Jaguar XJ6 Series 2 to the New Forest

The Jaguar XJ6 Series 2 really is a great and overlooked classic car. And a 350 mile round trip to the New Forest this weekend proved it. After a week cocooned in my daily driver (a high mileage Audi A6) I couldn't face another three hours of crashing German suspension so persuaded my wife Janine that we should take the Jag.

Arthur Daley's iconic wheels joined the fleet in February but the wafty old Jag has spent all but a few days sat in my storage barn like a hospital patient, watching while while my other classics - I rent them out - come and go with gleeful customers. It's a fairly rare 1974 early XJ6L, with the long wheelbase option (before it became standard) and the 4.2 litre engine with automatic gearbox. Apparently the Sable paintwork and avocado interior were sought-after special order options - they're certainly quite personal choices today (I like them, for the record). Its only had one owner from new and travelled just 36,000 miles. So it seemed about time to stretch the old lag's legs.

Jaguar launched the XJ6 in 1968 in an attempt to rationalise its complicated car range. The car was immediately recognised as a coupe de grace, a beautiful saloon car that delivered for press-on as well as sit-back drivers. As I prepared the car for the journey it gave me some time to admire the shape. This is a car that simply looks great, decades after it was first penned. The shape has survived the test of time despite Jaguar bastardising it many times over the years. The fluted bonnet, the tapered boot (apparently the result of a sagging mould but who really believed that?) and the long low glasshouse combine with a myriad of clever details to create a car that I think isn't just one of the most beautiful saloon cars ever made, it's one of the most beautiful cars ever made.

We left Worcestershire in flood conditions, the big old Jag brushing unperturbed through the water, and soon joined the M40 with the Smiths dials glowing dimly in the darkness. At a steady 70 the Jaguar XJ6 is quiet, smooth, relaxing and comfortable, the only downside being that speed renders inaudible the lovely trademark hiss of the car's ultralight power steering.

You sit low in the Jaguar, the William Lyons trademark low-backed seats making you feel distinctly black market. This really is a car for camel coats and woodbines, affordable opulence personified. Ahead of you is a shiny black thin-rimmed wheel fronting a beautiful Walnut veneer dashboard. Beneath is an aluminium console, dotted with switchgear shared with other Jaguars and various BL brethren. Although most prefer the Series 1 dashboard, I feel the overall whole works well - attractive and classic but also useable. The interior is massive, literally vast, with the rear seats a real distance away. The narrow pillars, low seats and extra length of the long wheelbase Jaguar combine to create the feel of a limousine rather than an executive car. The comfortable seats are leather, although BL cost-cutting means that there is plenty of colour-matched vinyl on show, particularly on the doors.

The Jaguar handles well for a big battlebus, the light steering and body roll the only detractors. You sense its size though and perhaps the short wheelbase car feels more nimble and placeable. The long wheelbase Jaguar can be driven fast and enjoyably on twisting roads but theny ou start to expose its shortcomings - this is a car in which to slow the pace and enjoy the subtlety of its sophisticated ride and handling compromise.

As the miles rolled by I began to wonder exactly what had been achieved in the 34 years since this car rolled off the production line. Back then the Jaguar was rated as the best saloon car in the world, better even than a Rolls Royce, and as I cruised down Britain's spine road it was easy to believe. Compared to my modern Audi the Jaguar is more comfortable, rides more smoothly and surefootedly, is quieter (I forgive the aging door seals a little), more responsive, more spacious (in the same footprint) and feels much more special. And after years in storage hardly turning a wheel it managed 150 miles non-stop without a hiccup.

We arrived in the New Forest relaxed and in silence. The Jaguar doesn't turn heads like my Jensen Interceptor (perhaps its the colour scheme) and it doesn't have the presence and vocal charms of West Bromwich's finest. But as much as I love that Yank-engined beast somehow the Jaguar goes deeper and delivers more. Today these fantastic cars are the preserve of the initiated only - rock-bottom prices haven't attracted many to a car that is great to drive and a logical, useable classic car. Take the Jaguar XJ6 test - our is available for classic car hire for birthdays, weddings or anniversaries. Great Escape Classic Car Hire - 01527 893733.

What makes a great classic?

Hiring out classics means I have to think about what cars will be successful and profitable. It isn't always obvious. When I first started the business I looked at what other classic cars were available and thought that might give me an idea of what would work and what wouldn't. I found that 85% of classics available to hire are British roadsters or coupes from the 60s and early 70s. Jaguars, Triumphs and MGs predominate. So do the E Type or MG embody the essence of a great classic? If their popularity with hirers is anything to go, it seems so.

So I thought I might try to understand why some classic cars are more popular or more revered than others. Let me just say - I think all classics deserve preservation, even if the Morris Ital. But what has made cars like the MG, Triumph TR6 and E Type great classics? They are fairly abundant, parts and repair are relatively easy to resolve because there are plenty of specialists and parts sources. They generally look good, they're good to drive and they're from an era generally acknowledged as a boom time for British car manufacture.

But does that really nail the essence of a great classic car? I don't think so. Although I hire out an E Type and it is a great car, it's not always been on my list of favourite classics. Neither have the MG or Triumph. There are other factors at play here. When you rent out classic cars like the Jaguar E Type, MG B and MG GT or Triumph TR6 you need cars that are reliable and easy to maintain. These cars deliver just that.

To define a really great classic car needs a broader definition. Every time I hire out a car through my company I ask customers to fill in a three page questionnaire about the car they've driven. The results are really interesting and I think illuminate what makes a great car. Customers are asked to explain why they like the car and rate different aspects of the driving experience. I've boiled all that research down into five rules that I think a car has to meet in order to be great. A great classic doesn't have to meet all five rules, but the more it does the greater it is. See what you think:

1. It looks distinctive - good or bad (good is better) - and therefore be memorable

2. It is in some way representative of the era in which it was made - evoking nostalgia

3. It is dynamically strong in terms of performance or handling

4. It is made by an evocative brand such as Ferrari or Porsche

5. It was recognised as a good or distinctive car when it was in production

A great classic can be very strong on one of these and weak on the others strong in all of them. But it needs to be well represented on one. I've tested this theory on most of the classics I can think of and it seems to work.

Ultimately, I think, all old cars have value. If one person somewhere thinks the FSO Polonez deserves recognition then that's what classic cars are all about. Rules are there to be broken and those 5 above aren't meant to exclude any cars, just to help understand why some cars seem to be more popular than others. I'm not saying it's right or wrong. At the end of the day some classics are greater than others but they're all classics in one way or another and they all deserve to be preserved. Vive la classics etc.

Tortoise and Hare

Great Escape Classic Car Hire has created the perfect antidote for classic enthusiasts pressurised by the credit crunch. Its new Tortoise and Hare Weekend package is designed to let customers vent their frustration in the company’s rapid Jaguar E Type V12 roadster, then spend a day relaxing and taking in the scenery in its sedate 1957 Morris Minor Traveller.

From Great Escape’s base on the edge of the Cotswolds customers can head in any direction and enjoy some great driving roads in Wales, Shropshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. The Tortoise and Hare package includes 24 hours use of each car, unlimited mileage and free delivery and collection to local hotels. The package costs a remarkably stress-free £390. Readers of this blog can claim £25 off the cost when they quote ‘Tortoise’ when booking.

The Great Escape E Type is a 1972 Series 3 5.3 litre V12 roadster in Old English White with black leather interior. The Morris is an unrestored one-family-since-new car fitted with the 1000 cc engine and features very rare Dark Green paint, which was only used for a few years.

The Tortoise and Hare Weekend brings together two of Great Escape’s four new cars. Alongside the E Type and Morris, Great Escape has added a metallic blue Jaguar XJS V12 convertible and a Sable 1974 Jaguar XJ6 long wheelbase. Great Escape also has an Alfa Romeo Spider and Jensen Interceptor available for hire.

The credit crunch has become a media obsession and inevitably it’s getting people down. This package is our contribution to making it all a little easier to bear.

There really can’t be a much better way to get away from it all than driving a great car on a great road in the sunshine in the Cotswolds. By bringing these two cars together we’re hoping to create a few smiles.”

Great Escape provides classic cars for self drive hire for daily and weekend use. For more details visit or call 01527 893733. Great Escape is the only classic car hire company with full online availability check, reservation service and online booking and payment.

Retro travel relaxation

When the news is filled with credit crunches and sub-prime mortgages, we all need to destress. We’ve found a new way to relax that doesn’t involve foot spas, face packs or hill walking. Take to the wheel of a Morris Minor Traveller from Great Escape Classic Car Hire and discover what it really means to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.

With a top speed of just 60 miles per hour and the sort of acceleration that keeps cyclists waiting, the cute Morris is the perfect addition to a relaxing, romantic weekend away. Great Escape can even provide gourmet picnic hampers and interesting route plans to help you get away from it all. From Great Escape’s site you can head for the Cotswolds, Wales, Shropshire, Worcestershire or Warwickshire. Great Escape can even recommend luxury boutique B&Bs and hotels.

The Morris costs £125 per day to hire. The price includes 24 hours use, unlimited mileage, insurance, a full information pack and carbon offsetting.

The Morris guarantees relaxation and smiles and because it’s so slow it forces you to take life at a slower pace. Just cruise along, enjoy the scenery, find a quiet spot and throw out the picnic rug. What could be more better on a summer’s day?

Great Escape is based in Worcestershire and has a range of six coupes, convertibles and saloons for self drive hire. Alongside the Morris, Great Escape has a Jensen Interceptor, Jaguar XJS convertible, Alfa Romeo Spider, Jaguar E Type roadster and 1974 Jaguar XJ6 long wheelbase saloon.

Great Escape provides classic cars for self drive hire for daily and weekend use. For more details visit or call 01527 893733. Great Escape is the only classic car hire company with full online availability check, reservation service and online booking and payment.