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Five greatest Jaguars of all time

Five greatest Jaguars of all time Classic and Performance Car

Octane contributor Giles Chapman picks the five best Jaguars ever produced. 


The Jaguar back catalogue might well be the ultimate sweetshop for the car enthusiast. There’s nary a soul among us who wouldn’t love an E-type, an XK or an XJ, but if the pick-and-mix runs to just five specific pieces of Coventry candy, which are the ones to go for?
 

Jaguar XK120 Drophead Coupé


Jaguar XK120
 
The roadster and the fixed-head are both marginally better looking, but this must surely be the best early XK if you want to use the car a lot. It has the most comfortable cockpit and an excellent, draught-proof hood. The later 140 and 150, for sure, offered technical upgrades to improve the driving experience… but they’re not the original XK120, are they? Besides, as the drophead was introduced in 1953, it has most of the improvements added to the XK in its first few years, including the Salisbury back axle. Plus, this is the rarest XK120 variant.
 

Jaguar D-type Long Nose


Jaguar D-type Long Nose

D-types finished 1-2-3-4-6 at Le Mans in 1957, so any of those cars, or one of the handful of others that exist, will do nicely. Jaguar’s amazing sports-racer, with its monocoque construction and disc brakes, was always technically advanced. For 1956, even closer attention was paid to the science of its aerodynamics: a new nose section increased its length by around seven inches, it was given a wraparound windscreen and a totally integrated tailfin, and a powerfully capable – not to mention uniquely beautiful – racing legend was born. Veteran Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis rates it as one of his favourite Jags, and only he knows what it’s like at 192mph.
 

Jaguar Mk2 3.4


Jaguar Mk2 3.4
 
Find yourself an honest 3.4 rather than beating yourself up in the quest for a 3.8. Okay, the bigger-engined car would just have the edge on ultimate performance, but that is pretty irrelevant for all practical, road-driving purposes. We’re guessing you won’t be attempting timed 0-60mph sprints, anyway. You’ll still own the definitive pioneer of compact sports saloons with all its many pleasure-giving qualities, not least of which is the glorious interior. Plenty of chrome to clean of a Sunday morning and still surprisingly usable of a Sunday afternoon, whether you’re caning it or ambling through the countryside.
 

Jaguar E-Type Series 1 3.8 Coupé 

 
Jaguar E-Type Series 1 3.8 Coupé

It’s the original E-type, warts and all, which in this case means no synchromesh on first gear and slightly uncomfortable seats. But that is the way God (William Lyons) intended it, and the 3.8 is more sharply responsive than the later 4.2. The roadster is impossible to dislike, of course, but the coupé has a sleekness and character like absolutely nothing else, and the quirk of that side-hinged tailgate leading to a decent amount of rear cargo space. It’s the one for the E-type purist.
 

Daimler Double Six Series 1

 
Daimler Double Six Series 1

Yes, yes, it’s supposed to be a Jaguar-fest, but the Daimler derivative of the awesome XJ12 simply has a better interior, while the ultimate sub-division of the sub-species is the Vanden Plas with a wheelbase stretched by four inches. All the V12-engined Series 1s are rare, as they were only on sale for two years. This masterpiece of a saloon outshines top Mercs and the Silver Shadow in so many ways, but especially in its masterful melding of hushed refinement and sporty handling. It’s the automatic 'Jag' to own; there are no manuals anyway!

Words: Giles Chapman // Images: Giles Chapman Archive

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