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Classic Jaguar XJ Pages at oldclassiccar.
XJ Series 1,2 and 3 Buyers GuideJaguar had been riding on the success of saloons such as the Mk10, Mk2, S-Type and 420 for some years, but it was clear that if the company was to remain a force in the luxury car market beyond the mid/late 1960s, a worthy replacement would have to be found. This new car had a doubly hard task in that it would be replacing the aforementioned cluster of models in one go, and to succeed, it would need to be something very special.
The brand new XJ (initially only available as a straight 6 powered car) made its debut in 1968 at the Earls Court Motor Show in London, in original short wheelbase guise only. Showgoers were suitably impressed by the beauty of this large luxury motorcar, and the plaudits just kept on flowing when favourable reports from road testers of the day filtered back to the general public. It looked like William Lyons' company had pulled it off.
The first Series Ones, as they'd become to be known, were initially available with either 2.8 or 4.2 litre versions of the familiar XK power unit. Transmission was either via a Borg Warner automatic box, or the rarely seen manual gearbox (overdrive was also an option). The vast majority of XJ6s were ordered with auto boxes, as they best suited the car and its relaxing ambience. Both Daimler and Jaguar badged versions were marketed, although the latter came along a year or so after the Jaguar.
The styling of the early cars drew heavily on what had gone before, the front end being reminiscent of the Mk10/420/420G albeit shrunken down somewhat. Under the pressed steel coachwork, much of the running gear had been seen before. The engine had been around in various capacities since the late forties in the XK sports car, the independent rear suspension having featured on the S-Type already. The dashboard was familiar to a generation of Jaguar drivers, the large speedo and tachometer planted ahead of the driver, with a bank of switchgear and smaller auxiliary instrumentation placed midway along the dash.
Accessibilty around the XK engine, and especially with the lower 2.8 version, was on the whole very good. The reason for this would become obvious, with the introduction of the wonderful XJ12 in July 1972. Featuring the single cam per bank 12 cylinder engine, the XJ12 was a genuinely swift motorcar, aimed at owners for whom the 6 pot XJ6 just wasn't special enough (!).
Performance and handling for such a large and powerful car were both exemplary, with genuine 140+ mph performance on offer with seating for 4/5. Visually the only differences were ventilated wheels (which would become standard XJ fit on the S2 onwards), revised badging, and a much classier grille. Despite the S3 E-Type having the option of manual transmission, the 12 pot XJ would only ever be offered with the Borg Warner slushbox.
Late in 1972 Jaguar introduced the long wheel base XJ6L and XJ12L, offering an extra 4 inches legroom to the rear seating area. The rear seating was always a bit of a squeeze in the 'classic' XJs, and this helped but didn't fully solve this gripe. A high spec Vanden Plan version was launched, and would be available alongside all normal S1, S2 and S3 XJs up until 1983. Production numbers of the plush VdP version was very low, and good survivors now are getting scarce.
In 1973 the Series 2 was introduced, and offered a number of refinements and updates to the Series 1 formula. Engines offered were the usual V12 (initially on 4 Stromberg carbs as on the S1, later with injection), the 4.2, and a new 3.4 version of the XK. To appease US regulations, the front bumper was raised, necessitating a revision to the front end styling (bumper, grille etc) on the new XJ. A few early S2s were available with the short wheelbase, but very soon the range standardised around the long wheelbase platform. Gone was the traditional layout of the S1s dashboard, and the opening quarterlights on the earlier cars were now fixed items on the S2. Externally, the rest of the car, either in Jaguar or Daimler guise, was much as before, with some subtle revisions to badging and bootlid trim. Whether the car now looked better internally or externally, when compared to the original '68 car, is open to debate. I personally think the Series 1 looks much nicer, but many prefer the shallower front grille introduced on the S2, and continuing onto the S3 at the end of the 1970s.
One interesting chapter in the S2 XJ story is that of the XJC, or XJ Coupe. Based around the short wheelbase floorpan, this 2 door machine was meant to attract sales in the all-important North American market, a market already populated with classy coupes from BMW (3.0CSi and its replacement, the 6 series) and Mercedes (SLC). Both Jaguar and Daimler versions were offered, with either 4.2 or 5.3 power. Combined, production of the XJ6C and XJ12C barely crept over 7,000 units, by the time production of the 2 door ended in 1977. By now, Jaguar was well and truly part of the British Leyland empire (BL), and quality control issues were ever present with the Series 2 production run.
In 1979 the XJ received its most thorough series of updates, partly because Jaguar were in no position to fund a completely new car. The styling first introduced in '68 was given a thorough re-work by Pininfarina. Most obvious change was to the roofline, being raised and losing some of the curves of the earlier car. Door handles were now flush, rear lamps were updated, and rubber/chrome bumpers now fitted. The interior was not too dissimilar from that of the S2, the dash being a minor re-work of the earlier car's layout. Again both 6 cylinder (3.4 & 4.2 XK) and 12 cylinder (5.3) versions would be offered, with the choice of Daimler or Jaguar variants. The V12, in a bid to drag its fuel economy into something bordering respectability, received the 'May' heads. The idea worked, and fuel consumption did improve as a result for drivers of the XJ12 HE.
The Series 3, as this revised car was known, continued in production til 1986, some 18 years after the first XJ had been launched, and still had XK power. The square rigged XJ40 series took over the XJ6 mantle in the showrooms, although it would be a few more years before the V12 S3 disappeared altogether from the Browns' Lane plant.
They are big, heavy, complex cars, and don't suffer poor maintenance very well. For their day they were swish expensive cars, and keeping one in the manner it deserves, is not something to take on lightly.
If going to view a potential purchase, do your homework first. There are a lot of online resources for fans of the classic, Series, Jaguars, so pour yourself a glass, and do some serious reading. What follows are some of the basics to check on an XJ you find for sale. Most of the comments apply to all the classic XJs, some may also apply to the 2+2 XJS, which is outside the scope of this article, but is largely based on the shortwheelbase V12 floorpan (early cars).
Later XJSs were also available with the 3.6 or 4.0 AJ6 6 cylinder engine.
Perhaps the key area to inspect in minute detail is the bodywork. A seriously rusty XJ can make the toughest owner-driver weep when it comes to fixing up a corroded XJ bodyshell. The main areas to check on any XJ body are as follows:
The auto boxes should work smoothly and quietly, if not exactly sharply. By the 1980s the XJ was feeling decided 'old school' in the transmission department. As a comparison, I once owned a V12 BMW 7 series from 1987, and that had a nifty switchable 'box that worked superbly. In contrast, the S1 XJ12 (Borg Warner) that I once had, and the S3 XJ12HE (GM400) that dad owned, were really outmoded in comparison. The Jaguar boxes both work well enough, but don't expect cutting edge responses.
The independent rear suspension and subframe is a complex affair, with rear brake discs mounted inboard just to make life extra tricky. There are a lot of rubber joints, mountings and universal joints hanging under there, and wear in any of these parts will manifest themselves when you're driving along. Clunks when taking up drive could well be wear in either propshaft or half shaft UJ, equally the subframe mountings or (worse) the radius arm mountings could be pulling away from the back end of the floorpans. If you're at all unsure about a car in this respect, it'll pay to get it checked over by a qualified, independent, technician. Problems in the suspension area, front or rear, can manifest themselves by wearing out the shoulders of the tyres, so have a good look at the boots while you're poking around. Adjusting the handbrake, which is mounted up above the rear discs, is notoriously tricky at the best of times, and if the pads have been binding, it may well have generated enough heat to fry the seals in the diff (limited slip introduced on the S1 XJ12), causing leaks.
Assuming the body and mechanics of the XJ are ok, have a look at the interior. Sagging headlinings on the early cars are not unusual, but fixing them is not just a case of squirting impact adhesive up there and praying. A replacement headlining is the only long-term cure. Fortunately a lot of rusty XJs are being broken for spares, and many still have good trim in them, so if you are not going for a show-quality finish to your car, it is perfectly acceptable to find secondhand trim items to replace and tired pieces on a running car. Finding these trims parts usually involves joining a relevant owners club and scouring their classifieds sections, or slogging around autojumbles looking for the bits you need. To re-trim a tired car, you are looking at serious money. If your aim is to have a car with a mint interior, financially you're probably better looking for a car that is already excellent in this regard.
Series 1 XJs are usually sought by the enthusiast who rates the styling of the early cars over the later variations. The Series 3 is generally accepted as being the best bet if you plan to use your Jag on a regular basis, and is probably easiest to still find secondhand parts for. Lying inbetween, and often overlooked, is the Series 2. Due to being less popular in XJ circles, a very nice S2 can often be found for the price of an average S1 or 3. XJ Coupes, while stunning to look at when in nice order, are worth little more than a saloon if it has deteriorated. The longer, heavy, doors of the XJC, can often strain the hinges and A posts, causing problems of droopy doors. Getting the frameless side glasses to seal well can also be a nightmare. Many thought the XJC would end up being as valuable as the Mk2 due to its relative scarcity, but as yet this hasn't happened. If the later XJ40 type model is on your shopping list, I've put together a brief Buyers Guide on them also.
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