I have, I will admit, a certain affection for Arthur Daley, that loveable, sheepskin-coated London rogue. I like a deal. I enjoy the cut and thrust of backstreet commerce. So it follows, almost inevitably, that I want a Jaguar XJ6. And now I have one. Or rather we, Great Escape Cars, have one. And you can hire it. As it happens, this isn’t my first XJ6. Or even my second. It is, he says nonchalantly shrugging his sheepskin-covered shoulders, my fourth. The latest addition to the Great Escape fleet is, however, without doubt the best XJ6 I have owned or will own. It is an early Series 3 4.2 litre car built in 1980, finished in white and fitted with the ultra-rare manual gearbox, rather than the sludgy three speed auto. Yes, it was probably a police car. The XJ6 and XJ12 have always been overlooked by classic car fans in favour of the more established 1960s Jaguars but it is arguably the last great Jaguar – and in some ways, perhaps the greatest. The XJ is possibly the most beautiful saloon car of all time, but its capabilities extend far beyond its looks. It has a superlative ride/handling mix and in with either six or 12 cylinder is extremely quick. It also set the template for how Jaguars should look for 40 years, a style that only recently has been changed.
My XJ6 odyssey started with an early Series 2 1974 long wheelbase 4.2. It was, I like to believe, lovely. Others, particularly hirers, were rather less enamoured by its exclusive combination of Sage paintwork (as in brown) with green leather. Apparently it was a special order. Low mileage and one family owned from new, it was my introduction to the poor man’s Roller that is Jaguar’s finest saloon. I paid too much for it but sold it at a profit. I’m not sure I’ve ever quite got over it.
As a child of the Corgi Toys era, running Great Escape Cars can sometimes feel like life has not actually really moved on, the toys have simply got bigger. So when I spotted a gorgeous Daimler XJ coupe for sale at my local Jaguar specialist at a decent price I couldn’t resist. Finished in Regency Red (‘the colour of a vet’s arm’ according to Jeremy Clarkson) with a tan interior, it was an exact copy of my Corgi toy.
I have bought and sold a lot of cars and shed tears over only a few of them; but my decision a couple of years later to sell the Daimler still saddens me. The XJC is a brilliant car, one that looks great, drives sublimely and in Daimler spec is very rare. My car was in very good condition but just didn’t hire enough and, with space at a premium, something had to go and it lost the lottery. I would own another one in a flash.
Around the time I owned the Daimler I was offered a Jaguar X300 XJR for the hire fleet. Short of wheels for personal use and in an Arfur Daley frame of mind I decided to buy it rather than just hire it out. The X300 Jaguar was Ford’s attempt to replace the XJ40 without spending much money. It is essential a XJ40 with a new nose and boot. And since the XJ40 itself was not much more than an update of the XJ6 you can imagine that by the mid-90s the basic car was beginning to creak around the edges somewhat. My XJR was an early straight six supercharged model and in many ways I loved it. It was sensationally quick and looked pretty good too. The trouble was that it didn’t do much else very well at all. It had a greater thirst than the England rugby team, it couldn’t go around corners, it tramlined dramatically and it wasn’t very comfortable. The electrics were at best erratic and it rusted just as badly as its 1970s forebearers. It was a car that it was very easy to grow tired of. And I did.
Which brings me to XJ6 number 4. I have been swithering over another XJ for some time because they’re great Jaguars and prices are beginning to go up. I homed in on the Series 3 because of the overall improvements in quality and reliability and initially wanted a V12. The trouble is that decent V12s are pricey and, to be honest, I’m not mad keen on the interiors, which feel like very tarted up versions of the original. So when I spotted this 1980 Series 3 for sale it grabbed me. Bereft of all the later bolted on wood veneers, this car looked good in white and had the ultra rare 5 speed manual box (actually a Rover item). The colour means that it will work well with our Series 3 E Type convertibles and the manual gearbox unleashes the driver’s car that has always lain beneath the XJ6’s execubarge exterior. The 4.2 engine is also very robust so simpler for us to run and maintain – and more economical.
The latest addition to the fleet will hopefully be more successful and durable than its predecessors. Certainly with more events and weddings on our 2015 diary than ever before it will hit the ground running.
Discover the Jaguar XJ6 with our new hire car from February 2015. To book now call 01527 893733 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.