In an effort to get the bad taste of last week’s 1997 Camry (which did, incidentally, come with the most entertaining CraigsList ad I’ve read in quite a while) out of my mouth, I decided to go hunting for a proper Car Geek’s car for Cheap Heap of the Week. I present to you this 1997 Jaguar XJ6 Vanden Plas available on eBay in Bloomington, California with a Buy it Now price of just $1,100 – and yes, according to the seller, it starts, runs, and drives. Heck, the air conditioning even works!
When my TTS counterpart first proposed the idea of the Cheap Heap of the Week feature, I did a little poking around the interwebs to see just what kind of cars that I found interesting would come up. I was flabbergasted at the number of Jaguars that are available on any given day for less than $5K, much less $2K! I mean, here we have one of the definitive enthusiast marques of the 20th century with a storied heritage of performance, handling, racing, and British motorsports excellence, and I can park a fully functional example in my driveway – in a color I like – for $1,100. I mean, just, damn.
This XJ6 was known internally at Jaguar as an X300 model, and represents the fifth iteration of the series from its introduction in 1968, and the first model developed under Ford’s ownership of the marque – considered by many to be a good thing as it meant access to technology well beyond what Jaguar had prior to that. In many ways it is an update of the prior XJ40 – which was the first fully redesigned XJ6 since the model’s introduction – which got rid of the boxy lights and rear in favor of a more retro look and offered occupants a much more aesthetically pleasing and marginally more functional interior. X300’s also got a lot of Ford switchgear, the traction control system from the Ford Mondeo, and Japanese Nippondenso air conditioning. What it retained was the venerable Jaguar AJ16 inline-six cylinder engine, which in the US-market X300 XJ6s came as a 4.0 litre delivering 245hp and 279 lb-ft of torque. Even at a hair over 4,100 pounds, that meant 0-60 in just 7.8 seconds and a flat-out top speed of 141.1 mph.
Back in 1997, the XJ6 Vanden Plas was Jaguar’s top of the line luxury sedan in the US, the V12 having gone away the prior year with the introduction of the performance-oriented supercharged inline-six XJR. With 4.5 inches added behind the front seats, rear passengers not only had more than adequate space to stretch out on long trips, but they even got Rolls-Royce style wood picnic/work trays do do whatever they wanted on. The extra space and luxury cost the XJ6 buyer about $64,000, or nearly $10,000 more than the already nicely-equipped base XJ6. In today’s money, that would be about $103,000. And you can have it for $1,100?? Crazy, I tell you.
The seller of this car is kind enough to point out flaws, such as these highlights in the photo of the driver’s seat (which you’ll never see when you’re driving), as well as reporting in the text of the eBay listing that “Sun roof does not open” and “driver door inside latch works intermittently”. Both are nice to haves – the latter probably more than the former – but I wouldn’t call them dealbreakers. Keep in mind that with our $2K budget this car leaves us $900 for maintenance, although at Jaguar prices one might want to see what they could repair with the assist of YouTube DIY videos and/or duct tape. An added bonus on this car, for those interested in such things, is that the AutoCheck score on this car is an astounding 73 – or over the top end of the ideal range. Hopefully that means that there are no accidents or weirdness. It certainly looks very straight, if not a little worn and faded.
While this car does show its age somewhat, I like the British Racing Green on biscuit leather combination, and the contemporary Jaguar XK8 alloy wheels give it just a little bit of muscle in its looks. Some of these cars were know to rust, but this Californian sweetheart at least appears rust-free. At the low buy-in price, you could drive it until it falls apart, or invest a little here and there in making it look a tad better and keeping it running. All the while you get to look out over the stylish hood and the prancing Jaguar hood ornament, and listening to the silky-smooth thrum of the same basic engine that powered the likes of the E-Type. Heritage, grace, space, and pace for barely more than three figures in a world where a rusty diesel Mercedes 240 can cost more than $8 grand? Yup. I am totally that stupid.