Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Jaguar Mk. 2

Fat Cats Published: 5th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar Mk. 2

Fast Facts

  • Best model: MkIX
  • Worst model: Anything ratty and rusty
  • Budget buy: MkVII
  • OK for unleaded?: Needs and additive
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): (L4990xW1850mm)
  • Spares situation: Pretty good
  • Club support: Usual Jaguar standards
  • Appreciating asset?: Slowly but surely
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Yes – for sheer class and value
Split screen featured on early models - harder to source Split screen featured on early models - harder to source
Classic big saloon style marked Jag as a serious Rolls rival for a lot less cash. Today they are still undervalued Classic big saloon style marked Jag as a serious Rolls rival for a lot less cash. Today they are still undervalued
Early growler; there’s a lot of chrome to clean and restore Early growler; there’s a lot of chrome to clean and restore
XK engine drinks oil but is durable and easily uprated to later, more powerful spec if desired XK engine drinks oil but is durable and easily uprated to later, more powerful spec if desired
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

If you want a Jaguar with all the style and class of a Rolls yet all for the price of an MGB then try a 50s Coventry cat!

Pros & Cons

Style, grace, comfort, space, value for money
Heavy to drive, antiquated, cost of restoration and repairs

If you are after truly luxurious motoring on a grand scale complete with 1950s charm and style, but can’t afford a period Rolls- Royce or Bentley, then try the poor mans’ alternative; a big Jag! These old fat cats are full of class, just as upper crust and are exceptional value for money. The Coventry marque had really hit the spot with the MkVII, launched at the London Motor Show in October 1950. Gone was the staid upright designs left over from pre-Second World War days to be replaced with strikingly new fl owing lines – and what’s more – the engine was the same super advanced twin overhead cam six-cylinder XK engine that was doing sterling service in the XK120. Add unrivalled refi nement and comfort and these Jaguar were a match for any limo and for a lot less cash. More than 50 years on very little has changed!


Jaguar had been completely overwhelmed by the XK120 sports car launched in 1948. It introduced the world to technology previously seen only in racing cars. The key was the revolutionary engine; a 160bhp 3.4-litre twin overhead camshaft six pot, the likes of which had never been tamed for a production car. However it was never intended that the XK unit be fi tted to a sports car – in fact the whole XK 120 (XK relating to the engine type - the number, 120, the hoped for maximum speed; a fi gure that was exceeded by some margin, eventually) project was completed in a matter of months in order to get the engine out to the public. (Sir) William Lyons intended to introduce a luxury car with the high performance of twoseaters from the outset. Lyons himself had penned the Mk VII design but production diffi culties within Motor Panels (a company previously owned by Jaguar) delayed the introduction until 1950, two-years after the XK 120’s debut. In the meantime, the MkV was brought in as an interim measure (not covered in this feature).

In typical style, Lyons had pitched the new car’s pricing very carefully, and with a basic of £988, it remained in the lower rate of the crippling purchase tax levy (almost a third!), which moved the on the road price to £1275.19.6d – a fair sum back then. The MkVII proved a smash when announced in the US; the car was displayed at the Waldorf-Astoria for the North American launch, where it is said that 500 orders were taken in the fi rst few days.

On introduction, the MkVII was extremely well appointed with enough leather to wipe out an entire bovine heard. A forest of wood veneer covered the extremities with the traditional white on black Smiths instruments making an impressive centrepiece. Inside each door, pull down boxes housed the tools and grease gun. Outside, the bodywork remained smooth with little adornment, just a simple chrome waistline strip. In keeping with the fl owing lines which became a Jaguar hallmark, the rear wheels were covered by fashionable removable wheel spats. A four speed Moss gearbox was standard. Following the XK, front suspension was by torsion bar at the front with a conventional 2HA Salisbury axle hung on cart springs at the rear. A brake servo helped assist hauling up this big heavy cat with the cream.

Little happened to the MkVII in the fi rst year or so but acknowledging the growing demands in America, an automatic gearbox became a natural option in 1953, while an overdrive for the manual ‘box was offered later. The MkVII had been proving itself well on the race tracks, too in the hands of legends Moss and Hawthorn, so it was almost inevitable that a modifi ed ‘M’ version would emerge. With subtle engine improvements, power grew to 190bhp, mated to a closer ratio gearbox, while the suspension was fi rmed up with slightly stiffer torsion bars. In 1956, Ronnie Adams put all of these qualities to best use by winning the Monte Carlo Rally outright!

Six years after its announcement, the model moved on suffi ciently to grow a digit as it evolved into the MkVIII for 1956. The most obvious change was the adoption of cutaway rear spats and a full width windscreen replacing the divided pane. Power grew slightly as the cylinder head was upgraded to ‘B’ type spec (a production version of the C-type race car head). Amazing as it might seem, the interior became even more luxurious as the back of the front seats sprouted picnic tables, which of course became a Jaguar trademark. But it wasn’t until 1958 that power steering was thankfully offered as an option. Perhaps the most radical stage came in October 1958 when the VIII metamorphosed into the MkIX. Externally it remained very similar but under the bonnet sat the now famous 3.8-litre version of the XK engine pushing out a very potent 220bhp. Disc brakes all round (the fi rst Jag to be so equipped, incidentally) now stopped this charging 35cwt monster, thank goodness, while power steering became standardised (ditto). These big old majestic motors gave way to the sleek Mk10, which although was more in line with the start of the swinging sixties rather lost the plot when it came to good taste and style.


There is no way of disguising the fact that Jaguar’s grand old ladies are big cars – even by big car standards. But these old Jags aren’t the big bloated barges they naturally appear like. It’s hard to imagine the impact of this car back in the fi fties when the zero to sixty dash in around
12 seconds was considered very rapid – today, that’s small diesel territory of course but it’s the way the big cats so it that still impresses. There’s an enormous amount of roll through the corners but that’s what all cars of this period did. That said even on cross-ply tyres, grip is good and better on radials. It’s no Mk2 of course but strangely satisfying all the same. And even if it does let go, that cat’s twitchy tail is easy to halt. But few will throw such an old girl around as these grand old ladies are usually driven with appropriate respect and indeed cultured cruising is what these Jags were made for.

That old Moss gearbox can be hard work mind; it’s on the down-shifts that the unwary can be caught out with this slow old unit. Top to third is fi ne but moving further down into second requires a deft touch. Although many prefer manual, the DG auto shouldn’t be overlooked – most MkIXs will be self-shifters anyway. Interestingly, despite the car’s size and weight, braking qualities have never been an issue; whether they are early drums or later discs, the system is effi cient enough as long as due respect is given (and can be uprated if desired). These big old Jags boasted refi nement not far short of Rolls-Royce standards and even today feel nicely refi ned. There’s massive of room inside – and how often can you say that about a Jaguar – for up to six if the bench front seat is fi tted (as on auto versions).


Great news, any of the range represents tremendous value with prices rarely topping £20,000, although we’ve seen some specimen examples seriously creeping up in value of late. Good cars can be had in the sub £10K category and restoration projects can be bought very reasonably but unless you have access to a proper body shop then beware – this is a big expensive car to restore. Unusually, it is not the very fi rst of the line with the biggest following but the quite superb MkVIIM. With £10-£15K to spend, you should pick up a very decent example.


If you think that you can turn a big old Jag into an E-type eater then think again. However, the car was very competitive in its day in various classes of motorsport, even winning the Monte Carlo rally, and a few similar-style upgrades can make one better suited to modern roads. Unlike other Jaguar models, little in the way of modernising has been marketed for these cars. But E-type engined cars have been done over the years, and as the chassis is loosely XK-based can be uprated in the same way. Bringing the brakes up to spec by perhaps installing the rear disc set up found on the MkIX (you can even fi t exotic four-pot callipers at the front if you wish) to stop this heavy two-tonner is a worthy mod. And given the sheer age of the range, renewing worn tired suspension and steering parts (weak suspension bushes playing a major role here) will transform the on-road performance to levels that will satisfy most owners not quite after rally-like handling abilities.

What To Look For

  • There is not a car built in the 50s that will not rust and the MkVII-IX is no exception. Luckily though, the basic chassis unit usually escapes the car cancer.
  • A good starting point would be to open a back door and look at the inner wheelarch where it fl ows next to the seat. Most cars will have some corrosion here and it is easy to bodge. Run a small magnet down to check. Don’t let it put you off though as a good repair can easily be done.
  • Front wings corrode along the bottom edge as well as the area around the sidelights and front lower edge. Doors are big, heavy and are adjusted by shims. As water will get past the glass, the bottom skin and shell will rot out. Back wings seem to fare better though. Bonnet and boot-lid usually escape attack.
  • The area to mistrust most of all is where the body mounts on the chassis. Outriggers run from the inner sill to mate with outriggers on the chassis. There’s plenty of room to move underneath so check everything, shine a torch into every crevice.
  • The spares situation isn’t as grim as you’d imagine and Worcester Classic Spares Ltd (Tel: 01905 821569 www. has made it its business to help and can supply just about everything an owner might need and this includes a comprehensive parts brochure.
  • Engines are likely to be long lived as they tend not to be thrashed as they would be in a Mk2. Listen for rattles at the front, most likely worn timing chains. The top is nominally adjustable but this is to take up initial settling in and stretch. Replacement is the best answer but this involves an engine strip down.
  • What sounds like noisy tappets could be just that (valve clearances are set by shims so it is not an easy diy job) but it could also be loose tappet guides. That involves head removal and some engineering work. Oil pressure should run over 40psi while driving but can drop to around 10 on tick-over. Look for smoke when accelerating and de-accelerating. This signifi es worn bores or valve guides.
  • It’s a myth is that all Jaguars overheat at the slightest sign of traffi c. In fact this couldn’t be further from the truth, especially with the MkVII-IX series. With that huge radiator and large engine bay, heat is dissipated very quickly. The problem occurs when anti-freeze (or inhibitor) is left out. The water will attack both the block and all aluminium components and silt will soon form and block the waterways, yet it is all completely avoidable as long as the coolant is changed every three years or so and the correct mix of anti-freeze used.
  • Lucas, the prince of Darkness is said to be the Achilles heal resulting in dodgy electrics. This could be correct if the original components are not checked. Old wiring looms become brittle and crack, leading to the point where they could be dangerous. Fortunately wiring harnesses are available and components can be reconditioned. The Moss gearbox has a poor reputation but it essentially a very strong unit. Problems arise through misuse and although the ‘box can be repaired, parts are scarce. The DG automatic ‘box is also a tough unit but time and poor servicing will tell.
  • Lifted from the XK in design, the front suspension is long lasting with the front torsion bars easily adjustable. Conventional ball-joints top and bottom are long lasting if greased, too. Alas, while the top joint can be replaced by a later item, bottoms are unique to the XK and MkVII-IX. All are available though. Leaking engine oil and age takes its toll on the wishbone rubbers.requiring a strip-down, which is no bad thing plus the car will ride so much better for it.
  • Although both the manual and power steering boxes are extremely strong, there are few able to carry out a proper repair on the power box. If this has failed, new old stock items have been known to turn up, otherwise it will have to be a known good second-hand unit.
  • There’s a lot of leather inside and if replacement is needed, it will be horrendously expensive – much dearer than a Mk2. It has been known for good second-hand interiors to turn up, as many cars have been broken for parts due to body rust. Nevertheless, trim kits are available. Mike Turley of MCT Interiors holds Jaguars original patterns.
  • With half a forest inside, the veneer is rarely as bad as if fi rst might seem. What initially appears to be dull and cracked is usually just worn top varnish. With this removed, any repairs to the veneer can be done and a modern lacquer applied. Damp though, can destroy the wood and a replacement will be needed. These are available.
  • All models run on 16” wheels, unique to the model, so there is no chance of fi tting Mk2 or XJ rims. Tyres used to be a problem with many using van or 4 x 4 applications. These days, there is a variety of makes available in both cross-ply and radial. If you must drop to 15”, then there is an American rim that will suit – usually Chevrolet; but you will have to experiment.
  • America was a prime market and it holds many survivors. Consider bringing a car home from a dry state (California, Texas. NOT Florida). The paint may have faded and it might need mechanical work but it will be rust free. Just check out duty levels though as it seems that the UK government are milking this a bit.

Three Of A Kind

Daimler Major/ Majestic Major
Daimler Major/ Majestic Major
As stately as the Jaguar, the staid Daimler has an ace up its sleeve – a wonderful 4.5-litre V8, fitted to Major Majestic models. Daimlers went as well as the rival Jags too, and had just as much class and dignity. Remember that the Majestic models lasted into production until 1968 – most used as funeral cars. Parts supply and rust are the biggest woes plus these cars have little real world value.
Jaguar MK10
Jaguar MK10
Replacement for the earlier chassis-built cats, the all monocoque Mk10 was more a ‘geezer’s car than gentlemen carriage although it’s a lot more modern to drive with E-type IRS rear for grip and comfort. Revised ’64 models with lustier 4.2-litre engine and improved power steering best of them all.Lots of car for the money and still spectacular value but most have been well doctored due to lowly residuals. A massive car to park and store too.
Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud
Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud
The car that the Jaguar tried to be – and almost succeeded – lives in the shadows of the Silver Shadow. Last of the chassis built Rollers, the Silver Cloud is all you’d expect from an old R-R. V8 for 1959 but older silky six pot is okay and easier tomaintain. Rust can berampant and the car fi endishly complex to properly restore. Identical Bentleys command slightly higher values and so fakes are not unknown.


Let’s face it, this is not the most obvious Jaguar saloon choice to make… But think again, look at what these big cats have to offer and reconsider. It really is a cut price Roller with GT-like pace and, remember, that the engine can easily be upgraded to E-type spec and more if desired! If you want a classic to saunter around in and be admired then you’ll love these overlooked Coventry cruisers. Indeed the late Queen Mother had a MkVII and rather than part with it, Jaguar upgraded it as each model came out. It is now in the JDHT museum. Oh yes… you may need a lock up the size of a museum to garage one!

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Britians top classic cars bookazine
Britians top classic cars bookazine