Tuesday October 2, 2018
Amazing “Fact of The Day”: the XJ6 was not the Car of The Year 1969. This is not to cast aspersions on the Peugeot 504 or the runners up, the BMW 2500/2800 and the Alfa Romeo 1750, but more a note of sheer incredulity. This was a Jaguar that seemed the culmination of a tradition that commence in 1950 with the MK.VII and was described by Autocar thus:
There is absolutely no car on the market today that can approach it in any field at anywhere near the price, and certainly at the same price there are none that can offer so much automobile for the money.
By the late 1960s Browns Lane was facing the challenge of an exceedingly complex range; the 240 and 340 were the latest incarnations of the Mk. 2 and there was also the S-Type in both 3.4 litre and 3.8 litres. 1966 saw the formidable Mk. X lightly facelifted as the 420G plus the new 420; a clever fusion of the S-Type with the 4.2 litre engine and quad-headlamp style frontal treatment.
There were also two Daimler-badged hybrids; the V8 250 which combined Mk.2 coachwork with the renowned 2.5 litre V8 engine and the new Sovereign, a slightly better appointed (and socially elevated) interpretation of the 420.
The origins of the XJ6 date back to 1963 with “Project XJ4” and when the British Motor Corporation acquired Jaguar and Pressed Steel three years later to form British Motor Holdings (BMH). This, as Keith Adams points out in his fascinating article on https://www.aronline.co.uk :
secured Jaguar’s body supply from Pressed Steel. In addition to this, (Sir William) Lyons now had the financial backing to get the XJ4 into production. Although Lyons later regretted Jaguar’s merger with BMC – who as it turned out, was weaker than he thought – in the short term he got him what he wanted. The new saloon, which he later called the XJ6, was brought to fruition thanks to having BMC’s financial resources on hand.
For the new car Lyons created a style that was reminiscent of previous models yet appears lithe and utterly contemporary. As the launch date of the 26th September 1968 approached, excitement and speculation about the XJ6 was rife; this was the first radically new saloon since the introduction of the Mk. X in 1961.
And, as this newsreel of the Earls Court Motor Show demonstrates, it was all that the customer could have wanted -
The engine choices were the 4.2 litre XK unit or a 2.8 litre unit plant. Enthusiasts marvelled at the, the front “anti-dive” suspension, the cabin, the sheer style - plus the lack of the separate button found on previous Jaguar saloons.
The Jaguar closest British rival was the Rover P5B 3.5 Litre but that was a more formal type of executive transport while its major overseas competitors were the Mercedes-Benz W108 and the E3-series BMW. The launch of the XJ6 also marked the demise of the 340, the S-Type and the 420; the Daimler-badged cars and the 240 remained in production until 1969. As for the 420G, the last examples departed the factory in 1970, for the first of the XJ’s genuinely marks a new era at Browns Lane.
The entry level 2.8 Litre cost £1,797 while a 4.2-litre Automatic was priced at £2,398 and when the chaps at Motor tested the larger engine version in 1969 they thought ‘As it stands at the moment, dynamically, it has no equal regardless of price, which explains those 12-months delivery quotes from dealers and black-market prices £1,000 over list’. In March of that same year Car stated ‘it is probably the best this nation can offer, and certainly among the best this nation has known in 75 years’.
The many and various aspects of the “XJ Story” – the Daimlers, the XJ12, the Coupes – will be covered next month, but for now as this truly great Jaguar celebrates its 50th anniversary, the final words should go to Mr. L J K Setright. He believed that the original XJ6 was ‘not merely remarkable for what it is, but also because it renders superfluous all cars which cost more’. And that is why it is one of Britain’s finest motor cars.