WHAT TO LOOK FOR
SPOT THE ROT
Rotten and bodged cars are the norm, so analyse all of the bodywork meticulously, checking very carefully for filler as well as corrosion. Key rot spots include the bottoms of the A-, B- and C-posts, along with the sills, rear wheelarches and valances. Also scrutinise the spare wheel well, door bottoms, rear radius arm mounts and the arms themselves, the screen surrounds and the bonnet hinge mounting points. The bonnet can corrode, as can the bootlid, the wings around the headlights plus the various jacking points. The radiator support frame also dissolves, and, if left to fester, rust then eats into the front chassis structure. Front subframes rot badly and you can expect to pay £2000 for a specialist to supply and fifit a used one.
MAKE SURE IT’S BEEN SERVICED
Offered in 2.8- and 4.2-litre guises, the XK engine needs regular maintenance or its life will be drastically reduced. Look for a service history, make sure the engine doesn’t sound hollow or rattly, and ensure the oil is clean – walk away if it has the consistency of tar. The key is to budget for a rebuild as soon as the engine is showing signs of wear; delay things and the bills will quickly mount, especially if something ends up breaking. The XK engine has a cast-iron block and alloy cylinder head. Because of the latter, antifreeze levels must be maintained scrupulously or else internal corrosion is guaranteed. Even a well-maintained engine will need a replacement radiator every fifive to 10 years, depending on the level of use, so you may need to budget for this at around £220 plus labour costs.
BEWARE THE OILY UNDERSIDE
Look at how much oil is on the car’s underside, as the rear crankshaft oil seal can fail. Once this has happened the engine needs a complete rebuild; a specialist will charge £4000 for the privilege or you could do the work yourself for upwards of £600 – but it’s an involved job.
SNIFF OUT TRANSMISSION WOES
Some XJ6s have a manual transmission, while others have a Borg Warner unit that can suffer from jerky changes, even in good condition. Inspect the fluid for colour, level and quality. If it’s black and smells foul, a £1000 rebuild is on the cards. The manual gearbox is strong and most such transmissions were supplied with overdrive. If it seems slow to engage, it’s probably because the oil needs changing or has fallen below the ideal level;
wear is unusual. Differentials are tough, but can leak oil all over the in-board rear brake discs; repairs are at least £1200. The seal often leaks because the brakes have overheated, so you might need to rebuild the brakes as well.
Tired suspension and rear subframe bushes are common, so check they’ve not split. Worn front tyres point to perished bushes in the front suspension, which knocks out the geometry. There are a lot of bushes throughout the car, and if they all need renewing, the bill could be massive. Also inspect the dampers for leaks; replacements cost £30 apiece. The handbrake is often poorly maintained; it has its own calipers and pads, which seize. Ensure the car can be held on a hill using just the handbrake, as fixing it is a pain.
A DASH OF COMFORT
Much of the XJ’s appeal lies in its cabin, which is as luxurious an interior as you’ll find in any car. A tatty interior costs big money to fix, especially if the carpets and wood trim are tired; the potential for expenditure into thousands of pounds shouldn’t be underestimated.