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Jaguar MKVII-IX Published: 6th Jun 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Best model?
  • Worst model: Anything decrepid
  • Budget buy: MkVIII
  • OK for unleaded?: Should be okay
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): mm L4991 x W1854
  • Spares situation: Rather good in the main
  • DIY ease?: Good but heavy duty
  • Club support: Very good
  • Appreciating asset?: Values have quietly soared
  • Good buy or good-bye?: A different kind of Jag for many, genuine R-R rival
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Large, luxurious Jaguar of the 50s that offers Rolls-like status, style and sensuality at lower costs. Good value but restoration costs can be E-type epic so buy with care

The term Big Cat is given to the finest of felines that have real presence and can roar. They are invariably an endangered species. This just about sums up the gigantic Jaguar of the 1950s which had most of the qualities of a Rolls-Royce, Bentley or Lagonda but with a sportier slant at half the price. Unloved and shunned for decades, there has been a resurgence of interest over the past five years with justification.

These big luxobarges, which were once the preferred choice transport of spivs and wide boys (remember Dickie Attenborough in the thought provoking I’m alright Jack?-ed), have style and space to spare and their rarity (just over 300 remain) will ensure endearing and enduring interest and being a Jag, impart that special sense of occasion that only a car coming from Browns Lane can. With the model’s 70th birthday looming what a great time to go on the prowl.


1950 MkVII is unveiled at the Earls Court motor show, replacing Jaguar’s MkV (there was no MkVI, to avoid confusion with Bentley’s car of the same name). Aimed at the US market, most of the 20,937 examples built crossed the pond. Mechanically, it’s XK120 and it’s said that the success of that sports car that bankrolled the big cat project.

1954 An overdrive option kicks off the year, then a facelift is unveiled in the autumn; known unoficially as the MkVIIM, this revised model has wraparound rear bumpers, repositioned auxiliary lamps, flashing indicators instead of semaphores plus simplified bumpers front and rear. There’s also a more powerful 3.4-litre engine (190bhp instead of 160bhp) care of XK140 cams, closer stacked gearbox ratios to suit together with a firmer suspension now with telescopic rear damping.

1956 Further revisions almost two years to the month result in the MkVIII, with more power gains (now a hearty 210bhp), a single-piece windscreen, cut-away rear wheel spats and adjustments to the interior design – power steering is also an option and a very welcome one.

1958 The MkIX arrives; it’s simply a MkVIII with standard power steering, disc brakes all round and a bigger capacity engine (in common with the XK sportster now up to 3.8-litres with B-type cylinder head). Unusually, the MkIX sells alongside the MkVIII for the first year; by the time production is wound up in late 1961, total production of all variants stands at 47,190.

Driving and press comments

Even with their C-Type front suspension parts and a fair dollop of XK components, don’t run away with the notion that these Jags are luxury tin-top sportsters. They certainly share a similar character and aura but with a large lumbering limo of Rolls-Royce proportions, the MkVII-MkIX9 are never going to anything but cumbersome although they did enjoy decent motorsport success – winning the Monte Carlo rally no less in 1956! – until the Mk1/Mk2 came along and are far superior to similar luxobarges of this era.

There’s an enormous amount of roll through the corners, of course but that’s what all cars of this period did. It’s no Mk2, of course, but better than an equivalent Rolls or Bentley and – happily – almost as comfortable and refined even if that old Moss gearbox can be hard work to use. However, 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 efficient enough as long as due respect is given (and can be uprated if desired). It’s hard to imagine the impact of this car back in the fifties when the zero to sixty dash in around 12 seconds was considered rapid.

As one of the fastest, largest and most luxurious cars of its era, any tester who got their hands on a MkVII, MkVIII or MkIX in period, invariably came away gushing about its brilliance. After all, as some of the most capable cars in their day, few rivals offered such a wide range of talents.

In 1952, Autocar ran a MkVII on a long-term test, reporting on it after 16,000 miles – including entering it into the 1952 Alpine Rally! It was on this event that the car’s low gearing became apparent; a lack of power assistance on these early cars meant the driver was rather busy on twisty Alpine bends, but in everyday driving it’s something that you soon get used to.

It helped that the wide range of seating adjustment – along with an adjustable steering column – allowed drivers to each find a comfortable driving position, so they could grip the steering wheel firmly. Meanwhile, the fitment of a servo for the all-round drum brakes helped to reduce pedal pressures, the system allowing the MkVII to pull up squarely, time after time.

What stood out the most though, was the MkVII’s comfort levels, the Jaguar swallowing five occupants – along with their luggage – with ease. There’s heaps of room inside – how often can you say that about a Jag – for up to six if the bench front seat is fitted (autos). The suspension soaked up the bumps no matter how bad, and maintaining an 80-85mph cruise was something the car thrived on unlike its major rivals. Predictably, fuel economy could take a bashing with all this high-speed driving – consumption could be anywhere between 16-22mpg, with 18mpg being fairly typical for most users.

If the MkVII had impressed Autocar, the MkIX was even better: “Designs for a car to suit all tastes, requirements and bank balances are beyond the capabilities of the most brilliant engineers, yet a select few of the motoring world’s current products are distinguished by their exceptional combination of virtues and abilities. Of truly international good repute in the large-car category, Jaguars offer an unparalleled synthesis of comfort, high performance, quality and value for money. Of the range, the most luxurious is the MkIX saloon, introduced at Earls Court this year to supplement the MkVIII”.

The magazine went on: “It is to the joint credit of the engine and transmission partnership that the MkIX’s passengers are rarely aware of the rate at which they are swept away from a standstill. Without any sports car kick in the back, the Jaguar will defeat practically all competition from traffic lights to reach 30mph regularly in just about four seconds, regardless of the driver’s skill and experience”.

Values and marketplace

Although prices of these gigantic Jags have shot up of late, they still represent great value – especially if you buy one in merely average condition and make good as you go, providing years of sterling service, with superb reliability and rarity. The late Simon Whitworth said: “You’ll pay less for one of these than a Mk2, yet the MkVII, MkVIII and MkIX offer more space, a sporting drive and they’re much more unusual.

“These are also cars that have a real presence thanks to their generous dimensions – and it’s that bulk that makes them so comfortable and such a great vehicle in which to drive long distances”.

Worcester Classic Spares (www. was until lately run by Simon Whitworth and is one of the few specialists for these Jags as many only deal in the XKs or the Mk1 and Mk2 saloons. Despite his recent untimely death the company is still going to be family run.

A staunch supporter of these big cats, he once told us values of these Jaguars have climbed significantly in recent years – especially at the top end. Not half – prices for the very best now match Mk2 residuals with £50,000 the going rate although around themed 30s is more common. The MkVIII fetches around 10 per cent less because it’s something of an in-between edition – although they are rarest big cat of all which may swing future values its way – but MkVII is popular with those who want to take part in historic motorsport plus because it shares quite a few parts with the XK120, it’s also the MkVII that the purists like.

The MkIX is the ultimate variation on the theme as it featured a 3.8-litre engine in place of the 3.4-litre unit of earlier editions – it’s also fitted with disc brakes all round. The MkVIII has drum brakes, but if properly maintained they’re perfectly up to the job – so if you want the most car for your money, it’s arguably this model you should be homing in on.

It can be worth importing a car from Australia or the US, due to their drier climates although you need to buy with care. Ship in something that’s left-hand drive and it’ll probably cost too much to convert to UK spec, unless you’ve already got a donor car available.

By the same token, don’t expect to pick up a parts car readily though – and when they do crop up they can be pretty pricey; around ten grand for a what you see is what you get project. Talking of which, don’t think you’ll make heaps of money on restoring a wreck because the bodywork and interior are hugely expensive to put right properly. Buy well from the outset.


This is not the car to start embarrassing GTi drivers with although you can make them look twice! Aside from the usual upgrades that you can apply to any fifties’ classic – such as improved lighting and electronic ignition – there’s little else you can do other than opt for one of the few conversions that’s worth considering – all round disc brakes on the MkVII and MkVIII, for instance. They’re not actually needed because a properly maintained drum is adequate for normal motoring – but the disc system offers more reassuring stopping power, and these are very big cars. Converting can cost up to £2000 though. Handling can be sharpened with harder dampers and springs and a 7/8in antil roll bar suggests expert Ken Jenkins. Being the XK engine there’s a lot of potential. If it needs a new unit, then the lustier 4.2 engine seems a better move for this heavyweight as opposed to hot tuning.

A purring big cat

All these cars are powered by the classic XK straight-six, which is well supported by specialists. Ensure the engine doesn’t sound hollow or rattly and ensure the oil is clean; walk away if it’s like tar. The key is to budget for a rebuild as soon as the engine shows signs of wear; delay things and the bills will quickly mount, especially if something breaks. If this sounds like a guaranteed recipe for disaster, nothing could be further from the truth. A cherished considerately driven engine will rack up 300,000 miles quite happily – the key thing is unstinting 3000-mile oil and filter changes – but an overhaul is the thick end of four grand.

The XK engine features a cast-iron block and alloy cylinder head. Because of the latter, anti-freeze levels must be maintained or internal corrosion is guaranteed. Even a well-maintained engine will need a fresh radiator every 5-10 years depending on use, so you may need to budget for this at £220 plus fitting. Expect oil pressure of 45-55psi when cruising, once the engine is up to temperature, or 60-70psi when the coolant is cold.

The construction of the 3.8-litre engine is different from its smaller siblings, as it features cylinder liners; the pistons of a 3.4-litre engine run within the block. As a result, the 3.8-litre powerplant has an extra water gallery at the top of the block, although the heads are similar. The result of this is a tendency for the 3.8 unit to run slightly hotter, leading to an increase in oil consumption, depending on state of the engine, of course.

A contented cat is indicated by silent timing chains but you should just about hear the tappets; if not they’ve closed up and require re-shimming which is ideally a head off job and so while you’re about it, an old fashioned decoke is worth carrying out at the same time.

I bought one

As a long-standing Jaguar fan with a collection of classic cats, Alan Harris knows a thing or two about the products of Browns Lane, and he’s clearly smitten by the MkIX that he bought six years ago. Alan is also the chairman of the Jaguar MkVII-MkIX committee for the Jaguar Drivers’ Club.

Says Alan: “My MkIX has a manual gearbox and when you consider that 98 per cent of these cars were fitted with an automatic transmission, this is quite an unusual car. I really wanted a manual-gearbox car though, so I bought this one despite the fact that it needed a lot of attention to the bodywork. The whole bottom six inches of the panelling needed to be restored – the lower wings, door bottoms, sills and valances were all rotten. But repair sections are available for all of these areas and they’re made to a good standard, plus they’re very reasonably priced.

“The bodywork construction is quite complicated as five different panels all meet in the area behind the back doors. For this reason you have to be very careful before taking on a car that needs significant bodywork as it’s easy to spend a lot more than the car is worth.

“Once the car had been finished and was in use, I came across a red MkIX that had been in storage for more than 30 years. Having covered just a low mileage the car needed no welding at all, just recommissioning, which I did before enjoying it for a year then selling the car on. As a result I’ve got experience of MkIXs with manual and automatic transmissions, which isn’t something that many people can say.

“I must admit that the automatic is well matched to the MkIX’s 3.8-litre engine, but on balance I prefer the manual. Whichever gearbox is fitted, these cars make superb tourers as they’re so spacious and comfy, with a huge boot. However, while it’s easy to think of these stately Jaguars as particularly big, they’re actually smaller than a BMW 5-Series.

“A poorly maintained car will never be rewarding to own or to drive. At any one time there are few of these cars for sale and many of the cars that do come onto the market aren’t in good condition. You have to invest in these cars and some owners don’t, despite the fact that parts availability is excellent and they’re not difficult to work on. My own car is utterly dependable which is why I take it all over the UK. I’ve fitted a taller back axle ratio for more relaxed cruising (3.77:1 instead of the original 4.57:1), plus it’s got a thermostatic electric cooling fan and a single 12-volt battery in place of the two six-volt batteries originally fitted. But the car is otherwise as it left the factory”.

What To Look For

Gigantic jags in general

There’s more MkIXs left than the rest of this cat family – 150, three times that of the MkVIII – with the MkVII’s tally standing at just under 130.

Don’t take on a temptingly cheap project too readily. Restoring one is costly because there is so much of it to do and lavishly appointed plus spares are rarer than those of other Jags. On that note, don’t under-estimate the size of these cars; at 16 feet and four inches long (that’s fi ve metres), it’s modern MPV-sized, so you’ll need a lot of garage space to accommodate one.

Parts supply isn’t that bad. Mechanically, it shares a lot of XK components (try old Jag fan Ken Jenkins) while Worcester Classic Spares produces a wide ranging parts and trim catalogue; between them and eBay most of what you need is around although scarcity has seen prices take a hike: chrome side strips dividing two-tone paint jobs cost almost £600 for example .

Big body blues

Like all 50’s cars, rust-proofing was poor and there are plenty of rust traps. Start at the front wings, around the snout; the lead-loaded area around the sidelights and the lower edges can also cause problems. The sills are another weak spot – especially where they’re masked by the front wings; inner and outer ones come to just under £200. Entire front wings aren’t made, just repair sections at £73 with rear panels £141.

Other weak spots include the floorpans, A, B and D-posts plus the area where the sills meet the floorpan. The sunroof gutters rot away; also open and close the roof, as it can seize shut. The rear valance (£146) inside the boot has a tendency to corrode too, as does the boot lid lip, the area around the fuel tanks (there’s one in each rear wing) and the front bulkhead – especially the area around the battery tray.

Underpinning these Jags is a massive chassis that rarely rots badly, as it’s so substantially constructed. The key areas to check are the outriggers and the rear spring hangers, along with the rearmost chassis sections and the areas at the front where the anti-roll bar brackets are welded on.

Is the running gear right?

All came with a four-speed Moss gearbox or a three-speed Borg Warner DG auto. The Moss transmission is a familiar unit; reliable but old fashioned. With synchromesh on all gears except first, it is also rather noisy but just ensure it doesn’t jump out of gear as you simply won’t find the bits for a rebuild these days. Ditto DG parts are also scarce to the point of some being obsolete.

Unassisted steering boxes tend to be reliable, PAS can leak, often because the £8.60 filter hasn’t been changed meaning the dirty oil wrecks the seals.

The suspension is robust, with tired rear leaf springs the most likely malady due to the car’s sheer weight. Dampers cost £113 a go from Worcester. The ball joints in the front suspension also wear but replacements are available; fresh top items are £29.14 a piece while a kit for the bottom is £37 per side. Bushes cost from £4.90 but there are lots of them to renew…

Brakes can be pricey to overhaul with master cylinders priced at £314 (repair kits just £16.60 tops however), rear wheel cylinders almost £100 a side, front discs £146 each and servos have to be specially repaired. Ken Jenkins says use Dot3 fluid for drum brakes but 5.1 spec for disc brakes as they run hotter.

Three Of A Kind

Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire 346
Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphire 346
Few car makers were as prim and proper as Armstrong-Siddeley with the firm’s last car built almost 60 years ago. A thriving owners’ club and keen pricing for models such as the Sapphire 346 (good ones only £15K) ensure the cars are worth a closer look. A smooth, 3.4-litre straight-six gives 95mph while there’s ample space for five to travel in comfort. Spares and help isn’t much of a problem and they ooze class.
Austin A125/A135
Austin A125/A135
As with the Jags, these coachbuilt machines offer class, presence and comfort at tempting prices. From 1947 to 1956 they were sold as Austins; from 1957 they were badged Vanden Plas. Power comes from a 4.0-litre straight-six that was also used by Jensen with a choice of saloon, landaulette or limousine all offered; none are worth a lot now – about the same as an Armstrong-Siddeley but values are rising.
Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud
Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud
The Silver Cloud marked the start of a new era for Rolls, with bodies now built in-house. But the car retained the marque’s core values of comfort, space, performance and refinement. They’re worth a heap more than the Jaguar MkVII-MkIX and values are still climbing, especially for the coachbuilt models, although the gap is closing. Don’t forget the the identical albeit rarer Bentley models.


Large, opulent Jaguars primarily designed for the American market that are on par with a rival Rolls of that era yet sportier to drive – and rarer – these colossal cats have so much to recommend them so long as you buy a pampered big cat and keep it purring.

Classic Motoring

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