Jaguar XJ Series I-III and X300

The big cat has always been on the prowl….

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Sir William Lyons, Company CEO, hailed the XJ as the finest Jaguar ever. XJ was actually the code name used during its development. XJ was used in many confusing combinations. Some series over-lapped, and some were omitted making it hard to follow. The first versions were qualified as: Series I 1968-1973, Series II 1973-1979, and Series III 1979-1992. To keep it simple, I am only focusing on the XJ saloons, if I were to bring everything “XJ” into the picture it would be a book. 

Jaguar produced 82,126 units of the XJ Series I. These were powered by a 6-cylinder engine of either 2.8 or 4.2 litres. In 1972 the 5.3 litre V12 engine made its entrance with the production total of 3,235 vehicles. The XJ Series I began in 1968 and have continued in various forms through modern times. The 1968 XJ was the last series to have design input from Sir William. The XJ Series has styling cues from the Jaguar MK X. (Mark Ten) These were elegant saloons with luxurious leather and wood veneer trimmed cabins. The MK X was a dramatic departure from the past when it debuted in the 1960s.

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The XJ Series II was built from 1973-1979. A 4.2 litre I6 XJ6 was popular in the UK. The 5.3 litre V12 XJ12 continued with a 3.4 litre and was available from 1975. These cars were modified to meet US emissions standards and crash safety regulations. Two wheelbases were initially offered, however, the 1974 model year deleted the standard wheelbase saloon.

The North American cars got electronic fuel injection replacing the Zenith-Stromberg carburetors. The XJ was called: Jaguar XJ6, XJ12, XJ 3.4, XJ 4.2, XJ40, XJ 5.3, and Daimler Sovereign to name a few. 91,227 Series II models were produced with 14,226 equipped with V12 engines. The Series II styling was mildly freshened with the most apparent being the smaller grille. The Series II had a reputation of “pool-build” as many of its components were outsourced.

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1976 Jaguar XJ12 L

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1986 Jaguar Vanden Plas

In 1979 the XJ was cosmetically freshened with a mildly restyled XJ40. It was offered with 6-cylinder engines when introduced. Ford took over in 1989 and work began on the V12 and redesigning the engine bay to accept it. It wasn’t produced until 1993 and was known as XJ81. This engine was mated to a GM 4L80E 4-speed automatic gearbox with overdrive.  The engines available were a 5.3 litre V12, 4.2 litre straight six, and a 3.4 litre straight six. The larger six and the V12 used Bosch fuel injection made by Lucas and the smaller six was carbureted. The 3.4 litre wasn’t available in the US. Series III Jaguars were built from 1979-1992.

The Vanden Plas was introduced to the US in 1982. Pronounced “Vahn-den Plah”, the company appeared in the UK in 1906 with Metallurgique cars being imported with Vanden Plas coachcraft. Jaguar acquired Daimler in 1960. The Jaguar Vanden Plas is known as the Daimler Double-Six in the UK but badged as Vanden Plas in the US. Vanden Plas is to Jaguar as Mulliner is to Bentley. The Vanden Plas name is used for Jaguar’s top models. The Daimler brand is still available in other markets. The 1984 model range in the UK included the XJ6, 3.4 & 4.2, Sovereign 4.2 & 5.3, Daimler 4.2 & Daimler Double-Six 5.3. Production of the 5.3 litre V12 continued until 1992. 132,952 Series III Jaguars were made.

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1996 Jaguar XJ6

The X300 was referred to as the “New Series XJ.” These were built from 1994-1997. This was the first Jaguar produced under Ford ownership. The X300 emphasized improved build quality, improved reliability, and a return to traditional Jaguar styling cues. Ford invested 200 Million GBP in new facilities and technology. The architecture received a design refresh as well as its cabin. The Jaguar V12 and AJ6 inline-six were used in various X300 models.

The line-up included XJ6 3.2 litre AJ6, 4.0 litre AJ16; the Sovereign 3.2 litre & 4.0 litre, the Sport option was available on SWB & LWB XJ6 and Sovereign models, Executive included the Sport model specs and air conditioning, X330 LWB was available for all models except Sport models XJ and XJR, the XJR was the first supercharged road car for Jaguar with the AJ16 engine producing 326 bhp, XJ12 along with Daimler Double-Six with a 6.0 litre V12, the Daimler/Vanden Plas was the highest trim level of the X300 cars available in the US as XJ12 with the V12 engine, Daimler Six was equipped with the AJ16 engine, and the Daimler Double-Six with the V12, the Daimler Century was built to commemorate Daimler’s centennial.

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1995 Vanden Plas

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Jaguar has always made intriguing luxury vehicles. The company suffered quality control issues which affected the performance and reliability of the brand. The company also faced financial problems that delayed production target dates. What really got Jaguar in a bind was the fact that the company was not an innovator but a copy-cat. It is still a legend and deserves respect.

The XJ Series are full-sized luxury cars that are the flagships. The XJ numbering system was never consistent with many omissions and replications. It seems that Jaguar ran amok for awhile. Jaguar could have had drastically different results had they concentrated on a few designs and perfecting them rather than creating such a dizzying array of redundant series.

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1995 Vanden Plas

2 Responses to “Jaguar XJ Series I-III and X300”

  1. Gary More Says:

    My 1998 Vanden Plas was the most wonderful in a long line of American and European luxury cars that I have owned. The car was flawless and wonderful. Unfortunately it was destroyed in an accident, but I walked away without a scratch. Just very shaken and saddened.

    • They are indeed very nice automobiles, built to protect its occupants in the event of an accident. There is a steel cage built around the passenger cell just for situations you described. I hope you are able to find another, these cars are rare and the good ones are usually not for sale, people love them the way you do. I get thousands of inquiries monthly regarding the Vanden Plas and Vanden Plas Majestic which is ultra-rare. I do run across them from time to time. I can let you know if I find one. Thanks for reading, I plan to do a series on the big cats in the near future so stay tuned.
      Greg aka 99MilesPerHour

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