I have had quite a few rare cars, or so I thought. But one look through How Many Left? reveals some shocking statistics, not least that this is the rarest car I have ever owned. If you believe this website, which apparently polls the DVLA national UK database, then this Jaguar is one of only four of its type in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and one of only two on the road!
Indeed, I know of two others like it – the dark blue one was featured in Jaguar World magazine last year, and is now for sale but has a very high mileage and the other turquoise one I tried and failed to buy twice, from different buyers, about a year apart, a few years back. The former has done around 160,000 miles I believe, and the other had been converted to LPG (urggh!) and had clocked 99,000 miles the last time I saw it in the North East in 2011.
Why is it so rare? Well, it’s the manual 4.0 litre variant of the X300, and this started off extremely thin on the ground and thanks to the ravages of rust and negligent owners has got scarcer and scarcer! Jaguar reputedly made two percent of all X300s manual, and most were 3.2 models, many being the base ‘poverty spec’ type. This is unusual because it has the far more desirable four litre engine (240BHP in stock tune); only a handful were made, and fewer still in Sport trim.
The Getrag 290 gearbox totally transforms the way the car drives. It’s uncanny – in automatic form the X300 is a quick, smooth, confident, imperious conveyance. It’s fast but never tries too hard, relying on that thick spread of torque to push it along effortlessly. But in manual form it becomes a roaring beast, a rip-snorting tarmac scorcher. Despite the chassis being identical to the automatic version, it comes alive and you’re reminded you’re driving a big car with race-bred suspension that’s far better connected to your every steering input.
The 4.0 AJ16 engine – freed from that ZF 4 speed auto box – thrusts the car forward, giving a fast pull-away from rest but really beginning to shift from about 50MPH in second gear when the revs go past 3,000RPM and there’s a gorgeous induction roar from the motor as things go surging forth. Being an in-line six, most of the power comes high up the rev band, not that it’s exactly short lower down, but it’s easy to find yourself surging far north of 100MPH in third gear as the car picks up its skirt and runs, where legal of course!
The manual 4.0 is ‘performance car’ fast, if not quite ‘supercar fast’. In lightly tuned spec – with the Stodart crank position sensor mod (firstname.lastname@example.org) for example – you’re looking at 6.5 seconds to 60MPH, which is great for a car of this weight. And it’s all done in the vault-like solidity and sofa-like comfort of the XJ6’s surroundings – something you won’t find anywhere else, short of an XJ-S maybe!