Jaguar XJ6/XJ12 (XJ4)
The introduction of the XJ6 in 1968 ushered in a new era for Jaguar. It was the beginning of a time where all of the cars that rolled out of the Browns Lane factory were based on one platform – all the way from the XJ 2.8/3.4 to the glamorous XJ-S V12. Once again, Browns Lane was building the best affordable luxury saloon in the world.
The Series I XJ6 was not an entirely new car, though, as it was powered by the impressive XK twin-cam engine that first saw the light of day in 1948. The XJ was launched with its XK engine available in two sizes – 2.8- and 4.2-litres. The smaller car ended up lacking performance and reliability, so the larger version became the optimum model in the range.
But it was designed to reinvent the Jaguar brand, moving it forwards significantly. The XJ boasted independent suspension all-round, and an opulent new interior to match its expansive (compared with the Mk2-based cars) exterior dimensions. It lacked a little in rear legroom, but that was fixed with the arrival of the later long-wheelbase body.
Unlike the 2.8-litre version, of which few survive, the 4.2-litre XJ in Series I form was popular with buyers and has a good survival rate today. It’s easy to see why, as the ride quality and interior comfort are astounding, while roadholding is tenacious. Rust is a significant issue, though, and few unrestored cars remain.
In 1972, and a year after it was rolled out in the E-type Series 3, the Hassan-designed V12 engine was installed in the XJ saloon body. The turbine-smooth power unit found its true home in the larger XJ bodyshell. With up to 300bhp in the later versions, it offered 150mph performance and effortless high-speed cruising.
The most beautiful of the lot – the XJC – was also the most incomplete model in the range. It didn’t help that it was prematurely announced in the summer of 1973 – two years before it went on sale. And consequently, the XJ 5.3C (and XJ6 Coupe) are still forgotten gems to this day. Circumstance certainly didn’t help – the eventual launch conincided with the fuel crisis and then recession, and sales dried up to almost nothing. But worse of all, the coupe’s arrival coincided with the introduction of the Series 2 model, which saw many downgrades in build and material quality. Also, the frameless windows (which caused much trouble during development) were noisy at speed and often, while the later Lucas fuel injection set-up caused further problems.
Series 2 upgrades
But it wasn’t all bad with the Series 2. The new heating and ventilation system was welcome, as was the improved fuel economy thanks to an updated engine. The interior received a substantial update, but the only visual differences externally were the smaller grille and raised bumpers, to help the XJ meet US safety regulations. The slimline front helped it look more modern. But these were tough years for Jaguar, and its reputation as a quality carmaker was put to the test on the back of failing XJs.
But that was turned around after the arrival of the re-roofed (by Pininfarina) Series 3, which after the arrival of new boss John Egan, started being built to a much higher standard. So much so, that when the XJ6 went out of production in 1986 (the XJ12 hung on until 1992), it was enjoying its strongest ever sales. Not bad for a car that had been in production 18 years at that point.
Reviews, blogs and news stories
Simply the best IF one were to draw up a list of the greatest British cars of all time, by just about any criteria the Jaguar XJ6/12 would be included. During a production run that spanned more than two decades, it was frequently acclaimed as the greatest car in the world. And yet, there was […]
When the Series III Jaguar XJ6 was launched in 1979, Mercedes-Benz had the the up-market estate scene pretty much to themselves, with Citroën and Volvo bringing up the rear. However, Avon Coachworks saw things differently, offering this ungainly conversion of the Jaguar saloon, which traded the base car’s inate elegance for a cavernous rear-end – only […]
Ian Nicholls, AROnline’s historian, turns his attention to Jaguar – and looks at its fall and rise in the 1990s, an era when the German manufacturers were beginning to take over the world.
Here, in Part Three, he recalls how Ford begins to put right the quality woes in the existing range.
Two years before Leyland launched the Jaguar XJ-S, the Jaguar dealership HR Owen came up with a coupe of its own… HR Owen had a penchant for commissioning customised Leyland products. Having enjoyed moderate success with the Crayford/FLM Panelcraft Rover P6 Estoura, their next project was altogether more ambitious: in September 1973, they presented the […]
Two cats for the price of, well, two… THE above picture gives little clue as to why, at £35,000 in 1983, this rather special Jaguar should have cost well over twice the list price of the standard 4.2-litre XJ6 on which it was based. Indeed, the most noticeable external modification was a very 1980s, boomerang-style […]
In 1990, world-renowned carrozzeria ItalDesign unveiled its Kensington – a very Italian take on how the next Jaguar saloon should look like. Could producing it for real given Jaguar its 2010 XJ moment 20 years earlier? Words: Keith Adams Redefining the leaping cat One of the best known Jaguar prototypes produced by an Italian styling […]
A mid-1970s update and bumper height regulations meant that Jaguar needed to facelift the front end. Some of these proposals are very interesting indeed… A new face Images supplied by Ian Nicholls
Getting the styling right on Project XJ4 was always going to be tricky… And as you can see, they had a few goes at it, before settling on the final, beautiful, solution. From E- to XJ- in a few simple steps Experimentation: Fronal styling Images supplied by Ian Nicholls
Graham Eason runs a classic car hire business called Great Escapes, and one of his fleet is this magnificent 1974 Jaguar XJ6 4.2 in long wheelbase form. As you can see, it’s a beautiful example, wonderfully photographed, too. It’s obviously a car that Graham has a lot of respect and time for, having blogged about […]