1938-1988 Jaguar Sedans

The 1980s Jaguar XJ6 Finds New Life

Before U.S. bumper regulations the XJ6 wore a taller grille.
Before U.S. bumper regulations the XJ6 wore a taller grille.
2007 Publications International Ltd.

Fortune again smiled on Jaguar in 1980, and sales of the XJ6 sedan were looking up. British Leyland's reforming chairman, Sir Michael Edwards, decided to release Jaguar from direct corporate control and appointed a new chairman, John Egan, to make it work. Egan did, not only preaching the gospel of better quality but taking steps to ensure it -- such as putting the fear of God into workers, shop stewards, union leaders, and even major suppliers like Lucas Electrical (the butt of as many long-standing jokes as Jaguar, none of which amused Egan).

Slowly but surely, quality began improving, as did sales. Once Americans got the message, sales boomed. By the mid-Eighties, the Series III had set five consecutive yearly sales records in the U.S. It was little different from the slow-seller of 1979, but a better value than vaunted German rivals thanks to much lower prices and that tighter workmanship.

The XJ6 thus had a much more sparkling reputation by 1985, and Jaguar built 38,500 of them in what would be the model's last full production year (versus only 14,500 in 1980). Along the way, the state-owned company returned to the private sector; invested heavily in design and manufacturing for its all-important new XJ40 sedan, committed funds for future models, and even managed to buy a research and development center in Coventry abandoned by troubled Peugeot-Talbot. No wonder that Egan, like Lyons before him, was honored with knighthood in 1986.

Arriving some 18 years after the highly successful original, the 1986 XJ6 was surprisingly evolutionary -- too much so, some say. But it really was new, not just another update of the old car. Though the design was initiated in 1980, the first pilot-built cars weren't produced until 1983 and the public unveiling wasn't until late 1986 for Europe, early 1987 for the U.S. The reason, of course, was the Series III had been selling so well that Jaguar could take its time with a replacement. This also explains the deliberate continuity in styling, basic layout, name, even driving feel. Anything too radical would risk alienating potential customers -- not to mention existing ones.

Although Sir William was consulted about the styling -- and was reportedly delighted with it -- the new XJ6 reflects the thinking of Sir John and technical director Jim Randle. Planning relied heavily on their discovery that "Jaguarness" was as much a factor as improved workmanship in the Series III's surprising sales resurgence, so preserving this quality became a top priority of the $300 million XJ40 design effort.

Continue to the next page to find out what the new XJ6 kept under the hood.

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