Around and About, July 1975

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The Jaguar XJ 3.4

Since its debut at the 1968 London Motor Show the Jaguar XJ saloons have become the standard by which the opposition is judged in Britain. The XJ range has been powered either by 2.8, or 4.2 litre versions of Jaguar’s long-lived six, though the wealthy could opt for the 5.3 litre V12. Now the bigger engines live on, the 12 with the desirable fuel injection alternative, but the gap left by the 1973 demise of the 2.8 goes in favour of the extensively revised 3.4 litre six. In the trim offered as standard by Jaguar the XJ 3.4 saves £340 over the XJ 4.2.

Known as the XJ 3.4 (the version we tried recently) or the Daimler Sovereign 3.4, the new model starts the Jaguar range off at £4,794.66. At this price the customer can specify either overdrive manual transmission or automatic. However, the 3.4 customer is restricted on the options he can order from Jaguar. Tinted glass, light alloy road wheels, electric windows and a number of exterior decoration items, including the vinyl roof, are not available for this model.

We drove a manual overdrive model for slightly over 100 miles in sunny June and found it an interesting car, subtly improved over previous XJ models. Part of the basic specification includes the series 2 modifications of 18 months ago, including excellent ventilated front disc brakes, better ventilation and neater interior.

The 3442 c.c. double overhead camshaft engine retains the previous 83 mm. bore and 106 mm. stroke of the old 3.4, but features a new webbed cylinder block like that of the 4.2 models for extra strength, while the water passages are also improved, along with webbing for crankshaft bearings. Twin SU HS8 carburetters and a compression ratio of a little more than 8:1 are part of the unstressed Jaguar specification, which calls for only 161 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m. and 189 lb. ft. torque at 3,500 r.p.m.

Although the engine is working well within the limits previously established by the famous Jaguar six, performance of the manual transmission 3.4 is still very respectable. Maximum speed should be around 117 m.p.h. and 0-60 m.p.h. occupy 10.9 sec. The automatic model will take a second longer to reach 60 m.p.h. from a standstill and travel 2 m.p.h. slower, according to Jaguar features.

As is increasingly the case on today’s limited roads, the statistics tell one little about the car, save to compare it with the opposition. The 3.4 strikes the non-Jaguar owner as a very worthy long distance traveller, soon settling into a gait that can vary between 85 m.p.h. and 100 m.p.h. (3,000 r.p.m. to just under 4,000 r.p.m.) according to the whim of the driver.

Even this, the bottom of Jaguar’s range in the XJ series, offers such comfort and silence that it is very difficult not to handsomely exceed the overall speed limit. The soft cloth seats in our car were snug and prevented too much of blazing June being reflected in sticky backs, and the car still shows the kind of dignified pace and comfort that one expects.

The notchy manual gearbox has a new 3.238:1 first gear instead of the 4.2’s 2.933:1 (reverse is numerically raised too), but a staff 4.2 and the experience of others indicates that the gearchange should lose that unattractive stiffness as the miles go by. Final drive ratio is 3.54:1 for all 3.4 models. That the XJ 3.4 is only 5 m.p.h. below this country’s overall speed limit in second gear merely demonstrates how idiotic government restraints are. When a comfortable saloon built for economy shows this much stopping and overall performance, it must be time to review archaic restrictions, or see the law fall further into disrepute.

Over country roads the XJ provided an unruffled ride for the occupants and slight modifications to the Adwest power steering valve have ensured an extra degree of precision. The assisted steering is probably still too light for first time European acquaintance, but there is nothing that is wrong with its accuracy.

The only drawback to the 3.4 derivative that we can see is that it should never have been necessary: does it really cost any less to manufacture a 3.4 than a 4.2? Asking the development engineers how much fuel they saved with the smaller engine drew a consensus of opinion, “if you drive enthusiastically; very little, in fact the 4.2 is probably better, but at constant motorway speeds, or driven gently, the 3.4 does show a worthwhile fuel saving.” Typical m.p.g. figures for the 3.4 are quoted as 18-20 (auto) or 19.23 m.p.g. for the manual, which is definitely the version to go for if you want the sort of overtaking response that one expects of a Jaguar.

Jaguar asides

A visit to Brownshill Lane and Jaguar is still a treat even in these straightened Leyland times. We went up in June to see and drive the XJ27 (which is not a direct E type replacement) and were delighted to hear that Bob Knight and his team of enthusiast engineers (including Harry Mundy) are to remain entirely separate from the main Leyland outfit, reporting independently and directly to Derek Whittaker, who is the recently appointed Managing Director of Bl. Cars.

It seems that the retention of a separate Jaguar Engineering section was absolutely vital both from a morale and high quality product viewpoint. Nobody at the factory admits to journalists that they were largely disappointed at not being declared a completely separate entity to Leyland, but there is obvious regret that could have easily turned into despondency at the thought of interference in Jaguar’s engineering aims.

The feeling that this is a British company trying to take on the best in the world, no holds barred, was strongly reinforced by the way its which Jaguar executives constantly compare their products against Mercedes as a yardstick, and look covetously at Porsche and BMW owners for extra sales.

To strengthen the complete Jaguar challenge it seems inevitable that, especially in these fuel conscious times, the company may have to market an under 3-litre car again, and there are rumours of just such a new model, though it is years away as yet.

Incidentally, on the inevitable “Jaguar back in racing?” questions, there were some interesting snippets. For example, Le Mans next year is a race for GT cars of production (though not necessarily homologated) origins, thus it would be possible for Jaguars, despite the current non-homologation of their models for international competition, to face up to Ferrari at the Sarthe circuit. It would be irresponsible to suggest that the factory could do such a thing at a time when even the Cats from Coventry have to be sold rather than placed on waiting lists, but it would be a great way of reviving both the French classic and British motoring enterprise. Perhaps John Coombs could do the job for Jaguar?

One tends to forget that Jaguar used to go racing with three road-going team cars, a van and a saloon as service/transport and collect headlines all over the world. Today it would be impossible to operate even modified road cars on that sort of limited scale and yet the company feel they have to succeed instantly, which makes the whole project even more expensive and rather vulnerable to public criticism.

Where has all the power gone?

Discussing the adoption of Bosch D electronic fuel injection for the V12 Jaguar, engineering chief Bob Knight commented that the Jaguar engine in full Federal emission form was more powerful than any offered in the 1975 American market. According to Jaguar the most powerful engine offered this year was an optional 235 b.h.p. Chrysler, while their U.S. emission V12 offers a minimum of 10/15 b.h.p. more.

Grotesque power output of 1975 award belongs in America too with Cadillac’s 8.3-litre V8 strangled down to 190 b.h.p. thanks to the pervasive emission regulations.

Will the American manufacturers resort to European multi camshaft and four-valve combustion chambers? Not if Chevrolet’s experience is anything to go by. They commissioned Cosworth to produce a four-valve, twin cam Vega four-cylinder unit of 2 litres (it is normally 2.3) and the car was announced to the press, only to fail its emission tests.

Nasty!

Dry comment from Jaguar Engineering on why the company abandoned the mid-engined concept: “with a heavy engine and the frontal crash barrier impact, the driver became, er, the meat in the sandwich, so to speak”.

Training needed

STANDARD HOUSE has produced its share of good motor sport competitors in its time, but there are signs that the policy has been too successful. To enliven the recent FordSport Day, John and Angela Webb concocted a journalist race over 10 laps of Brands Hatch club circuit in the new Ford Escort 1600 Sport models . . . . Former Motoring News junior Chris Witty (now residing at Autosport) convincingly thrashed the motley opposition, but even he did not get under the long-retired rallyman Paddy Hopkirk’s 66.8s lap record for these devices.

Although the journalists were not very quick girl driver Divina GaIica is said to have recorded 66.1 s in private practice – they did provide close racing with three scribes sharing the same time near the front of the grid (yes, Witty did take pole position as well).

MOTOR SPORT’s Clive Richardson only got in four laps of practice, but he recovered well in the race to clamber past Motoring News Formula 2 reporter Murray Taylor and finish third, behind Terry Grimwood (Cars & Car Conversions, so C.R. probably made the error of teaching him to drive) and the winning Witty. J.W. of this address was left to smile sickly at Brands press officer Graham Macbeth who wanted to know why J.W.’s front wing was folded over the wheel. Meanwhile the Editor of Autosport could be seen to smirk as the consequences of his elegant spin at Clearways caused our man more embarrassment by the minute.

Moral: a better team of teachers than scholars?

Tougher August tour?

The BRSCC’s Peter Browning is expected to organise a rather tougher and more equable (for rally drivers ) Avon Motor Tour of Britain this year. It will be the third such event ( James Hunt/Robert Fearnall (5.7 Chevrolet Camaro V8) won in 1973 and Roger Clark/Jim Porter (2.0 Ford Escort RS2000) last year) and will run from August 1 -3 for up to 100 entries.

It is already known that Ford are very unlikely to field works cars and drivers, as they have no suitable current model homologated (Granada Ghias might go down well on this lighthearted event, driven by the entire Dagenham Girl Pipers?)t but Chrysler, Vauxhall and British Leyland will be there.

There’s money in them thar goodies

Nearly ten years ago he opened his first accessory shop in Middlesex, now he heads a group specialising in motoring accessories and clothing with a turnover exceeding £2½million per annum.

The gentleman in question is former Mini racer, now F5000 and Ford Capri “driving for fun” enthusiast Gordon Spice. Recently Spice moved empire into 12a Central Trading Estate, Staines, Middlesex, and the signs are that both turnover and assets will go on increasing, especially as the new warehousing was apparently an extremely shrewd investment.

The extent of Spice accessory stock can be gauged from the fact that he receives stock from 300 suppliers.

The Lancia Beta HPE

At the same time we tried the new mid-engined Lancia Beta Monte Carlo, tested on page 763, in Italy. Lancia allowed us to drive the latest version on the front-wheel-drive Beta theme, the HPE. The introduction of this estate car version of the Beta Coupé is too close to our road test of the Coupé to warrant much elucidation. The front-end styling, suspension, brakes, facia and controls are identical to those of the Coupé, but the wheelbase has been increased by using the longer floor pan of the Beta Saloon.

If anything the handling was slightly better than that of the two Beta Coupés we had been driving in England for the previous couple of weeks, less roll in the unladen state suggesting that spring rates may have been increased. We’re also pretty certain that the performance of the test HPE in Italy, a 1600, though an 1800 is available, was better than that of either of those British 1600 Coupés, which would be all very well except that the HPE is supposed to be fitted with the low compression, lesser-powered Beta Saloon engine! It was smoother, more flexible and more responsive, suggesting that this example was either a particularly well built engine or that the low compression engine is a better recipe. There was noticeably less mechanical noise, too. I find the HPE the most attractive of the front-drive Beta family, the sporting, sloping estate car rear balancing the nose. The rear well is deep, but the tailgate angle restricts the piling up of luggage. Individual back seats can be folded down flat separately, à la Scimitar/Capri, once the cushions have been removed to the rear passenger floor wells, providing stowage length adequate for skis, as a film demonstrated to us. However, considerable space is absorbed by the side-mounted spare wheel and the constructions around the McPherson struts. Curved cushioning between the seats and sides ensures that three people can be seated comfortably in the rear if the outer two sit slightly side-saddle. The rear window, equipped with a wiper but, curiously, not a washer, is fitted with removable sunshade louvres, while a curtain in a spring reel below the window can be pulled over the luggage or secured to the top of the window.

We saw an indicated maximum of 182 k.p.h. in this HPE, which will accelerate from to 100 k.p.h. in 10.9 sec. A quick and elegant sporting estate with the excellent road manners, good finish and detail equipment in keeping with the Lancia legend.—C.R.

. . and the Spyder

At the risk of turning this issue into a Lancia benefit, we should mention that since our trip to Italy, Lancia have announced that the Spyder version of the Beta Coupé will go on sale in Britain at the end of the month. Similar in concept to the BMW Cabriolet, this Pininfarina-styled Spyder shares the Coupé’s floor pan, body to the waistline and mechanical features, has a removable Targa-type roof section stowed in the boot when not in use, and a roll-down, canvas-framed rear window which stows behind the seats. As with the Coupé and the HPE, only the 1600 version will be imported to Britain. This attractive convertible sells for £2,995, £882 cheaper than the BMW Cabriolet.

Elite wins on safety

The prestigious Don Safety Trophy has been awarded to the new Lotus Elite. This annual award goes to a vehicle or vehicle component manufacturer whose product in the opinion of the Panel of Judges represents the best innovation or development of safety engineering or construction among those products submitted for consideration. The citation states: “Whilst recognising the limited clientele for the Elite owing to its price and the sporting type of vehicle it represents, the Panel nevertheless felt the successful use of GRP body construction plus the wide margin by which the Elite meets the US and European legal safety requirements and the emphasis placed on the reduction of the risk of fire in the case of a collision, allied to good fuel economy and low emission of pollutants, added up to a substantial improvement, in terms of both primary and secondary safety in a high performance car”. What they’re saying, in effect, is what a good car the Elite has matured into, agreeing with our own road test findings, even if we did conclude it to be over-expensive. It should give a useful boost to Lotus sales. The Avon Safety Wheel merited a commendation from the Judges.

***

Demand for the Polski-Fiat 125P (road-tested in last month’s MOTOR SPORT) has been so remarkable that the entire first shipment of cars was sold in four weeks. Now Polski Car Imports (GB) Ltd., have had to bring forward follow-up shipments so that the Warsaw factory’s later face-lifted model has had to be imported ahead of schedule. With this comes a £90 price increase (still only £1,249) and improvements which should make it an even better bargain car. A £100 increase for the Estate version prices it at £1,399. The front grille and rear lights have been restyled, rubber rubbing strips fitted to the body sides, door-open warning lights fitted to all four doors and power output of the 1,481 c.c. engine increased from 70 b.h.p. to 75 b.h.p. A special cheap insurance scheme is available too.

***

Savings on Alfa-Romeo servicing costs ranging from 20.2% to 51.4%, depending on model, calculated over 60,000 miles at 12,000 miles per year, result from re-scheduling of services to 6,000 mile intervals. Improvements in design and materials have allowed the change, which will save an Alfa 2000 owner £114 (new total cost £108) and an Alfasud owner £22 (new total cost £87) over that exemplified five-year period.

Clubs to join

A firmly typewritten letter informs that the Gilbern Owners’ Club Secretary would be interested to hear from owners at 1, Wickhurst Farm Cottages, Leigh, near Tonbridge, Kent. Apparently Ace Motors at Acton and Kensington have proved very helpful in aiding the Club’s efforts to “keep these delightful cars running”.

A second Club notification is that of Northampton Historic CC, who cater for all enthusiast owners of all pre-war and interesting post-war vehicles: enthusiasts without cars are also welcomed. Full details from V. Webb, 26 Aintree Road, Parkland, Northampton.

***

A South-West Centre of the Austin-Healey Club is in the process of being formed. The Secretary is Mrs. Kay Price, of “Pitts End”, Bishop Sutton, near Bristol BS18 4XQ.

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