the most relaxing driving experiences available anywhere. Nowhere is the old adage of Grace, Space and Pace more applicable than here; all three are offered in abundance. Prices have started to climb sharply for the few really good cars left, but it’s the usual story; digging deep for one of these (if you can find one) will invariably cost rather less in the long term than by buying a project and reviving it properly.
If buying a project the costs can quickly escalate; the bodywork is most costly to revive while the trim can also be alarmingly expensive to sort. But at least most minor mechanical maladies are relatively easy and cheap to fix, especially if you can do the work yourself. You’ll spend more restoring an XJ than an equivalent-condition E-Type, yet the finished item will be worth far less – which is one reason why most people take the E-Type route. Problem is, those aren’t much good for family motoring – whereas the XJ is more comfortable than anything else at just about any price.
Jaguar XJ6 S1 (4.2-litre)
Torque 227lb ft@3000rpm
Top speed 124mph
Gearbox 4-spd man/3-spd auto
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Spot the rot
Rotten and bodged cars are the norm, so analyse all of the bodywork meticulously. Key rot areas include the bottoms of the A, B and C-posts along with the sills, rear wheelarches and valances. Also scrutinise the spare wheel well, door bottoms, rear radius arm mounts and the arms themselves, the screen surrounds and the bonnet hinge mounting points. The bonnet can also corrode, as can the boot lid, wings around the headlights plus the various jacking points; check all these areas very carefully for filler. The radiator support frame also dissolves; if left to fester, rust then eats into the front chassis structure. Front subframes also rot badly; expect to pay around £2000 for a specialist to supply and fit a used subframe.
Make sure it’s been serviced
Offered in 2.8 and 4.2-litre guises, the XK engine needs regular maintenance or its life will be much reduced. Look for a service history, make sure the engine doesn’t sound hollow or rattly and ensure the oil is clean; walk away if it’s like tar. The key is to budget for a rebuild as soon as the engine is showing signs of wear; delay things and the bills will quickly mount, especially if something ends up breaking. The XK engine has a cast-iron block and alloy cylinder head. Because of the latter, anti-freeze levels must be maintained or internal corrosion is guaranteed. Even a well-maintained engine will need a fresh radiator every 5-10 years depending on use, so you may need to budget for this at £220 plus fitting.
Beware the oily underside
Look at how much oil is on the car’s underside, as the rear crankshaft oil seal can fail. Once this has happened the engine needs a complete rebuild; a specialist will charge £4000 for the privilege or you could do the work yourself for upwards of £600 – but it’s an involved job.
Sniff out transmission woes
Some XJ6s have a manual transmission, others feature a Borg Warner unit which can suffer from jerky changes, even in good condition. Inspect the fluid for colour, level and condition. If it’s black and smells foul, a £1000 rebuild is on the cards. The manual gearbox is strong and most such transmissions were supplied with overdrive. If this seems slow to engage it’s probably because the oil needs changing or has fallen below the ideal level; wear is unusual. Differentials are tough, but can leak oil all over the in-board rear brake discs; repairs are at least £1200. The seal often leaks because the brakes have overheated, so you might need to rebuild the brakes as well.
Tired suspension and rear subframe bushes are common, so check they’ve not split; worn front tyres point to perished bushes in the front suspension, which knocks the geometry out. There are a lot of bushes throughout the car, and if they all need renewing, the bill could be massive. Also analyse the dampers for leaks; replacements cost from £30 apiece. The handbrake is frequently poorly maintained; it has its own callipers and pads, which can seize up. Make sure the car can be held on a hill, using just the handbrake, as fixing this can be a pain.
A dash of comfort
Much of the XJ’s appeal lies in its cabin, which is as luxurious an interior as you’ll find. A tatty interior costs big money to fix, especially if the carpets and wood trim are tired; the potential for expenditure into the thousands shouldn’t be underestimated.
Years of low values have led to many Series 1s being neglected or broken for parts, which is why you’ll have your work cut out finding a good one. But with few classics offering the same level of luxury and arguably none able to match the XJ6 for comfort, it’s worth taking your time to find something really good.