CC Capsule: 1986 Jaguar XJ6 – Destined For Abandonment

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The sight of a beat up Jag in a dilapidated neighborhood is one of autodom’s more frequent and depressing spectacles.  But this particular XJ6 which I spotted in nearby Bedford, IN took the image to a new level because the car had not only been left sitting, it was likely put out of commission very soon after purchase, if these temporary tags are any indication.

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Yes, these tags expired one month ago, so it’s safe to assume that soon after the car’s late June/early July purchase, a fundamental (or fundamentally expensive) component failed, rendering it undriveable.  When a car is simply abandoned rather than taken to a junkyard, as this one has been, it’s easy to image its infuriated owner throwing his hands into the air in disgust and walking away.

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As we’re all aware, Jags of this vintage are known for breaking their owners’ hearts and leaving them without transportation and with a hefty repair bill.  Our own Keith Thelen, for example, acquired an XJ6 project car only a few months ago only to indefinitely postpone many further investments in its repair and maintenance.  But I’m not always ready to fully accept such reputations without first-hand experience; I often reckon that enough people regularly relied on these cars that any associated horror stories could only have limited real-world applicability.  That line of thinking admittedly makes more sense when discussing Fiats and various French makes, whose famously unreliable cars were built in massive quantities, serving as utilitarian transport for countless Europeans and their families.  But in the case of the less plentiful Jaguar, I’m afraid, such logic is less solid.

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This is your garden variety late-production Series III and, in terms of trim and bodywork, could be in much worse shape.  Its trim and paint are faded, yes, but they appear to be all original.  That so many similar Jags present in clean condition with good trim might be why so many people are fooled into thinking that the worst Jaguar rumors won’t affect them.  Like an STI, the reasoning is “that happens to other people.”

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As so often happens, though, the worst problems do manifest for owners–call it the dirty payout that results from the seduction.  And typically, many of these relationship patterns repeat themselves.  As our current COAL-man David Saunders has demonstrated, old habits die hard and many of the fragile cars he buys purely out of intrigue are followed with others of equally delicate constitution.

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As this driveway near my house (with one immobile Jaguar parked to the right of an unregistered XJ40) shows, the Jaguars of a ’70s and ’80s were seemingly designed to rot and be abandoned; yet, their fans can’t get enough of them (it would seem the “curator” of this collection has moved on to a G-platform Deville, on the other hand).  Some, upon beholding another person’s continued acquiescence after such expensive, drawn-out sagas might experience schadenfreude.

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Others, like those among us who encouraged Keith to go ahead and buy his XJ6, appreciate the prioritization of passion and satisfaction over purely practical concerns.  After all, there are other cars seemingly destined to be abandoned which I’d like to own one day; maybe a Peugeot 405 Mi16, an Alfasud, or a Corrado G60.  As enthusiasts, we need to nurture each others wild and impractical sides, so think twice before you mock someone for their choice of a four-wheeled time-bomb.

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