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Jaguar MK2

Jaguar MK2 Published: 20th Sep 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
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Jaguar’s Mk2 was one of the very first sports saloons and, 60 years on, it still is the stuff of dreams for many enthusiasts

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the Jaguar Mk2, we need to make three points. Firstly, it is one of the most successful re-inventions of an existing model as the combination of the brilliantly executed coachwork alterations, the improved fascia, the wider track and the enhanced choice of engines reinvented the “Mk1” for the 1960s. Secondly, when the Mk2 débuted in October 1959, it really had no domestic competitors; the Rover P4 and the Slough-built Citroën DS were aimed at rather different sectors of the market while the big Humbers and the BMC 3-Litre Farinas had no sporting pretensions whatsoever. Meanwhile, the potential Jaguar buyer would probably have muttered the words ‘Flash Harry’ on sighting a Ford Zodiac Mk2 or a two tone Vauxhall Cresta PA.

And thirdly, the Mk2 managed the rare feat of transcending class barriers. It was a car that was at home as transport for a racing driver or a young squire with a James Fox haircut as it was for George Harrison, who in 1963 traded in his Ford Anglia 105E for the new Jag – and who wouldn’t given the chance? The Mk2 served as a motorway patrol car and was also a conveyance for someone making a swift departure at midnight from Hatton Garden, with its driver keeping a lookout in his rear-view mirror for any police Wolseley.

Work on the Project ‘Utah Mk2’, the successor to the 2.4 and 3.4 commenced in the summer of 1958 and a year later the Jaguar became a star of the Earls Court Motor Show, even stealing attention from the Morris Mini Minor and the Austin Seven. The brochures promised ‘greatly enhanced all-round vision’ plus ‘super efficient disc brakes’ – on all wheels – and ‘clear-view instruments’. There was also new ‘improved heating’ (this had long been a weak point of the marque) and, in a moment of blinding honesty, there was a reference to ‘adequate ventilation’ while the list of optional extras included overdrive, automatic transmission and Burman power steering.

Of course, many show-goers were especially interested by the Mk2’s XK engines. The 3.4-litre unit remained unaltered, although Jaguar did experiment with a Lucas fuel injection at one point, and the 2.4-litre plant now featured the B-type cylinder head. For the would-be Stirling Moss, there was the famed 3781cc unit and the 3.8 was also fitted with a Power-Lock limited-slip differential as standard. Naturally, the chaps (it was “chaps” at that time) of the motoring press were eager to gain access to the flagship Mk2, not least because its top speed of 125mph seemed perfect for the new – and until 1965 speed-limit free – M1.

Scalded cats

In February of 1960 Autocar concluded its test with the observation that this “very distinguished car” required ‘“an experienced driver to take advantage of its great potential”. Seven months later, Motor Sport raved of the 3.8 that “Such a car is virtually sans rivals”. Those sporting types who craved yet more performance were catered for by Coombs of Guildford. Its famed conversion of the 3.8 included a balanced crankshaft, a gas-flowed head, a 9.5:1 compression ratio, modified front springs, anti-roll bar and adjustable dampers. You could also specify a quick-ratio steering box (if you had the arm muscles), a long range fuel tank, ‘Restall’ front sports seats and a wooden rim steering wheel.

Such Jaguars were driven by Colin Chapman, Dan Gurney, Graham Hill, Roy Salvadori, and Mike Salmon, and Coombs made fewer than 30 of these highly exclusive motor cars.

As for the 3.4, Motor reflected in 1961 of the automatic version that “When price is also considered, it is easy to see why Jaguar competition has been driving one make after another out of existence” but you would probably look in vain for a magazine road test of the 2.4. Jaguar did not provide the entrylevel Mk2 to the press least any unfavourable comparisons be made with the likes of the Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre. One exception was Motoring Which, as the Consumer Association title did not use PR vehicles. Its 1963 evaluation of seven prestige cars concluded that the Fiat 2300 Berlina was a better ‘all-rounder’ than the 2.4 Mk2.

Jaguar had acquired the Daimler company in June 1960, and 28 months later the 2.5 V8 was introduced as a nominal replacement for the 3.8-litre Majestic. The blend of the famed Edward Turner designed motor, Borg Warner transmission (there was initially no manual gearbox option) and the Mk.2 bodyshell produced a very fine motor car, and in May 1963 Autocar noted its capacity for “sweet and near silent running at any engine speed” although commented on the fussy gearing which was revised in 1964. The inference was that although at £1,568 19s 7d, it cost almost £100 more than an Mk2 2.4 Automatic, the Daimler was worth every shilling and Motor Sport thought the V8 “an excellent proposition if you do not mind frequent inquiries as to why your Jaguar has a Daimler-fluted grille”. This frontal treatment provided social reassurance for any well-heeled driver who regarded Browns Lane cars as the province of spivs, cads and counter-jumpers.

Going one better with the s-type

In the autumn, Jaguar introduced the 3.4 and 3.8 S-Type, complete with E-type rear suspension, which were originally intended as a Mk2 replacement but the introduction of two major British rivals saw a quick rethink. For the young executive whose world was defined by concrete office blocks on former bombsites and whose secret hero was Alan Bates in Nothing but the Best, the new Triumph 2000 and the Rover P6 represented the ideal company car. Not only did they undercut the 2.4-litre on price, but they also highlighted that the Jaguar’s design belonged to the previous decade.

World Cup year proved to be a watershed for the Mk2, for there sometimes comes the point with a respected and long-running car when its line-up reaches its zenith shortly before its demise. This proved so with the compact Jaguars as the family now encompassed the Mk2 and the 2.5 Litre V8 while, that October, the S-Type range was expanded by the (still vastly underrated-ed) 420 and the badge-engineered Daimler Sovereign. However, Browns Lane was busy developing its first XJ prototype – a harbinger that the company planned to adopt a ‘one-model’ saloon policy before the end of the decade.

Now merged with BMC, to form the British Motor Holdings, the Mk2’s specification was notably downgraded with the use of Ambla as opposed to leather upholstery and poorer carpets so that it could better compete with the Rover and some swanky new Fords. By September 1967, the 3.8 was discontinued, and its last hurrah was the Peter Yates directed Robbery, the filmic reconstruction of the 1963 Glasgow to London train heist. There are those who think the opening car chase between the hoods’ Mk2 and a police S-Type is superior to the pursuit scene in Bullitt – and they might well be correct – Yates did both! The remaining Mk2s were re-badged as the 240 and the 340, and were immediately recognisable via their horn grilles in place of auxiliary lights and slim-line bumpers.

The changes weren’t all bad though. The smallest engine was usefully uprated gaining twin HS6 SU carburettors and a straight-port type cylinder head for 133bhp, resulting in much improved performance to the point where Browns Lane even allowed the 240 to appear in press reports. In January 1968 Motor reflected it was their first test of a small engine Jaguar since 1956 and that it had “much to offer”. Meanwhile, the Daimler had gained a manual transmission option in early 1967, and by October it had been facelifted as the V8-250, its fog lamps, hide trim, reclining front seats and heated rear screen further differentiating it from its stablemates.

The arrival of the XJ6 in September 1968 inevitably meant a pruning of existing Jaguar products and the 340, together with the S-Type and the 420, was discontinued. The 240 continued in production until April 1969, with the 250 V8 and the “420” Sovereign lasting until the summer. By that time the Mk2 almost seemed like a charming relic of an era that was on the verge of disappearing, together with prices in £sd and telephone boxes that required callers to ‘press “Button A”’.

Perhaps the screen imagery that best encapsulates the appeal of one of the few cars to merit that over-used term ‘iconic’ is not Inspector Morse but the driving training film London to Bath. This gem, shot in July 1963, follows a journey by Mk2 to the West Country by George Eyles of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. To witness the colour footage on YouTube is to be immersed in a world of Wolseley 6/99 squad cars, traffic lights mounted on striped poles all accompanied by BBC Light Programme style music. Mr. Eyles even encounters a bounder in a Sunbeam Rapier who dares to give the Jaguar a V-sign but he was probably a bit jealous…

Remember when… 1960

As the decade known as the swinging 60s started, Jaguar’s Mk2 was in its first full year of production. Here’s some other highlights…

In the Rome Olympic games, 18 year old Cassius Clay created history by winning the Gold in boxing – five years later he was one of the world’s most famous and talked about people after winning the World heavyweight title and changing his name to Mohammed Ali.

The race to the White House was between John F Kennedy and Richard (Tricky Dickie) Nixon in a contest matched only by Trump and Clinton. JFK won, of course, aided by the new social media called ‘television’.

The US and USSR wasn’t so friendly to each other back then and the cold war was ever chilling. Tensions rose when U2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers was shot down and captured over Russia and sent to prison albeit released in ’62. In the UK, National Conscription (18 months generally) into the armed forces ended that November.

The 60s, as we best know them, didn’t fully kick off until ’63 with the Beatles meaning that music was rock & roll. US legendary singer Eddie Cochran came over here that April on tour but, at just 21, was killed in a car crash in Chippenham, Wiltshire, travelling from Bristol in the back of a Ford Consul Mk2 taxi. One of the first on the scene was a young PC called Dave Dee who went on to form Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick and Titch and later in life became a magistrate before his death in 2009, aged 65.

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