Shed of the Week | Jaguar XJ (X300)

What do these things have in common: Man's need for water, the common housefly, and the prices of old Jaguar XJs?

The answer - well, one answer anyway - is that they never change.

Seven years ago almost to the day, Riggers (late of this column, how do Riggers!) told us about a 1996 long-wheelbase XJ6 (X300 model). It was a 3.2, so not quite as desirable as the more powerful, higher-geared and even more relaxing 4.0, but Riggers' one had only done 59,000 miles, it had a service history, and it looked absolutely stunning in black.

The price of that one? Β£995 - Β£5 less than this week's Β£1,000 SOTW, which comes with extra interest not only because it's a 4.0 but also because it's one of the very first X300s. These X300s started rolling off the line ten years after Jaguar's scratchy relationship with British Leyland had come to an end. That's a big enough gap to lay most of the build quality ghosts. The improved-for-the-X300 AJ16 engines were strong. Some reckon they're among the best Jaguar engines ever.

The unusual thing about old Jags like this is that, although they are clearly not classics, otherwise what would they be doing here in Shed of the Week, so many of them are in what might be called classic condition. That's because cars like this are hardly ever owned by herberts. People buy Sovereigns and the like not because they actually need an old-fashioned 4-litre saloon with Edwardian fuel consumption and less cabin and boot space than a Fiesta (possibly - other made-up comparisons are available and will most likely be more accurate), but because, well, they love them. They love Jaguars and everything that they stand for. Natural materials. An element of craftsmanship. A supple chassis that works brilliantly on British roads. A bubble of relaxed refinement in a world that's travelling too fast.

That owner love is usually reflected in the way these Jags are looked after. By 'looked after' we don't necessarily mean looking after the oily bits nobody sees. We're talking Solvol Autosol, Autoglym and yellow duster type looking after. As a result of that you end up with 25 year old mass-produced cars that look nearly as good as they did when they were first on the showroom floor, even though they've never been formally restored. Jaguar XJ restorations happen on an ongoing weekly basis, not all at once.

If rear headroom is an issue for you and your brood, then you might want to stop reading now as the XJs were never over-endowed in that department and this one has a pinned-up headlining to boot. We have no info on the suspension, but if the bushes are original it might not have the beautifully pliant magic carpet XJ ride. And an 1,800kg 245hp 4.0 Sov probably wouldn't be most folks' first choice for an economy run: expect low 20s in everyday use, and teens if you fancy finding out if it'll still do the 0-60 in seven and a bit seconds.

The extra gadgets you get in a Sov - usually (but not always) gear like memory heated seats, electric steering column adjustment and the like - could be seen as things to go wrong rather than things to enhance your life. Other potential glitches might include illuminated ABS or Check Engine lights, blank clock readout, bubbles on the engine valve cover, sagging headliner as per, faulty door latch switches, transmission mounts (springs and bushings), power steering hosiery, thermostats, oxygen sensors, brake light switches, exhaust manifolds. Otherwise, Shed won't hear a word said against these lovely old lizards.

Annoyingly, the number of owners is unknown, so Shed can't put forward the usual 'one octagenarian owner taking it out once a year and doing whatever it needs doing to it' theory, but looking at the MOT reports and the treacle-like accumulation of miles over the last 13 years - it was on 106k in 2006 and has only done 15,000 miles since then, at around 1-2k a year - it's got all the hallmarks.

The MOT does run out in September, which might mean some attention will be needed to the stuff mentioned last September, i.e. a minor exhaust leak, front wheel bearing wear and cracking (not in a good way) tyres, but the MOT history backs up the 'old boy in love' theory in that the front subframe corrosion that popped up in the MOT advisories at the 115,000-mile mark in 2012 was immediately sorted. So were the seatbelt anchorage and radiator mount rust issues that came up in 2014, and the crumbly floors that were mentioned in 2017. The X300 is less prone to rust than the preceding square-lamped XJ40, but as with any car that's not in its first flush of youth, the process of molecular change is only going to go one way. Vigilance will be required.

Pictures do tend to flatter cars, and the owner does confirm that 'cosmetic improvement could be done over time', but we all know that's not going to happen. The next owner will love it as much as the current one, but they won't sink any more cash into it than they absolutely have to, because while Jaguar saloon values remain as low as they are, it'll all be lost money. Even if you spent Β£5000 on it, it would still only be worth Β£1000. Which is tragic and heartening at the same time. Maybe the arrival of the new electric XJ next year will boost interest in these fabulous old infernal combustion XJs. Until that happens, or not, we can all still enjoy the majestic Jaguar experience for Micra money. Hurrah!

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Comments (83) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Tin Hat 26 Jul 2019

    A fine looking steed

  • alorotom 26 Jul 2019

    Jewish racing gold wedding special .... destined to become a cheap mobile for shotgun weddings near you.

    Looks nice too - shame really

  • dandare 26 Jul 2019

    More style in it's rear wing than in a complete Merc of the same era.
    The door handles are awful, though.
    What a shed! Lovely for the money.

  • Cambs_Stuart 26 Jul 2019

    What a great shed. Good find.

  • Billy_Whizzzz 26 Jul 2019

    Utterly vile. In Brexiters eyes, the future of the automotive world looks like this. Something totally shoddy, badly build, naff, masquerading as something better than it is and driven by suburban uber conservative arrivistes who have achieved nothing and are scared of everything. No thanks.

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