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Jaguar MK1

Published: 3rd Apr 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar MK1
Jaguar MK1
Jaguar MK1
Jaguar MK1
Jaguar MK1
Jaguar MK1

Buyer Beware

  • To properly restore a Mk1 will cost as much as its more popular XK sisters. Therefore it is best to buy a properly restored car. Parts supply isn’t as plentiful as they are for a Mk2 so be prepared to scout round more for what you need.
  • Like all Jaguars rust attacks the floorpan, bulkheads, rear suspension pick up points and the famous ‘crow’s feet’ by the front valance. All these areas are MoT points so check carefully for proper repairs.
  • That venerable XK unit is robust, but faults are several. Beware of incorrect tappet adjustment – there should be some tappet noise present. If not the valve gaps have closed up in service and will require re-shimming. This usually means a head off decoke at the same time.
  • Timing chain and its tensioners can be overlooked giving that familiar rattle. The bottom one is the worst to replace although it can be done at home.
  • Look for an oil pressure of at least 40lbs at running temperature and around 20lbs on tickover on all engines. Losing lubricant from a failing rear crankshaft oil seal is common with the XK lump of course and in many cases best to live with, unless dire, as it means a strip down.
  • The 2.4 endured twin Solex carbs. Although not original, it’s a good idea to fit the later ‘E-type’ cylinder head and twin SUs as found on the 240. That said you’ll find that most 2.4s have been upgraded to 3.4-litres – but has it been done properly with the correct gearing employed, and so on?
  • The drum brake system works well enough at lowly speeds, but aren’t really up to a lot of serious driving, although at least parts are attainable. Handbrakes are notoriously poor and unreliable but a lot of this is due to lack of maintenance and ignorance of the correct setting up procedure say some Jag specialists.
  • There’s even more wood to preserve in a Mk1! Like the Mk2, expect to face big bills for a full-on resto: £2000 for the dashboard alone. Don’t overlook poor brightwork as re-chroming a bumper is £400!
  • Although many parts look similar, specialists say that similarly identical parts from the XK sports cars or the larger Mk VII saloons aren’t the same. The Mk1 used many parts particular to the car that didn’t even find their way onto the Mk2.


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Sixty years ago Jaguar introduced the Mk1 saloon and after living in the shadows of the Mk2 is now the one to own reckons Jag expert Jim Patten

This year, Jaguar is set to launch the XE. A compact executive saloon, it’s arguably the outfit’s most important launch since what became known as the Mk1 an astonishing 60 years ago. The significance of the ‘Mk1’ in Jaguar’s rich history cannot be overstressed.

It was the most modern Jag yet to leave the factory and was aimed at an entirely new type of buyer. Before the Mk1 Jaguar was better known for its big luxury cars and roadsters.

It may have seemed a logical idea at the time, but the decision to pare down Jaguar’s range to just the XJ6 and the E-type was the worst move it could have made because Jaguar left a market which was just evolving into one of the most vibrant in automotive history. Ever the visionary, Lyons saw such a sector forming and sensed a change in buying tastes and attitudes during the optimistic 1950s which resulted in the Mk1.

Sixty years on and living in the shadow of the iconic Mk2 for much of them, of late there’s been something of a sea change in attitudes towards the Mk1s to the point where values have positively prospered, and not stagnated as in the case of the Mk2. Another case of the original being the best?

Which Model to Buy?

Some 37,000 were made, with just under 20,000 being accounted for by the supposedly ‘unloved’ base 112bhp 2.4, in just four years before the Mk2 took over. Most of the survivors are the 3.4-litre model however, with many 2.4s so upgraded over the decades. Two models were offered; the standard and the SE (Special Equipment), the latter being by far the more popular choice – indeed has anyone ever seen the former version which lacked a rev counter, ash trays, electric screen washers, heater and more?

The 3.4 of 1957, addressed the performance issues care of its 210bhp but such a hike of 100bhp really taxed the chassis and the (all drum) brakes. The latter problem was solved a year later when Le Mans-developed Dunlop discs were fitted all round, initially as an optional extra but we bet that any car you inspect will be so attired already by anxious owners.

Drum braked models did gain a better servo in ’58, but 3.4s also adopted different rear springs, to alter the camber angles, as well as better Girling dampers all in a bid to improve the infamous skittish handling that even caught out our first F1 champ Mike Hawthorn a year later, with tragic consequences.

Visitors to the inaugural London Classic Car Show will have spotted the lovely BRG example (owned by contributor and Jag expert Jim Patten who adds his personal comments elsewhere in this feature-ed) on sale on the CL Group stand (01376 320590). At just a shade under £40,000 it’s typical what the top cars can now achieve – and we’ve seen them go for almost 50K. The days of picking up a cheap Mk1 are long gone and you won’t get much around the £15,000 mark.

The 2.4 will always be the budget buy but can still entertain. Fit the complete running gear from a 240 donor and you will get an engine with an E-type cylinder head on SU carburettors as standard, an all-synchromesh gearbox and of course the wider rear axle. There really is a car for everyone but buy the best you can. A 2.4 will cost exactly the same as a 3.4 to restore with residual values way behind.

Behind the Wheels?

A good Mk1 is an absolute delight to drive, although the 2.4 feels lethargic by today’s standards. Early drum brake cars take a bit of getting used to but once accepted then a relaxed attitude rewards.

The 3.4-litre however is a completely different animal with a genuine 120mph possible. Jaguar had the temerity to fit drum brakes on the early 3.4s leading to Road & Track magazine launching a very public attack. Jaguar soon had disc brakes as an option but not immediately as standard equipment. Both manual and automatic gearboxes were optioned on both versions with overdrive as an almost accepted option on most manual cars.

With wire wheels available the full rear wheels spats were relieved to allow room for the wheel spinner and would be standard wear.

To understand these cars is to understand the period and not make a comparison to later cars. The gearbox was Jaguar’s own version of the Moss design with synchromesh on the upper three ratios only, with a downshift to second only quietly achieved with diligent use of the revs as the shift passes neutral.

Full double-de-clutching isn’t necessary except on completely worn gearboxes thankfully. Pulling away from standstill is accomplished after moving the lever through a long arc into first and once rolling it is hauled back into second and up through the ’box. Overdrive makes for a very relaxing cruising speed and with the 3.4 model, 80mph is a comfortable gait to eat up those continental miles.

The automatic gearbox, with just three ratios, is a fair bit fussier at speed but the DG gearbox is efficient and robust, featuring a natty device called ‘speedhold’, where at a flick of a switch second gear is held making overtaking much safer.

Handling can be curious, especially on cross-ply tyres. Radials make a huge improvement and to most mortals the narrow rear axle is just something you only read about in the motoring press.

It’s only when pressing on that you become aware and any slide is easily cured with a touch of opposite lock. In period Jaguar offered off-set competition wheels for the rear (NEVER fit them on the front) and this pretty much put things right. Curiously the thick window frames afford less wind noise than the Mk2.

Ease of Ownership?

Any XK based engine will fit, so in theory a Series 3 XJ6 4.2 will slot straight in. But there is little to be gained away from the original 3.4, with perhaps the exception of a 3.8 with straight port (E-type or 420) cylinder head. The later excellent all-synchromesh gearbox from the 240/340, S-type or 420 and even XJ6 can be adopted to fit with nominal alterations depending on the type of gearbox used. Any number of specialists can supply a five-speed gearbox such as the XJ-S based Getrag from Simply Performance or the tough Toyota Supra ’box from Realm Engineering tried and tested.

On the sensible side and visiting Jaguar’s own parts bin, a Mk2 complete front suspension is a direct fit and a decent improvement. The rear axle is also dimensionally acceptable, although some teasing of the wheel arch is needed to keep the tyres properly covered.

Using a Jaguar 420 suspension upright complete with brakes offers the reward of three-pot calipers. However, many companies like DG Developments, Zeus and Coopercraft market improved calipers to fit on the Mk1 and 2 standard uprights.

Improved dampers make a huge difference with the type really down to the buyer’s preference. Koni, Spax, Gaz, it’s up to you.

Air-conditioning? Why not. Clayton offers a complete system. Power steering? What would be your preference sir? Hold on though, this is one area to beware of. We are not keen on the adapted XJ power rack, it isn’t dimensionally correct and with the rack body extending beyond the lower wishbone pivot points, geometry can be compromised.

Better we reckon to source a 420 and access its unique Marles Varamatic system, that, when set up correctly, is BMW-like in its precision. ICS Steering Specialist can help with the rebuild. We’ve tried some of the electric conversions and although they work well enough, the same five turns of the original box remains and to cope with the power needed, a decent alternator is a must.

Cooling is helped by fitting an aluminium radiator and perhaps electric fan too. But the best advice is to fit a later water pump with the bigger impeller and get that coolant moving. That will need either replacing the timing chain cover or machining the front to suit. If you can afford it then use the fill and forget Evans coolant, where the boiling point is raised and you won’t get hot under the collar.


2.4 Saloon launched with monocoque construction and down-sized 3.4-litre engine to 2483cc, tied to four-speed transmission with optional overdrive. Usual high levels of Jaguar trim (in SE spec) and all for under £1300 which was a bargain.


Production changes included altered rear axle mounting bushes to cure creaking noise and welding up Panhard Rod on unmodified cars to stop it from fracturing. Longer front springs and altered rear axle ratios while overdrive models gained closer intermediates for better performance.


Most notable change being 3.4 option. Essentially it’s the 210bhp XK140 engine in strengthened bodyshell; car is identified by its narrower slat radiator grille to aid cooling and cut-away rear wheel spats. Later that year, Dunlop disc brakes become an option on all models plus larger servo for drum braked versions.


DG Automatic transmission made optional on all models. New 12 blade fan fitted while from April, 3.4 is now fitted with modded rear springs to alter camber angles along with a change to Girling dampers to improve handling.

We Reckon...

While the Mk2 will always remain the most popular pick of the pair, the original certainly has it merits and prices are reflecting this.

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