COAL № 15: 1967 Jaguar 420 • Beautiful Classic Jaguar

About 17 years ago, something made me think it maybe was possible to drive a Jaguar for daily use and for commuting the 60 miles. As a daily driver, high petrol prices in combination with a relatively high fuel consumption meant it would need to have LPG fitted but I was used to this—could fit a system myself if needed.
A Jaguar would be a class higher than the cars I was used to; Jaguar made cars I always have admired, but felt they were not in reach.

In the ’80s and ’90s, a big decision point for me to consider if a car would be a reality for me, was to see how they rusted. I live in a rust country; I wanted a car to run the whole year through so its rust resistance should be good—or it should be relatively easy to repair rust to known rust spots. Rust resistance for cars of the 60s did not exist really, which is why they rusted so fast in our country with salted roads. I admired the “small saloon” (Mk1 / Mk2 / S-type / 420) type Jaguars but felt rust repair to these was too complicated.

Jaguar Mk2 on top, XJ series 1 below


The strip of metal between the front and rear doors meant if a repair was necessary to the door bottoms and sills (which, in my view then, every car of that type would need), it would make lining up that whole area very difficult. Lining up the bottom of the doors to the sills, to the strip of metal in between and to the front and rear wings would mean experienced skills were necessary. I did not have that, and bodywork was not something I liked much. It would be immediately visible if a repair was done in the past and not done with skills; the doors would be out of line. The later XJ type Jaguars were better—no strip between the front and rear doors, and the sill is a separate panel.
My confidence in working with cars grew. I felt I could handle the more difficult jobs. What I did not want is to be dependent on expensive car parts. I knew parts for expensive cars like Aston Martin were extreme, I did not want to be in a position having to buy very expensive parts (for example when an engine needs an overhaul). But I did feel I could maintain a Jaguar, so I started looking for one.

A beautiful Series One XJ6. Big chrome wheels, short wheel base, tinted glass, nice color!


In my search for a suitable XJ, I initially focused on the Series One as I found these the most attractive. Ideally it would have air conditioning and tinted glass. Both these options were rare on Jaguars delivered in Europe—cars with air conditioning were almost unheard-of in the ’70s here. However, for Jaguars delivered new in the US, these options were quite common. There were not many imported US XJ Series Ones to be found in the Netherlands, and I could not find a car to my liking.

Most people I know are easily satisfied when it comes to selecting a car. My father was an extreme example; he would take any car his trustful garage recommended. I grew to be the opposite, having quite strict wishes. So while there were many Jaguars XJ for sale, none was good enough or they were too expensive. Then I saw an advertisement for a Jaguar 420. I knew this was the predecessor to the XJ, but never had it on my wish list because of the complicated doors and rust repair. But it was 15 years later now, and there had been an influx of rust-free US-sourced Mk1 and Mk2 cars, which would not need rust repaired—an unthinkable thing 15 years before.

I think the Jaguar XJ series is one of the best styled saloons ever. However, beauty is not everything. I was drawn more towards the older saloons. A 420 is the best of both worlds: the mechanics of the newer XJ combined with the older looks. I also like the fact that the 420 is a relatively unknown Jaguar. Everyone knows the Mk2 and the XJ, but a 420? The car advertised had tinted glass; air conditioning; automatic gearbox; a very nice period colour (Willow Green); chrome wire wheels, and an LPG system. Sounded too good to be true. I made an appointment to have a look.

As found, Very dusty!


The story was that the owner had imported the car some 8 years earlier from California. It received new paint because the old paint was bleached by the sun. The car was driven for a couple of years, and a start was made to install a LPG system. This was never finished because the installer went bust. The car was parked in a greenhouse for the next 4 years. That is where I saw the car, in a big greenhouse—just like how I found my Triumph 2000 back in 1990.

My father and me discussing the car


Very dirty carpets. Quite good replacement vinyl covers on the seats.




The car was very dusty, but I saw gleaming paint underneath. The repaint had not been a professional job 8 years before, however it was good enough for me. The car would be a driver, not a showroom queen. The interior was an old vinyl replacement of the original leather. This is often the case for US imported 40+ year old cars. Leather interiors just do not survive decades of sun in hot US states when not garaged. The engine did run but not too well; it seemed one cylinder was not firing. Brakes and vital electrics worked. The body only had a few tiny spots, and all doors were all rust free! I said the asking price would be fine if the LPG system were functional; the engine running on all six, and having a valid yearly inspection ticket. As it was, parked for years and some work needed, it was not worth it. I offered half the asking price. After a month I got a call: he accepted my offer!

In front of my parents’ house


The market for cars that are not perfect is pretty small. No one wants to work on cars anymore, it seems, or no one has the guts to do it. Fine by me, because for little money I can afford to buy a car that otherwise would be much more or too expensive. I changed the spark plugs when I arrived later to pick up the car, a very easy task on a XK engine. This did it; the engine now ran smoothly on all six cylinders. Followed by my father in his car, I drove the car home—or so I thought.

Oh dear. Cooked.


A few miles out, I saw the temp gauge going into the red. I stopped, but the engine was cooking already—steam clouds under the hood. I was a member of the “Wegenwacht”, and their recovery truck picked up the car and delivered it to my home. Not a good start.

At home I found the cause of the overheating: the fan shield, mounted to the top of the radiator, had caved in, probably by someone leaning on it, and kept the viscous-coupled driven fan from spinning.

Cylinder head off; the bores and pistons looking good


Head gasket not looking good


Engine room. Picture before I recovered the heater unit (top of the picture, middle/right) with Hardura.


LPG nipple neatly placed behind the right hand fuel door


The cylinder head was removed, something I already had planned because it would need hardened valve seats installed (LPG is harder on the valve seats). The head gasket was gone. Everything else checked, I acquired the missing parts needed for the LPG system. On my Triumph 2500, I had installed a sophisticated LPG injection system which was more effective than an old fashioned basic LPG system. But the Jaguar has a larger and more powerful engine, I reckoned this would be more than enough for me even with a simple LPG system installed.

A big plus of the 420 is that it has a decent cooling system. Many British cars have quite frugal cooling systems; the Mk1 and 2 and S-type Jaguars are known for having too-small radiators. Not the 420; I never had cooling trouble. Another advantage of the 420 over the others is that the power steering is quite good, the same as used in the later XJ and much better than the power steering system in a Mk2.

The 420 replaced my blue Triumph 2500 as the commuting car to the office. This was mainly a motorway trip, so I installed a proper radio. The door rubbers were not their best, so there was a bit more wind noise than is normal—which is why I needed good speakers! There are chromed speaker grilles on both sides of the gearbox tunnel, behind which I mounted modern speakers.
After the first year I was fed up with the exhaust. It had needed repair to two or three spots already and now was getting louder. I invested in a stainless steel replacement, one of the best things I have done to the car.

It is a very easy car to live with: the automatic transmission; power steering, and good view out of the windows. I like the old fashioned details like the toggle switches; the big steering wheel; opening quarter lights in every door; auto selector on the column, and large, comfortable seats with built in foldable arm rests. A quick car back in 1967, it now is not really fast compared to modern cars, but it still feels quick. Brakes are excellent, as is the soft suspension.

Ever since owning the car, I was on the lookout for a good used leather original interior (seats and rear bench). They should be around as there have been many cars scrapped because of rust. American-sourced cars usually have good bodywork; European-sourced cars usually have good interiors. After about 5 or 6 years I saw a “wanted” advertisement from a 420 owner looking for a modern ’90s XJ interior, with electric seats and such. I wondered what he would do with his current interior so I asked. It turned out he just acquired a 420 which he wanted to use as a daily car. His 420 was a UK car originally which was fully restored years ago. In his view, daily use meant the old furniture had to go. Clearly he and I had different ideas about what was good for a daily driver. Each to their own; this meant I was able to buy his old interior a few weeks later. This was in good original condition without any rips or cuts (just a small spot on the rear bench). I am very happy now to have this interior in my car.

The car has been pretty reliable. Just the usual maintenance to the engine; brakes, and suspension; nothing major has needed replacement yet. No problems on the electrics; everything works. Even the handbrake works fine—which is good because the small handbrake calipers are hard to reach, as the car has inboard rear discs. A disadvantage of the styled rear wheel arches is that it is not easy to remove the rear wheels. I am lucky to have a car lift; I am not sure the jack would get the car high enough to remove a rear wheel out on a roadside (and I’m glad I never had a puncture on the road). That said, I had a frightening experience about 2 years on in my ownership.

Count the loose spokes! Scary sight


On the motorway, doing 100 km/h (60 mph) or so, I heard a soft rattle and the steering wheel began to shimmy a little. I slowed down and used the next exit which luckily for me was just upcoming. Checked around the car, the left front wheel had many spokes loose! It was amazing the others still were capable of holding the wheel together. I shudder at the thought of what might have happened if the wheel had fully disintegrated at speed. A call to the “Wegenwacht” and an hour later the car was picked up. In my garage I took off all wheels and checked every spoke. I bought a number of stainless spokes at a wheel specialist and replaced every spoke which was broken, looking dodgy or rusty. Took the wheels to the wheel specialist to be balanced and make sure they ran true. Since then I always checked the wheels every week or before a long trip by rattling a screw driver to each spoke. They should all have the same “ring” sound to it. If not, the tension is less and examination would be needed.

In our street, our X-type wagon behind


At the barn, a new owner picking up his Hillman Minx


After some more years, the company I work for had a reorganization which meant I was not required to be at that faraway office every day. I could work from home now most days, and go once or twice per week to a local office. There were frequent trips to offices abroad. This all meant I did not need to commute the large distances anymore. In the summer I used the TR4, or if the weather was not that good I used the Jaguar. But I became more reluctant to use it. It began to rust a little, and it needed a little more attention. The kickdown never worked well and in the end did not work at all anymore. On the 420, the link from the gas pedal to the kick down switch on the auto box is hidden nicely between the cylinder head and the bulkhead in a very narrow gap, impossible to reach or adjust.

The Jaguar was used in two special, similar occasions. Twelve years ago I chauffeured the twin daughters of a colleague to their gala end-of-school party. The ladies in nice dressed arrivrf in a nice car at the school.

And six weeks ago, I was asked by my neighbor if I had a nice car to drive his daughter with her two friends to their gala. Of course! Happy to drive them to the occasion. There was a queue, many upper class modern cars (Ferrari; BMW; Bentley, Tesla S); interesting transport (tractor, fire engine), and some nice classics (’50s Buick; DS; ’60s Charger, 2CV). Amazing that the two occasions were 12 years apart.

The 420 has long been considered as the least-collectible of the Small Saloon Jaguars, the Mk1; Mk2; S-type, and 420. They are all lovely cars. The Mk2 is almost everybody’s top choice. I have grown more towards the slightly more austere, ’50s-style Mk1. But I quite like the S-type, as well. However for a stylish, sleek, fast, comfortable, easy, dependable every day car, the 420 is the best choice.

Further reading:

Curbside Classic: 1967 Jaguar 420—The Big Cat’s Best Kept Secret