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Jaguar MK2

CCATALL Published: 3rd Jan 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
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Iconic Jag saloon that gives immense owner satisfaction. 3.4/3.8 wanted most but don’t dismiss 2.4 or 240. Superb back up but getting this cat to purr can cost big money

The problem with most sports cars is that they usually offer transport for just two, but buy a Jaguar Mk2 and the whole family can go along for the ride. While the Mk2 may not be as good to drive as the iconic E-Type, it’s arguably better than an XK plus provides most of the fun and much more practicality for, at least, around half the money. Indeed, the only car of that era that could beat the Mk2 was the S-type, thanks to its E-type rear suspension, which is even more of a bargain!

That’s for another time… but buy a Mk2 that’s been sympathetically upgraded – there are plenty about – and you’ll have something that’s more usable than the E-type or XK, although purchase costs of such cars can be high – it depends upon the workmanship. On that note, the current financial woes haven’t so far impacted on Mk2 values, and because they’ve never been valued especially highly, these cars aren’t likely to get any cheaper in the short or long term. With straightforward mechanicals that can be easily maintained on a DIY basis, whether you’re looking to use the car occasionally or regularly, to maintain yourself or professionally, the Mk2 is a truly dependable companion that’s got timeless elegance into the bargain.


1955: Jaguar introduces its first monocoque saloon, the 2.4 which lays the foundation for a range of cars that will survive until 1970.

1957: Criticisms over a lack of performance results in the 3.4 being introduced, which uses the XK powerplant; this and the 2.4 are retrospectively called the Mk1 range.

1959: The Mk2 debuts with a choice of 2.4, 3.4 or 3.8-litre XK engines. The 2.4-litre engine is a slightly modified edition of the unit fitted to the Mk1 featuring D-type heads and cams, while there are also disc brakes all round, a wider rear track (covered by redesigned bodywork) to counter inherent tail skittishness and slight front suspension upgrades compared with the earlier car.

There are lots of other changes too, such as a broader radiator grille, a bigger glass area and new front seats, now incorporating integral rear picnic tables. A revised dash is more user-friendly, with the key instruments now in front of the driver, the sidelights are now mounted on top of the front wings, and where there were previously air intake grilles there are now standard spotlights.

1960: Power steering becomes optional but only on the 3.8; the standard steering had five turns lock-to-lock while the higher ratio sports option reduced it to 3.5 turns but was too heavy for road use.

1965: At last! An all-synchro gearbox replaces the previous slow changing and clunky Moss unit; new box is donated by ‘billiard ball’ style gear knob.

1967: The downgraded 240 and 340 models supersede the Mk2, with thinner bumpers and cheaper Ambla trim in place of the previous leather, while there are now no longer any picnic tables and the fog/spot lights become optional. Other options at that time were varied and included modified cylinder head and camshafts, limited slip differential, high ratio steering rack and a steel sliding sunroof.

The penny pinching, which to be fair kept prices down to Mk1 levels, wasn’t all bad news, however, as the 240 gained a significant hike in power to 133bhp care of an ‘E-type top end’. Although it was kept quiet, the 340 also received the improved straight port cylinder head (making it almost as quick as most 3.8s) while the Marles power steering – hitherto only an extra on the 3.8 – became optional across the ranges at long last. Now a very slow seller, the final Mk2 3.8 is made. By the time production is wound up, production totals 27,848 – while 26,332 examples of the Mk2 have rolled off the production lines, along with 29,531 copies of the 3.4.

1968: The last 340 is built, as the all-new XJ saloon makes its debut.

1969: Production of the 240 ends but the Daimler V8 250 makes it in to 1970.


The Mk2 was the BMW M5 of its day; it was the fast, luxurious saloon for those who wanted to travel four-up (or occasionally even five) at speed, devouring entire continents in one go. However, while in period it was giant-crushing, the passage of time hasn’t been especially kind.

Now we know this may hurt – the truth sometimes does! But the steering feels vague and heavy by modern standards, the gearchange (especially on early cars with the Moss box) is downright cumbersome and the brakes (all discs) are only just about up to the job – as long as you don’t use the performance all the time. On that note, it’s here that the Mk2 excels, with seriously rapid performance on tap if you opt for one of the bigger powerplants.

Okay, so let’s talk about the 2.4-litre! This, quite rightly, is slated for its tepid performance (0-60, 17 secs, less than the ton flat out!), although it was significantly improved in 240 guise (where you can easily upgrade a 2.4 to, and many have been so converted), and it’s certainly the sweetest engine of the trio. The point is, if you simply want a classic cat to cruise around in – and who thrashes their classics these days? –  it could be entirely adequate for you, although is unlikey to prove any more economical than its bigger brothers.

When Motor did get behind the wheel of a Mk2 3.4, it couldn’t heap enough praise on it, claiming that “it is only seen to best advantage on reasonably well surfaced roads, but within this frame of reference it offers an outstanding combination of speed, refinement and true driving ease. When price is also considered, it is easy to see why Jaguar competition has been driving one make after another out of existence”.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the magazine’s enthusiasm was that when it had reviewed the Mk1 in 1957, it had come away less than impressed, accusing the car of being “dangerously underbraked” and unruly at high speed, largely thanks to the narrow-track rear axle. Jaguar took those criticisms to heart and introduced disc brakes front and rear plus a wider rear track for the Mk2.

For most Jaguar Mk2 buyers, nothing less than a 3.8-litre car (manual with overdrive) will do; it’s the ultimate production edition and a serious Q car.

When Autocar tested one its opening line was that “in one compact car an owner has Gran Turismo performance, town carriage manners and luxurious family appointments”. The magazine noted that despite packing more power and torque than the 3.4-litre engine, the bigger unit was just as sweet and flexible.

The huge braking capacity was also commented upon – in period they were among the best available, but technology in this area has moved on massively in the intervening half-century. Once again, the value angle featured strongly, Autocar commenting that “very few cars indeed set out to offer so much as the 3.8-litre Mk2 Jaguar, and none can match it in terms of value for money”.

The late, great Bill Boddy was equally taken by the Mk2’s value when he drove the car for Autosport. When he drove the Mk2 3.8 Boddy was moved to write it was “one of the best saloon cars in the world. That such a car can be sold for just over £1800 is a commercial miracle understood only by Sir William Lyons”.

While the standard Mk2 is a hugely desirable machine, the Holy Grail for Jag aficionados is a car upgraded by John Coombs. When Sporting Motorist drove one in 1963, it was blown away by the experience. The review gushed: “a few days with the Coombs-modified 3.8 Jaguar has proved to us that the lessons learned in



  • Don’t buy a project unless you’ve got very deep pockets to pay for a professional rebuild or you’ve got a wide range of skills to undertake your own. Front wings, for example, are nearly £1800 each.
  • Crammed with wood and leather, you can buy trim kits off the shelf, but you need to know what you’re doing to get everything looking right; there are 29 pieces of burr walnut alone.
  • Delaminated wood is common, as are seats with leather that’s cracked or split. Carpets also wear out while headlinings get discoloured. Replacing the lot professionally costs £7000+.


  • The Moss manual gearbox fitted until late 1965 is sans synchromesh on first. Very strong, but parts are now scarce. As most Mk2s came with the earlier box, these are easier to find – the later all-synchro units are rare. Check it doesn’t jump out of gear.
  • Most (but not all) Mk2s came with overdrive, so check it works as it should, engaging smoothly; replacing the clutch means removing the engine which is a heavy-duty job many won’t want to do at home. Automatic gearboxes are equally durable, although the earlier DG unit isn’t as smooth as the Borg Warner one that came later.
  • Cars without power steering featured a Burman recirculating ball system, which is heavy and low-geared, but reliable. More troublesome is the power-assisted system on pre-1963 cars – leaks are endemic, which is why many cars have now been fitted with the later Adwest box and the subframe that goes with it.


  • Offered in 2.4, 3.4 and 3.8-litre guises, the XK engine needs regular maintenance. Look for a service history, make sure the engine doesn’t have noisy timing chains or over silent valve clearances. The key is to budget for a rebuild as soon as the engine is showing signs of wear; delay things and the bills quickly mount.
  • A cherished engine easily lasts 300,000 miles, the key being 3000-mile oil changes. An alloy cylinder head means anti-freeze levels must be maintained; a new radiator every 5-10 years is normal.
  • Expect oil pressure of 40psi when cruising. Some oil consumption is quite normal. Rear crankshaft oil seal leak, engine needs a full rebuild to replace it.
  • The 3.8-litre is different, as it features cylinder liners. As a result, it has an extra water gallery at the top of the block; the 3.8 unit runs hotter. Liners must be removed to check for corrosion – it’s not always done.

    • Best model Mk2 3.8
    • Worst model 240
    • Budget buy Mk2 2.4
    • OK for unleaded? No problem
    • Will it fit your garage? 4590 x 1700mm
    • Spares situation Brilliant
    • DIY ease? Generally very good
    • Club support Excellent
    • Appreciating asset? Surprisingly slowly

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