The Editor makes no apologies.
Those amongst you who know me will recognise my propensity to repeat myself, so if you have heard this before, well, the only solace I can offer is the assurance that there will be another (better) article tomorrow.
Growing up in an Irish backwater – (Cork was very parochial in the 1970s) – was a pretty meagre affair. Mostly I remember the rain. It was always raining. And while we weren’t badly off, there was little in reserve and even less by way of indulgence, frippery or delight. Belts were worn tightly. String was saved. Even the biscuits were of a distinctly penitential nature.
For a car-obsessed youngster, the streetscapes were as depressing as the leaden skies; consequence of Ireland’s economic privations at the time and the heavy taxation levied against anything of a more frivolous nature. But there were occasional roadside exceptions, and of those one car captivated my imagination like no other – Jaguar’s first-series XJ6.
To me, the big cat encapsulated everything my narrow little life was lacking. Abundant power (we’ll gloss over the fact that most were the underpowered 2.8-litre models), a seemingly vast cabin swathed in leather and adorned with as many dials and switches as a light aircraft, and those sinuous, sensual, impossibly beautiful body lines. The XJ poleaxed me at a deeply impressionable age and to this day, a well preserved example will (re)turn me to the same quivering mass of unrequited desire as I first experienced in some sodden Leeside streetscape some forty years ago.
The XJ6 marked a point of symbiosis between the luxury saloon and sportscar. Such was its appeal that matters of practicality became secondary to its siren call. Essentially, it was a more practical, four-door E-Type. For the market, it was catnip. For Jaguar, it was a masterstroke, and quite frankly, a product sweet-spot for the marque which it should never have abandoned.
The story of the XJ6, like most tales involving the leaping cat, was a poignant blend of triumph and tragedy. A world-beating design, built by a specialist carmaker who really wasn’t capable of executing it, lodged within an organisation which was not only woefully mismanaged, but heading straight for the metaphorical iceberg.
The XJ6 ought to have been the car that made Jaguar’s fortune and secured its future, instead of the maddeningly uneven product which limped onto the market in 1969, never quite realising its enormous commercial potential, thanks to a lack of investment, labour unrest, and successive failures of management.
But its torrid commercial career doesn’t alter the fact that it was (and remains) one of the all-time greats. A true landmark car and one whose raffish appeal has not diminished one iota in more than 50 years. Here at DTW, we told its story in serialised form throughout 2018, and today we present it unabridged, in Longer Read form, which I invite you to read again in full by clicking the link here.
That isn’t me in the headline photo above by the way, but as visual metaphors go, it’s there or thereabouts. Some obsessions really are for life.