Jaguar luxury class: Series 1 XJ leads a Series 2 Daimler Sovereign Coupé and Series 3 V12

2018 Jonathan Jacob & Drive-My

Jaguar XJ special test as greatest ever saloon hits 50… Three Lyons The Big Test. Confessions of a development driver. Truth about the Broadspeed racers. ‘All the XJs are attractive, usable classics offering plenty of comfort and refinement – but one stands out above all’ Jaguar’s world-beating XJ deserves celebrating as it reaches its 50th anniversary. Three Lyons The venerable Jaguar XJ turns 50 this year. We’ve gathered a trio of examples that represent its 23-year production run for a generational showdown, with Norman Dewis and John Fitzpatrick revealing design studio and race track secrets.


Three Lyons

Three generations of luxury class: Series 1 XJ leads a Series 2 Daimler Sovereign Coupé and Series 3 V12. 50 years ago Jaguar founder William Lyons unveiled the XJ, the last design he oversaw. We celebrate by pitting a Series 1 against its Series 2 and 3 successors. Words Andrew Noakes. Photography Jonathan Jacob.


Jaguar luxury class: Series 1 XJ leads a Series 2 Daimler Sovereign Coupé and Series 3 V12

Jaguar luxury class: Series 1 XJ leads a Series 2 Daimler Sovereign Coupé and Series 3 V12


Jaguar luxury class: Series 1 XJ leads a Series 2 Daimler Sovereign Coupé and Series 3 V12
Jaguar luxury class: Series 1 XJ leads a Series 2 Daimler Sovereign Coupé and Series 3 V12. Our three XJs represent an impressive 23-year production run. And off they waft. We’d prefer to be in the Coupé but only just: all three are wonderfully refined.


To remind myself of what sister title Car thought of the new Jaguar XJ6 I lifted the March 1969 issue from our shelves. Apart from the three shillings price on the cover I was grabbed by the cover line, ‘A very, very British CAR of the YEAR’. Eight months after launch, Jaguar’s uncannily refined and fine-handling saloon was still attracting superlatives, and winning the votes of a jury drawn from seven countries summed up its impact. Car’s LJK Setright said, ‘To my mind the Jaguar is not merely remarkable for what it is, but also because it makes redundant all cars that cost more.’ This from the scholarly road tester who dug far deeper than most into the engineering virtues, or otherwise, of any car he evaluated.

This great British achievement enjoys its 50th anniversary in 2018 and deserves celebrating in fine style, so we thought we’d get things started by bringing together a group of cars that cover the key model variants in the XJ’s 23-year production run. Between them they represent all three series, saloons and coupé, Jaguar and Daimler, and engines from 2.8-litre straight six to 5.3-litre V12.


Jaguar luxury class: Series 1 XJ leads a Series 2 Daimler Sovereign Coupé and Series 3 V12

Jaguar luxury class: Series 1 XJ leads a Series 2 Daimler Sovereign Coupé and Series 3 V12

Perhaps because the XJ’s popularity made it the street furniture of the Seventies and Eighties – the sight of my neighbour’s Greensand Series 2, 4.2 auto reversing off his drive, twin tailpipes oozing early morning condensation as it wafted off up the road, is one of my indelible childhood memories – we’ve taken this world-beating machine for granted. And when the Series 3 had dropped far enough down the food chain I had a Daimler Sovereign. Its ability to propel me right across the country with relaxed ease or hang onto the tailpipe of a vigorously-driven Peugeot 205 GTi on a sinuous Welsh A-road left me with huge respect and affection.

I’ll leave you to enjoy the XJ story now, and the rest of the issue. Let me know your favourite XJ memory, particularly if it involves being chased across north Wales by one while driving your hot Peugeot.

This month’s anniversary feature reminds Phil of bright – more specifically, indigo – days chasing GTis in his Daimler.


Jaguar luxury class: Series 1 XJ leads a Series 2 Daimler Sovereign Coupé and Series 3 V12

Jaguar luxury class: Series 1 XJ leads a Series 2 Daimler Sovereign Coupé and Series 3 V12 Phil’s Daimler 4.2 liked to hunt Peugeot 205 GTis / Phil Bell, editor


 

Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Series 1

You only need a short stretch of fast road to understand why the XJ made such a huge impact on the luxury car market 50 years ago. We’re driving this 2.8-litre variant – the first XJ6 to be road-registered and the oldest surviving example of the breed, no less – and the refinement is extraordinary. The delicious six-cylinder timbre is well muted, road noise from what were considered large tyres at the time is miniscule and there’s only the slightest wind rustle from the A-pillars. You can imagine executives from Mercedes-Benz or Rolls-Royce having their first ride in an XJ in 1968 and looking nervously at each other, all thinking the same things – a) How the hell did Lyons do this? And b) We need to make a better car.


Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Series 1

Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Series 1. Series 2 brought a raised bumper and the option of a two-door coupé.

The Lyons in question is of course Jaguar’s founder and driving force William, who unveiled the XJ6 in 1968. It was a bold statement of the company’s future direction and quickly replaced all four of Jaguar’s existing saloon ranges. Fifty years later, our XJ6 exudes the elegance and road presence that helped to make the XJ an instant hit.

It was so successful, in fact, that Jaguar kept the same basic formula until 1992, making a total of 132,952 XJs. Our test has a prime example of each version – the six-cylinder Series 1 (burgundy), a 4.2-litre Daimler Sovereign Coupé (yellow), and a V12 Series 3 (blue). All are attractive cars each with a strong fanbase, but which is the best embodiment of the XJ concept? Looking at the Series 1 XJ6, it’s clear that the shape owes a lot to the MkX and 420G, the vast Jaguar flagship saloons of the Sixties. But where the curves of the bigger Jaguars look almost comically bloated the XJ’s lines have a simplicity, as though Lyons realised he had gone a step too far with the MkX and dialled back on the voluptuousness. There’s a grace and purity to it, combined with a hint of the E-type’s swagger, though thankfully an early proposal for an E-type-alike tapered tail was quickly abandoned.

The XJ’s roof height is a good four inches lower than some of its competitors, so sitting in MWK 28G feels more like sliding into the cockpit of a sports car than a luxury saloon. Because Lyons insisted the seats must not be visible above the XJ’s waistline, the seat backs stop at your shoulder blades, but they are comfortable enough chairs and they provide more side support than their flat looks suggest. The big, vertical steering wheel with its narrow rim and semi-circular horn ring frames a handsome Smiths speedometer and tachometer duo.


Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Series 1 and Daimler Sovereign Coupé

Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Series 1 and Daimler Sovereign Coupé. Coupé is based on the short wheelbase saloon platform.

The tall selector lever for the automatic transmission sprouts from a chrome escutcheon which also carries the essential-for-1968 smoking kit, with twin ashtrays and a cigarette lighter. It all adds up to an attractive and high-class interior, which echoes the layout of the old 420G but with modern detailing like the single main dash panel, safety switches and the gear lever on the console rather than the steering column. Here was a Jaguar built for the brave new world of the Seventies.

But if the design of the XJ6 looked forward to a new era, the engineering underneath was very much a throwback to previous practice. A V12 engine had been planned for the top models but there were delays getting the engine into production at the Radford plant. Worse, a 60-degree 3.5-litre V8 derived from the V12 was suffering from vibration problems, so the XJ was launched with a choice of two versions of the XK straight-six which had been Jaguar’s staple since 1948. Journalists of the day were already calling the big six ‘venerable’, not knowing it would still be powering XJs almost two decades later. The 4.2-litre version was essentially a carryover from previous models, and there was a new 2.8-litre entry-level unit which soon earned a reputation for overheating and holing pistons.

MWK proves that with the smaller engine and automatic gearbox the XJ’s performance was little better than leisurely. But the all-independent suspension, a development of that used in previous models with anti-dive geometry incorporated at the front, does an excellent job of isolating the cabin from road shocks. The downside is that the light, low-geared power steering does rather too good a job of separating the driver from the front tyre contact patches, leaving little in the way of feedback. Still, with a wide track and low centre of gravity the XJ6 grips amazingly well, and though it rolls in corners the damping is so well judged and the car is fundamentally so well balanced that it is easy to make good progress on give and take roads.


Adrian Massey on his Series 1 XJ6 2.8

‘I’ve had it seven years. I’d had a couple of Series 3 XJs – a 4.2 and a Daimler Double Six – and I loved them but I’d decided I wasn’t having another one. I was looking for a Mk2 and at JD Classics there was an XJ to one side. I saw this one and the more I learnt about the history and the provenance the more I began to realise it was a special car. I had the gearbox rebuilt quite soon after I got it, and a few years ago the cylinder head came off and the valves were looked at. About 18 months ago the last new Series 1 sill in the country went on the offside. It feels different from the Series 2 and Series 3 – you can tell it’s an earlier car. There are quirks like difficulties getting the key into the lock, and when you start it you have to let the fuel pump prime properly. The more you use it the better it is. I do about 1500 miles a year – I try to use it a lot in the summer but once the grit goes down I lay it up.’


Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Series 1

Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Series 1. Series 1 dash was a modernised version of the old 420G’s. 2.8-litre XK engine could also be had as a 4.2.  William Lyons’ obsession with low, lithe lines compromised rear headroom.

TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS Jaguar XJ6

Engine 2793cc in-line six-cylinder, dohc, 12-valve, two SU HD8 Carburetors

Power and torque 140bhp @ 5150rpm; 150lb ft @ 4250rpm / DIN

Transmission Four-speed manual or Borg-Warner three-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

Suspension

Front: independent, double wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar.

Rear: independent, transverse links, trailing arms, coil springs

Steering Rack and pinion, power-assisted

Brakes Discs front and rear, servo-assisted, inboard at rear

Weight 1537kg (3389lb)

Performance Top speed: 118mph; 0-60mph: 12sec

Classic Cars Price Guide £5,000-£20,000


{module Jaguar XJ Series 1}


 

Daimler Sovereign Coupé

The V12 engine that Jaguar planned to fit to the XJ from launch, and then promised would follow within two years, finally arrived in 1971 with the Series 2. There’s a period charm inside; gone are the individual instruments of the Series 1 with their chromed rims, a visual link to the Fifties and earlier, and in comes a moulded plastic cluster combining the two main dials with a bank of warning lights between them. The minor gauges now flank the main cluster – on right-hand-drive cars the fuel level and water temperature are on the right, and the oil pressure and battery voltage on the left (they swapped sides for left-hand drive cars).


Daimler Sovereign Coupé

Daimler Sovereign Coupé. Daimler versions had crinkly grilles and a few extra luxuries.

The eyeball vents at either end of the dash have been replaced by swivelling rectangular items, and there’s a group of horizontal air vents in the centre of the dash above the oddments tray. Switches, the clock, the radio and the heater controls are now grouped tightly together at the base of the centre stack, the Seventies graphics of their legends showing how far style had come since 1968. The seats in this example are another sign of the times – instead of traditional leather they are trimmed in a sumptuous black velour.

’The delicious six-cylinder timbre is well muted, road noise is miniscule and there’s only the slightest wind rustle’

The 4.2-litre engine makes 105 more horses compared to the old 2.8, but crucially the torque peak almost doubles and is delivered 500rpm earlier, making the XJ both faster and more relaxing. There’s so much torque even at low engine speeds that there’s rarely any need to slip the transmission selector back a notch to select second gear, but if you do the big six growls and the nose rises indicating the coupé is responding to your right foot. As in the Series 1, noise levels are low. The side windows are susceptible to wind rustle at high speeds, but most of the time you don’t notice the coupé’s cabin being any louder than the saloon’s.

What you do notice is that the Series 2 is even tidier through bends than the earlier car. Roll angles are lower, and a faster steering ratio not only cuts down on the sweep of the wheel needed through a given bend but also adds just enough heft at the rim to make handling the wheel feel more of a precision operation. There is still precious little feedback, but at least the weightier rim and greater servo assistance at the brake pedal collaborate to give the Series 2 a considerably more unified, well-developed feel.

In 1971 the V8 was still being developed with balance shafts added to quell the vibrations, but by the end of the year that project had finally been cancelled. In 1973 Jaguar announced a Series 2 XJ with bumpers that were raised to meet new US safety legislation and revisions to the interior. A four-inch longer wheelbase that had been an option on the Series 1 saloons was standardised on the Series 2, and in theory there was a new coupé body style, retaining the shorter wheelbase.


Daimler Sovereign Coupé

Daimler Sovereign Coupé. Bumpers were higher on the Series 2 because of US safety regulations. 4.2 XK was the most popular choice. The Seventies brought velour option.

In practice the coupé would not go into production for more than a year, because Jaguar struggled with the flexibility of the bodyshell and poor sealing of the pillarless side windows. The body was stiffened with wider C-pillars, and the window sealing improved with the addition of a cable system which forced the window glass into its sealing rubbers. There were still problems even when the cars were in production, and with the XJ-S coming on stream from 1975 and selling at a substantially higher price, Jaguar was probably happy to take the opportunity to kill off the XJC in 1977 after a production run of just over 10,000 cars.

’The 4.2-litre engine makes 105bhp more than the old 2.8, but crucially torque is almost doubled’

That makes the coupé one of the rarest XJ derivatives, and the yellow car in our group is rarer still. The fluted grille and extra chrome strip on the bonnet denote this is not a Jaguar XJC, but a Daimler Sovereign Coupé. With the 4.2-litre engine the Daimler cost £6195 in 1975 – the stylish GKN alloys were extra – but beyond the fancy brightwork and different badges there was precious little else to show for the £186 premium over the Jaguar version. Buyers agreed – only a fifth of the XJ coupés were badged as Daimlers.


Daimler Sovereign Coupé

Daimler Sovereign Coupé. Coupés had black vinyl roofs to help disguise the C-pillar thickness.

Whatever the shape of the grille on the front, these are handsome machines. Roll those troublesome front and rear side windows down and the coupé has a breathtakingly elegant profile. The effect is emphasised by the vinyl roof, which was standard fit – though a handful of cars seem to have escaped from Browns Lane without it. It’s not uncommon for owners to remove it if the car is repainted, but then you lose the Seventies-tastic appeal of a feature that long since dropped off the options lists.


Jaguar specialist Robert Hughes on the Series 2 Coupé

‘They really do give you everything – they’re usable and still good to drive by modern standards. If I have a customer deliberating between a six-cylinder and a V12, I ask them what they’re going to use the car for. I used to commute into London in a 4.2 – I would never have used a V12. On the other hand, if you mainly do motorway miles the V12 is a far superior car. If there’s one problem with a six-cylinder with a three-speed gearbox, it’s that they are disappointing above 70mph.

‘They’re nearly 50 years old so you have to judge each one on its individual merits. Corrosion is something you’ve got to watch. The six-cylinders are not as tough as their reputation suggests so you need to treat them with a little care and respect. Electrics are simple by modern standards, carburettors tend to be fine, gearboxes… well, if they have a problem it is pretty obvious. The Coupés leak water into the cabin. Whether it’s original or been rebuilt, unless you’re very lucky, in heavy rain you will find some water inside. ‘At one stage they were slightly pub-landlordish but they’ve crossed the line in terms of image.’


TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS Daimler Sovereign Coupé 4.2 As Series 1 except

Engine 4235cc

Power and torque 245bhp @5400rpm; 283lb ft @ 3750rpm / DIN

Weight 1700kg (3748lb)

Performance Top speed: 118mph; 0-60mph: 10sec

Classic Cars Price Guide £5,000-£35,000


{module Jaguar XJ / XJC Series 2}


 

Jaguar XJ Series 3 V12 Sovereign

The Series 3 of 1979 is imbued with a similar feeling of consistency to its direct predecessor in its responses – the result of years of development of the basic design – and it’s an interesting blend of old and new thinking. Inside there’s a smaller, more modern steering wheel with a leather-bound rim that is thicker than before but still very slim by contemporary standards. As in the earlier cars the wheel is offset slightly to the left, though not enough to make much difference to the driving position. The steering itself is just a fraction weightier than before, but still disconcertingly light thanks to substantial power assistance. An old-fashioned umbrella handle handbrake still hides under the dashboard, ready to clout your left knee if you leap aboard unawares.


Jaguar XJ Series 3 V12 Sovereign

Jaguar XJ Series 3 V12 Sovereign. Series 3 introduced chunkier bumpers and a Pininfarina-designed glasshouse.

The all-disc brakes – inboard at the back, as on all these cars – are strong and with ventilated rotors at the front they should prove to be fade-free, which matters when you have almost 300bhp under your right foot from the fuel-injected V12 engine. It’s an extraordinary motor, rightly renowned throughout the Seventies as one of the best engines anywhere on the planet. The early carburettor version fitted to the Series 1 that was fed by four Zenith-Strombergs could be troublesome, but fitting Lucas fuel injection in the mid-Seventies made the V12 a more dependable engine and in 1981 revisions to the cylinder heads and pistons in the High Efficiency version made major improvements to fuel economy without compromising outright power. This is the engine fitted in Paul Upton’s 1987 V12 Sovereign, and compared to the six-cylinder motors it delivers an extra level of silky smoothness to the way the XJ drives.

’The V12 will sprint to 60mph in just over eight seconds, fast enough to embarrass some Eighties sports cars’

The engine is never felt, and almost never heard. At idle the only aural indication that it is running is a gentle whine from the fuel pumps, and even when the accelerator is pushed to the carpet and the Series 3 is propelled to the horizon with never-ending acceleration there’s barely more than a murmur from the engine. From rest the Sovereign will sprint to 60mph in a fraction over eight seconds, enough to embarrass some Eighties sports cars, and it would be even quicker if the automatic transmission, now a GM400 unit in place of the earlier Borg-Warner, had more than three ratios as most competitors now did.

But the Sovereign will cruise all day at 80mph in top with the 5.3-litre engine loping along at only 3000rpm or so, and extra pace for overtaking is just a flex of your right toe away. It’s at these speeds that the performance advantage of the V12 over the six-cylinder engines becomes apparent. The only downside is the V12’s ability to drink unleaded, though these later engines demand refuelling stops far less often than the earlier ones.

Even now this is a car that could cross a continent in a day, with the compliant suspension delivering high-speed stability and almost unmatched comfort. Motorways – or more accurately autobahns – are its natural habitat, but the V12 Sovereign still tackles twisty roads with aplomb. The Jaguar flows through a series of turns with a lack of fuss that few rivals could match, even as the XJ’s basic design neared its 20th birthday.


Jaguar XJ Series 3 V12 Sovereign

Jaguar XJ Series 3 V12 Sovereign. Series 3 steering wheel is still offset to the left, and unnervingly light to use at first. Jaguar considered a quad-cam V12, but it was too bulky for the XJ.

The comprehensive revisions that had kept the Series 3 fresh also included more modern bumpers and flush-fitting door handles, and Italian design house Pininfarina subtly reshaped the top half of the car. The windscreen was more heavily raked, the rear pillars were wider and more upright, and the roof was narrower but extended a few inches further back to improve headroom for rear seat occupants.

But the basic age of the design was betrayed by the closeness of the windscreen to the wheel, the narrow cabin that limited space for shoulders and elbows, and leg room which was still at a premium despite the overall length growing to 195in, putting it between a Mercedes-Benz E-class and S-class in size.

The 3.4-litre and 4.2-litre XK sixes were both now fitted with fuel-injection and were available until 1987, when the six-cylinder cars were replaced by the XJ40-generation XJ6 powered by the new AJ6 engine. But the engine bay of the XJ40 was too narrow for the V12 to fit easily – some say it was engineered that way deliberately so no BL bean counter could insist Jaguar installed a Rover V8 in place of its own in-line sixes – and so the old car was kept in production in V12 form right up to 1992.

By then Sir John Egan’s efforts as chief executive had raised Jaguar quality to levels the brand had never before achieved, and the company had been hived off from what remained of British Leyland to operate as an independent before Ford added it to a growing collection of premium automotive brands.

All the XJs are attractive, usable classics offering plenty of comfort and refinement. The Series 1 cars, at the time seen very much as the cutting edge of Jaguar innovation, now represent a characterful halfway house between the old-school Jaguars of the Sixties and the modern classic XJs and XJ-S of the Seventies.

The Series 2s offer a more cohesive driving experience, but saloons in good, standard condition are becoming scarce and the coupés, which were always rare, are now starting to fetch the kind of prices that reflect their exclusivity.

The Series 3 appeals to a slightly different kind of buyer, one who wants classic Jaguar looks but appreciates the improved quality and reliability of a car that had been in constant development for well over two decades by the time the last XJs were built in 1992.

Those final cars were all V12s, and the biggest of the XJ engines appeals for its supreme refinement and high-speed cruising ability, if not for the thirst of its pre-HE iterations. As the fine coupé in our group demonstrates, the 4.2-litre is the best all-rounder, with near enough as much performance in everyday motoring as the V12 but lower running costs. The elegance of the pillarless body just adds to the XJ’s appeal. It’s an easy decision.


Thanks to: Keith Parrington of XJ-Restorations (xjrestorations.co.uk), Robert Hughes (roberthughes.co.uk) and Jaguar Drivers’ Club XJ registrar Steve Swinscoe


Paul Upton on his Series 3 V12

‘My father has a 1992 Series 3 and when he brought it round to my house I quickly got the idea in my head that I wanted to get one. I bought this one from Jaguar specialist Robert Hughes about a year ago.

‘Everything works on it – sunroof, cruise control, aircon. I’ve done about 1200 miles in it and nothing has gone wrong. It starts every morning. When it’s cold it just starts straight on the button, but, notoriously, hot starting is worse. This is a pre-cat car which I understand is better if you have a problem, because you can’t get the cats. ‘The pre-fuel injection V12s give you about 10-12mpg, so this is quite good at 20mpg. It’s not a fast car but you do progress. It’s designed to be quiet – sometimes you wonder if it’s switched on. I’m biased but I think it’s a very pretty car – they’d got it right by this stage.

‘You can pay £15,000 for a very low mileage one. I’ve got this insured for £12,000 and that’s a lot of classic for the money. I won’t lose on it. They’re not quite classic cars yet, in some people’s minds, especially the Series 3. But their time will come.’


TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS Jaguar Sovereign V12

As Series 1 except Engine 5344cc V12, sohc per bank, 24-valve, Lucas fuel injection

Power and torque 299bhp @ 5500rpm; 318lb ft @ 3000rpm / DIN

Transmission GM three-speed automatic

Weight 1900kg (4189lb)

Performance Top speed: 140mph; 0-60mph: 8.2sec

Classic Cars Price Guide £5,000-£15,000


 

 {module Jaguar XJ Series 3}


 

Norman Dewis: inside the XJ’s development

Norman Dewis was chief test driver at Jaguar from 1952 to 1985, and was part of the engineering team that developed all three iterations of the XJ. ‘It was a marvellous motor car,’ he says.

His involvement began when the first prototypes were built, and the first step was to sort out the basic handling on the steering pad at the MIRA test grounds. ‘I always tried to get neutral steer, with the back end breaking away first so you could control it on the throttle,’ says Dewis. ‘I had my standards – I knew what I wanted and if it didn’t meet the standard I wouldn’t sign it off. No prototype ever gets through any of the test procedures first time.’

In the Seventies Dewis managed a team of five test engineers and a dozen drivers. New recruits were bedded in on the rough Belgian pavé test. ‘You could only do probably an hour at 30mph before your stomach started to ache and you had to have a rest,’ Dewis chuckles. ‘We’d do 1000 miles on it for each car we tested.’


Norman Dewis: inside the XJ’s development

Norman Dewis: inside the XJ’s development. Early design proposals took the form of a four-door E-type. Auxiliary lights were initially set into the grille. Squared-off bonnet was quickly canned… A front-end proposal with a complex grille. The XJ being tested on MIRA’s banked section. A be-side-burned Dewis hard at work.  …in favour of this quad-nacelle idea.

Next was the brake test. ‘The braking had to match the performance of the car. I developed a brake test comprising 30 stops at 0.5G from 100mph at 45-second intervals. You’ve got to work pretty quickly to get all that in,’ Dewis says. And he wasn’t impressed if an assistant started to feel sick on the job.

‘I used to kick them out to get some fresh air,’ he adds. The XJ’s remarkable ride, handling and refinement were the result of Dewis’ team spending hours of detail work on springs, dampers, bushes and tyres. ‘We had various surfaces at MIRA that we used to run over for noise assessment,’ he remembers. ‘We used to spend days, weeks and months testing different hardnesses of rubber bushes, and did special tyre tests at Dunlop – it had a proving ground at the back of its factory.’

A lot of testing was done at MIRA near Nuneaton, not far from Jaguar’s Coventry base, but testing also took Dewis as far afield as Italy, where the high temperatures and varied road surfaces proved a challenge, and the Stelvio Pass tested the brakes.

‘Later on Leyland bought the Gaydon facility, where we did a 50,000-mile test procedure for US emissions. I used to have a three-shift system running seven days a week round the clock.’

Testing was hard work, often demanding long hours. ‘There was no glamour. People used to think we just sat on our backsides driving, but it demanded maximum concentration at all times. We would work seven days a week and then go home at eight at night, sit in a chair and be thinking about why something didn’t work. It was a 24-hour job, really.’

’I tried to get the back end breaking away first so you could control it on the throttle’


 

John Fitzpatrick: racing the XJCs

Ralph Broad’s Broad-speed team won the British Saloon Car Championship for Leyland in 1975 with Triumph Dolomite Sprints. Then, for 1976, Broad proposed an assault on the European Touring Car Championship with the V12 XJC; the XJ-S had failed to qualify as a touring car because its rear leg room was too meagre. The Broadspeed XJC was announced with much fanfare at the beginning of the season but raced only once that year, at Silverstone, where it qualified on pole but lost a wheel in the race.

John Fitzpatrick was signed up to drive for 1977 partnered by Tim Schenken, with driver/engineer Andy Rouse and Derek Bell in the sister car. ‘The cars were fast, handled really well for big heavy machines, had great brakes and were always at the front of the grid,’ says Fitzpatrick.

‘They led the races, but were unreliable,’ he continues. ‘We were basically testing the cars on race weekend. Jaguar itself was not very helpful and was reluctant to homologate any special parts, which could have helped. We spent our time chasing problems – first it was the rear hubs breaking, then the differential, then oil surge and broken engines.’

At Brno an Alfa blew its engine in front of Fitzpatrick, and the XJC ran over some of the debris. ‘A rear tyre exploded and I had a wild ride sliding from side-to-side trying to get the car slowed down,’ he remembers. ‘I managed to limp back to the pits with the right rear of the car hanging off.’ The car was patched up and finished, albeit in 15th place. After the team destroyed five V12 engines in practice at the Nürburgring, Broad hatched a plan – Bell and Rouse would aim to nurse their car slowly to the finish while Fitzpatrick and Schenken would go for some glory, even if it didn’t last long. ‘I just went for it,’ Fitzpatrick remembers. ‘We had a 20-second lead after one lap, then halfway round the second lap the engine exploded.’

The Bell/Rouse car finished in a fine second place, the team’s best-ever result. The engine problems were later fixed by converting to a dry-sump oil system. ‘It wasn’t strictly legal,’ admits Fitzpatrick, ‘but by this time BMW had wrapped up the championship and was just pleased to have some opposition.’

At the TT Rouse nearly beat Tom Walkinshaw’s BMW CSL, only to slither off the circuit on someone else’s oil. At Zolder the engines failed again, then at the end of the season Jaguar pulled the plug – just at the wrong time, Fitzpatrick believes. ‘Had we been given the following winter to run a proper test programme I have no doubt that the car would have won everything. It lacked nothing in speed or handling – just reliability.’

John Fitzpatrick: racing the XJCs
John Fitzpatrick: racing the XJCs. Clockwise from below: In the MIRA wind tunnel in 1976; by 1977 the XJ12C’s speed was proven – this is at Silverstone; leading at Monza; the unveiling at Browns Lane.


’Had we been given the winter to run a test programme, the car would have won everything’


 

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 2

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Additional Info
  • Year: 1968-1992
  • Engine: L6 / V12 Petrol
  • Power: 140bhp-299bhp
  • Torque: 150lb ft-318lb ft

RECOMMEND BLOGS