faded glory: 1989 Jaguar XJ6 3.6


I have a thing for the Jaguar 3.6 AJ6 in-line six. I know it’s fashionable to write long-winded paeans of praise to the genius that was the XK engine, packing it with antics of racing derring-do, but all things said and done the AJ6 was the engine the XK always wanted to be, but couldn’t because technology in both design and manufacturing wasn’t quite there yet.

The AJ6 isn’t a million miles from the XK, and lacks a little of its immense, tree stump-pulling torque, but in 3.2 or 3.6 guise this all-aluminium jewel is super-smooth, amazingly reliable and lovely when extended. It also puts out a fair whack of power for its day – 221BHP from a 3.6 in 1986 was very good. Add on some ‘mild sport’ exhausts and you have a sound that car journalists would go bonkers for, if it had the word ‘Ferrari’ or even ‘Alfa Romeo’ on its cam cover. Last but not least, the AJ6 is very economical for what it is, relatively easy to work on and has a great chain drive that virtually never needs attention. Just occasionally, around 100,000 miles, you might need the head gasket replacing, if your particular example has been hammered – but by the standards of the later AJ26 V8, this is a paragon of reliability!

This 1989 XJ6 sported the 3.6 motor, the biggest you could buy in a Jaguar saloon at the time. The larger engines had the higher final drive, making for more relaxed cruising and more, not less, economy. On a (ahem) 70MPH run down the motorway, you’d be looking at around 28MPG average, which isn’t bad for the size and weight of the car. It’s mated to a ZF 4-speed auto, which is bullet-proof providing you remember to keep fluid in it, and gives a lively but smooth drive.

This car needed about a week’s worth of general de-scagging – the paint was superb under many layers of weathered-on bird lime, grit and tar, and the interior came up brilliantly after a proper wash and some Gliptone leather cleaner and food. The basic quality of materials in these eighties Jags – electronics notwithstanding – is excellent and sorry looking old XJ6s do scrub up superbly as a result. The finishing touch was a set of 16″ chrome Turbine alloy wheels, to replace its 15″ metric steels. I actually love the latter – the XJ40 rides sublimely well on them – but the TD metric tyres cost more than the car to buy now!

As you can see it brushes up beautifully, and a change of fluids, the tracking done and a good run down the motorway had this previously abandoned, low mileage machine wafting along majestically. Properly sorted XJ40s are – in my mind – even nicer to drive than the X300s that replaced them, and that’s really saying something!


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