JAG XJ-6 CUSTOM / #1970
survivor inspired by #Broadspeed
His dad offered him his old Jag and he said no. Then he saw sense
PERIOD DRAMA WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY Andy Starkey
Don Lewthwaite’s Dad had to persuade him to accept this Jag as a free gift. Luckily he got his act together soon afterwards.
‘THE NOISE OF THREE WEBERS AND THE CUSTOM EXHAUST STIRS THE SOUL’
How can you tell when you’re getting old? There are certain signs. For instance, you ask everyone to be quiet when the News is on telly, Gloria Hunniford starts to look increasingly fanciable and you think those slippers look ever so comfy. Now, there are certain cars that look as if they have been specifically designed for the older generation. Estate cars seem to be one of them, along with large lumbering saloons like a Rover 75, a Volvo 740 or a series 1 XJ6. Don Lewthwaite felt the same at one time.
Back in 1973 this particular #Jaguar-XJ6
was bought brand new by Don’s Dad. He ran it for the next few years and then decided to upgrade to a newer model. He was so dismayed at the tiny bag of beans of trade in value that he refused to sell it back to the dealer.
Instead, it was offered to Don – free! Now Don really didn’t see the appeal of this car and he wasn’t particularly keen on taking on the ownership. Not until his Dad agreed to let him do what he liked with it. Ah, now that makes it a lot more interesting. Back in 1978 when Don took over as legal guardian of the Jag, customising cars was getting pretty big in the UK, thanks to influences from America. Metal flake paints, polished wheels with fat tyres, airbrushed flames and sidepipes were all becoming more common on our streets. Thankfully Don wasn’t quite into the full on American taste, (or should I say lack of it)?
Don had some appreciation of Dad’s Jag, and he knew that this car could easily have been spoiled if he’d gone totally Yankey Doodle with it. He did however, still have some big ideas. The bodywork saw a huge commitment in time and effort for Don and a coach building friend. They painstakingly produced bespoke arches with a combination of steel rods and sheet metal. Taking hours upon hours to perfect the shapes and ensure they matched perfectly. The original idea of adapting a set of Big Cat style glass arches would’ve been so much easier but, wouldn’t have looked as good that’s for sure. The body was then treated to more than a few coats of #British-Racing-Green
. I think 17 was mentioned somewhere in our discussions. However many it was, it was certainly enough because it’s not been repainted since. A grille from a V12 helps complete the look.
The flared arches weren’t just for looks, Don wanted the true American Custom look with a set of 15inch Cobra Superslots fitted with the customary huge Pos- A-Traction, General Grabber type of tyres.
You might be wondering then, how come they’re not on the car in the pictures. Simply, the tyres aren’t made in the required size anymore. This did lead to some difficulties for a while as the only tyres to come close were off roaders. ‘Not only did they look daft but, the noise was intolerable’ Don explains. ‘I had to bite the bullet and get a new set of wheels’. In typical fashion for Don, they are both gorgeous and very expensive. ‘Took a bloody year to save up for these’, he says. ‘Nice though aren’t they’? Oh yes matey, nice doesn’t really cover it. 18 inch custom split rims from Image Wheels. They keep the Cobra look but are now shod in a much more practical and modern profile. They certainly help to give the Jag a more up to date stance and look.
The engine of an XJ6 is almost as famous as a Rolls Royce Merlin. The straight six 4.2 has been the mainstay of so many Jags throughout the years. Don of course wanted to improve things. He’d seen a photo taken under the bonnet of a racing Jag and was besotted with the layout. So, the seed was sewn to replicate not just the looks, but some of the power too. A 4.2 from an XK was sourced and although it came equipped with an injection system this was ditched in favour of three Weber 45 DCOE carbs. The engine received a full on race quality build with a lightened and balanced bottom end, forged pistons and a gas flowed, big valve head and higher lift injection cams.
All this was beautifully assembled with the help of a Mr Rob Beere, a man well known for his Jag engines. An absolutely gorgeous sculpture in stainless steel is the 6-to-3-to-2 exhaust manifold that finishes one of the most fantastic engine bays I’ve ever seen. It curves elegantly down and under the bulkhead where it meets up with even more bespoke stainless in the form of one off exhaust system. The mixture of the noise of the three Webers gulping at the atmosphere coupled with a muted roar from the twin tail pipes is simply awesome. It’s not shouty and angry, it kind of just lets you know that it’s there and willing to use its 300 plus horses at a moment’s notice. In fact that’s how the whole car presents itself. It’s no shrinking violet but, it’s not some loud, coarse, in your face hot rod either. The modifications have a subtlety about them and retain the very British essence of the car.
The interior continues in the same way. A cursory glance would lead to think that nothing has really changed. The dash is festooned with the usual Smiths dials surrounded in a wood veneer. But have another look at those front seats. They’re actually Recaros that have been re-covered in a leather to match the interior. Even the original T handle gear shift helps disguise the fact that the Borg Warner 65 auto box it’s attached to is reworked and with a locking torque converter. All of which helps get the power sent reliably through to the XJS Power-Lok differential.
Suspension wise too has had the subtle but proper attention spent on it. There’s no sign of a custom car, arse in the air, jack up job here. Oh no, the layout remains as intended but, now benefits from adjustable Gaz shocks all round and all the spongy rubbery bits have been replaced with Superflex versions. The whole thing offers a great combination of ride quality and control. Stopping this beauty has been left to the already hefty standard braking system. For good measure the original servo remains in place.
Now, there is one aspect of this build that may not sit well with everyone, the roof! As you can see there is a matching pair of tilting glass sunroofs. Could it be that these additions spoil things? I’m sure that some people could clutch their chest with anxiety on seeing them but they’re not a huge shock to me. You see, that style of sunroof was from way back then, just the same as the car itself. And in keeping with customising tradition of the time, why use one when there’s room for two. It happened all the time with lights, exhausts and airhorns so, no big deal I reckon. To prove a point Don picked up another trophy at Tatton Park.
Don has managed to create something very special with this Jag. It has all its Britishness still very evident and intact, because the changes have all been pretty subtle. The use to which the car is put isn’t far removed from its original purpose either. It is still a very stylish, comfortable cruiser. Only now it has a bit more character and a good deal more grunt. It’s my kind of car, mind you – I am a bit of an old man.
Thanks to - Tatton Park
BROADSPEED RACING JAGUARS
Midlands based engineering company Broadspeed was renowned for competition cars throughout the 60s and 70s. Many will remember some of the more famous cars like the John Fitzpatrick BTCC winning Anglia, or Andy Rouse’s Dolomite Sprint. My favourites were the incredible Mk1 Escorts. Heaven knows what they’d be worth now.
In 1975 there was a rather interesting request by BL to race prepare the Jaguar XJ12 Coupé. These cars were to be entered into the European Touring Car Championships. Extensive modifications were made mechanically to these large machines to provide more power and improve handling and braking. The body received just as much attention too, with a large open grille at the front and deep rear spoiler. The biggest change to the exterior though, were the strikingly large arches.
These were not only a regular addition to many a Broadspeed creation but, were very much a necessity to house the much larger rims. The Big Cat certainly commanded a presence. Sadly the BMW 650 CSLs were lighter and outperformed the Jags.
Broadspeed XJ12 Coupé didn’t win but it looked coolest.
Arches were created in steel not glassfibre.
Image wheels ape original Cobra Superslots.
Glass roofs are back in vogue on modern cars.
‘I TRIED OFF ROAD TYRES ON THE COBRA RIMS BUT THE NOISE WAS INTOLERABLE’
Big rims on old cars can look out of place but the #Jaguar-XJ
6 pulls it off with aplomb.
‘FRONT SEATS ARE RECAROS TRIMMED TO MATCH THE ORIGINAL INTERIOR’
Three-speed autobox remains but has locking torque converter.
Custom stainless manifold is beautiful.
4.2-litre Jag XK engine has injection cams and three glorious Webers.
Well petrol’s only 99p a litre – so why not?