When it was new, few companies offered a performance saloon to rival the best sportcars, and it’s something that makes the Jaguar Mk2 a rather unique classic buy today. While sportscars of the same era still offer an entertaining drive today, few family-friendly saloons do, making a Jaguar Mk2 an alluring purchase. It’s also the reason that the Jaguar Mk2 was the choice of wheels for hardened criminals fleeing the scene of a bank job during the 1960s.
Find a good example with a few tasteful upgrades, and the driver has something the that not only looks great, but is thoroughly entertaining to drive.
The Mk2 was an evolution of the 2.4 and 3.4 saloons launched in 1955. Known retrospectively as the MkI, these were Jaguar’s first monocoque models and the Mk2 was little more than a refresh of them. But a refresh was all that was needed as they were already stylish, fast, comfortable and luxurious. Even now the Mk2 is all of those things which is why it makes such a superb long-distance tourer.
Although purchase prices and parts are often expensive, the Mk2 offers a DIY friendly proposition, which can help to keep running costs sensible. Not much comes close to the classic Jaguar for road presence and timeless visual appeal either, making a well kept example seem like extraordinarily good value.
Which one to buy?
While few luxury saloons have the same presence as the Mk2, really good examples are scarce. That’s despite excellent parts availability, as well as top-notch club and specialist support; restoration costs are simply too high in relation to the final value. Even though retrims and engine rebuilds are costly, most of the value of a Mk2 is in its bodyshell, so thoroughly checking the structure’s integrity is essential before making any purchase.
If Mk2 ownership sounds appealing but you can’t quite stretch to a good one, don’t discount the Mk1, 240 and 340, which all share the Mk2’s structure and mechanicals, but came with a lower specification. As a result, they’re all cheaper, and almost as stylish. Just not quite.
It’s also worth mentioning the S-type – often tagged as the Cinderella car that betters the boisterous Mk2 at two-thirds the money. There’s another stealth Jag closely related to the Mk2 that’s so far under the radar it barely registers a blip: the 420. Not only is it better than both, it’s even better value.
Also, don’t rush into buying a 3.8-litre car because it’s got the biggest engine. Received wisdom says it’s the best version but it feels no different to drive from a 3.4-litre car – although the 2.4-litre cars are a long way behind. Even these cars with the smallest engine of all can keep up with modern traffic though, so don’t be too quick to dismiss one. However, it’s the Jaguars with the biggest engines that tend to get the best restorations, so for this reason alone it’s usually best to focus on the 3.4 and 3.8-litre editions – and they’ll always provide the greatest investment potential.
Jaguar Mk2 in motorsport
By The end of the ’50s the Jaguar 3.4 was realising its potential, with good performances on track in both the UK and Europe. However, when the Mk2 version appeared in ’59, with a 3.8-litre engine under the bonnet, Browns Lane’s newest car was almost invincible.
Once again the names of Jack Sears, John Coombs, Albert Powell and Bernard Consten were inextricably linked with Jaguar’s, proving that development and determination were key to racing success.
Although the first Jaguar win on the Tour Auto was taken by Da Silva Ramos in 1959 with his Mk1, it was Bernard Consten who would go on to win his class on the Tour four times between 1960 and 1963 with a Mk2. In doing so, he extended Jaguar’s motor sport fame in France beyond Le Mans.
The Mk2 is still a popular choice in the historic motorsport scene, and everything that made it competitive during the 1960s means it's still a solid performer today.
Performance and specs
Jaguar Mk2 3.8
Engine 3781cc, in-line six-cylinder
Power 220bhp @ 5000rpm
Torque 240lb ft @ 3000rpm
Top speed 120mph
Gearbox Four-speed manual/Three-speed auto
Dimensions and weight
• It’s advisable to avoid buying a project car, without first understanding the huge costs and expert skill involved in a proper restoration. The Mk2 also has a nasty habit of disguising massive amounts of terminal rust underneath shiny body panels, and the first and most crucial structural checks need to be made with the car up on a ramp.
• There is a pair of chassis legs up front, joined to a crossmember, which are crucial to the integrity of the front end. It’s extremely important that these areas are in good shape, as repair is very difficult. Previous repairs should be scrutinised very carefully, as a poor repair is almost certainly worse than an unrepaired joint in the long run.
• Five separate panels meet where the chassis legs join the crossmember and the adjacent vertical radiator cowls; look for rot and distortion. Check the base of each front wing and look for uneven door shuts belying everything being out of true.
• The Panhard rod mounting in the offside rear wheelarch dissolves and repairs are complicated; the same goes for rotten anti-roll bar mountings.
• It’s just as bad at the back too; corrosion around the rear spring mounting points will eventually spread to various areas, including the wheelarches, floors and sills.
• You should also check under the spare wheel for rust, and although difficult to see in most situations, the fuel tank may also be rotten.
• External body panels, especially the grille and headlight surrounds are susceptible, as well as the zone that the rear wheel spat meets the sill.
• The XK engine lasts 300,000 miles between rebuilds if looked after. The key is 3000-mile oil changes and anti-freeze concentrations being maintained. Expect oil pressure of 40psi when cruising, but bear in mind the fact that gauges are often unreliable.
• If it looks like the rear crankshaft oil seal has failed due to lubricant covering the bottom of the car, then the engine will most likely require a full rebuild. Even if the engine is in good health, it will still need to be removed to replace this seal, which is not a small job.
• The 3.8-litre engine features cylinder liners which must be removed to check for corrosion when rebuilding – it’s not always done.
• The Moss manual gearbox fitted until September 1965 has no synchro on first. Although very strong, it wears out eventually and parts are now scarce, although used boxes are available.
• Most Mk2s have overdrive, so check it engages smoothly. A slipping clutch is bad news as replacing it is an engine-out job. Automatic gearboxes are durable, although the earlier DG unit isn’t as smooth as the Borg Warner one that came later.
• The non-power assisted recirculating ball steering set-up is generally very reliable, although not as nice to use as the power steering cars. The pre-1963 PAS system had a habit of leaking all over place, meaning most have been converted to the newer Adwest box, which also requires a subframe swap.
• Brakes are adequate, meaning that if they aren’t operating at 100 percent due to seized up calipers, rusty pistons and old cylinders can cause issues. Thankfully all of the parts to rebuild the brakes can be bought from specialists.
• There are lots of potential problems with the interior and exterior trim because everything is so complex. Almost 30 individual chunks of burr walnut line the dashboard and interior, while 160 individual pieces of exterior brightwork, so check that everything is present and in good nick.
Oct 1955: Jaguar introduces its first monocoque saloon, the 2.4.
Feb 1957: The 3.4 arrives; this and the 2.4 are retrospectively called the Mk1.
Oct 1959: The Mk2 debuts with 2.4, 3.4 or 3.8-litre XK engines. There are disc brakes, a wider rear track (covered by redesigned bodywork) and front suspension upgrades, along with a broader radiator grille, a bigger (wraparound) rear window and new front seats with integral rear picnic tables. There’s a revised dash, the sidelights are now mounted on top of the front wings, and where there were previously air intake grilles there are now spotlights.
Oct 1960: Power steering becomes optional.
Jun 1965: An all-synchro gearbox replaces the previous Moss unit; it’s much less clunky.
Sep 1967: The 240 and 340 supersede the Mk2, with thinner bumpers and Ambla trim in place of the previous leather. There are no longer any picnic tables and the fog/spot lights are merely optional.
Nov 1967: The final Mk2 3.8 is made.
Sep 1968: The last 340 is built.
Apr 1969: Production of the 240 ends.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
Of the Mk2 range, the 2.4-litre cars are the cheapest to buy, and if you can live with the lack of performance, £35,000 will get you one of the best. Average cars will sell for £12,500-£22,000, while projects can be picked up from £8000.
It’s the 3.4 and 3.8-litre cars that are most in demand. Prepare to pay up to £65,000 for a perfect 3.4, while the very best 3.8 might retail at more than £100,000. More average cars tend to fetch between £25,000-£60,000.