Friday, April 21, 2017

There is an old saying that you should never meet your heroes. That could be good advice.

Photo source: Wheels and

Last week I went down to my favorite car lot, Wheels and Deals. I'm not really looking to buy a car right now, but I find the place quite entertaining. As I mentioned on a previous post, It's nice to view an eclectic collection of used cars, and since there are no salespeople you are not wasting anyone's time except your own. My current score there is three bought and one sold. Plus, I refer a lot of people to the lot.

Not only do you get a chance to take your time looking at the cars, you can also have the opportunity to sit in them see how they feel,

As I walked in I saw a 1987 Jaguar XJ6 Series Three, the last of the breed. I've always liked these cars and now that I am more familiar with the marque I have a much better understanding. This was a black car with a grey interior. The front seats had been re upholstered in vinyl, the rear were quite worn looking. The dash veneer looked pretty good but the door cards were a little wavy. The paint was somewhat faded but the body was straight with only some minor dings, but there was some pretty bad rust. It was visible at the left rear of the lower back light, there was actual rust through in an area about the size of a wad of gum. There was also some bubbling at the right bottom of the windscreen. Strangest of all was the huge rust blister on the top of the sunroof panel. I found myself wondering how the rust started there. Wouldn't this be a spot that the water would run off pretty quickly? Shouldn't it have been one of the first spots to dry out since it was directly on top? Maybe the car had been sitting under under a tree and a thick layer of leaves had fallen on the roof trapping the moisture and leading to the rust.

Perhaps. The placard stated that the the seller had owned the car for thirty years though it was "hardly driven" being a third car. Even so it had managed to accrue over 196,000 miles, which is not really a bad thing. That means the car has actually been in constant use. It appears that the seller may have been the original buyer and it stated that the services were all done. When I looked in the glovebox I found the smog test results from about a year ago. It had passed with a safe margin. Chances are good it would pass again and best of all it was currently registered. Many old Jags spend their twilight years languishing in the garage or driveway piling up unpaid registration fees.

The car was complete, with all trim and a set of Kent wheels. The engine started right up and settled down into a nice smooth idle no smoking or knocking. The price was under 1,900 dollars and I know that it will probably sell for a lot less. But this isn't about buying it. It was about having the opportunity to sit in it and see how much room there is inside etc.

The first realization was how tiny and delicate it appears. It is very svelte and very low, it's hard to believe that this was considered a big "saloon" in the Old Country. I sat first in the passenger side (the driver's door wouldn't unlock) and was impressed by how much room there is, the seat adjustment provided plenty of leg room and the seat was quite comfortable. I then sat in the rear seat directly behind. Even with the seat moved back there was enough legroom and plenty of headroom. After fussing with the inside door lock I managed to open the door and sit in the driver's seat. Again enough legroom, the seats recline and the steering wheel easily telescopes. (unlike my XJS). And what a beautiful view of the wooden aftermarket wheel, the Smiths gauges and the exquisite dash veneers, truly beautiful.

The motor sounded pretty healthy. This was the last version of the classic XK straight six. Although it was at it's final revision with fuel injection and electronic ignition, you could gaze upon it and dream of the victories at Le Mans.

Old, dirty, used, but unbowed.

That in itself has real value. Now, I wouldn't suggest buying this particular car with an eye towards restoration, even if you got it for a grand, there are much nicer examples available that have less or no rust, shiny paint, and a much better interior. All for only a price that is only three to four times this valuation. No, if I were to buy this car I would fix the rust with POR 15 epoxy paint and putty. Blend in and touch up the body repairs, then really clean and polish up the entire car. Make any of the necessary repairs it needs to keep it an honest functional car that has to work for a living. That would make it a pretty presentable driver. Then I would drive it! Maybe you might fall in love with it and decide that it deserves a more thorough restoration. If not, you could at least get a couple of years use out of the car before you need to worry if it will pass smog. For a car in this situation that's about as good a fate as it gets.

After viewing this car, have my feelings for this breed of vintage Jaguar changed? Not really. It is a lovely car and one in good fettle would be a great source of pride and pleasure. Would I want this more than my '97 XJ6? My '97 is in much better condition and it's a much better performer than a Series Three. The X300 owes it's design heritage to the earlier model. That was not an accident. I look upon my X300 with appreciation and affection. Besides the beautiful styling and interior design it is powered by the final version of the Jaguar straight six motor. It is the ultimate version of what I consider to be a masterpiece. The car is extremely satisfying to own and drive. I don't know if I would derive more pleasure from the ownership of the earlier car.

The Jaguar company has given quite a gift to the enthusiast, producing "modern" versions of their most revered classics. The passage of time and massive depreciation has made these car extremely affordable to average hobbyist.

If you have always wanted a Mark II but have watched the prices of these models climb out of attainability, could you consider an  S Type as a suitable alternative? How about a V8 or even Supercharged example?

The Series Three XJ6 has been considered the most beautiful sedan ever built. The X300 and X308 model XJ6 and XJ8 might be considered as runners up. They are available with straight six or V8 power, or as the highly desirable XJR models, your choice.

And what can be said about the E Type that hasn't already been said? It might be heartbreakingly beautiful, but the real heartbreak is that the average enthusiast is no longer be able to afford one. Could you find joy with an XK8? There are more convertibles available than coupes, in a bizarre twist of fate, and damn, those things are cheap!

There was an article last year in Jaguar World magazine about an enthusiast who bought an example of all three, for the very reasons presented above.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever" In this case the beauty can be guaranteed but the joy is always in question.

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