One of life’s great mysteries is why the original Jaguar XJ6 is so undervalued compared with cars such as the Mk2, MkX and S-type – all inferior, older designs which the XJ6 so successfully replaced. Andrew Everett tests and reviews the Jaguar XJ6 4.2…
Upon its launch in 1968 the XJ6 not only rendered older Jaguar designs obsolete but it also set new standards in ride, handling, steering and braking as well as being a 120mph car that was not only prettier than any saloon Jaguar made before but also a more successful bit of styling than the E-type in the eyes of many.
Competitors in 1968 included the W108 and W109 Mercedes and the newly-minted BMW E3 2500/2800 saloons – both of them good cars but not really in the same league as the Jaguar as an all-round package. The BMW 2800 had a better engine, the Mercedes was unquestionably better built but neither really hit the spot which is why the XJ6 had a waiting list at first and the Germans didn’t. It would take another 10-15 years for them to catch up: The first 1977 BMW 7-Series was very wide of the mark and the 1972 S Class didn’t ride as well, while even the 1980 version still failed to beat the XJ’s refinement. Only the 1986 second-generation 7-Series could match it and by then, the XJ40 was out and was better again.
Production of the original XJ ended in 1992 after a 24-year run with the last V12 Daimler Double Six cars still very competitive despite being half the price of the equivalent BMW 750iL.
But the XJ fell out of bed just as all Jaguars do, thanks to less-than-amazing rust protection and by the late ’70s, early XJs were your typical old Jag – rusty, smoky and generally knackered and fit for the breakers via the banger track en route.
They never seemed to attract caring owners and even in the ’80s nice Series 1 models were very scarce. This example is a very rare survivor from 1972 and it has an interesting past as it was imported here in late 1977 although it’s an original RHD car. It’s had three owners (always a good sign) and it looks as sharp as a pin. XJs were always rust buckets in old age and they’ve all had bodywork in the past, this one included. However, it’s straight down the sides, clean underneath and the usual rust areas such as headlight peaks, sills and rear arches as well as the rear valances all look good. The paint is also pretty good with just one blemish in the roof in the form of a ‘fried egg’ that may flat and polish out – the car looks to have been repainted, but many years ago.
The mileage of 51,000 can never be guaranteed but it looks right enough from the interior – it’s clearly not new, but original and very well looked after with the typical old Jaguar smell of old Connolly leather and the carpets they used. The chrome is all good as well, not brand new perfect but really nice and if you like your old cars to be old then you’ll like this.
ON THE ROAD
The XJ6 isn’t the wonder machine it was 50 years ago but it’s still remarkably good. The 4.2 engine isn’t a revver but a slogger and it pulls through the three gears just fine with that lovely noise the carburetted XK engine makes and the old Model 12 BorgWarner autobox makes its gearchanges felt but not in a harsh way. The weight of the XJ6 combined with big fat tyres means the ride is still superb – it’s better than most modern cars and fuel economy aside, you could use one of these every day. The power steering is super light and takes a bit of getting used to but before long you can thread an XJ through traffic with one finger on the wheel.
Overall? It’s a very decent example, not perfect but very clean and useable. These are the sort of cars that you just want to jump into and drive to the shops, they’re that good.
At £16,900, is it expensive? They’re hard cars to value because there are so few left and because they’re not a 3.8 Mk2 bank robber special. Compared to an equivalent condition big-engined Mk2 (costing twice as much) it’s cheap. In an age where a 1972 Escort 1300 Sport is worth 15 grand, it’s cheaper still. Back in the day, these were touted as the best car in the world (sorry Crewe) and they should now be valued as such.
POWER: 171 bhp
TOP SPEED: 120mph
0-60mph: 8.8 sec
GEARBOX: 3-spd auto