Unsung Heroes : Jaguar XJ40

Keith Adams celebrates yet another car that currently resides in the doldrums of the Bangernomics world

But the Jaguar XJ40 was possibly the best car in the world when it was launched… even if it set Jaguar down a  course of Retro design that lasted until 2008!

Credit where it’s due

Jaguar Sovereign was a sublime drive. It still is...
Jaguar Sovereign was a sublime drive. It still is...

Right now, Jaguar is building the best cars in the world. Of that, there’s no question. Pound for pound, the XF, XK and XJ are the most stylish and desirable cars in their price ranges, offering world-leading dynamics into the bargain. 25 years ago, the situation was rather different – the XJ40 had just been launched, and it was a convincer – it had to persuade disillusioned ex-Jaguar owners (of which there were many) that Browns Lane’s products genuinely were worth a second – third, or fourth – chance.

The XJ40’s arrival on the motoring scene in September 1986 had been eagerly anticipated – for years. Knowledge of its launch had been in the public domain since at least the late 1970s, and as a consequence, the press had been gradually whipping up a frenzy about its impending arrival. Except that despite being on the development schedule since late 1972, the project was subject to delays, lack of funding, and generally caught up in the malaise that Jaguar – and its parent company BL – found itself in throughout the 1970s.

In the background, unprecedented Jaguar product unreliability, was a common and recurring theme – not helped by serious industrial unrest at the factory. Consumer confidence in the magnificent XJ melted away, while the E-type’s replacement, the XJ-S struggled to sell in a post-oil shock world. That any new models at all found their way on to the market during the 1970s was a miracle at all – but the Series 2 and 3 XJs that rolled out of Browns Lane were useful updates over their predecessors.

Problem was that even though the Series 2 and 3 XJ6 and XJ12 – especially – could also be considered the best in the world, they were carrying too much BL baggage with them. However, in one of the most miraculous turn-arounds the industry has ever seen, Jaguar became desirable again after Sir Michael Edwardes grasped the value of Jaguar, separating it from the rest of the company – and then the arrival of Sir John Egan. Jaguar was finally cut free from the BL mothership.

Quality may have lagged behind the German opposition (but at least the improved dealers made you feel better when your car broke down), and reliability was still not where it should have been during the early-1980s, there was no doubt that Jaguar enjoyed a huge renaissance. Especially in the USA. That led to the floatation of the company in 1984 – and no doubt contributed to the slow down in XJ40’s development (after the design sign-off in 1980).

But the press and customers’ calls for a new XJ were getting increasingly vocal – yes, the XJ still had world-beating resistance to NVH in the mid-1980s, its ‘classic’ looks were a world away from the stark modernism from the Bavarian and Swabian alternatives.

So, when the XJ40 was finally revealed to the world, there was palpable relief – most notably from Jaguar executives and salesmen who had something new to sell. The fact its design so clearly harked back to the XJ Series 3 was met with some puzzlement in the press – but customers loved it. You see, the old girl had survived middle-age and arrived into its pensionable status with the maximum of grace – no doubt an advantage bestowed upon it through elegant design.

But. And this the big but – the XJ40’s arrival following its lengthy gestation did set forth a period of design retro at Jaguar that the company only managed to shake off with the arrival of the new XJ back in 2009.

But what of the XJ40? Clearly it was good, as it needed to improve on the strengths of the original car. So, it rode even more smoothly and quietly for a start. It might not have been too roomy compared with the German briefcases it fought against, but there was definitely more stowage space for golf clubs in its drooping boot, and rear passengers didn’t need to feel quite so snug together as they did before.

The new AJ6 slant-six twin-cam was clearly a step forward after the old XK in terms of efficiency. The 3.6 was had a sporting growl to it (no doubt after being perfected in the XJ-S 3.6), but just like back in 1968, the entry level engine (a 2.9 single cam) wasn’t quite up to the job. But what it did do, was offer executive buyers the opportunity to buy a new Jaguar for less money than a top of the range Rover. And, boy, did that make the headlines.

If you wanted an XJ12, your only option was the Series 3, which remained on sale amidst rumours that the XJ40 had been designed without the engine bay room for a vee-engine. At least it meant buyers were given the opportunity to buy a brand new classic car. A rarity in 1986.

The XJ40’s launch passed off well. And sales saw an immediate uplift, which was nothing but good news for an independent Jaguar. It was good, too, as contemporary (UK) road tests saw it come top in group test after group test. And that success probably helped encourage both Ford and General Motors consider buying the company, despite being bruised in their failed attempts to buy both Austin Rover and Leyland Bus and Trucks at the beginning of 1986.

While the politics went on the foreground, Jaguar engineers were already working hard to improve the XJ40. They worked on bigger AJ6s, and a more traditional instrument display to replace the ‘Tokyo by Night’ digital set up in the original car. And in 1989, around the time it became clear that Ford was going to become Jaguar’s new owner (after a £1.6bn offer was accepted by Jaguar’s management), the fruits of that labour was announced. The XJ40 was getting better with each passing year.

So much so that when Ford came fully onboard as the new custodians of Jaguar, the first thing it did was put in place a programme of quality improvements – the first of which saw the light of day as the V12 powered XJ81, the 1993 XJ12. And what a car it was!

But it was only the beginning, as the company had been working hard on thoroughly overhauling the XJ40 to become the X300 – the car’s 1994 replacement. Although in reality, it was more of a top-down facelift with the welcome addition of quad rounded headlights and a seductively contoured bonnet. If anything, that overhaul prettified the XJ40 so effectively, it took away any pretense of 1970s-’80s squarerigged-ness that the older car’s big, bold headlamps introduced.

By the time the XJ40 sashayed out of the new car arena after a (surprisingly short for Jaguar) production run of eight years, it was already earning a reputation for rust, flaky electronics, and distinctly average build quality. And as a result, trade values suffered disproportionally early, and cast a shadow over Jaguar’s reputation with the executives it had worked so hard to get back on board. But under new management, the company could genuinely hold up its hands and say, ‘it wasn’t us, and we’re doing all we can to sort things out.’ And truth be told, that’s what they did with the X300.

But while the X300 was doing its bit to turn around the company’s image, the XJ40 was becoming something of a secondhand dealer’s forecourt millstone. They were rapidly becoming banger fodder, and falling into the hands of people who could ill afford to run them properly. And of course, that meant more broken down XJ40s – and crumbling residuals. Still, you could see why the less well-heeled were failing head-over-heels for the XJ40. It was wafty, wonderful to drive, and didn’t look a million miles separated from those impressive new cars. And most importantly, even when truly knackered, an XJ40 was still a great car to drive.

But by the turn of the millennium, they really were street detritus, and you could pick one up for pennies. I should know, I bought one for the Staples2Naples banger rally, and despite costing £100 with a whiff of MoT left, seriously shot bushes and dampers, and a disintegrating clutch, I still felt a million dollars driving it. As it happened, the clutch blew up on the way to Dover, and we had to take a Rover 800 instead. But that’s another story.

But XJ40s are on the way up now. They must be. The truly awful ones (like mine) have long since been converted into Chinese bean cans, leaving the best cherished examples left to fight over. Finding one for beer money now is getting tougher as people latch on to these cars’ fine combination of abilities. Actually now, it’s the X300 that’s going through its banger phase, and perhaps it’s this car we need to be heralding as the darling unsung hero…

Keith Adams
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  1. The XJ40 was my childhood dream car! I’ve wanted ever since. That was the car that got me into British cars at the age of four…some would say it has a lot to answer for ;-).

  2. Preferred the styling of the X300 to the XJ40 – it had more XJ6,12 Series 3 about it.

    To me, the XJ Series 3 will always define what a Jaguar saloon should be. The XJ40 seemed to dilute the image of the Series 3. Similarly, I like the XF but somehow it just ain’t Jaguar enough.

  3. They rusted like an absolute sod though, and had insane electrics. Not Jag’s finest hour. Jags only got better when Ford stepped in

  4. Very nice too and a very long time in coming. I seem to remember that every time the press said that the XJ40 had been delayed, Jaguar would reply “how could it be, we’ve never issued an official launch date!”

  5. Must admit i never really took to the XJ40, it just looked dull on the outside, and the fairly top of the range one i got into had quite an uninspiring interior, reminded me a lot of a n Audi, all very well done, but lacked that certain sparkle.

  6. On my School Work Experience I was placed at Reg Vardys Stoney Gate, (The Prestige side) Amongst the Rollers/ Bentleys the odd Ferrari (The Magnum one …in red) a few Rover 800s and quite few XJ40’s (which hadnt been on sale for long) were awaiting PDi’s , I was impressed at the time with the colour Vacume fluorescent information display and gauge’s However I was more concerned with watching the Bad tempered Auto Sparky try to resolve the Electrical system as he cursed and swared as He flicked, and looking through countless manuals still scratched his head of what sounded like a complete Re wiring!.

    At break time He was actually quite mild manored but talking to the Mechanic next to Him and a good 10mins were spent Bi”ching about the “New Jaguar Electrical system” So these were the guys with all the Information and experience and still found it difficult ! and how bad were the problems that they should need such dractic actions?

    Incidentally the Rolls clock/temperature/trip computer had a few failures! as did BMW 7 series limited slip diff’s.

  7. I liked my XJ40 and in some ways I prefer the more modernistic styling of the XJ40 to my current XJR X308 .
    The downside is that the AJ6 is not as refined as the AJ8 and all XJ40’s seem to develop rear axle noises .
    But as an introduction to the Jaguar brand , the XJ40 is a great choice .
    From my research into Jaguar’s past I got the impression that Browns Lane and Radford were not good places to work if you were an ordinary shop floor minion .
    Sir William Lyons was a mean man when it came to employee amenities which caused resentment among his employees .
    Motoring writers have continually fawned over the Jaguar marque and have been continually blinded by the excellence of the carefully prepared press cars they have driven . These same writers didn’t earn enough to actually put their own money where their mouth was .
    When Jaguar launched the XJ-S in 1975 they were slated by these same writers for abandoning the brands styling heritage . Early XJ40 styling bucks had similar XJ-S styling cues , and I think the company should have had the courage to proceed with this new look and ignore the critics .
    It is quite clear that the Ryder Report team ignored the ancient production equipment posessed by Jaguar in 1975 as the rectification of this would be left to Ford . What were they doing ?
    Ford brought great in depth production engineering knowledge to Jaguar , but insisted on the retro approach and by the time they realised their mistake , both the money and their enthusiasm was gone .
    TATA are letting the engineers run the show and it is paying off .

  8. yeh, I had my XJ40 when I was 23, 2.9 of course, and never really had big problems. Other than the rust. The PAS which took a few moments to warm up. The ABS sensors (£150 for each one!!), weird sun roof that when opened fully deafened the hell out of you and shook your eyes from your sockets, the weird radio, the sticky doors (which you had to push down on to open up), a stick rear caliper, and I think the bearings… At which point it was time to chuck it away. In reality, the £80 I paid for it and the small botches (paint tins to weld over rust holes) hardly cost me anything so in the two and a half years I had it, the red cat was a classy bit of motoring for a Uni student- made even more cool with Pirelli P-Zeros fitted to some big five spoke alloys, that came with the car.. Bombing through Coventry, it handled like it was on rails. I wished I had the stickshift though.

  9. On most empirical measures such as speed, handling and refinement the ’40 was a fit successor to the fine Series 3. However, they didn’t quite get the styling right – a bit staid, and those rectangular headlamps weren’t right on a Jag. The digital dashboard was also a bit too tacky. Maybe some unispired colour choices too. Small things really, but you expected better after the Series 3.

  10. I have a mate who buys big old motors cheap (we’re talking sub £500 here). He’s had 5 series Beemers, Merc W124 E class and several XJ40s amongst others. A lot of these motors were dream cars for me when I was a kid so I was dying to experience them, yet the only ones I have been truly impressed by were the XJ40s. The BMW 525i was a soulless, clinical blue thing, with a horrid matching blue plastic interior. The Merc 260E handled like a boat and only appeared to drive in two modes – slowly and insane warp drive kickdown.

    The Jag XJ40 on the other hand, was quick, smooth, comfortable and made you feel special. Speed bumps and pot holes completely disappeared. No other car has ever impressed me with the way it rode and handled like the XJ40 did, both in bog basic 2.9 cloth manual form and in 4.0 Sovereign automatic form, all with intergalactic six figure mileages too. The only downside for me was the truly strange dashboard binnacle, which appeared to have been made with the component parts from an early Sinclair Spectrum and was horrid on the F reg he had and slightly less horrid on the L reg one. They were such a lot of car for the money.

  11. the bit that always impressed me was when you went around corners, the gearbox detected this and drop down a gear ready for you to power out of a bend. Extremely useful at roundabouts. Commonplace now but a real wow factor when you’re driving your first Jag.

  12. Jag saloons always have that air of caddishness about them. The owners always seem to be a little bit shifty. My late mate Brian was a case point. Always drove Jags, and had more than one decrepit XJ40 that was more welding rod than steel. He was a real life ‘Arfur Daley’. You name it, he was involved in it. I hate Clarkson & co, but he is bang on the money about Jag owners.

  13. I had an xj40 for 3 years and only sold it recently. I loved it but sold it mainly because we had problems with the brakes and had problems with my LR disco at the same time. one car had to go. the handling on the XJ40 was fantastic, seemed to me that the harder you pushed the car, the better in handled. the car was very comfortable, quiet, and smooth and the fuel ecomony not bad at all…. about the same as subaru legacy. the only thing that I didnt like was the long length, and I think its still an issue with Jaguar today. with the XJ40, they could have made a smaller length option, much like BMW did with the 318 compact, but still with 4 doors. adn then I think they could have doubbled their sales. Jaguar could have got the boot length and nose …down by close to a foot and it would have been a fine town car too. please also note that the AJ6 is a great engine, and very reliable. alex

  14. These things had a dual personality.
    On the one hand, very ministerial, MPs getting out of the things in the 80s and early 90s in Downing Street, the XJ40 looked totally at home.

    On the other hand, Marty B makes a good point, it had a caddish side. I think Phil from Eastenders had one at some point! 🙂

  15. I had a 4.0 Jaguar Sovereign for a while, 1991 with the first of Ford’s quality control coming through, I loved the snug cockpit with the high transmission tunnel, effortless to drive, but had the square headlights, which, for me, just didn’t look right and made the car a little dowdy.

    Later on I had a 1993 4.0 ‘Gold’ edition Jaguar, again, was brilliant, but once the dash warnings started to light up like Blackpool illuminations 65 miles away on the M1 I got cold feet and flogged it for a Datsun Laurel.

    I would love another, but with feul prices as they are, I can’t afford a £150.00 fill up every couple of weeks. Now looking for a good Rover 25 1100! How the mighty have fallen….

  16. The square headlights seem to be a bugbear for many.
    Were the 2 round headlights (in the square recess) a UK option, a spec option, a Daimler variant, or purely for US exports?

  17. As usual matter of an individuals taste I guess. Round lights for me, mind you, the US spec round lights on the XJ-S and SD-1 looked better then the UK spec I think, but people do tell me I have no taste

  18. I’ve often noticed that US versions of European cars seem to have 2 small square headlights instead of the single large headlight that they have in Europe, oddly enough. I guess it must be different lighting regulations..

  19. Another mate is a Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag XJ40 freak, and he runs the firm Lightengine Films, and was responsible for the Youtube ‘Zontar’ films, which were rather rude comedy clips featuring a 3ft plastic alien who loved Deltic locos. He is madder than a box of frogs is Dan! Some of the music videos he made even featured one of his XJ40s

  20. @ Marty B. I’ll have to check him out, being a YouTube comedian and and Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag XJ40 lover 😀

  21. Sadly Dan pulled the plug on Zontar after an incident on a railtour, which got him banned. A big shame really, because Zontar had a cult following worldwide.

    Some vids are still live here..


    Be warned, it does involve swearing etc

  22. The XJ40 was very pleasing on the eye, but the X300 was an ugly beast. And then Forguar replaced it with an ugly looking completely new car!
    Ford did wonders for the manufacturing side of Jaguar…
    but aesthetically, aside from the 1993 XJ12, they oversaw some pretty ugly-looking cars, until they were halfway out the door…and they took Jaguar out of Coventry!

  23. i think the X300 was far nicer,as for the XJ40 they were dogmeat if i had to be realistic,you would be buying work with one of these,give me a stag anytime even though these came with thier own nightmares.

    • Ive had a 77 Stag that didnt have any real problems after I replaced the twin Stroms with a 350 Holley and didnt have any worrys after that I sold that and bought an XJ40 I got $5000 for the Stag and paid $2000 for the Jag just cut the numbers in half and call them pounds here in Brisbane Australia John

  24. X300 was far nicer looking than XJ40, the XJ40s with round headlamps looked pretty awkward up front, as they weren’t at all integrated with the frontal styling

  25. “the XJ40s with round headlamps looked pretty awkward up front, as they weren’t at all integrated with the frontal styling”

    I agree, while i don’t really like the big headlamps, the quad ones just looked like someone had fitted something from the Demon Tweeks catalogue.

  26. The XJ40 was a big disappointment. The 80’s were not good for Jaguar, in my opinion. The X300 was much better looking and made.

  27. Great cars, I had a 2.9 Auto for just under a year back in 2002. It was a midnight blue model with stone beige interior. At the time (in our 20’s) it was a hopelessly impractical car to have as I was commuting from Eastbourne to Brighton everyday and on the three days of the week that I drive the Jag it made the MGB GT I had owned for many years, look economical in comparison.

    The fuel consumption habit and a fairly expensive tendency to snap exterior door handles meant that she had to go, however I haven’t driven a car to this day that soaked up our poor road surfaces, like the XJ did so it remains a happy memory.

  28. @Adrian
    I think the US federal regulations banned plastic covers/lens, and headlights had to be standard sealed beam units. Hence european cars to US spec such as the SM, SD1, XJ40, Volvo 240 had to have round lights.
    In my opinion the aerodynamic cars such as the SM and SD1 looked better with the plastic lenses, though the Volvo didn’t look too bad with US lights.

  29. The Xj-40 was the pinacle of jaguar saloon styling, and evolution of the S3 but totally modern and not at all retro.. Unlike the AWFULL AWFULL X300 and X308 that looked like an S3 that had been left out in the sun too long and melted

  30. I had 3, one 2.9 wheich was dreafully rotten and had every fault going (on a D-plate) then 2 F plate cars which had no real issues at all, I still miss my daimler 3.6 I bleve Fords input in qulaity is shocking overstated, as these were both 88 cars and lead me to belive Ford took over AFTER the quality and build issues with the XJ40 were well and truley sorted. I’m looking form another but it must not have a Tibbe key

  31. “I’m looking form another but it must not have a Tibbe key”

    Did Ford introduce that rubbish or did Jaguar do it on their own? Must have been the worst lock system since single lever things from the dark ages.

  32. A friends Dad had one of these (a 2.9) when they first came out. I loved the ashtrays which we thought were power-driven as 12 year-olds. The gRaphics were pretty cool as well. It was essentially a good car but let down by the small details. Jim Randle and John Egan kept on about ‘build quality being much improved.’ I seem to remember it was pretty well built although the air con ducting had fallen into the passenger floorwell and the gearbox had the unnerving habit of making a loud ‘clunk’ when changing down (which the 2.9 often needed to do to get anything out of it). My dad wasn’t swayed from his S-Class though, even though his 300SE didnt have half the equipment my friend’s dad’s Jag had for less cost. Once again a car which was lauded as the most ‘technically advanced car of its time’ and with ECU’s to run everything is not a viable project today, but that is the same with any post 1985 car. If you are an electronics whizzkid they probably make a very exciting project. I read in a Jaguar magazine recently about an already good condition 1990 Sovereign being completely restored for £130,000.

  33. I worked as an apprentice mechanic in 1992 and we had a D registered (’86/ ’87?) XJ40 in which had failed its MoT on a rotten boot floor which needed welding (together with a shopping list of other fails and warnings).

    Dreadful, dreadful tinny thing especially when compared with its positively regal predecessor.

    Such a shame.

  34. Plenty of comments saying that X300 was uglier than an XJ40! One can only assume white sticks and labrador dogs are quite common amongst AR followers 😉

  35. @Big H,
    Only becuse it is.. not was.. the X300 is a truly awfull looking thing compared to the far cleaner and more forward looking XJ-40.

  36. @Stewart
    When the xJ40 was new it was “ok” no beaut. However it has dated VERY badly, I was looking at one the other day. They now look decidedly awkward. X300 whilst not brilliant is retro enough not too age too badly

  37. I dont know what it is with these, they just did absolutely nothing for me whatsoever. I well remember the horror stories about the electrics though.

    It didnt help that a particularly egregarious boss had one, a wonderful chap, whose favourite driving story was how he had been screaming through a backroad in his Jag, at well over the speed limit, misjudged the bend, and come millimetres from splashing a 5 year old girl all over his bonnet. He then bragged happily that when the girls father had come rushing out and asked him pointedly why he was doing upwards of 70mph in a 30 zone, said person, who shall remain nameless, just ignored the child he had almost hit and her parent, and screamed off down the road as fast as before..

    I dunno, but it sort of put me off owning one of them after that.

  38. “I dont know what it is with these, they just did absolutely nothing for me whatsoever.”

    No me neither. They just seemed dull, i mean yeah they drove well, comfortable etc. A lot like a Japanese executive car.

  39. Remember reading about the XJ40 at launch it CAR magazine on my way down to Plymouth University for an interview (Biological Sciences). I thought it looked so cool back then, funny how the series 3 eventually outshone it.

  40. @ Big H
    Rubbish it has not aged at all, however the X300/X308 are awfully dated and far far less classy. The XJ-40 still has proper chrome and leather, and much nicer wood trim inside, with inlays on the Sov and Daimler derivative. The ’40 still looks like a jag, the X300 looks like the offspring of an Allegro VDP and a BMW which has then been sat on by an elephant. Not enough chrome, and the later ones have an unbelievably bland dash. I did once go look at an X300 XJR.. horrid car, the ride was almost as dreadful as a BMW, was a total let down bought a Citroen XM instead

  41. “Rubbish it has not aged at all, however the X300/X308 are awfully dated and far far less classy.”

    I’m sorry but the XJ40 has clearly aged vastly, the big square headlamps and angular corners are very 1980’s Volvo.
    The X300 was however a retro design so it’s hard to say either way whether it’s dated, if you like retro then it’s great, if you don’t then it’s dated.

    Not sure what you mean by the XJ40 having proper leather? The X300’s came with proper leather too?! The normal X300’s had plenty of chrome, the XJR’s didn’t have a lot, but that’s what Jag did on their performance ones, like they did with the TWR XJS black.

    Have to say though one of the things that i thought let down the XJ40 was the pale looking wood they fitted in them, it looked like it had been sun bleached, but they were all like that.

  42. @Strewart
    Well I mst say that’s a bit rich calling my comments “Rubbish” From a man who has/or had a Citroen XM! 😉
    Not only is it ugly but has even more dodgy electrics than an 80’s XJ40!

  43. XM elctrical problems are very much like the XJ-40 electrical problems.. Later cars were far better than the first ones in fact the S2 has very few issues at all. My current one at 147K has none and has had none in the past 30K I have had it. As for the XM ugly .. better go to specsavers.. Mind you looking at most modern cars I think alyone buying a modern car need glasses they are all bloody awfull

  44. The x300 i’ve been in had good quality leather (certainly as good as the 1970 Silver Shadow i drove). so maybe they changed that at some point.

  45. XJ-40 have never done it for me. Square headlights aren’t Jaguar, even the cheaper versions with round items kept the squarish flat lines of the posh ones. My boss had a blue one, I think a Sovereign, it was a pleasure to be in, espec. at the back, there was only two armchairs really, so comfy..
    X300 had nicely sculpted bonnet lines around the 4 headlights, it is more, IMO and Ford’s by the look of X300s, what I expect in a 20th century Jag. My S-type has these lines too, so you know what you’re driving, no other car produced these last 20 years boasts this detailing at the front… New XF and XJs are nice as well, a serious leap from the older generations in aesthetic, but it feels that history is repeating itself, the styling seems now frozen or similar for the next new Jags to come…

  46. The X300 was just too bland, and the 4 lights looked just worng having the inner the same size as the outer and no chrome round them, very not jaguar, the greille was squashed as well. As for the S-Type are we taking 3.4 or 3.8? any other engine size is just not a proper Jag

  47. “The X300 was just too bland”

    See i think the opposite, the X300 was much less bland in my opinion. The interior design was much nicer, ok if you bought the R version where just about everything was black, things were different, but the normal wood trimmed version looked much better than the functional XJ40 interior. The sloping rear boot line was trademark Jaguar, but from the front the XJ 40 could have been a Merc or Audi with a Jag grille.

    As i remember most of the X300’s did have a chrome rim around each light, the only ones that didn’t were the R versions which had body coloured ones. The same sort of chrome rim as all the XJ’s prior to the 40 had.

    Worst looking thing has to be the Hearse conversions of the X300 though, nice sleek low front with a big arse, that really did make the grille look squashed.

  48. I’ve got a ’92 XJR. Best car I’ve ever had by some considerable margin. As much as I loved my Rovers (SD3, R8, R3, XX, R17, Mini, Metro and a 600), Audis and my ZT, the big Jag is in a different league and so far has been more reliable than the other halfs 53-plate SportKa.

    Brilliant car and comically under-rated.

  49. My first Jag was a square headlamp XJ40, loved it to bits never let me down, ran it on second hand spares. Had her for 3yrs.

    Sold it for a 7 series BMW which went after 6 months, only to be replaced by a XJ8

    Loved the square Headlamps.

  50. I had one for a while about 8 years ago. It was a great car, mine was a 1989 3.6 Sovereign complete with the 80’s not so mobile phone. I found it quite frugal on a run and nippy. I think the looks have got better with age,the last ‘Gold’ cars looked pretty smart.

  51. Xj 40 is the most exciting car I’ve owned I never know what is going to fail on it or what will break next if the drivers door opens you can be sure the passengers won’t the warning light flash on and off and the head lights come on if I open the drivers door it sits well in a corner and has never stop on the road oh yes I can’t get part for it. I’ve developt a sort of I can take it approach to driving it a british icon with a blits mentality

  52. No way: XJ40 was the last Jag seen by mr. Lyons, and that says it all. X300 definitely failed to reach the bright balance between elegance, luxury and distinctive britishness any other former Jaguar saloon had. There is still no way to confuse XJ40 with a german or other car, Even with sqared headlamps. Though outdated at launch, it still was a real “British” car for the 80s and 90s. And “brtisihness” was an most individual selling factor as even Rover was selling Japanese design. I still hope it will be re-considered as inspiring concept for a future Jaguar saloon. As it is now, just can’t consider XJ as a better and satisfctory alternative to a Japanese saloon.

  53. I was wondering where Jaguar got their ideas for the styling of the front end. What possible design cues might have tickled their imagination, then I read the article in the link bellow.

    Before this moment, I had no idea that the Allegro was the reason Jaguar was designed as was, I also had no idea that the Allegro was a design classic, a seminal motor car, the Zenith of design. So why wouldn’t Jaguar want to copy it.

    I don’t know who BL had in their pocket, but this road test is the most bizarre piece of journalism you will ever read, please read on and enjoy.


  54. In 1998 I bought a used F reg XJ40 (1988) with the quad headlamps, dark metallic blue paint and 5 speed manual box. The previous owner had installed a 3.6 in it from an XJS in place of the original 2.9, making this quite unique as I believe all production 3.6 models only came with auto. I still think they’re a stunning car, the X300 that followed is, sadly, just bland.

    As others have said, it soaked up speed bumps as if they weren’t there, went round corners like it was on rails and the 3.6 could kick you in the back at any speed with silky smooth torque and acceleration.

    Twenty years later having driven W124 Mercs, BMW 5 and 7 series, Audis, Alfas and one or two Volvos, the XJ40 remains my favourite. I’m still toying with buying a good one before they become unobtainable.

    Oh and the door handles can be fixed cheaply by adding a bracket inside the door to brace the pivot pin. The electrical gremlins likewise are repairable.

  55. I do remember ten years after they went out of production, the original S Type and Mark 2 Jaguars being available for pennies due to their propensity to rust and to overheat on hot days. They might have looked good and been excellent to drive, but buying an old one in the late seventies was a massive gamble, so they were no different to buying a 1986-89 XJ 40.

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