Jaguar Mk2 Review
The Jaguar Mk2 is a performance classic you can enjoy with family and friends…
2,483cc, 3,442cc, 3,781cc
What Is It?
The attractions of the Mk2 Jaguar are all too obvious, be that the leather and walnut of the interior, the cops and robbers cultural associations or its embodiment of classic British values, automotive and societal alike. Sure, the later E-type became the icon of swinging sixties sex appeal. But the Mk2 is arguably the more definitive Jaguar for its combination of saloon practicality, its performance and its pitch-perfect styling.
Originally developed as a facelift for the Mk1, the Mk2 quickly transcended its predecessor to become the marque’s signature early-‘60s model and the template for performance saloons to this day. With up to 223PS (164kW) in its most potent 3.8-litre form, the straight-six XK engine provided both the emotional heart of the Mk2 and also its stellar performance, while disc brakes all round and a broad range of performance enhancing options meant it could handle as well as it went.
Capable of 0-60mph in just 8.5 seconds and over 120mph, the 3.8’s performance is still respectable to this day, the combination of grace, pace and space arguably never bettered.
Rear suspension mounting points
Front chassis legs
Sills and rear arches
- Check for rust, check again and then, if in any doubt, check again!
- Critical areas include the front chassis legs and crossmember, floorpan, under the rear seat cushions, inner and outer sills (especially at the join with the rear arches) and mounting points for the rear leaf springs and Panhard rod
- Check door alignment – ‘sagging’ could indicate deeper corrosion within A-pillars or sills
- Oil leaks from the XK engine are not unusual but significant weeping from the rear crankshaft seal is an expensive fix
- Engines are susceptible to overheating and resulting damage, so check the condition of fluids carefully and consider a compression test to make sure everything is in order
- Vague handling could be a result of worn suspension components and should be addressed; if there’s any sloppiness at the back end could be more serious so double check the suspension mounting points on the body
- The Moss gearbox demands a skilled hand to shift smoothly and the later Jaguar transmission introduced in post-1965 models is preferred by many – in both cases the shift should be positive and beware any jumping out of gear
- The automatic transmission should operate smoothly if fitted, jerky or hesitant shifts suggesting a rebuild may be required
- Cracked leather and peeling veneer may seem like minor flaws but could prove costly to put right
How Does It Drive?
With its chrome, wire wheels and classic styling the Mk2 might have looked somewhat traditional but the unitary body and XK straight-six gave it a modern edge. For here was a luxury saloon powered by an engine of Le Mans winning pedigree, and the handling to make the most of it.
Available in 2.4, 3.4 and 3.8-litre versions, the XK was typically fuelled by twin SU carburettors and drove through a four-speed manual gearbox. With the optional (and flamboyantly named) Laycock de Normanville overdrive the 3.8 was capable of well over 120mph and came as standard with a Powr Lok limited-slip differential. Power steering, a three-speed Borg Warner automatic transmission and even a high-compression head were among the options at the time, and many Mk2s were hot-rodded in period for even greater performance.
How it drives today will very much depend on condition but a good Mk2 should handle with precision and pace, a manual with the standard non-assisted steering delivering a physical, more sporting drive enthusiasts will appreciate. If not fitted at the time many have had power steering added since, the later all-synchro manual gearbox added in 1965 generally considered easier to live with than the original Moss transmission.
Iconic is a much over-used term but the Mk2’s combination of classic looks, strong performance and spirited handling are as compelling now as they were back in the day. True, it may not be the most imaginative classic to crave but there’s a reason for its enduring popularity, and the combination of sportscar performance with the space to share with friends and family makes it more flexible than a two-seat roadster.
While not cheap to buy or run, a Mk2 is still a lot more attainable than the E-type with which it shares its engine and much of its spirit as well. Popularity also means there’s a decent industry of parts and experts to help with restoration or running, the thriving network of enthusiasts also meaning there’s a great deal of knowledge to fall back on within the classic car community.
If there’s a more stylish or enjoyable way to blast along British B-roads on the way to a pub lunch or picnic with the family at a suitably scenic spot we can’t think of it!
Anyone with even a basic appreciation of the ‘60s British car industry will be only too aware that high standards of innovation and design weren’t always matched by materials and workmanship on the production line. Jaguars were better-built than most of course but, even so, there’s no escaping rust will be an ever-present concern and the Mk2’s unitary construction conceals many places in which it can wreak unseen havoc. So make sure any prospective purchase has been thoroughly inspected, preferably by someone with the necessary expertise.
Meanwhile, the XK engine is generally strong and well-proven given how many cars used it over the years, any weaknesses well understood by specialists and hopefully easy enough to spot. Assuming you’re lucky enough to find one in good mechanical and structural shape you then need to factor in the expense of replacement chrome trimmings, restoring wood veneers and re-upholstering cracked or aged leather.
In summary, like any car of this vintage buy with your head and not your heart if you’re to avoid the dream turning into an expensive nightmare.
Which Model To Choose?
Traditionally 3.8s with the manual gearbox and desirable overdrive option are the ones everyone chases, and command a premium as a result. More so if they’ve benefitted from period performance upgrades from the likes of Guildford based Coombs, who offered a range of tuning parts back in the day.
In fairness the 3.4 isn’t that far off in pace and values of these have closed in on the 3.8, though many cars have been upgraded with bigger engines over the years and, if you’re fussy about provenance, it’s worth making sure the 3.8 you’re looking at was sold as such. If you’d rather waft in leather-lined comfort a power steering car with the automatic gearbox offers a very different character, and could prove more reasonably priced than the sportier versions everyone else is chasing.
As for the 2.4 there is a school of thought this is actually a sweeter engine than previously assumed, the short-stroke configuration and more revvy nature perhaps mitigating the perceived lack of pace. Ultimately, though, the one to go for is the best you can find and afford, and while it’s good to have an idea of what you’d prefer the narrower your parameters the longer the search for a good example will be.
Specifications: Jaguar Mk2 3.8
3,781cc six-cylinder, petrol
223PS (164kW) @ 5,500rpm
325Nm (240lb ft) @ 3,000rpm
Four-speed manual with optional overdrive/three-speed auto, rear-wheel drive