Low-mileage 1974 Jaguar XJ6 4.2 Series 2 SWB
There’s more to preserving a low-mileage classic than mothballing it for several decades, as we discover when we drive this 1974 XJ6 Series 2 with less than 29k on the clock. Words & Photography Rob Hawkins.
This rare, short-wheelbase XJ6 Series 2 from 1974 has covered a mere 29,000 miles with just one owner. We look into the dedicated routine behind its youth as well as why it remains largely original.
Two essential ingredients are required to preserve a low-mileage Jaguar to ensure it becomes a desirable classic in the future: rustproofing and maintenance. The former relies on the first owner, especially important when talking about a Jaguar from the Seventies, a time when disputes and supply problems saw the British motoring industry producing poor-quality cars that began rotting in the first few years of their lives. So, initially rust-proofing the car is a must, and routine rust-proofing a bonus.
Secondly, there is no point keeping mileage down if the vehicle isn’t maintained. Perishable items, such as rubber suspension bushes, should be replaced and servicing is essential regardless of mileage, because engine, diff’ and gearbox oils degrade, and coolant won’t prevent internal corrosion forever.
Other factors to consider if you plan to preserve a car include keeping it standard and retaining all the features that often disappear over time, such as manufacturer’s stickers and labels.
The 1974 XJ6 Series 2 seen here has all of the above and more. It’s currently owned by Jaguar enthusiast Geoff Spencer, who is reluctantly selling it; he also owns an XK8 X100 4.2S and XJR X308, both of which require plenty of TLC, and he has decided that one of the three has to go. He has only added some 6,000 miles to the XJ6’s odometer during the ten years he has owned it, largely by trips up to Northumberland and various car shows.
The mileage Geoff added in that decade is only enough to warrant a single engine oil change had he covered it in a year, but he has meticulously had it serviced annually by independent Jaguar specialist, West Riding, and insisted that any problems be fixed. The list includes a reconditioned steering rack, suspension ball-joints, front brake discs and pads, new fuel pumps, an electronic ignition conversion and a full set of 205/70R15 Dunlop SP Sport Aquajet tyres, sourced from Longstone Tyres. They are a favourite with proprietor Dougal Cawley, who explains, “The V-rated ER/70R15 Dunlop Aquajet, with its evocative tread pattern, is so right for the early XJ6, which was among the first cars to take advantage of the new low-profile tyre technology.”
Geoff’s attention to maintenance and servicing has paid off – this XJ6’s ride quality and refinement are astounding. I spend several hours behind the wheel as I head to various locations to take photographs, driving over rough country lanes, even rougher urban roads with speed bumps, and on smoother B-roads and am amazed that, at times, the noisiest part of the car is the ticking of the clock. For a Jaguar that was built in the mid-Seventies, everything about the suspension and build quality of this XJ6 feels impressively tight and rattle-free.
The car’s first owner, the late Ernest Michael Lynch, originally ordered an XJ6 4.2 on 4 January 1973 through Jaguar dealer Walter E Sturgess & Sons, of Leicester. A letter from Sturgess with the aforementioned date states, “Delivery, as far as we can estimate, will be around six months.” Included with the letter was a quotation for the price of the XJ6, which, delivered and with a number of extras, totalled £3,603.76. Ernest also had a private registration ready and waiting – EML1.
A second letter dated exactly six months after the first confirms receipt of an order for an XJ12, replacing the first order for the XJ6. It states, “We understand that this replaces an order for a XJ6 placed on 28.12.72.” If Ernest was frustrated with waiting, he was still out of luck, because the letter continues, “Delivery will be approximately two years, though we will be in touch with you at a later date to finalise colour and any extras you require.”
A little later in the year, another letter from Sturgess, dated 18 September, says, “I confirm receipt of your order dated 5 September for a 4.2-litre Jaguar Coupe.” Was Ernest changing his mind? If he was trying to buy a brand-new Jaguar with the shortest delivery time he was again unlucky, because the letter goes on to explain, “Delivery is, at this time, an unknown factor and rather than make a wild guess, which will more likely be inaccurate, I would prefer to simply advise you that the order is duly recorded and that when your car is due you will obviously be informed.”
Finally, on 31 May 1974, the delivery dilemma is solved. Along with the dealer letters, Geoff also has possession of the original bill of sale from Sturgess for an XJ6 4.2-litre automatic saloon, costing £3,393 plus £282.75 tax, and a substantial list of extras: chrome pressed-steel wheels for £54.71, a Radiomobile eight-track stereo with four speakers and an electric aerial for £133.79, electric windows at £60.67, fog and spotlights for £23.29 and tinted glass all round for an extra £41.17. There’s also Ziebart rust-proofing, which cost nearly £60, so, what with a year’s road fund licence at £25 plus numberplates and delivery charges amounting to almost the same, the final bill was £4,510.33, more than £1,100 above the first, January 1973 quotation.
Interestingly, the average salary was less than £2,000 per year at the time and the Land Registry website shows that the average house price in 1974 was a little under £10k, which suggests, in today’s terms, that this XJ6 was almost half the price of typical home. Or, if we take the average salary today of £28k, and multiply it by two-and-a-quarter times this amount, an XJ6 cost the equivalent of £63k.
According to the car’s Heritage Certificate from 2003, the XJ6 was manufactured on 15 March 1974 and dispatched to Sturgess of Leicester 11 days later. Its exterior paintwork is Sable and the interior trim is finished in Cinnamon.
The car was an early example of the short wheelbase version of Series 2 that was revealed at the Frankfurt Show the year before. Initially available in both SWB and LWB form, the former was dropped in November 1974. As a result, a mere 12,147 SWB XJ6 4.2s were produced out of a total Series 2 production run of 127,961 making Ernest’s car reasonably rare.
During Ernest’s ownership, the service book shows a few stamps, but not nearly as frequent as Geoff’s annual servicing. There are a few additional documents of interest, such as a receipt from Sturgess dated 21 August 1974 that lists the supply and fitting of new camshaft cover gaskets, fixing a water leak on the nearside front door and renewing the radio, all free of charge. Two months later, Sturgess sent a letter asking Ernest to book a couple of hours with the workshop to modify the electric aerial to fix a known problem.
With the possible exception of a corroded exhaust system (there’s a receipt from November 1978 for a stainless-steel system costing £237.92, including a tenner for fitting), the XJ6 appears to have not had any other problems.
When Ernest passed away in 2007, the XJ6 was transferred to his wife, who sold it to a dealer, Paul Wenham, in November 2008. The car was transferred to another dealer, Robert Hughes, which is where David Walker bought it with a little over 21,000 miles on the clock. Its EML1 registration wasn’t retained, and it instead received its current RCH 123M plate.
When Geoff bought the XJ6 in May 2011, it had been returned to Robert Hughes. “I had a pre-purchase inspection of the car by Ken Bell,” says Geoff. In return for the £270 inspection fee, Ken reported positively on the car, explaining that the underside appeared to be rust-free and in exceptional condition. He did, however, identify some minor faults, which were duly fixed by Robert Hughes, including a problem with the central locking, a leak from the exhaust, a rusty clamp, screenwasher trouble and missing lockwire from one of the rear brake calipers. Hardly disastrous.
Many features are often lost on a 47-yearold Jaguar, but here, the yellow Ziebart grommets over the A- and B-posts and down the rear edges of the doors are still present, indicating where rust-proofing solution has been injected. The outer dashboard vents include labels to show which way to turn each plastic dial to close them and achieve maximum defrost. The labelling on the stalk switches for the indicators, headlights and windscreen wipers hasn’t been rubbed off. The same applies to the labels next to the ignition key slot for lock, accessory (engine off, but electrical equipment is powered), ignition and start. The optional extras ordered back in 1974 are also present, including the Radiomobile eight-track stereo that Geoff recently had refurbished at a cost of £545, to include an upgrade to AM/FM, a 45-watt output and an auxiliary input to be able to connect to a mobile phone.
The optional electric windows still work and while the rocker switches for the front doors are mounted in the centre console, the rears are fitted below the single circular air vent between the front seats, so the rear-seat passengers can operate them. Outside, there’s light pitting to the original 1974 chromework in several places, including the optional extra chrome-plated exteriors for the steel wheels, the front grille and the boot handle. The gleaming paintwork may have been resprayed, or it may have been lucky and survived – there’s no evidence for either case.
Whatever the speculation, there’s no denying that this XJ6 drives like it’s a new car, which is arguably more of a credit to its maintenance than lack of use. Selecting drive from the three-speed Borg-Warner gearbox generates no annoying clunks or surges of power, although reverse feels a little vague to select and results in a moderate thump when engaged. On the move, the gearchanges feel seamless, whether you are working up the ’box or initiating kick-down. Similarly, selecting second or first is just as smooth and proves useful to control speed when driving downhill.
Possibly the most rewarding aspect of this XJ6 is its entertainment value. The 4.2-litre XK engine is capable of keeping up with modern traffic, but what’s the rush? Behind the wheel, I was relaxed and in less of a hurry – a sense that seemed to be reflected in other drivers, who let me out of junctions or waved and gave me a thumbs-up when I was similarly polite.
This XJ6, which was once an unaffordable saloon from the hard times of the Seventies, is back to being an expensive luxury, albeit classic, although I’m sure onlookers didn’t regard it in this way. It is now just a nostalgic Jaguar that appeals to many people who recognise its familiar flowing lines. Or maybe it reflects the times when XJs were regarded as bargain bangers, so anyone with a gleaming, rot-free example is considered lucky, or a hero for being so brave as to own one. Whatever the impression, there’s no denying this XJ6 has had the right people behind it to ensure it has survived in almost the same condition as when it left the production line back in March 1974.
Usually, £15-£20k should buy a clean and tidy XJ Series 2, albeit not one with such low mileage, reflected in this car’s current price tag of £24k; but, restoration of a cheaper car would inevitably cost a lot more. The only real dilemma for its new owners is how much a car with such value and originality should be used. The secret to keeping a car in such good and desirable condition may well have them in a quandary.
Thanks to: Miles Classic (www.milesclassic.co.uk)
TOP: Chrome-plated pressed-steel spare wheel was one of the five optional-extra wheels supplied new with this XJ6
MIDDLE: Front grille has some pitting but replating would lose the appeal of its originality
TOP ROW, L-R: Odometer is creeping close to 29k miles, but there’s a long way to go before this XJ6 loses value because of its mileage Eight-track Radiomobile originally cost £133.79 to install in 1974, along with four speakers and an electric aerial Lettering for stalk switches, exterior lighting and ignition have all survived
BOTTOM ROW, L-R: Yellow grommets show where Ziebart rust-proofing was injected Cinnamon upholstered interior has aged slowly and remains virtually unmarked
Rear single heater vent has two control knobs for opening and closing the heater vents. Rocker switches below are for the rear electric windows
ABOVE: 4.2-litre XK engine won’t win any concours trophies, but it seems to be in original condition, just like the rest of this car