Since I posted about my Maserati BiTurbo, which you all seemed to like, time to tell the Jaguar story. After all, I traded the Jaguar for the Maserati.
Drunk eBay Bidding
This isn’t a joke, literally this is how this crazy story started. I have quite an odd taste in cars, and since forever, I’ve wanted an XJ40 generation XJ6. I’ve always been rather crazy about the styling and interior of these cars. The thing was, during this particular point in my life, I didn’t have a great deal of disposable income.
One weekend, I was throwing back some Guinness beer and seeing if I could find a decent XJ6 for under $1,000 and stumbled upon an eBay listing in North Carolina. The ad stated the engine would need a rebuild, and had some photos of the car. It was in very good condition and she happened to list a phone number.
So, I placed a call and she proceeds to tell me that she was indeed the original owner, and that an independent shop told her the engine was out of service due to fuel in the oil. They had thought the rings were shot, yet she told me it didn’t produce blue smoke. I’d talked her down to $600 and she took my money via a wire transfer. The problem was, I lived in Ohio. This is where things get slightly funny.
My father lived in Tennessee about four hours from the car, but only had a V6 Dodge Dakota, and the XJ6 isn’t exactly a featherweight. Nonetheless I wired him money for a Uhaul trailer and he proceeded to pick it up to bring it to me, except...
Mountains happened. His truck struggled immensely to pull the car. He limped it to his home in Tennessee and we both agreed this wasn’t going to be a viable solution. So, after much searching, I paid a shipper a small sum to deliver it to me. Within three days, the car hit my driveway.
Time To Investigate
So, the car arrives and I fire it up. It’s running quite smoothly and even seems to make excellent power, but there’s definitely a good amount of gas in the oil. Me being very educated in oil, I grab seven quarts of Rotella T 15w40 and a Mann filter, and I changed it out. Time to drive it down the road.
That’s when I noticed something very odd, the digital temperature gauge won’t build past two lines. I call the Jaguar dealer and they inform me that a 3.6 should be putting the gauge half way, but it just won’t climb. Almost immediately I put two and two together, and start getting excited. I immediately ordered a BEHR thermostat, some new coolant, and a full tune up. All of that cost me a whopping $150 dollars or so, and as soon as it arrives I start getting dirty.
The first thing I did was pull the spark plugs, they were all completely saturated with fuel. I threw some NGK coppers in place along with some new OEM Lucas wires, Lucas cap and rotor button, and I threw in a new air filter after cleaning the MAF with some CRC.
The thermostat was super easy, but nobody offered an outlet gasket, so I elected to use Rite Stuff, which is a serious staple in my garage. After letting everything cure, I fired it up and bled the cooling system, it was time to take a drive and see what we had.
No Engine Rebuild Needed
Nope, after about five miles the temperature gauge climbed exactly half way and stopped. I took the car down a very desolate back road and got up over 120 and cruised to see how it acted, and it was as smooth as a brand new car. With only 60,000 miles registered on the working odometer, this came as no shock.
I began daily driving the car and keeping an eye on the oil, no more fuel dilution was occurring at all. It had dawned on me, for under $800 total, I’d purchased a mint condition and very operational XJ6.
It wasn’t all perfect however. The “brake bomb” had failed, and the brakes were basically manual at this point. While they still worked fine, that took some adjustment to get used to. Also, the rear shocks were definitely blown out, but the car was still very much drivable.
The XJ6 Is A Tank
At the time, I’d had a Chevrolet Trailblazer that was roughly as reliable as a vending machine watch, and that meant the Jaguar became the family vehicle, during the worst winter on record.
With that being said, I’ve never owned a rear wheel drive vehicle more capable in the snow than that Jaguar. I imagine having a curb weight just under that of the USS Ronald Regan didn’t hurt, but the car just couldn’t get stuck. In empty parking lots, I instantly looked like Ken Block. The XJ6 would easily break loose, but as soon as you lifted off of the throttle, the car would instantly regain traction, it was actually insane how good it was.
More insane was the fuel economy I was getting, it was somewhere in the low 30s. This is a car that was as long as Nathan’s extended cab F250, and it was getting low 30s. I acquired the car in early October, so when Thanksgiving came and it was time to travel, we took the Jag.
What’s It Like To Drive?
Blissful, it truly was blissful. Those leather seats were heated, fully power, and everything worked. The ride, even with blown out rear shocks, was tremendously good. Wind noise was nearly nonexistent, and road noise was rather isolated as well. My barely one year old daughter would fall asleep every single time we took a trip in the Jag. This car was honestly perfect for a family.
Even crazier, this was the first car that I had owned that my ex wife had liked, that’s some high praise from somebody that really didn’t like cars. The XJ6 just had a certain charm to it that is hard to explain. The beautiful leather upholstery, wood trim, Nardi steering wheel, it was just a pleasant place to spend some time.
What surprised me the most was the handling, you’d think this car would be a boat, but it wasn’t. Upon decoding the VIN, I’d discovered this vehicle had a limited slip differential and “sports suspension configuration” as options. Down a curvy backroad, the old XJ6 was very playful, and dare I say good? I often found myself second guessing the speed of some corners I was committing to, but the car never seemed to mind it. Mind you, this isn’t a Miata, but it’s also far from a boat.
Steering was very light and didn’t offer tons of feedback, but the steering was also pretty fast and responsive. Point it, it goes and goes where you want it to go. The car hugged corners very well and never once did it offer any hint at breaking traction. The brakes were also quite good, once you got used to the lack of power assist.
The engine didn’t offer a ton of punch by any means, and the automatic transmission didn’t have the word sporty in its’ vocabulary, but it was smooth and very reliable. I’d deleted the rear mufflers and left the center muffler in place, now the car had a very nice snarl and wasn’t over the top. This made driving pretty enjoyable, and allowed you to enjoy the blissful note of a large inline six singing a glorious note.
Overall An Amazing Daily Driver
Everyone thought this car was beautiful, especially after I did a labor intensive detail and got the paint where it needed to be. Being a quad headlight XJ40 was a huge selling point to me, as the later singular headlight X300 lost much of what made this car so beautiful to start with. The tail lights and dual exhaust always reminded me of an early Bentley Turbo R, and whenever I pulled into work I would get numerous compliments about the Jag. For roughly $750 I felt like I’d done very well on this endeavor.
The factory wheels were all perfect and the “growler” center caps were all present. Aside from some cracking in the driver’s side seat, the interior was completely flawless and everything worked. Overall, this was probably the most intelligent purchase I’d ever made, because it could have went very bad, very fast. Right as my Trailblazer became unreliable, the XJ6 quickly rescued us and gave us a few months of service before I went on to trade it for the Maserati that you all know of now.
With that out of the way, I have to pull a Doug and tell you about the numerous features and quirks of a 1989 XJ6.
Quirks And Features
First of all, take a look at the interior pictures and you’ll notice all the buttons around the steering wheel. The whole control panel makes the Jaguar XJ6 look like it has controls from a Russian MIG fighter plane. Those buttons control the cruise control and on board computer. They allow you to change from imperial to metric measurements, see elapsed time on a trip, calculate miles per gallon, and see miles to empty. All on a 1989.
We have to talk about the Nardi Torino wheel, it looks absolutely incredible in this car. As stated in my Maserati article, the horn isn’t actually integrated into the wheel itself, but rather a dedicated stalk next to the turn signal. After owning a few cars like this, ALL cars should do this. I really grew to love the system.
The turn signal sound was beyond hilarious, I wish I had a video. The only way to describe it is that it sounds like the keyboard press sound on a Blackberry Z10, it’s literally identical. Someone from Blackberry clearly had an XJ40 and decided the turn signal sound was the perfect tone for keyboard clicks on their upcoming phones.
The rear seat occupants could plug headphones into the back, so they could hear music if the front seat passengers didn’t want to, that’s a pretty neat idea when you have kids.
Take a look at the shifter in the pictures above, and you’ll notice a very odd gear pattern. Jaguar called this the “J Gate” and this was a very weird and very British solution to an auto stick. Place the J Gate into gear (the transmission was a Turbo 400 GM) and it would actually allow you to hit redline and hold a gear. It wouldn’t override you at all! Try that in a new European car.
Every gauge in the car was digital, but the fuel gauge is the cool one. I truly wish I had pictures, but I don’t. Anyway, when you get under a quarter tank, the entire fuel gauge would morph, and instead of just seeing two little lines, it would transform into a bunch of littler lines, and colors would shift from green to yellow and red. The yellow lines showed you were running low, and the red meant very low. Pretty innovative for the day if you ask me.
The “leaper” as they call the Jaguar cat hood ornament was very cool, but a weird quirk in its’ own way. When you drove through a ton of snow an ice, it transformed into an icy spiked frost cat, which instantly made the car look freaking amazing. Don’t laugh, it was pretty neat.
The most annoying quirk is also one of my favorite parts of the entire car, the fuel door. Prepare to laugh, because this wasn’t thought out so well by Jaguar, which isn’t surprising.
So here is the fuel door situation. It looks very elegant and flowing with the body lines of the car, and indeed it is very convenient when it comes time to fuel. It’s chest level, no chances of dripping gas onto your beautiful Jaguar, seems harmless. The issue is when it is extremely cold outside. The scenario is this, snow has covered the car, and spray from tires has covered the car. It’s now frozen over, and the fuel door won’t pop. Sounds easy enough, right?
Wrong. I tried a nylon trim tool and everything to remedy this, it literally becomes an ice chest. To remedy this, I used to carry a bottle of that yellow Prestone de-icer just to melt the ice to get the fuel door open. Problem solved you say?
Negative again. Now the fuel cap has frozen into the filler neck. I used to use about a quarter bottle of Prestone just to fuel the car. Needless to say, very annoying and slightly embarrassing when it comes time to get some gas.
As far as features goes, there were three or four memory settings for both the driver and passenger seat, and they were very easy to program and use. The back seat was enormous, my daughter’s car seat looked hilariously small back there. The trunk was also huge, I once climbed inside of it and probably could have started a small fire and thrived in there.
The welfare Jaguar was a great car, and a part of me was sad when I traded it off. It was very good in inclement weather, assuming you could refuel it. It was reliable, comfortable and you felt good driving it. This is one of those cars that definitely makes you look richer, because everyone thought it was expensive, when it had actually costed me less than what I paid for the iPhone 7 Plus I’m typing this on.
The guy I traded it to was a life time Jaguar enthusiast, and he was all too happy to take it off my hands. A year or so later, I’d seen my old car pop up on Craigslist and he had ended up selling it for $3500 dollars. I’d gotten my Maserati off of this guy.
Turns out we both knew how to wheel and deal.
My name is Matthew, I’ve owned DSMs, a few Biturbos, this Jaguar, and I have absolutely zero sense when it comes to rational car purchases. You shouldn’t ever listen to anything I say when it comes to car advice, but you should definitely follow me on here and share my stories. After all, one of these days I’d love to quit driving truck and pursue writing. Yep, you should definitely share my mediocre articles and drop a comment letting me know you enjoyed reading this story. Thanks!