A taste for the soured cream of the cats

4

Author: Alastair ClementsPublished:

Please help me. I have an incorrigible classified-ad addiction, and for some reason my mind can’t seem to make the link – surely obvious to most people – between cars that are very, very cheap, and cars that really aren’t very good. Unlike group ed Elliott, I don’t really get automotive Obsessions, more sudden, urgent motoring passions that have to be consummated – by buying my scrapper du jour – before they fizzle out. Unfortunately – or perhaps the opposite for my bank balance – my wife is very strict about extra-marital motoring affairs, so much of my advert-surfing is on behalf of others, through whom I can live out my fleet fantasies vicariously.

The latest, however, I’m struggling to shake. For the past few days, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy smoking around in a rather magnificent new Jaguar XJL (above), and it has made me realise that I need a Jag in my life. I don’t mean a new one – great car, just not really my style (nothing to do with the £70k-plus price-tag, of course) – and nor do I mean a ‘proper’ classic model. Actually, that’s daft, I’d love a Mk2/S-type/420 – sorry XK/E-type fans, but for me a Jaguar has to have four doors – and particularly a MkX, by far my favourite Big Cat (and it is very big), but every one of those is a long, long way outside my price range.

V12s scare me, and I’m desperate to own a straight-six so I’ve long fancied an XJ6. So there’s another issue: S1s (above) are very expensive now, S2s are fairly expensive and S3s just expensive-ish, but we’re still talking at least £8000 for a decent car. Yikes, I remember them being £800.

I’ve found the answer, though, and in a car I used to ridicule, but one that combines those traditional Coventry qualities of effortless performance, olde-worlde creaking-leather luxury and surprising agility when you want it. No, not the unloved mid-to-late-’90s X300 (above) – they’re cheap, sure, but don’t really have the requisite ‘classic’ feel, and their electrics scare me – but an even more unloved model, the XJ40. Not much grace, limited space (tight headroom, useless boot), and only averagely decent pace, but for around £700 whose complaining?

And they really do exist. They are a rare sight in modern classified ads, but minters are starting to appear on classic sites – even ours (http://www.classicandsportscar.com/classiccarsforsale/jaguar-xj6/54018) – from around £1500. But the real stamping ground for these bargain-basement Jags is ebay. There are plenty there, and if you forget the standard features of the model – random warning lights and saggy headlining – you should be able to find a car with a strong engine and largely rot-free shell for well under a grand. We spotted a clean ’93 4.0 for just £695, and a very tidy late 111,000-mile 3.2 S for just £50 more. Daimler versions (below) cost roughly the same – not sure about that cheesy grille, though – and if your tastes run to pseudo-sporty bodykits and cream-leather steering wheels then you’ll probably even find yourself a JaguarSport-fettled XJR.

Personally, I’ve turned full circle and now prefer the early ‘square-light’ style – much-derided at launch – to the later quad-lamp look (below), and, perversely, quite like the idea of a budget model with tweedy cloth trim and hubcaps. The latter really would be to defeat the object, however: you’ve got to love a Jaguar interior – even a supposedly low-rent one – with its creaking, rich-smelling leather, electric windows, roof and mirrors, cruise control, climate control, CD autochanger and on-board ‘computer’. It’s the perfect place to relax as you waft from A to B in the kind of smug haze you can only achieve by driving something that makes you feel fantastic yet costs peanuts.

I know I must be wrong, or we’d all be driving them.

Comments

Minesapint

Two words.

Fuel bill.

grahampaige

I had a 1990 model. as a daily drive for a couple of years. Give the pre 1990 models a miss, they were more unreliable. Post 1990 Ford came in and sorted the reliability. Also get the 4litre. The smaller motors, didn't save any fuel.

It was a loverly car, that handled brilliantly. It was a little floaty around town, but you put your foot down and it settled into a quick and well handling car. I just had trouble keeping the fuel up to it.

Zagato

You are not wrong Alastair, the XJ40 is a great car and I think the slightly boxy looks have only improved with time. Build quality is also remarkably good and there are still plenty of really nice examples out there. And who cares about fuel consumption when the cars are this cheap? I have just accidentally acquired a 4-litre XJS for £1,500 and it is a magnificent beast for tooling around in with great ride and handling, decent poke and 24mpg. Old ladies love it for some reason, and even the odd spotty teenager gives it a second glance at the lights. Driving a cheap car is also very liberating because you don't really care what happens to it - muddy lanes, overhanging brambles, dodgy backstreet parking; bring 'em on!

Zagato

Gazzelberry

Try finding one with a manual box

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