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A brief history of the Jaguar XJ Coupe range.

The Jaguar XJ range made its debut in 1968, with the superb XJ 4 door saloon car range. This model, retrospectively known as the Series 1, would only be available to the public as a 4 door car, in either short or (later) long wheelbase format, in both Jaguar and Daimler trim specifications. The lucky buyer could choose from a 2.8 or 4.2 litre straight six, or the ultimate - the 5.3 V12 saloon. The XJ replaced a number of disparate models in Jaguar's saloon line-up, and would form the basis of all new Jaguars and Daimlers right into the 1990s. The styling of the XJ carried over many cues from previous models, such as the Mk10 and 420, yet was new from stem to stern, with only elements of the mechanical specification being familiar to previous Jaguar owners, primarily in the engine and suspension departments.

Step forward the Series 2 Jaguars.

Series 2 Jaguar XJ range
In 1973, the 'Series 2' XJs came on stream. Visually the big Jaguar differed only in detail to the original car. Biggest change was at the front, with the bumper being raised to satisfy US safety regulations, also leading to a shallower radiator grille being fitted. The quarterlights fitted to the front doors were now fixed (the earlier car's quarterlights could be opened via a rotary knob), and the rear bumper was altered, the numberplate lamp now being incorporated within the bootlid rather than in the centre bumper blade.

Under the skin, changes were more involved. Key change was a switch from the double- to a single-skinned bulkhead, incorporating revised wiring loom connections, and also improving engine noise suppression for the passengers. The ventilation system received a re-vamp, and the dashboard was modernised in-line with current thinking regarding ergonomics. Some mourned the passing of the traditional Jaguar dashboard, similar to that fitted in the contemporary E-Types, but there's no denying that the layout was easier to use, especially at night. The vast majority of Series 2 saloons were long wheelbase cars, with just a few short wheelbase examples being produced early in the run. Again, six cylinder and twelve cylinder versions were offered, the 2.8 litre 'entry level' six cylinder XJ now replaced with a more rugged 3.4 litre XK unit. The V12 remained at 5.3 litres, early cars breathing through the quad Stromberg carburettor setup of the Series 1, but replaced before too long with a fuel injection installation, to help with emissions control (another US market influence).

Along comes the 2 door XJC.

So, to the casual observer, the changes to the XJ saloons were evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The big news however was elsewhere in the Jaguar/British Leyland (BL) showroom, with the introduction of a new XJ-based variant - the two door Coupe, or XJC. The coupe was based on the short wheelbase platform, first seen on the original XJ of 1968. The XJC's doors were four inches longer than those of the saloon (they were converted from standard door shells!), with the B post moved rearwards in the bodyshell and suitably strengthened. The design was a true 'pillarless' coupe, leaving a single opening when both side windows were lowered, in the style of some American and Mercedes-Benz models. The roof, featuring thicker C pillars, was covered in fashionable vinyl, further differentiating the XJC from the saloons. This latter feature covered up a roof section that was not finished to the same high standard required by a painted roof panel.

Getting the production XJC to market proved to be a real headache for Jaguar's engineers, with serious problems presenting themselves during testing with the side window seals. The rear side windows lower into the rear wing space, pivoting as they go down. Sealing the two side glasses when both were raised, caused Sir William Lyons' designers some sleepless nights, as at speed the test cars demonstrated unacceptable levels of wind noise. Jaguar did eventually effect a cure, thanks to a series of pulleys and tensioners.

By this time, the mid 1970s, Jaguar was well and truly embroiled in the troubled world of British Leyland, and was seen by the BL management as just another brand within the BL portfolio (alongside Austin, Morris, Wolseley, MG and the rest). A militant workforce, often more interested in waving placards outside the Browns Lane plant than producing a quality motor-car, added to this miserable era of the British car industry. The build quality of all BL cars suffered as a result, and the Jaguars built at this time could not escape this slump in standards. Indifferent quality control led to many poorly finished cars leaving the gates and being sold to the public. This poor reputation for finish and reliability haunted Jaguar for many years to come, with sales, not helped at all by the fuel crisis of the time, suffering as a result.

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The XJC went to market in April 1975 with either the 4.2 or 5.3 litre engine (now fuel injected) under the bonnet, and to either Jaguar or Daimler specification. The Jaguars were known as the XJ4.2C (4,260) or XJ5.3C (5,181), while the Daimlers were known as the Sovereign 4.2 Two Door or the Double-Six Two Door. As standard the cars were fitted with saloon-style wheels, although the attractive Kent alloy wheel was an extra-cost option in the catalogue. The XJ6C could be fitted with an automatic or manual gearbox, whereas the V12 was only ever offered in the XJ as an automatic.

Internally things were much as for the standard 4dr XJ, although the front seat backs now tilted forward to allowing entry and exit for rear seat passengers. The dashboard was the same unit as fitted to the saloon, and performance of both variations was very similar, although the XJC was marginally lighter than the 4 door car.

The XJC was never more than a niche car in Jaguar's line-up, a personal favourite of Sir William Lyons but one that never really took off in the sales war of the time. Perhaps the launch, also in 1975, of the new 2 door XJS GT (it was no sports car after all!) confused things slightly, especially as again it was also based on the short wheelbase XJ underpinnings, albeit in V12 format only to begin with. Those looking for an executive saloon would plump for a 4 door Jaguar or Daimler (the latter could also be specified in plusher Vanden Plas mode), and those wanting a sportier express could choose the low-slung fixed head XJS to impress their friends with. The XJC didn't really fit in either niche comfortably - access to the rear was not suitable for the exec wishing to waft business colleagues to the golf club, and the XJS offered the perfect choice for someone wanting a swift 2 door GT.

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