Curbside Classic: 1979 Jaguar XJ6 Series III – Pininfarina Redux

The Jaguar XJ6 set the motoring world afire when introduced in late 1968, and was considered the most beautiful sedan at the time. It arguably deserved it. The styling would go through three different series on the original body, and two subsequent redesigns going all the way to 2008. The XJ6 was a survivor. It outlasted British Leyland, the Ford buyout and lives on today with a totally different design language that was finally introduced in 2009 after 40 years of refining and adapting the original 1968 shape.

The XJ6 was introduced in September of 1968 and used 2.8L and 4.2L versions of Jaguar’s long-lived and famous XK inline six cylinder, dual overhead camshaft engine with dual Zenith-Stromberg carburetion. The suspension consisted of coil springs up front with anti-dive geometry and anti-roll bar, and fully independent suspension in the back, again with coil springs and damper units.  Power four-wheel disc brakes with separate front and rear circuits were also included. An interesting feature that carried over from previous Jaguars were twin 12-gallon fuel tanks (with twin SU fuel pumps).

British markets received upmarket versions badged as Daimler Sovereigns. Performance was very good for a big sedan, with automatic-equipped 4.2s having a 0-60 time of 10.1 seconds. XJ6s with the manual were even better at 8.8 seconds. This was a driver’s sedan, not something to be chauffeured about in.

The original XJ6 was built from 1968 to late 1973. Other than the famous Mark I and Mark II sedans of the 1950s and early 1960s, it was quite a departure from the reserved styling and so-very-proper British image that the Mark VIII, IX and X sedans had projected. This was more like a four-door E-Type. It effectively replaced most of Jaguar’s sedan range, including the Mark II and 420; only the aforementioned Mark X and 420G lasted into the 1969 model year. A long-wheelbase XJ6L came out in 1972, adding an extra 4″ to the regular XJ6’s 108.8-inch wheelbase.

The Series II XJ6 came out in late 1973. All XJ6s received a new, taller front bumper (to comply with US bumper height regulations) and a shorter grille. Inside, there was a new instrument panel. Auxiliary gauges moved from the center of the panel and now framed the speedometer and tachometer for better visibility. By this time, the 4.2 was producing 170 hp @ 4500 rpm. While manual transmissions were still available from the factory, all US-bound XJ6s had the three-speed Borg-Warner automatic.

1974 North American XJ6s sported Dunlop E70VR15 SP Sport whitewall tires. Whitewalls on a Jaguar may sound odd, but in the ’70s it was not uncommon for Mercedes-Benzes and Volvos to be sporting them, in the US at least. Overall length was slightly longer at 194.8 inches, due to the new rubber bumperettes added to satisfy new Federal bumper standards. The 108.8″ wheelbase remained the same.

A beautiful two-door hardtop version of the XJ6 was introduced in 1973, but actual production was delayed for a couple of years due to weatherstripping issues on the pillarless body. Sadly, it only lasted through 1973, as management felt the 2+2 XJ-S covered that segment of the market more successfully. Fuel injection replaced carburetors in mid-1978, with a Lucas-Bosch L-Jetronic unit. Series IIs continued until early 1979, when a much more substantial refresh of the 1968 body replaced it.

The Series III may have looked very similar at first glance, but closer inspection revealed a number of changes. The restyling was handled by Pininfarina and included a smaller vertical-bar grille, taller roofline with increased glass area, flush door handles and larger black bumpers with built-in turn signals. Roof pillars had a bit more rake, and the roof panel itself was flatter than before. This particular Series III appears to have late Series II bumpers and chrome wheels, as the Series IIIs had revised Rostyle or GKN alloys and black wraparound composite bumpers with chrome trim on top. Or maybe it’s a real early Series III?

Series III XJ6s continued with only minor changes until 1987, when the long-in-coming XJ40 finally replaced it in 1988. A Series III XJ12, never imported to the United States, lasted even longer, with production lasting into 1992. The XJ40 version of the XJ6 (a story for another time) lost a lot of the classic Jaguar styling cues, and a 1995 revamp brought back much of the Series III’s character, including the tunneled hoodline with circular quad headlights.

About a month ago, I found myself in Iowa City, and happened to spot this bright red XJ6 along Highway 1. I was sure it was a Series II due to the bumpers and wheels, but subsequent research proved me wrong. It looked to be in nice shape, though it was sporting a really cheap set of seat covers. You could get Signal Red on Jaguar XJ6s, but I’m not sure if it is the original color on this one. I’d much prefer midnight blue or BRG with tan interior though. I wonder if it still has its 4.2L six, or could there be a 350 Chevy in there?

It was for sale, but due to the windy day, I was unable to see the price on the sign, if indeed there was a price listed. The fact that it was parked in front of an Auto Zone makes me wonder if it’s ready to go, or is an ongoing project. These BL-era Jags weren’t the most robust cars on the road, but they sure are sharp!