A Jaguar XJ6 in California




Your recent article by A.R.M. concerning his visit to California and letter elsewhere from Mr. Whyte of Jaguar Cars Ltd. (better known these days as BLMC, etc.) denying overheating problems with the XJ6, prompts me to write my second letter to your illustrious journal.

Needless to say I am and have been a Jaguar owner and enthusiast for many years collecting various models in much the same way that Lord Montagu used to collect cars for the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. With four Jaguars (including a 1973 XJ6) in my stable at this time, I feel fairly well qualified to relate the experiences of a long suffering but still faithful to the marque, owner of Sir William Lyons’ latest breed of car.

Before my XJ6 was delivered, nineteen months elapsed between the time the order was placed and the car was delivered. A personal letter to Sir William at that time evoked a letter to the local dealer Sjell Qvale demanding to know why my car had not been delivered. Mr. Qvale’s response that when he had delivered 84 others first, he would then deliver the 85th to me, resulted in a consignment of 6 cars to San Francisco from which I was then offered a choice of colour and interior, provided it was white and light beige!

My first four months with the XJ6 were delightful. It was a pleasure to drive and it provoked many admiring looks and comments from local car buffs. When the engine failed to start for the first time and had to be ignominously towed into the local BMC dealer, I refused to believe that the problem was a flat battery. After all, at 10 months, not even the poorest quality battery is likely to fail. When the same thing occurred a second and third time, the Service Manager of BMC concluded that the alternator had a faulty diode in the circuitry and he agreed to replace it under warranty. After being without the XJ6 for 3 weeks, it was returned with the advice that as soon as a replacement diode was delivered from England, the alternator would be fixed. Meanwhile I was advised to put the battery on charge every night to keep it up to the task of starting the car and sparking the plugs without assistance from the alternator. I tolerated this state of affairs for several months until one night in October, 1971 after the car had gone out of warranty. At that time I had just picked up Mr. Adam Thomson of British Caledonian Airways and delivered him to his hotel in San Francisco. Having stopped the engine to let him out, it would not restart regardless of my cajoling and bad language. The traffic pile up behind the XJ6 in Union Square was not a good advertisement for BLMC, especially as the occasion was the Grand Ball at the St. Francis Hotel to celebrate the opening of British Week in San Francisco.

The following Monday BMC were instructed to remedy the problem once and for all regardless of lack of diode replacement. A new alternator was fitted and the battery replaced because that Lucas component was now exhausted by the constant charge and discharge life it had led.

I now ran into a difficult problem. Although the ammeter never once indicated an abnormal charging condition, frequent necessity to fill up a completely dry battery indicated that something was wrong with the replacement unit. Adjustment of the voltage regulator ultimately resulted in my only having to fill up the battery about once a week which, in hot California, did not seem too unusual. For a year after that I lived with the topping-up process until late in 1972, my wife reported that she was smelling something unusual in the cabin. Not being nasally too sensitive, I took no notice of the comment until one night a sudden brightening of headlight intensity caused me to look at the ammeter where to my horror, I saw the needle hard on the stop post. Then as suddenly as they brightened, the lamps dimmed and the charge returned to normal levels. For two months this peculiar intermittent loss of voltage control continued before I decided something had to be done. BMC now replaced the diode block and fitted another new battery, advising, that the excess high charge had burned out that unit. Three days after the car was returned to me, the same fault again developed and the XJ6 is once more back at its second home being fixed.

At 30,246 miles the milometer indicator of the speedo failed. I have had 3 blow-outs – yes, blow-outs of the sidewalls of the Dunlop tyres at 70 m.p.h. on busy California freeways. The radiator loses water consistently and engine over-heating is my notice to top up. (About once a week in summer.) There has always been steering wheel shake at 52 m.p.h. but careful dynamic wheel balancing reduces this to barely noticeable levels. Just now in the first real rain that we’ve had here since the car was delivered, I find my accelerator foot becomes saturated from the water puddle which collects in the facia shelf below the dash on the driver’s side. The air conditioner is totally inadequate for local conditions and just refuses to retain its charge of Freon. At 3,000 miles I lost almost all the engine oil when a cylinder-head gasket failed and coated the engine compartment with Castrol GTX. A carburettor float jammed open shortly after and flooded the engine causing a stall again in busy San Francisco traffic at commute hour. The plastic T pipe between carburettors split at 20,000 miles and the car was off the road for three weeks awaiting a replacement from England. The left side headlight works sometimes but defies remedial action. The seat belts are so difficult to put on that no one uses them.

All in all, the Jaguar XJ6 is a fine product (when it works), which will be passed onto my wife when that XJV12 I’ve had on order for 12 months, is delivered. If that car is as costly to maintain and as unreliable, I shall abandon Jaguar products and buy a reliable American vehicle. Perhaps Mr. Whyte would like to comment further!

San Jose.
Patrick J. Shasby.
President, Anglo-California Travel Service, Inc.