The converters : Avon Jaguar Estate

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 some 20 years later would Jaguar contemplate introducing an estate car of its own.

Launched at the 1980 British Motor Show – where it was awarded first prize and a gold medal in the International Coachwork Competition – this conversion sought to offer Jaguar customers new levels of practicality. It had 35cu ft of luggage space on offer with the rear seats in place, and over 58 cu ft when folded.

In this configuration, the luggage deck was some 6′ 7″ long, and the car came with the £475 option of a rear-facing seat for use by children. The car had a payload of 10cwt, and rear suspension modifications were offered (in consulation with Jaguar themselves) for customers who expected to be carrying heavy payloads.

Interesting design

The Anthony Stevens-designed conversion used a Renault 5 rear hatch, skillfully mated to the vertical panel from the XJ6’s bootlid; the rear vent grilles were also sourced from the Renault 5. Based on the XJ6 4.2, the car retained the saloon’s overall dimensions.

As the car required no mechanical alterations, Jaguar agreed to honour its warranty (although Ladbroke Avon offered its own cover for the bodywork, paintwork and other aspects affected by the conversion).

Ladbroke Avon planned to build just 250 cars, each one finished to the customer’s specific requirements.

The basic conversion work cost £6500 (plus VAT) and included the installation of an electric sunroof, vinyl roof, inertial-reel rear seatbelts, rear wiper/screen washer and the extension of the car’s central locking system to include the tailgate. The rear-facing child seat added £475 to the bill, while Dunlop chrome wire wheels could be added for a further £428 (again, plus VAT).

Declan Berridge


  1. Sorry, but that looks truely dreadful, with little in the way of cohesion or elegance. The Rover SD1 estate, albeit with a less utilitarian looking tailgate, would have been a far more appealing prospect.

  2. Looks like a hearse conversion!

    Their next estate – the X type – at least looked a lot elegant.

    The 75 tourer is an example of how to make a classy estate from a droop-rear saloon.

    • To be fair, it was from a time when estates were expected to be practical workhorses, before that role was taken by the MPV and the SUV. It’s only more recently that it’s become desirable to build elegant looking, but largely hopeless, estate cars.

      • A Jag wagon was intended as a style/prestige statement then too, not a utility vehicle. This XJ6 is hideous, but it’s a Jag.

      • Re. “it was from a time when estates were expected to be practical workhorses…”

        Not so sure. The Triumph 2500 PI & S estates certainly looked as good if not better than the saloons.

  3. Would have looked better if the hatch were less upright. That way the roof could taper down like its modern equivalent & the saloon doors wouldn’t look so out of place.

  4. It’s no beauty but full marks for initiative- using a Renault 5 tailgate was very clever. It would look far better in a darker colour (but not black for obvious reasons).

    I’d have one for curiosity value.

  5. Designed by R. Charles & S. Wonder?? The absurdly thick C pillars and mahoosive rear window really do look like it was a half arsed job. Relocating the fillers into the rear wings can’t have been that difficult surely?

  6. Designed by R. Charles & S. Wonder?? The absurdly thick C pillars and mahoosive rear window really do look like it was a half arsed job. Relocating the fillers into the rear wings can’t have been that difficult surely?

  7. Out of 250 planned I do not believe that more than 20 got built. Highest body number I found was Nr. 18.

  8. Some incredibly derogatory comments about this vehicle. Can’t say it was my favourite of the Avon car collection. However in fairness, the Avon Jaguar estate shown here won the gold medal for coach building in October 1980 at the Birmingham motor show, beating General Motors into second place.

    • To be fair, Jaguar began the process of disfiguring their car by fitting horrible black plastic bumpers (which made me think of the Mk 3 Marina at the time) in place of the elegant and much better suited chrome items on the S2 XJ6.

      • At various times, we looked at XJ4 and XJ40 estates in PSF. We also looked at X308 estates in SVO. The problem was, because of the dropping roof line, rear haunches, and glass barrel of the cars, they always ended up looking like hearses.

        • Interesting, but Lynx managed to make it work despite the dropping roof line on the XJ-S… this thing is just hideous. If Citroën could make a CX estate work, again with a dropping profile to the roof and tapering wings, I can’t see why Jaguar couldn’t.

          • Yes, the XJS was much more successful…..a lot of the work for the XJS based car was done at PSF, but stopped and passed over to Lynx – Jaguar simply refused to take an estate/shooting brake.

            The shorter roof length of the XJ27 allowed for a better integration into the rear qtrs., of the cant rails. The underlying structure of the buttresses was a great help! The only real engineering issue was that bloody fuel tank!

  9. I’m not sure about Mercedes having the luxury estate market to themselves in ’79. I remember the TE series as being very expensive. Volvos were everywhere, and plenty of them were very well specified, with leather and AC on the six cylinder cars. As for the Range Rover… I suspect this was aimed at customers who had a Range Rover and a Jaguar, but who, like myself, always ended up with the wrong car at the wrong time! The same market that Overfinch identified.

  10. Something that annoyed me about the Volvo 100/200 estates was the rear passenger door frame. Forgivable when you see this effort.

    It just doesn’t work visually and the Jag SIII is such a well proportioned car any body change will look like an afterthought.

    The same goes for attempts at a SD1 estate.

    That said, I’m sure I’ve seen a silver XJ-40 estate. Maybe at Gaydon. It worked visually.

    I’d find a well proportioned X-300/308 XJR estate hard to resist. What a car that would be.

  11. Ah, the old use a vinyl roof to disguise defects in the metalwork trick (similar to the one allegedly used on black taxis to prevent water leaks)…

    I guess antique dealers would like it to get bulky furniture in the back a bit like Volvo estates.

  12. I do remember the XJS estate conversion, looked quite nice, and made this 155 mph supercar practical as well as very fast. One memory of this is a BBC1 sitcom from 1983 called Sweet Sixteen, where Penelope Keith had a partner who was 16 years younger than her, and she drove an XJS estate. Not a very good sitcom, but I only watched it for the car.
    Another luxurious estate car from the early 80s that had a big following and was an excellent load carrier was the Granada Ghia estate.

    • One of my employers clients had a MK1 Granada Estate and I got the task of taking it to the car park for him from our office. It looked huge at the time and I drove it round the block a couple of times before parking.

      It wasn’t a bad looker, the Jag XJ6 conversion here doesn’t look any better, but recent Jag Estates are nicer

      • Maybe they got it for free as a bit of publicity for Jaguar and Lynx, with Jaguar on a roll by 1983. Did check on Wikipedia and Sweet Sixteen only lasted one series due to low ratings and wasn’t considered very good.
        On a different note, in Penelope Keith’s far more successful sitcom, The Good Life, she and her husband drive a Volvo 145 estate, considered a desirable car by the upper middle class of the time and excellent for lugging antiques and show dogs around.

        • I had the use of a 240DL Estate company car for a while in 1991 and it was a great drive… not fast from zero, but a good motorway cruiser and huge,solid,comfy car.

          Even now I think the old 240 series saloon looks good, even by today’s standards

  13. There have been many slightly iffy looking estate cars that were clearly produced after the saloon had been completed.

    Even the venerable Volvo 240/ 260 estate shared the saloon rear doors, so the frame of the rear door slopes awkwardly away from the roof of the estate.

    This feature is apparent on many other estates – the Peugeot 405 was also guilty of this.

    The Rover 75 and Jaguar X were designed from the off with an estate in mind, so the doors were amended to follow the roof line. The result is more pleasing and “looks right”.

    To be fair to the Jaguar, it is certainly no looker but was a limited number post build conversion like the Rover P6 estate and heavily compromised as a result.

    • Saab 95 shared the rear doors between estate and saloon, albeit the saloon had a fairly flat roof so a drooping roofline wasn’t an issue. The basic C pillar shape was also carried over, which gave the side profile a solid look, reminiscent of the new LR Disco.

      The Saab 93 had distinct rear doors for the estate, however it followed the saloon’s sloping roofline for the top windowline, while offering taller bodywork for the estate, this was carried to the rear of the car and the effect is surprisingly pleasing to the eye.

      I believe the Xantia used the same doors, but had black trim on the window edge to hide the fact?

      The mk1 Mondeo had plans to share rear doors for the commodious estate, as detailed on this site.

      (×247.jpg )

      However a more upright C pillar was decided upon.

  14. I often wonder how something like a Rover SD1 V8 estate would fare, and there were a few conversions done. I could imagine the massive torque of the V8 making this an ideal high performance estate, added to the sporting driving experience and luxurious interior. After 1982, with better quality and a 135 mph Vitesse option, this could have been a fantastic car in estate form.

  15. I remember my Dad(who had a XJ6 at the time) enquiring about the conversion at the motor show at the NEC. I think the concept was good to have the luxury and space combined, which back then was a limited choice, pity it looked like a hearse. Coronation street’s own XJ6 driver Mike Baldwin (Jonny Briggs) was on the stand and looked like he had enjoyed the hospitality, attracting a fair crowd for signed photos. No I didn’t get one but I did have a pee next to him in the gents, ah the glamour of showbiz!

  16. Was the German shepherd included or did you have to purchase it separately…?

  17. Erm… well I like it. There – I’ve said it.

    It’s refreshingly different, and to my eye much nicer than, for example, the Triumph 2500 estate.

    And the Volvo was a box on wheels.

    But it’s quite unfair to compare it with a factory-built car. They had to take what the factory made, and modify it at a minimal cost without affecting the structural integrity. I daresay they would have loved to design a complete new rear 1/3 to the car, but the little they did do cost £6500 in 1980!

  18. I am amazed at some of the comments on here!! At the time, jaguar were not producing Estate cars so what a fantastic way to offer one at an affordable price. Just stop and think for one minute the achievment of taking a standard saloon and doing a modification like this, the work involved, it did not get it Gold Award for Coach-building for nothing. Also, Jaguar must have been happy as they still honoured the Warranty on the car!!
    The development and production of this car also inspired Jaguar to re-address their philospy and start producing Jaguar Estate Cars.
    In its day, this was a remarkable acheivement undertaken by a small Coach-building Company in the Heart of England, this shows true Coach-building craftsmanship in its finest detail.

  19. Avon, Coleman Milne, Lynx, Torcars, all names from the past that could do special versions of British badged cars. Coleman Milne in particular could turn out a very nice limousine version of the Matk 2 Granada for considerably less than a Daimler Limousine and a similar list of options and with Ford servicing costs.

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