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Jaguar MK2

Jaguar MK2 Published: 15th May 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
Jaguar MK2
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Why Stuart reluctantly swapped his for a new XJ6

Sadness was mixed with eager anticipation when my two wonderful years running a Jaguar 240 were coming to an end, because it was to be replaced by Jaguar’s latest success, the XJ6; and I was to have the new saloon over the weekend. But Friday afternoon ended with still no sign of the XJ in which I had planned to drive up to North Wales to stay with relatives. Jaguar’s press assistant, Jim Graham, was going to deliver it but he explained that there was going to be a delay. Engineering, he said, were not happy with it.

They never were, and Jaguar test cars were notorious for late arrival. The same had happened when the new E-type was to be revealed to the press at the Eaux Vivres restaurant in Geneva. Press officer Bob Berry had driven it out through the night, only to be greeted in Geneva by Sir William Lyons saying: “Where the hell have you been?” But the saving grace for me came when Jim Graham said that he would happily drive up to Machynlleth in the XJ6 and do the changeover there. It meant that I could have one last long drive in my beloved 240 before handing it over back to Jaguar.

It was late on Saturday evening before he arrived complete with girl friend, and after a quick cup of tea they declined the offer of a meal and departed. I wandered out in the dark to have a look at the XJ6, and as soon as I opened the door the interior lights showed a large bunch of keys lying by the transmission selector. They might be the keys to his fl at so I wondered if I would be able to catch him on the long road to Welshpool.

At once the unfamiliar XJ6 seemed enormously wide and so much bigger than the 240 as I took it cautiously down the long drive and through the narrow gateway of my aunt’s house, but fortunately there they were at the bottom of the drive studying the map, and very grateful to have their keys back! In the dark but with the lights on, I saw the 240 for the last time.

A purr-fect tourer

Running that car for 24,000 miles had been a wonderful experience, always at its best on a long journey on fast roads. I took it up to Scotland to cover the Glasgow Motor Show and twice out to Germany for the famous Marathon de la Route four-day endurance rally at the Nürburgring. It was on the fi rst of these trips to Germany that we nearly had a disaster. Colleague Innes Ireland (an ex Lotus GP driver who gave Chapman his fi rst victory-ed) was going to drive for Lancia in the rally and had asked if we could take him out there. Inevitably, he wanted to drive most of the way, and I was asleep in the back when I woke noticing a smell of hot oil. I looked across at the instruments, saw oil pressure and temperature OK, and then realised and gave a shout: “Innes, you’re not in bloody overdrive.” Innes worked the switch, bringing the revs down from 6500rpm – well off the scale of the rev counter – and said: “Sorry, fella.”

He could never bother with names… In contrast, I normally used to cruise the 240 at about 90mph, corresponding to 4200rpm in overdrive which is very much its top gear, and would usually get around 20-21mpg. Jaguars used to be notorious for high oil consumption but this 240 normally gave a more acceptable 650 miles per pint.

My Honey Mist (Stuart also described it as “accident safety yellow” in his April 1969 report-ed) long term Mk2 was something of a hybrid, having the latest 133bhp engine and other improvements introduced in August 1967 but still with the old style – and more practical – bumpers with large over-riders. Acceleration was never any 2.4’s strong point although it was considerably improved by the uprated 240 unit with its E-type-style cylinder head, taking 25 seconds to go from rest to 80mph (13.6 to 60mph), but the gears were well-spaced with third allowing a maximum of the legal limit.

Earlier I had enjoyed a lot of miles driving the Jaguar 3.4 which was the company car provided for our technical editor Harry Mundy (he also designed the legendary Lotus Twin Cam engine), and the contrast in performance was very marked. Harry, as a technical man, had been most intrigued by the newly announced Citroën DS with its complicated hydraulic systems, and pleaded with management to let him have one as his staff car. The request was declined, and the Jaguar 3.4 was the compensation – I certainly know which one of these two I would have chosen…

Soon after I took over the 240 in September 1967 I was a little disappointed by the car’s noise level. It didn’t seem as quiet as I remembered from that first 2.4 which I had driven in 1956, and much of it seemed to be created by the cooling fan. A significant improvement was made by removing the big 12-blade fan – which did not even have a viscous coupling – and replacing it with a Kenlowe electric fan. As well as cutting down on noise, this raised the maximum speed from 106 to 111mph, bringing a lot of correspondence from an angry reader who had calculated the extra power that would be needed for this increase and said that the fan belt could never have transmitted so many bhp. However it was achieved, the increase in top speed was confirmed.

The other modification I made was simply to remove the interior door handles from the back doors, because there were no child locks. I had followed a car into a roundabout and seen a child fall out of the back door of the car in front, fortunately uninjured, and certainly didn’t want that to happen with my mischievous three-year old.

Big cat hated the cold

It was unfortunate that the house I lived in while I had the Jaguar had a very steep drive, and the car hated climbing that on a cold engine. I had to start the engine with the manual choke lever at maximum, progressively reduce the mixture, and then enrich it again for the assault on the drive which had to be done with much slipping of the clutch. This perhaps accounts for the fact that the only main repair that had to be carried out in 24,000 miles was to replace the clutch which had no doubt suffered from my cold start ascents up the driveway.

Maintenance was always carried out very well by Henlys of north London, and there were not many jobs to be done. A slight leak of coolant was cured by replacing the radiator, and the clock which had stopped was repaired, both under warranty. It says much for the longevity of the Jaguar that when I handed it over after 24,132 miles and 18 months, it was still on its original tyres, brake pads, exhaust system and battery. The price of the 240 had increased only £36 from the £1465 which it had cost in 1956 (including purchase tax) to £1501 eleven years later. Just a month before parting with the car I had left it temporarily at a used car dealer while testing one of the trader’s second-hand wares, and was told that a trade buyer had offered £1000 cash for it on sight. It had taken a lot of persuasion to convince him that my 240 was not for sale! Depreciation was running at only £200 a year. Now, of course, appreciation is the word…

The chief drawback of the 240, apparent in the first few miles, is the heaviness of the steering and the vagueness of the control although the stability of the car, even in cross winds, is excellent. Probably most wellpreserved Mk2 Jaguars have by now been fitted with power steering which should alleviate this criticism. The other weakness of the car is that it is not at best in the winter. Jag heaters were inherently poor and the engine takes a long time to warm up after a cold night.

But these penalties are offset by the comfort, relaxed fast cruising, the excellent visibility, and the delightful instrumentation. If you can find a good Jaguar Mk2, even a humble 2.4, my advice is to go for it and enjoy!



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