Not too long ago, I was considering picking up an older Jaguar to use as a daily driver. Having never owned one before, I asked the commentariat about their Jag experiences.
The vast majority of responses were along the lines of, “Run! Run far! Run fast!” Some came from current or former owners; many came from those who’d merely heard the horror stories. Regardless of the source, there clearly was a negative vibe running through the bulk of the comments.
But not everybody was suggesting I run away screaming. As one commenter remarked: “Go for it as a lesson to us all that are seduced by Jags. Do it as a gift to us all so we can either delight in your experience or share in your pain.”
So for those who’ve really wondered what it takes to own and operate a $1000 Jaguar–or for those who just like to yell “Jump! Jump!” at the guy on the ledge–your day has come.
In the coming weeks, my usual Wednesday posts will be temporarily set aside while I attempt to bring this 1984 XJ6 back to life. You’ll get to see each step, in all its torturous, cringeworthy, “glad that’s not me” detail.
“But wait,” you say, “I thought you were looking at an XJ40.” And I was. But after seeing multiple Jags, I decided on this one instead. That’s where the story will begin next Wednesday.
XJ40s are nice–but all issues of practicality aside, didn’t you really want to see me end up with a real hell-project? One that’ll punish me for every wrench I turn, every mile I cover, every time I so much as look at it funny? If so, then this is the car you would have picked. You’ll see why soon.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I attempt to turn this mean old kitty into a purring daily driver. Even if the car decides to behave itself (yeah, right!), this series will run clear into May, so there’s lots for you to look forward to.
Next week’s Project XJ6 is all about the Jag’s homecoming. Don’t miss it!
Keith, you have far more ambition (and by the looks of it, a much nicer shop space) than I for winter projects. My Caprice is sitting under a car cover and tarp on the slab in the back yard under about 2 feet of snow so I don’t have to brush the snow off my DD Altima. Even then, the drivers door lock cylinder on the Altima started acting up yesterday (will lock but not unlock, how convenient!), to which I decided, it can wait to be fixed until the weather warms up 😛
Best of luck with the Jag!
I am betting that is where that spare Chevy 350 and trans is going? Are you going for a Jagrolet conversion? Good luck. I was one of those that said go for it as they are not that expensive to deal with if you turn your own wrenches
When I moved to my town a couple of decades ago I worked next door to a mechanic’s shop. New Jags being popular in this affluent area I was astonished to see more than once people bringing in *brand new* Jags to have the engines swapped out for 350s. I guess they’d been once bitten twice shy.
It strikes me that this will be a study in information as much as hands-on wrenching… who has the high quality/reasonably priced original parts, when is it wise to adapt a Delco part to replace a hopeless Lucas item, which legendary failures are really caused by abuse or poor care.
You sir are to be admired. I am doubtful,however, that I ever would have followed in your footsteps. Friend had one of these with a sbc. It became more dependable each time he trashed a jaguar part and replaced with GM.
We appauld your courts and wish you luck
At least we know you get to 2 weeks in!
I own a few Series XJs myself. Let me know if you need anything.
Also, there’s Jag-Lover’s forum that is more than helpful for getting advise, along with a number of fix write-ups for common issues with the car.
I got one of these for my daughter for her 17th birthday. I originally figured I’d get her a Volvo 740 for safety and simplicity but she had a liking for Jags and after a bit of research, discovered they are almost free. I got about 2 1/2 for $1,100 and after about 170 hours of wrenching and painting, she drove to highschool in style (and safety).
I broke even on the whole project as there were lots of crappy and therefore sought-after and therefore reasonably valuable parts in the donor cars and XJ6s the come apart easy.
One thing that always amazed me was the number of hose clamps under the hood. There are so many, it was hard to get an accurate count but there is somewhere north of 80 clamps.
If you go into the project with eyes wide open and a sense of humour, you will be fine.
I’m really pleased that CC could sponsor “Project XJ6”, because every time I’ve written up an XJ6, it elicits the usual and predictable reactions: “Put a Chevy 350 into it”, or “this will eat you up and spit you out its twin exhausts in tiny particles”.
I know a guy here in Eugene with a shop that only drives and fixes old XJ6s, and he swears he’s figured them out and can make them work as cheap and fairly reliable transportation. (BTW, Keith, I can put you in touch with him if you want/need). There’s risks, or course, but I hope Keith can prove the nay-sayers at least partly wrong.
Go XJ6! Go Keith! Now we need a CC sticker on that car…
No the sticker it needs is this…
Since I need something to cover up the unfaded area of paint where that Great Britain sticker is now, I was thinking of something like this…
Yes; is there a site that can spit these out easily? I bet so….
I got a bunch of stickers for my ‘race car’ from cafepress.com They turned out great and weren’t too pricey…
There may be a market for those on this site….
I would buy this.
P.S.Could there be a CC Marketplace where CC sells CC branded stuff such as these stickers, calendars, and coffee mugs?
I refuse to believe that a car with an engine that won Le Mans 7 times can be improved by swapping a Chevy 350 into it.
It might be more reliable, but it’s just not quite as good.
Plus, I’d be willing to bet you can get these cars to be reliable. There’s been a lot of people spending lots of time and money on E-Types. I reckon at least one of them will have had some clever ideas.
Do not know where you hail from, but in America, “good” is defined by how many decades you can go between oil changes. Nobody here (except a few weirdos like myself) cares how many cylinders, cams, or carbs an engine has. No Jag engine can even hold a candle to a Yugo, let alone a SBC or SBF
If that BiTurbo 228 from his nickname is a Maserati he knows what he’s talking about. Those Maseratis are as “reliable” as the Jags. I take my hat off of him if he made a 70s or 80s Maserati a reliable car.
By “sponsor”, is CC funding the project?….
Partially so, with a fixed contribution to the effort, not open-ended 🙂
These are beautiful cars, but like beautiful women…………
Best of luck to you! Looking forward to the adventure.
What is the coating on the garage floor? I like the approach to this.
Water, from washing the car 😉
“Water, from washing the car”
Affordable, good looking, easily refinished. I like it!
“These are beautiful cars, but like beautiful women…………”
Always keep in mind that the sex is often worth way more than the maintenance.
Apparently I should have married a high-maintenance woman then. 🙂
Looking forward to living vicariously through your exploits. My project-car-equivalent is currently a Junior in high school looking at Ivies; my workshop-equivalent is only a year behind. Maybe some day…
For all who are wondering, there’s no SBC swap in this car’s future. My goal is to keep it alive on its original drivetrain for as long as possible. Once something major fails, I can always part it out and crush it – or perhaps pass it along to some beater racing team (LeMons, ChumpCar, etc) for further entertainment value and post material.
Why no motor swap? Because there’s no sport in it – and because, even if I was willing, the conversion materials would cost more than the car 🙂
Good for you. Unless it has already suffered some fatal injury the motor is probably one of the most reliable components on that Jaguar. I’m watching to see how this turns out.
Why no motor swap? Because when you do, it’s no longer a Jaguar.
If you swapped engines, the ongoing series would be over too quickly too.
That depends what you have available for swapping. I had a friend who attempted to put a Ford 250 six into one of these – his was a series 1. it came with the little 2.8 version of the XK six. A rebuild was going to set him back more than he could afford at the time, supposedly because parts for the rarer 2.8 were really scarce. He had half a dozen Falcons in the yard, so….
He found the Ford six bolted up to the BW transmission in the Jag, and had just arranged motor mounts when someone offered to rebuild the 2.8 at mate’s rates, so he never proceeded and the Jag wound up all Jag.
I am relieved that an SBC conversion is NOT being considered. I am looking forward to this series.
This is just awesome. Can’t wait to read the reports!
+ (A whole lot)
If anyone could tackle this, it’s MR K. T.
I think that’s one of the better looking 80s cars. My dad test drove one back in ’96 as a potential car to buy my little sister!!!???
The dealer had to jump it from the get-go, and it had a hellacious clunk in the front end. Needless to say, he didn’t buy it, but I did get to drive it around in the snow, doing broadslides…That was fun.
As one of the people who wrote negative comments, I look forward to this series as much as I look forward to my first cup of coffee on a Wednesday morning! This is going to be great, its very exciting to someone run one of these in my home state of Minnesota, where cars are fodder for the seasons.
Oh well, we tried to warn you 😉
I’m still assisting my office mate (I get to call him that, as he is actually from the UK) with his identical car. Right now, we’re dealing with rusted, crudded-up fuel tanks which are a real pain to get out of the vehicle.
Oh, and what’s my friend’s other ‘foreign’ car? A 1977 Firebird that he bought new!!!
The fuel system is one of the more hilarious parts of the car.
If you can live with a shorter range, pick the best tank and disable the switchover valve. As I recall, the supply pipe goes down one side of the car and return down the other so if you nail the rocker real well on EITHER side, you will get a big fuel leak.
As the XJ6 eveloved from a s1 through s3, all the changes were add-ons, not re-designs so a lot of the systems got overly complex.
The fuel level senders are accessed behind the tail lights and you have to drop the rear skirt under the back bumper to drop the tank.
Would it be possible to just T the tanks together with a single pump? Seems like you would only need one sender and could get rid of a lot of possible problem areas. That is a beautiful car, you are a braver man than me, Keith.
I once had a Series II 3.4 in this poop-brown color.
And a friend who was an electrical en electronical whizz-kid.
He’d install relais for the power windows, , the sunroof and the quad headlights, he made me re-do the wire connections, either by soldering them or taking plugs from Japanese scrap cars.
A bosch alternator instead of the Lucas unit and hey presto, 80% of the problems were gone.
He jumped! He jumped!
“Do it as a gift to us all so we can either delight in your experience or share in your pain.”
Or . . . . . . most likely for some people here, “so we can delight at your pain.”
well now i know what you were in grand rapids, mn for.
that is so close to home i could have offered you a place to stay
i also know the cutlass you spied in hill city.
i will be watching this one!
Seen at British Car Day in Maryland.
This one is much more Jaaaaaaaaaaaaag than the other one you were looking at, so if your going to experience the suffering, you’re at least doing it for a proper Jag, and a Vanden Blahhh at that too, with the little wood table trays and the floormats made from sheared Shih-Tzu.
Though, you did chicken out by not getting an XJS V-12 though….
Failed to notice its a Vanden Plas.
Which means you don’t have a Jaguar, you have a Daimler.
I guess so… or at least, that’s what the owner’s manual says on the cover. (Needless to say, I have a lot to learn regarding the history, compatibility, and naming conventions of these cars!)
Its still badged as a Jaguar though, I know they did do a Daimler version of these that was the same car with better trim and a nicer grille, but not for the US.
Good project, I doubt it will be as difficult as the naysayers predict and going these are really nice cars.
Those seatback trays can double as parts shelves, right?
Thanks for living the dream, Keith. Really looking forward to this series.
Look at the bright side, at least the Series III XJ6 is the most beautiful XJ sedan so you have something pretty to look at as it sits in your garage taunting you with its immobility.
Besides it can’t be as hard to work on as the Citroen SM, a car so challenging it was disqualified from Jalopnik’s Project Car Hell feature.
+1. You bought the best of the bunch.
A woman once told me: “I already have two children. I don’t need a man (in addition to them).” So, along these lines, I’d suggest: If you have a life, you don’t need a Jag.
Oh, my. Is it coincidence that this series coincides with Lent? Giving up, let’s see, free time, reliable transportation, inexpensive parts, and who knows what else. You may be reduced to sack cloth and ashes by the end, but I hope not.
Seriously, I am excited for you. In my younger years, I always fell for cars that I knew absolutely nothing about, then proceeded to climb the learning curve. I hope this one is not too strenuous. I look forward to the series, hoping to learn once and for all either that (a) these are great cars with some care and attention or (b) Jaguar = Please pass the hemlock.
This cannot end well… 😀
I hope this goes well for you Keith.You have balls of steel to do this,I look at Jags and read about them knowing I will never have the nerve to buy one or the mechanical and electrical experience required to keep it running
This is awesome!
Deep down I really wanted you to take the plunge and chronicle this experience.
Who knows…you might inspire a few others (Me?) to take a similar plunge.
Gotta agree though, this is a much better choice than the XJ40. More authentic, better looking and “less” electronics so it “should” be easier to wrench and keep alive.
I have a friend who’s dad had one of these. His dad passed (not sure how long before) and one day he took out the XJ6. I remember how it would backfire while we took it for a spin and how it would stall.
Still love them Jaguars.
I once bought a 1979 Series “2 1/2” Jag XJ6. It was the transition model with the Series 2 body and the fuel injected engine of the Series 3. On the test drive, it overheated, due to having the wrong radiator cap. I bought it anyway (Big Mistake!). When I got it home to my garage, I noticed a gas smell. The PO’s “mechanic” brother-in-law had repalced the fuel injecton hoses with regular gas line hose that could not withstand the higher fuel pressure of a fuel injected engine. After fixing that, I tried to close the hood all the way. The PO had installed the wrong size battery, so when I slammed the hood all the way down, there were sparks everywhere because the battery was too tall and the positive battery post was shorting out against the bottom of the hood. Good thing I had fixed the gas leak first! Not an auspicious beginning. Over time I learned that the reason the HVAC did not work right was that some PO had hooked up the vacuum hoses for the heater valve wrong – once fixed, the HVAC worked like a charm. The vague steering was fixed by installing a new poly bushing kit on the steering rack from John’s Cars, as well as installing a new steering column lower u-joint. Then the transmission starting acting up and and one day it would not shift up out of low gear into 2nd or 3rd. Turns out the cable that runs from the BW Model 65 trans to the throttle linkage was seriously out of adjustment. Once that was fixed, the trans worked great. I saved a bundle on that one, because I thought it was going to need a new trans. Then one night it would not start after going to dinner at a restaurant. Had it towed home and eventually discovered that the safety switch on the transmision had gone bad, so it would not start in any gear. Next it had an erractic hard starting/no starting problem. Turned out it was faulty wiring to the engine coolant sensor on top of the intake manifold for the fuel injection computer. The wiring to the “Bosch” style plug on top of the sensor was bad. This was a Bosch fuel injection plug, so we can’t blame that problem on Lucas. What else? The power window switches went bad and the windows would not work, so I picked up some generic ones from the local auto parts store that fit perfectly in the center console and worked great. All the rubber hoses on the fuel vapor recovery system should be replaced, even the hard to reach ones on the duel gas tank filler caps. If you don’t, you will be plagued with the odor of gasoline every time you drive it with the windows rolled down. I never could get the cooling system to work effectivley on hot days once the temperture went above 90 degrees, in spite of replacing the radiaror, water pump. electric cooling fans, thermostat, head gasket, and radiator. The cooling systems just were not designed to work in a hot climate. The pluses? Once the steering was sorted out, it handled great and had a terrific ride. The sound of the engine is fantastic, nothing else sounds like a Jag 6 cylinder. These cars are not fast, but they are great for the highway. The smell of the leather interior and wool carpets is great. Women love these cars!
Speaking of John’s Cars, I wouldn’t be surprised if you make the acquaintance of John Radovich, whose screeds in HMN I regularly read in spite of not being a Jaguar lover, and who seems someone I’d like to deal with.
Sounds like a lot of your trouble was previous owner’s bodgy repairs coupled with general wearing out of old parts like you could get on any car. One good thing with a used Jaguar of that age – if it’s still on the road, a lot of the troubles will have been sorted already. There’s a lot of good to be enjoyed with a Jaguar.
The problem was the cars had rotten electrics and shoddy build quality. If you can fine a good one that has has all the maintenance and fixing all the Jaggy things that inevitably come up, they can make a nice luxury driver. Just be ready to spend $3000 a year to keep it in top shape. In the luxury car game this is peanuts.
Cars here on this side of the pond tended to live hard lives. Most were never bought by car lovers, and often maintenance was not done. Even right after warranty these cars are money pits and they got dumped. It was usually the second owners that trashed them. There are not a lot of shops that know much about the cars and parts are expensive and hard to fine.
At my family’s shop we learned there quirks (and there are loads of them) as we had an old Brit working for us, who had the tools for it. Electrical issues were terrible to diagnose on these cars. A V-12 that came in not running was impossible to diagnose as the car had to be running to scan it! You simply replaced parts until you got the right one. Usually it was the ignition igniter, but not always! Adjusting the valves for the V-12 was a 13 hour job as the fuel rail, all the injectors and then the cams, all had to be pulled.
But if you have the space, tools and time, have fun!
I think this will be a great series. I am seduced by Jaguars. This should let me know what I am in for.
You will learn soon enough, but an XJ6 IS an XJ40. when you visit jag-lovers.org (and believe me, you need them!) you will find that they refuse to acknowledge an XJ6 as anything but an XJ40. I have an ’88 XJ40 (XJ6) with the PacMan Electronic Dash and it has typical issues for a car that age. Some quirks but beautiful cars. The mechanics and drivetrain are famously sound and smooth. The accompanying systems can be frustratingly complicated, though.
Welcome to the world of “undocumented fuses” and relays where you never imagined them.
Keith – well you certainly have aroused the commentariat, judging by the number of responses. As the former owner of a Series 1 XJ6 (’72), I’d advise you against an engine swap – there’s nothing wrong with the DOHC 6-cylinder – in fact, it’s quite a bit understressed. What you WILL be dealing with is any piece of gear bearing the name “Lucas” on it. There’s a reason Joseph Lucas was called the Prince of Darkness. As in:
Q: Why do Englishmen drink warm beer? A: Because they have Lucas refrigeration.
Forewarned is forearmed, and good luck. When they’re running right, nothing rides like a Jag.
Required viewing for any XJ6 tinkerer:
(Hot Rod magazine’s RoadKil Draguar)
Required viewing if you need to add a few yucks to your day. Great video.
Aww hell yes. Love these cars.
Once you get it in good running order (yes once, not if) you can compare it to an XJ40 🙂
Which one did you go for? Engine, series etc.
I love that color!
I have never forgotten a photo caption in the Los Angeles Times, in 1982, under a photo of John Delorean being driven from the courthouse where he was on trial for drug trafficking charges: “DeLorean and his wife, Cristina Ferrare, leaving the courthouse in a sleek black Jaguar”. I was as stunned as a 23 year old as I am today that the LA Times would use such an adjective in what was basically a crime story. Sleek indeed. And now, YOU own one!
Speaking of Jags in the media…
Turned on the TV a bit ago and landed on an episode of Cheers that was just beginning. Norm and Cliff were hanging around outside the bar, when a gentleman pulled up and handed his keys to Cliff (whom he had mistaken for a valet). Before long, the two regulars were hopping in the car and taking it for a joyride.
The car? An early ’90s XJ6.
Strange coincidence, eh? (Lucas-related jokes regarding the open driver’s window will surely follow.)
Wow, a scene from Cheers where they weren’t sitting at the bar, that’s rare in itself.
Excellent, looking forward to this very much! I’m guessing you will be more than capable of getting and keeping this thing running. Beautiful car, can’t wait for next installment!
Delco is Jesus, Lucas is Satan.
The eternal struggle is playing out in my driveway as we speak 🙂
I drove my used but clean ’63 Jag sedan home from the car lot one evening. The next morning it wouldn’t start.
Don’t take your car to a car wash unless you have plenty of time to dry the ignition.
Ever since that car, I’ve thought the best thing said about them is “A Jaguar is like a fine race horse that breaks its leg every time it comes out of the gate.” Dang if I can figure out how they won so many races.
If you wanted to throw $10,000 away with nothing to show for it you could have just given it to me.
$10K? No, no… that’s about five times more than the maximum I expect to spend.
I’ll get into the details next week, but my plan is to make this $1000 car roadworthy with as little expense as possible, and get all the use out of it I can. The Jaguar faithful may call for my head, but I’m not too worried.
Normally my articles are written within days (if not hours) of their appearance here. But in this case, there’s about a three week buffer between website and reality. Thus, some of the outcome is already established.
Not to give too much away, but…
Spoiler alert #1: One of the many issues I’ll be dealing with is rusty gas tanks. If the purists knew how I was planning to overcome that one, I have no doubt they’d want to have a (four-letter) word with me.
Spoiler alert #2: Those are Buick wheels on back. Not trolling, just saying 🙂
Fair enough. I didn’t know how far you were going to go. If you were going to give this a wheels-up restoration $10,000 would be a pretty low estimate, and people have spent more on lesser cars.
Here’s how I solved my rusty gas tank in my XJ6…lasted months until I found a replacement tank.
Every time someone mentions spending $1000 to buy and/or fix a car, I’m reminded of this:
Good luck on the Jaguar project.
Love that Sable Brown… My fav
Thanks so much for doing this. I have always wanted to try an old XJ. Now I can live vicariously!
Welcome to the low-line saloon club, Keith. You get the driving position and the vantage point of a sportscar with two extra doors (which are always handy). Looking forward to reading of your odyssey.
Being 6’1″, I still can’t get over (or would that be under?) the lack of steering column tilt. Definitely going to take some getting used to before I can enter and exit without looking silly.
Similar with the W116. I’ve figured out the throw-bag-on-passenger-seat-and-slither-in move. Took me about a week and a half.
Well at least it is a pretty one! The XJ40 never really cut it in the looks dept.
I am very impressed, having owned and own a British Car and motorcycle, you’re taking on a big challenge……I hope your heart doesn’t get broken.
I have always loved these, Jaguars are the one non-domestic brand I have always coveted. My Dad went through college with a black XK 140 and I had the pleasure of driving a friend’s dad’s ’88 (which by then was pretty beat down but still drove amazingly).
I’ve heard and seen the horror stories but that said I’ve always wanted one and to keep it on the road. Glad you are not doing an engine swap and best of luck, will look forward to reading.
Now you can become “The Equilizer”!
Just make sure to do your best Edward Woodward impressions…
The Equalizer was my first thought too! I loved that show and that Jaguar when I was a kid and it was on the air.
Wow, I forgot about The Equalizer, there is an Equalizer reference in The Wolf of Wall Street coincidentally. For years I thought The Equalizer was Michael Caine.
Keith, I know of at least one Jaguar that has been trouble-free. My mom has a 1995 XJS convertible that Dad bought for her from a friend in 2002. His wife bought it for him for their 25th anniversary. He loved the car but rarely drove it, so Dad snapped it up. In fourteen years, it has only needed oil changes and a couple sets of tires. It currently has 52,000 miles on it. I love the way it drives! You can read all about it here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-european/my-moms-curbside-classic-1995-jaguar-xjs-convertible-t-bird-substitute/
Pratical Classic magazine, printed in the UK, did a review of the XJ6s’ many years ago. Their suggestion was….
“Everyone should own a jag. Once”.
Congratulations; you wont regret it. As my old man was fond of saying “if you have a choice between a good time and a good story, pick the good story – it always gets better in the retellin'”
These are insanely beautiful cars. You just want them to be better than they are. Really looking forward to the updates. Your mother should bake one of her car cakes in honor of the Jag, this one in chocolate, of course.
I found this post while doing a search on the XJS. I haven’t skipped around so I don’t want any spoiler alerts. It’s hard to believe that these are as bad as they say they are. Everything I’ve read has stated that the motor itself is pretty long lived, though there is nothing simple about working on the V12, These cars are all at the bottom of the depreciation curve so the buy-in price is just the cost of admission. I’m planning on doing some real research on these and on some 70’s MBzs. I imagine parts are pretty expensive but I did a search on Rock Auto for MBZ 450 parts and was pleasantly surprised. I found some parts vendors in Hemmings also.Good luck and I am anxiously looking forward to updates.