Tech Tips: Jaguar XJ6

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Written by David S. Wallens

From the May 2013 issue

Posted in Buyer's Guides

Here’s some practical advice from our friends who know all about these classic Jags.

Brian Donovan

One of the biggest problems on these cars is the fuel system. The tanks rust out. The changeover valve fails, which causes the fuel pump to leave one tank empty and overfill the other. This makes fuel leak out through the vent system.

The headliners come apart, too, because the foam padding placed between the cloth and the fiberboard breaks down. The right way to fix this is to replace the headliner. If you try to glue a headliner back together, use a high-temp glue: Roofs get very hot, especially in the South and West. Ordinary glue will fail quickly. Bushings age out on these cars and make the ride rather sloppy. However, if the car is well cared for, the ride and handling are crisp and comfortable.

Dean A. Cusano

I know everyone will say the later Series III cars are best, but the late- 1990s cars are very, very good cars. I basically run a stock AJ6-generation motor in both my race cars, and they are so reliable and inexpensive to run— they just do not fail. The four-valve is an amazing engine—light and compact— and the fuel injection is totally reliable.

I think that the Series I cars, especially the Daimler versions, are the coolest. The vent windows and the chrome horn grilles are so English. You just have to get used to the old cast-iron transmissions, as they clunk, bang and slip—and the funny part is that they are supposed to do that!

The main issue with any Series I, II or III XJ6 was always fuel contamination. The trade-off of having the “cool looking fuel fillers” on the top of the rear deck wasn’t worth the backside problems of water, dirt, rust, vandalism and other fuel system complications which plagued the XJ6 from the beginning all the way up to current models. Even the single- tank cars had water issues in the fuel.

So if the car is early, see if the fuel tanks have ever been updated. Hopefully they are newer and cleaner. And if you do buy a dual-tank car, drain the bottoms of the tanks each season and let all the rust and dirt out. [Editor’s note: SNG Barratt (sngbarratt.com) has just introduced new fuel tanks for these cars.]

On early XJ6s, look for rust in the rear valance and around the front and rear windscreens. Pop the hood and look to see if it has a tappet hold-down kit on the cylinder head. You can see it if you look into the filler cap. If this kit is present, then the car has probably experienced a failed catalytic converter or an overheated exhaust somewhere along the way. There is a right way and a wrong way to install a tappet hold-down kit, and if it is there, usually the head has had work done to it. That kit is not installed just for the heck of it. Look for issues when you see work done on a head.

Are the tappets loud? If so, hopefully there isn’t any gasket material poking out of the cam covers. When it is, you can bet some little pieces are also floating in the motor oil—or worse, blocking an oil passage. Stay away from a car with nonprofessional- looking headwork.

See if the heat and a/c work. If they do, that is a total bonus! The repair to that system is expensive and complicated.

Make sure the emergency brake works. The sedans really need the system to work or it will not hold the car for inspection. Rebuilding the emergency brake system can be costly.

There are four things that often break on a Series III XJ6: the cruise control, air conditioning, window switches and fuel changeover system.

When it comes to modifications, the first one would be to install XJS wheels; they are half an inch wider and are a welcome addition. If you can find them, later 16-inch XJS wheels are even better.

Then, if you dare, add a rear anti-roll bar, which totally transforms the han- dling of the So if the car is early, see if the fuel tanks have ever been updated. Hopefully they are newer and cleaner. And if you do buy a dual-tank car, drain the bottoms of the tanks each season and let all the rust and dirt out. [Editor’s note: SNG Barratt (sngbarratt.com) has just introduced new fuel tanks for these cars.]

On early XJ6s, look for rust in the rear valance and around the front and rear windscreens. Pop the hood and look to see if it has a tappet hold-down kit on the cylinder head. You can see it if you look into the filler cap. If this kit is present, then the car has probably experienced a failed catalytic converter or an overheated exhaust somewhere along the way. There is a right way and a wrong way to install a tappet hold-down kit, and if it is there, usually the head has had work done to it. That kit is not installed just for the heck of it. Look for issues when you see work done on a head.

Are the tappets loud? If so, hopefully there isn’t any gasket material poking out of the cam covers. When it is, you can bet some little pieces are also floating in the motor oil—or worse, blocking an oil passage. Stay away from a car with nonprofessional- looking headwork.

See if the heat and a/c work. If they do, that is a total bonus! The repair to that system is expensive and complicated.

Make sure the emergency brake works. The sedans really need the system to work or it will not hold the car for inspection. Rebuilding the emergency brake system can be costly.

There are four things that often break on a Series III XJ6: the cruise control, air conditioning, window switches and fuel changeover system.

When it comes to modifications, the first one would be to install XJS wheels; they are half an inch wider and are a welcome addition. If you can find them, later 16-inch XJS wheels are even better.

Then, if you dare, add a rear anti-roll bar, which totally transforms the han- dling of the Series III XJ6. On the later cars, call AJ6 Engineering and put in a reworked ECU. And lastly, if you have the time, any Jaguar sedan can benefit greatly from a urethane suspension bushing kit.

If you look, you can find some 1996 cars without traction control—nice, simple cars that are very reliable, very comfort- able and a good generation. Everything usually works, the transmissions are bulletproof, the AJ16 motor has more than 250 horsepower, and the car is very quick and runs on regular pump gas.

Tips from Stew Jones

I like the 1983-’87 Series III models the best. I do not like the 1988-and-newer XJ40, which is a totally different car. My wife has driven an early car every day for 25 years. It’s a Series III that gets 20 mpg. The 1983-and-newer cars have a taller 2.88:1 final drive—compared to the 3.31:1 found on early cars—and get even better gas mileage.

Rust is the biggest problem on these cars, especially in the Northeast. Look at the rockers and front and rear wheel wells. The chassis can also rust, and when it’s allowed to get very rusty, the rear radius arms will pull out from the chassis.

The engines and BorgWarner transmissions hold up very well with an occasional tightening of its bands. Thanks to its aluminum head, an overheated engine means you’re dead. The good news: As long as the stock cooling system is in good shape, you should have no overheating issues. Like most British cars, these leak some oil around the rear main seal, cam covers and front seal.

They’re priced nicely. Expect to pay $3000 to $5000 for a decent driver, $6000 to $8000 for a show car, and $10,000 for the nicest one in the country.

Tips from Jason Len

The Series I is the prettiest and the most nicely finished model from the range. However, the Series III is likely to be the most reliable.

I find them all the time with worn-out suspensions and like to install polyurethane suspension bushings and GAZ shocks. For my tastes, these modifications offset the too-soft nature of these cars. For most drivers, though, just getting everything on the chassis back to stock and in good working order makes for a very pleasant car. Keep an eye on the cooling system. Neglect will kill an XJ6.

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