1984 Jaguar XJ6 5-Speed: Find Another One in the States…
It’s amazing what a little bit of bad PR from 40+ years ago can do to a car company. Even Jaguar cars from the Ford period forward depreciate like just about nothing else on the market (save for the Kia Optima that I recently traded away – but that’s a story for another day). That is to say they just can’t hold their value despite a long-ago departure from the gremlins associated with Lucas Electrics, but they’ve just really never recovered. Now I’m not going to argue that they’re the most reliable cars on the market – they’re not – but they are on a par with most contemporary luxury cars from the past 30 or so years. And to our eyes, they’re prettier than most, especially the last of the old-school, old-tech XJ6s: the Series III.
The Series III’s svelte, sports saloon lines give it a classic look that draws very clear lineage to the Jags of yesteryear like the E- and S-Types. The hood bulges in just the right places, the fenders gently roll down on both ends of the car, and the greenhouse. Suffice it to say that this is a car designed when styling outweighed aerodynamics, and you can see out of it with ease. What the Series III also got was solid, German, Bosch fuel injection bolted on to the venerable Jaguar inline-6 cylinder motor. Much like period Alfa Spiders, Bosch took a characterful but finicky motor and made it work. Unfortunately for Car Geeks in the fifty states, the good folks at Jaguar decided not to let us have a row-your-own gearbox with our saloon. Not that the automatic was awful, when new, but for folks looking at classic Jags now it is a major fail point. And besides, stick shift is just cooler, right?
And that’s why this car near Harrisburg, PA for $6,500 stands out. The bare metal respray is great, as is the entirely redone Connolly leather interior. Heck, we even like the metallic grey on burgundy color scheme. And yeah, the owner has service records going back to day one, and there is absolutely no sign that anyone has attempted to shoehorn a Pinto 4-cylinder or an Olds Diesel into it. All that stuff is great, but it’s the chrome and black shaft sprouting from the console that makes this car special, especially here.
If this was some sort of cushy highway cruiser a’la Buicks and Cadillacs of the day we probably wouldn’t look twice. Who would even want try shifting gears when you’re busy trying to make sure the car stays on the road? But that’s not the case here. The XJ6 handles like a proper European sports sedan, which was why they always compared so favorably with the Germans in comparison tests when new, and in many cases beat them because testers just thought they had more personality.. More soul. For us the appeal is a little more tangible. Look at the broad array of dials facing the driver, and listen to the hearty sound of the inline-6 through the dual exhaust pipes. Heck, it even has two fuel fillers – one on each side. These cars represent a true bridge between old and new, classic and modern.
We prefer our XJ6s with the Vanden Plas picnic tables for back seat passengers that turn these cars into sort-of mini-Rolls Royces for a fraction of the price. The Jag makes all the right smells, but in a car that’s meant to be driven as opposed to ridden in. Even so, the way we would probably drive this one, the tables would probably be moot. I can just hear my younger daughter complaining that I’m taking the corners too fast and her DS keeps sliding off the picnic table… “Balderdash! I’m not taking them fast enough!” Snick, snick, full throttle, snick…. “Woo hoo!”
My inner child clearly needs a new outlet.
As if the stick shift, the sleek body, and the sumptuous interior weren’t enough, just look at the 4.2 liter inline-6. It is arguably one of the best looking motors of its day, and a long day it was. This motor is a direct descendant of the Jag XK6 motor that first hit the streets in 1949, and remained in production until 1992. This injected version in US form was good for 176hp and 218 lb-ft of torque. With the standard 3-speed auto acceleration was a little leisurely at about 12 seconds 0-60, but we’d be more than willing to bet that the 5-speed will take that below 10 seconds. Top speed for both should be in the neighborhood of 130mph.
The bottom line is that you can buy and sell fair Series III XJ6s for about $3K all day long, and you will have a lot of car, possibly in need of transmission work. For double that you could have something like this that, although it looks like an ordinary XJ6 and would clearly benefit from proper 7″ European headlights, is ready to go, is in nearly mint condition, and is virtually non-existent in America. It’s a family-sized sports car and conversation piece at Cars & Coffee all rolled into one. If I had just a little more spare change laying around, I’d be on the phone already.
Not a reply on the XJ6, per se, just a single one-word synopsis on your article in Classic Mercedes, issue #2, on the 55 220S coupe. Superb.
The elegance of these 2 dr hardtops has always been overshadowed as a stepsister of the convertible which, to me, are curiously top-heavy when retracted. Too hard to compress the layers of horse hair and canvas. And far more rust prone than the enclosed bodies.
We may be leading parallel lives, as everything in our stable is 1983 and older. I find it pleasurable to not own a single vehicle with the waterglass warning, ‘objects in the mirror are closer than they appear’.
below, our 58 220S, relatively easy to maintain, regal to drive
Thanks for the kind words, Chas. The 220S piece remains one of my favorite photo shoots ever – we drove around all of these high-end neighborhoods in the hills above Irvine looking for a house that would provide a suitable backdrop for the car, and finally found this 13 year-old kid at home alone who let us shoot there. His parents were so thrilled with it that they used our photos to help them sell the house!
But all that aside, the driving experience in that car really threw me. I expected it to be cumbersome – very heavy and unwilling – but found it just the opposite. Not *light* per se, but easily manageable and remarkably civilized. I’d love to own one, and do keep my eyes open… Enjoy yours!!