GRR

The Goodwood Test: Jaguar Mark 2

23rd October 2016
Ben Miles

Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.

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Heritage

If there is one thing that this car has in buckets it's heritage. The fact that we borrowed this particular one from Jaguar's heritage fleet should tell you that alone. The Mk 2 may be the most iconic British saloon car of all time. Launched in 1959 to replace the 2.4-litre and 3.4-litre models (which were posthumously renamed Mk 1) Jaguar would go on to sell over 80,000 Mk 2s before production ended in 1969. Thanks partly to being raced by the likes of Roy Salvadori and Denny Hulme, and in part through starring in TV shows such as Inspector Morse, the Mk 2's dignified profile became synonymous with the name Jaguar.

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Design

Even now, despite having been off the market for nearly half a century, the Mk 2 still draws admiring looks wherever it goes. The design was much more evolutionary than revolutionary, the Mk 1 shared much the same profile, but what did change was an incredible 18 per cent increase in the amount of window space with which the saloon was equipped. This affords not only much better visibility to the Mk 2, but also an incredibly light and airy feel to the cabin - one not often shared by classic cars of the same period. It is inside that Jaguar's Mk 2 slightly differs from the standard. A previous owner blessed this particular model with electric seats and windows, not something standard on the original car. However, it retains its fabulous wooden dash and huge, bus-like steering wheel.

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Performance

As if you needed a clue, that giant wheel should tell you the road-going Mk 2 wasn't meant for haring down country lanes, instead it was born to waft. When underway the Mk 2 is remarkably easy to steer down the country lanes that take GRR to our eventual destination, the Thoroughbred Breakfast Club. While this particular model was also blessed with the addition of later power steering, we've driven other Mk 2s without that mod-con, and the ease at speed still remains. Sure it's big and when near stationary that shows in the steering, but what else do you expect? Even on a slightly rainy day, and decades after it was born, the big Jag feels untroubled by whatever the lanes of Sussex can throw at it.

Perhaps the biggest noticeable difference between a modern saloon is visibility. Despite all that glass, very little attention was paid back in the late 1950s to the idea of rear visibility. So be prepared to spend your time peering hard through the tiny rear view mirror - the wing mirrors (this time actually mounted on the wings) are pretty much pointless. But it's very easy to love the Mk 2, purely because of the majesty of its XK-derived engine. This 3.8-litre model shows how much torque an engine could create back in the mid 20th century. Slow down to a crawl through towns, or when presented to junctions and there's no need to touch the long, wirey gearstick. The low-down torque from that inline-six will draw you away from the apex with ease, and then continue to pull you back to cruising speed again without the need for much attention from the driver.

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Passion

The Mk 2 is an icon, a wafting machine that could go down as one of the most 'British' cars of all time. It looks fabulous, even in 2016, drives beautifully in the right situation and has an engine that modern cars could learn a thing or two from. Sure the window steamed up about 43 seconds after we pulled away and we had to keep our coats on the whole time, even on an August morning, but that does nothing to detract from the experience. You feel like you're the king of the road, in no hurry and absolutely not to be rushed by anyone in any modern motor. If you're in the market for a classic Jaguar, you would be silly not to consider a Mk 2.

Photography by Tom Shaxson.

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