I started out this week looking for dignified luxury cars, the sorts of things you could use as wedding transport and the like. My mind instantly went British. But along the way, stranger things created distractions and well, here we are.
British luxury has that reputation of rich leather and thick carpets and tasteful elegance and stereotypically bad quality that's rebranded as "handbuilt." That reputation was deserved in the '70s, when the cars were hastily put together with a lick of spit and a prayer and then delivered to customers. Amazing that some have lasted this long, but hey, with a little love and care anything's possible. But are they actually worth anything? That's for you to decide.
This 1978 Jaguar XJ6 Series II might be remembered for that bad quality, rubber bumpers and emissions regulations, but it generally retains the same elegance that made the original XJ6 that debuted a decade earlier such a show stopper. If elegance is timeless, this is the definition. Of course, this car is a 1978 and it's appropriately brown and 8-track equipped. While it's totally common to see 8-track players in AMC Pacers and Cadillac Sevilles, it's awesome to see one in an XJ. Suddenly, I like this car a lot more.
Actually, it's the whole originality of the car that I've fallen for. It has the old 4.2 straight six and not a V8 conversion. The interior is slightly tattered and that's fine for a 35-year-old car. It's slightly rusty and that's slightly fine. But it's more than 10 grand and that's not so good and that's what kind of sent me looking for something more... wedgy.
The Rover SD1 is a long-forgotten car on these shores and one Rover fans would like to forget was a British Leyland product. A supremely good-looking car with V8 power, rear wheel drive and a hatchback that was destined to be a killer, but ultimately was killed because it was engineered so poorly. For shame. Strangely, this 1980 US-spec Rover 3500 looks rather good.
Rather good, minus the stupid quad un-covered headlamps and massive bumpers that all 1,200-ish SD1s were saddled with if they landed in the US. The 3.5-liter V8 was also strangled to produce 133 horses, but it does have 2 more cylinders than the Jaaaaaag and it's a five-speed stick. Again, it's the originality that gets me here. It may have had lots of work done to keep it on the road, but it really does look like a 1976 interpretation of the future that you could buy new – in 1980. It's also likely to go for considerably less than the XJ.
I'd have the SD1 to be different because I know both will be a headache. Dignified, but headaches nonetheless. I totally respect the old XJs, but a clean SD1 is too rare in these parts to pass up. Wouldn't it be fun to tell the story years from now about the 17 days you owned and share all of the adventures (tow truck rides) you had with it?