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Jaguar MK 1

One and Only Published: 19th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar MK 1

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 3.4 MOD
  • Worst model: 2.4
  • Budget buy: 2.4
  • OK for unleaded?: Needs convert/additive
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 4590 x 1700
  • Spares situation: Not as good as the Mk2
  • DIY ease?: Okay, but some jobs are heavy duty
  • Club support: Superb
  • Appreciating asset?: Very much so
  • Good buy or good-bye?: As worthy as any MK2
Evergreen XK unit is faster in MK1; most 2.4s (identifi ed by lower engine height) have been upgraded to 3.4 Evergreen XK unit is faster in MK1; most 2.4s (identifi ed by lower engine height) have been upgraded to 3.4
Although the same shape as the MK2, earlier car has less glass area. 2.4s also have covered rear tyre spats Although the same shape as the MK2, earlier car has less glass area. 2.4s also have covered rear tyre spats

Model In Depth...

3.4 is more sporty but 2.4 is fi ne for classic cruising 3.4 is more sporty but 2.4 is fi ne for classic cruising
Isn’t this nicer than the MK2’s cabin? There’s even more wood and trim to restore so budget accordingly Isn’t this nicer than the MK2’s cabin? There’s even more wood and trim to restore so budget accordingly
Solex carbs on 2.4s but many converted to better SUs Solex carbs on 2.4s but many converted to better SUs
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While the MK2 gets all the plaudits, it’s easy to overlook the original and some reckon Jag’s best small sports saloon

Pros & Cons

Style, rarity, 3.4 pace, value for money
Parts supply not as good as MK2, nervy handling

The Jaguar 2.4 was the fi rst post-war small Jaguar and in many ways still the most signifi cant. Powered by a small bore XK engine, it was the fi rst Jag to use a modern monocoqueconstruction and started a range that became the mainstay of the company, selling in large numbers and attracting a younger clientele. Originally known just as the 2.4 and 3.4, this range later became referred to as the MK1 in 1960 afterthe MK2 was launched a year earlier. Although most enthusiasts regard the MK2 as the Jaguar to have, the MK1 was a revelation in its day. They’re very similar to the MK2 – indeed there’s more purity to the design and style. And let’s face it, they’re different and a lot rarer than the MK2!


A four pot xk was considered but was too rough

There had been no ’small’ Jaguar since 1949 and Lyons was aiming the 2.4 at a developing, post-war executive market and the competitive prices and spor ty styling and specification ensured that these younger customers would buy in their droves, something that its modern replacement, the X-Type failed to emulate. Yet the MK1, which virtually stole the show at Earl’s Court in October 1955, was muchmore than a new model for Browns Lane. It represented a transitional change in design and manufacturing processes for Jaguar, shaping and infl uencing all future Coventry cats, yet it’s still virtually ignored. The importance of the MK1 for Jaguar can’t be over emphasised. It was the most modern car yet to leave Browns Lane and was aimed at an entirely new type of buyer. Before the MK1 (and even though Lyons made small cars before the war), Jaguar was better known for its big luxury cars. But ever the visionary, Lyons could see a change in buying tastes and attitudes during the optimistic 1950s and needed a car to capture the new sports saloon market, which at that time was dominated by Rover, Daimler and Riley. Apart from the fi ne MG Magnette ZA, the MK1 had them all licked because, unlike the rest, it was fresh, modern and very sporty. And cracking value at ten shillings under £1270 – not even £100 more expensive than the soonto- be-launched MK2 Ford Zodiac! This was some achievement by the bean counters, a Jaguar adopted the new-fangled unitary construction practice for the MK1. It had switched from coach-built in the late 30s and embraced pressed steel build just after the war, but a monocoque body demanded a tremendous investment, both in actual car design, factory production techniques – and money. The 2.4 was originally to have been fi tted with the four-cylinder version of the XK unit, but it lacked the refi nement needed in this part of the market, so the six-cylinder 3441cc XK engine was de-stroked to 2483cc cutting power from 160bhp to 112bhp.The unitary construction was new to Jaguar and the engineers were taking no chances with this technology, which explains the thick pillars, which were exaggerated on the MKI with its smaller windows as opposed to the glassier MK2. The MK1 employed coil springs instead of torsion bars from the larger saloons and XK sports cars although the rear leaf springs, telescopic shock absorbers and hydraulic drums were carried over – disc brakes were then just the germ of an idea in an engineer’s mind. The trusty Moss four-speed gearbox was also used with overdrive and automatic transmission was optional. The re-circulating ball steering mechanism was also from the existing MKV11/ XK 120/140 sportsters. Jaguar had always managed to create high levels of interior luxury at very attractive prices and the MK1 was no exception with high quality leather, wood and precision instruments – stilla wonderful ambience that arguably betters the later MK2. Interestingly, two levels of trim were offered, standard and SE, but you’ll only fi nd the SpecialEquipment version. The standard model was a showroom special, that is the cheapest model on offer to entice buyers. Although £40 less, the Standard model lacked too much – rev counter, ashtrays, fog lamps, rear armrestwindscreen washers and so on. As a result, it was quickly and quietly dropped. At only 60lb lighter than an XK, the 2.4’s performance was more than adequate for the UK, but the American market demanded something more effortless. So, in 1957 the 3.4 was launched with its fuller 210bhp, XK engine. A massive 87.5 per cent power increase naturally transformed the Jag’s performance to the point where the suspension, brakes and narrow rear track were taxed to the limit, particularly in the hands of customers with more money than skill!

The braking problem was solved by the option of all-round, Dunlop discs in 1958 and few 3.4s left Brown’s Lane with drum brakes thereafter. The handling diffi culties, such as a slippery tail, would have to wait until the MK2 came on stream in 1959. It did the job, putting Jaguar on the saloon car map. Autocar hailed the MK1 its car of the year back in 1955 even after the testers criticised its meagre visibility: “It is quietly very effi cient indeed, providing unstinted luxury, fi ne performance and roadworthiness”. In the US, Road & Track heaped similar praise yet its testers reckon that the Jag needed more go and a stiffer ride (amazing when you consider what the Yanks dished up as good handling cars!). The 3.4 was even better received, although many thought that early drum braked versions were woefully inadequate. Nevertheless: “The 3.4 saloon sums up luxury touring in a high speed car that defi es comparison,” said one road tester.

Changes to the MK1 over the four years majored on altering the rear axle mounting bushes to cure a cracking noise and welding up the Panhard Rod on unmodifi ed cars to stop it from fracturing! The front springs were lengthened in ‘56 along with altering the rear axle ratio, while overdrive 2.4s also gained a closer set of intermediates. The Solex carbs were constantly modifi ed this in the same year. A 12-blade fan was adopted for ‘58 while cars with drum brakes gained a bigger servo to reduce drum retardation. From April ’58 the 3.4 gained different rear springs to alter the camber angles plus a change to Girling dampers.


The burning question is how does a MK1 compare to the MK2? While they both handled reasonably well for their time, things have changed enormously in over half a century. The big difference is what end lets go fi rst and thanks to its narrow tapering rear track the MK1 can display rather alarming oversteer at pretty moderate speeds (reversing the rear rims was a popular and cheap trick back in the 1960s to widen the track). In contrast, the MK2 is more prone to understeer. Roll angles are also excessive on both but there’s a lot you can do to sharpen up a MK1, such as better dampers and perhaps the wider MK2 rear axle. Modern, grippier tyres have helped in this department, too. Driven appropriately, the Jag can be extremely rewarding in its own right with adequate performance, although the 2.4 was deemed too sluggish by Jaguar once the meatier 3.4 arrived on the scene. We’re talking hatchback diesel pace these days, although the MK1 at least topped the magical ton, something the heavier, less aerodynamic MK2 could ever achieve and why it was never let out for road testing. In contrast the 3.4 was a genuine scalded cat and considerably zippier than the (400lb) heavier MK2. The MK1 is almost as refi ned as the its successor on the move and the sight of that handsome XK-style, four-spoked Bluemell steering wheel and centred instruments is enough to woo any MK2 die-hard.


MK1s are pretty hard to value accurately due to their rarity. If you can fi nd one, look to pay in the region of £4000 (2.4) and up to £6000 for a restorable 3.4. At the top end, expect to shell out in the region of £20,000 (2.4), £25,000 (3.4) for a cracker and around £10-12K for a decent project. MK1s are still valued less than a compatible MK2, but the gap is closing as an increasing number of cat lovers are seeing the MK1 in a new light.


There’s only a limited amount you can do to the 2.4 engine, as logically, serious power gains are best served by the bigger units. The most natural upgrade is to go to Sept ’67 240 spec, which, along with electronic ignition, will be more than adequate for most. Jaguar used to offer various states of tune with the MK1.A myriad of camshaft and cylinder head mods saw power hiked to 131bhp and 150bhp although again simply fi tting a 240 ‘top end’ seems a cheaper method. The rear axle runs with a narrow track. Replacing it with the MK2 type (3.8 has a limited slip) helps but cutaway spats will be needed. Alternatively, MWS market bolt-on spline hubs for the rear, which effectively increases the track by half an inch. When used with off-set competition wire wheels, the track is about right. The front suspension is carried on a detachable sub-frame. Replace entire assembly with MK2 items for greater effi ciency. To get the best braking, use 420 suspension uprights as the triple pot calipers can be harnessed. In stock tune the 2.4-litre engine has a low lift cam, small diameter exhaust valve, A-type cylinder head. First stage; swap Zenith/ Stromberg carburettors for HD6 SU, preferably with MK2 B- type cylinder head or ideally, straight port head and carbs from 240/340/420. In fact, a complete engine gearbox transplant from a manual 240 gives better SU carburettors, straight port cylinder head and all synchromesh gearbox with the almost essential overdrive The 3.4 engine is already strong and quick enough for most. It could be better with a straight port cylinder head. For ultimate performance, use a 3.8 with straight port cylinder head and a pair of 420 (2”) carburettors. Triple carbs can be used but the clutch master cylinder has to be altered to clear the third carb. The are various fi ve-speed gearbox conversions on offer including the Toyota Supra, BMW type Getrag to the Dan Moony CJ5 as fi tted to new TVRs and the latest Mustang. Check with the supplier about parts for fitting. Jaguar did make its own fi ve-speed gearbox for the Series 3 XJ6, a beefed up version of the Rover SD1 unit. Tougher than you might think, it lasts well if the correct oil is used. Don’t forget the later S-type four-speed synchromesh complete with overdrive – it’ll go straight in. Less extreme mods can be employed though – it depends what you want from your MK1.

Uprated dampers and springs with new harder suspension bushes will tighten the handling and a thorough overhaul of the all discs with performance front pads will more than suffi ce (the drums are only okay if the car is left stock although harder linings may also help). For the more leisurely type, overdrive is a worthwhile investment. It raises the gearing from a fussy 17.8mph/1000rpm to a more relaxed and frugal 22.4mph. Stick with the non overdrive rear axle ratio and it’ll be even higher geared but at the expense of performance.

What To Look For

  • Few cars as rare as the MK1 enjoy such a large support network with three excellent clubs and a wide range of specialists and parts suppliers although bits are rarer than a MK2.
  • Cost-wise, it’s best to buy a properly restored car. Finding a usable unrestored model is probably impossible and restored cars have the benefi t of modern hoses, cables, electrical, steering and suspension components
  • Try to get the underside pressure washed before inspection – mud covers a multitude of sins as these cars were not built for longevity and rust everywhere. If there is extensive rust underneath leave it alone – it will not be viable to restore.
  • Non-specialist restorers always have diffi culty with panel gaps and door fi t, which could be the result of poor welding and aligning of any replacement inner wings, fl oor, bulkheads etc – all of which rust badly, as do the ‘crow’s feet’ by the front valence.
  • Although many parts look similar, components from the XK sports cars or the larger MK VII saloons aren’t the same. The MK1 also used many bits particular to the car that didn’t even fi nd their way onto the MK2.
  • Many have been upgraded to 3.4 spec, so check to see which engine is fi tted. They look the same but the smaller unit sits much lower in the engine bay and, of course, in original 2.4 form, would run on Solex carbs.
  • Look for half-hearted conversions. The heavier XK engines needed their own dedicated suspension set up while chances are the lower 2.4 rear axle may still be fi tted.
  • Naturally rust is the biggest problem. The main areas for rot are the chassis box sections, front cross-member (particularly at its ‘crow’s feet’ which are welded to the valance and crossmember), inner sills, fl oorpan, outer sills, door bottoms, wings and the car’s ‘nose’, which rots badly around the fog lamp region.
  • At the rear check the fl oor – including the boot – rear axle and leaf spring hangers – MK1s were known to fracture their rear suspension and they were modded in ‘56. Look for chassis damage caused by that skittish rear end.
  • Scrutinise the doors for alignment and the panel gaps. A small magnet is invaluable for detecting crafty fi breglass repairs and bear in mind that replacement parts aren’t as plentiful as the MK2.
  • The XK engine is well known and durable. Wear points are rattly timing chains (a tough DIY job to replace), over silent tappets that have closed up in service (requiring expert re-shimming and usually carried out alongside a decoke), oil leaks from the cam covers and that notorious rear crank oil seal. Oil pressure should be around 45lbft @ 3000rpm if okay. Expect to pay around £4000 for a well built reconditioned unit.
  • The biggest fear with an old XK engine these days concerns overheating due to overheating furred up waterways caused by second rate or spent anti-freeze.
  • On all cars, the four-speed with optional overdrive is characteristically heavy and slow to use. Watch for weak synchromesh and noise, especially on the Moss unit.
  • Clutch replacements are a major job on all and beyond the realms of many home mechanics but this can be done without dropping the front suspension if you have a super strong hoist.
  • The overdrive should kick in smoothly and speedily, if not, the oil level may be low, which will damage unit. Factory spec gearboxes with overdrive have a slightly lower fi rst gear ratio and closer intermediates but the difference is okay to live with if you simply fi t an overdrive unit to the existing ‘box.
  • The Borg Warner three-speed auto box is a lazy affair but smooth and long-lived. Inspect the fl uid: it should be clean and not smell ‘burnt’. If it does then it suggests wear.
  • Rear axles are usually robust although the driveshaft oil seal is known to weep. Incidentally axle ratios were: 4.27:1 or 4.55:1 with o/d. 3.4 cars were 3.54:1/3.77:1 respectively.
  • Worn springs and dampers are common to all so check them and bear in mind that the MK1 items differ to the MK2’s due to the lighter weight (ensure the correct replacement have been used). See that the car sits straight and true – a nose-up stance suggests that MK2 springs may have been used due to their greater availability.
  • Check the suspension for worn bushes, shot front wishbones and clapped-out swivels, which can be adjusted with shims. MK2 parts are not directly interchangeable.
  • The rear set-up was altered early in its life due to fracturing location arms and failing bushes. Apart from this just the usual checks suffi ce.
  • Seized/clapped out disc brakes are a bit of a Jag way of life. Handbrakes are notoriously ineffective and frequently play up.
  • The MK1’s large drum brakes work well enough around town but they’re really not up to highspeed modern use, although upgrades are fairly attainable and inexpensive. The optional disc brakes are much better although still require care in high-speed braking.
  • Believe it or not 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!
  • Typical spare service prices are water pump £20, drum brake linings £47, brake pads £20, clutch assembly £125.

Three Of A Kind

Rover P5
Rover P5
Launched around the same time as the MK1, the P5 Rover is also grossly overlooked. It’s as good as the MK1 for cruising and certainly a lot roomier for the family. It featured an old-fashioned but delightfully lazy and smooth straight six that matched the MK1 for pace, but most steer towards the V8 P5B, as there are some good buys to be had. Rust is the biggest worry and, of course, P5 parts supply is nothing like as good as Jag’s.
MG Magnette ZA/ZB
MG Magnette ZA/ZB
In many ways this was the ‘poor man’s’ Jaguar as it combined just as much panache and style at a lower cost with more prosaic running gear. After being overlooked for years, the ZA/ZB is fi nally gaining the recognition it deserves and prices are refl ecting this with typical strong MG parts and support from clubs and specialists. Later Farina Magnettes from 1959 aren’t anything as like as good but can be cheap sports saloons.
Austin Westminster A105
Austin Westminster A105
Not dissimilar in terms of style and status to the Jaguar, this sumptuous, lofty Austin Cambridge packed the punch of a Big Healey, care of its shared straight six 2.6 engine. Gaudier than the MK1, the Westie is just as plush with a Vanden Plas version also available. It can’t hold a candle to the MK1 as a driver’s car, but it’s a good cruiser that’s family friendly. All are rare fi nds and restoration costs outweigh the Austin’s value.


Finding the right MK1 will take time and dedication but because of its rarity, this will be a car to keepin the knowledge that it will appreciate far more than its more popular MK2 relative. If you’ve been hankering after a MK2, then just try the original fi rst – you may well prefer it.

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