JAGUAR’S CLASS ACT — THE XJ SA­LOON SE­RIES

It took 20 years for Donn An­der­son to re­al­ize his dream of own­ing a Jaguar, but, when that day fi­nally dawned, there was a prob­lem …

New Zealand Classic Car - - Motorman -

On my de­but drive in a Jaguar XJ6 47 years ago, I de­scribed the new model as a rare gem at $7K in our land, and sim­ply ex­cel­lent value. The XJ6 line, which would run over 25 years from 1968 un­til 1993, quite rightly seemed des­tined for suc­cess.

In­deed, such was the lux­ury car’s fol­low­ing that, when the re­place­ment XJ40 ar­rived in 1987, Jaguar con­tin­ued pro­duc­tion of the older Se­ries III XJ6 for an­other six years. The styling fur­ther im­proved, es­pe­cially with the ex­quis­ite Se­ries III — un­like to­day, when so many facelift or re­vised mod­els ac­tu­ally look worse than their pre­de­ces­sors.

The first ex­am­ples ar­rived in New Zealand early in 1969, and the late Tony Shelly, who held the Jaguar fran­chise for Welling­ton, went to great pains to pro­vide us with a sandy-coloured 4.2-litre ex­am­ple with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion for col­lec­tion in Palmer­ston North. In the late ’60s, the XJ6 was a bench­mark in terms of am­bi­ence; han­dling; and, most of all, ride and quiet­ness, set­ting a stan­dard ri­vals of the day could not em­u­late. It may not have en­joyed the best qual­ity fin­ish, but op­po­si­tion mar­ques Mercedes and BMW viewed the car with re­spect, even though they might not have said so.

Af­ter a day spent ex­plor­ing the ru­ral high­ways of the Manawatu in that Se­ries I from the first-landed ship­ment and mar­vel­ling at the out­stand­ing ride and con­trol over ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties along Field­ing plain roads, I reck­oned this was one car I wished to own. That op­por­tu­nity didn’t present it­self un­til two decades later, by which time the XJ40 re­place­ment had ar­rived.

Spe­cial de­liv­ery

A five-month bus­man’s hol­i­day with the fam­ily in Bri­tain in 1987 ne­ces­si­tated hir­ing or buy­ing a car to fill in the gaps be­tween re­view mod­els, so a new 3.6-litre Jaguar Sov­er­eign on ex­port de­liv­ery was or­dered and paid for prior to leav­ing New Zealand. We jour­neyed from our base in Sur­rey to the fa­mous Browns Lane assem­bly plant in Coven­try in a Ford Sierra sta­tion wagon, and the plan was for my brother to re­turn south in the Ford while we mo­tored in style in our new Sov­er­eign.

How­ever, de­spite the best-laid plans of mice and men, we all re­turned to Guild­ford in the Sierra. On ar­rival at Browns Lane, I com­pleted the pa­per­work and awaited the ap­pear­ance of the Coven­try cat. And waited and waited. Ap­par­ently, there was an is­sue with start­ing the car, al­though Jaguar re­fused to dis­close the ac­tual prob­lem.

I hoped this was not a pre­cur­sor of fu­ture own­er­ship woes, and, no, it was not. Jaguar made partial amends for our ini­tial dis­ap­point­ment by agree­ing to de­liver the car to Sur­rey with­out charge, and the XJ40 duly ar­rived the fol­low­ing day.

The XJ40 was never badged as such, be­cause it was al­ways con­sid­ered an XJ6 re­place­ment, but, since the much-loved Se­ries III XJ6 con­tin­ued in pro­duc­tion, the newer model was tagged with its project num­ber.

Our car ran with­out prob­lems, was ser­viced in the UK, and im­ported into Auck­land early in 1988. By that time, the ef­fects of the Oc­to­ber 1987 fi­nan­cial cri­sis were hav­ing a crip­pling ef­fect on the value of lux­ury cars, and I sadly sold the Jaguar, thus cut­ting short my own­er­ship of what was an im­pres­sive piece of kit.

Mis­de­meanours

My lim­ited time with the car, of course, meant I did not ex­pe­ri­ence the prob­lems faced by many other own­ers. The XJ40 suf­fered from elec­tri­cal, steer­ing, and sus­pen­sion mis­de­meanours that re­vived ear­lier Jaguar mis­for­tunes. Rewind to 1980, and Jaguar’s poor re­li­a­bil­ity had the mar­que’s rep­u­ta­tion un­der pres­sure. How­ever, its stand­ing was re­vived by new man­age­ment and the ar­rival of the Se­ries III. XJ40 build qual­ity fur­ther im­proved, but it was still not good enough, and the real up­grade came when Ford took over the com­pany in 1989.

Of course, any new Jaguar had to re­tain a wood and leather in­te­rior, and have the look, feel, and smell of a gen­tle­man’s club. Styling-wise, the XJ40’S more an­gu­lar de­sign lacks the flu­id­ity of its three pre­de­ces­sors and is less char­ac­ter­ful. And, in 1985, the Se­ries III was sell­ing so well that Jaguar be­lieved there was no hurry to in­tro­duce the XJ40. With deeper win­dows, more glass area, the Pin­in­fa­rina-shaped roof line, flush door han­dles, and a smaller frontal area, the Se­ries III was cer­tainly more mod­ern look­ing than ear­lier XJ6S.

Donn An­der­son about to face ris­ing petrol prices with a road-test Se­ries II XJ12 in Bri­tain in 1973

The Se­ries III is re­garded as the best­look­ing of the orig­i­nal XJ6 se­ries

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