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The Classic Jaguar Mk1 and Jaguar Mk2

Updated on March 9, 2011

Jaguar Mark 1

The original Jaguar 2.4 saloon was released on the Jaguar stand at the 1955 British Motor Show at Earls Court in London in October of that year. Prices in the UK started at £1,343 but Jaguar had little trouble in selling their new car. The British motoring press loved it (apart from the old Moss gearbox), but American dealers were still wary of such a 'small'engine (by American standards). The larger engined 3.4-litre version was known to be on the way and so most dealers wanted to wait for that model but the American motoring press were generally happy enough with the 2.4-litre car.

In 1956 Jaguar issued a booklet called Tuning Modifications for those drivers looking for something extra from their 2.4. There were three kits available:

  • Stage 1 raised power to 119 bhp at 5,800 rpm
  • Stage 2 raised power to 131 bhp at 5,900 rpm
  • Stage 3 raised power to 150 bhp at 6,000 rpm

But even a standard 2.4  would do 100 mph and hit 0-60 mph in 14.4 seconds (on 112 bhp at 5,750 rpm).

Jaguar Mkll by Rudolf Stricker, Wikimedia Commons CC-A-SA-3.0
Jaguar Mkll by Rudolf Stricker, Wikimedia Commons CC-A-SA-3.0

Jaguar 3.4

On the 26 February 1957 the Jaguar 3.4 saloon was officially announced to the world. The 3,442cc engine was lifed from the Jaguar XK150 sports car and from the start was available with a three-speed auto box. The Jaguar was the performance bargain of the day with Aston Martin performance for half the money. Top speed was 120 mph with 0-60 mph coming up in 9.1 seconds, whereas an Aston Martin DB2/4 Mklll only did 119 mph and 0-60 in 9.3 seconds and cost over £3,000 compared to the Jaguar 3.4 at £1,672.

Again, the car was popular with the motoring press in both Britain and the important export market of America. A large part of the 3.4 production went to America.

In 1959 Jaguar moved up a gear and released the Mkll version of the saloon after only three years of production for what now became known as the Mkl, of which the sales had been excellent. Differences were actually quite hard to spot, the main one being an increase in glass area which made the car seem more spacious inside, and a new dashboard was added.

Mechanically there were more changes with the rear track being widened by almost four inches to improve handling in the wet. The old 2.4 and 3.4 engines were carried over to the newer model with the 2.4 getting a power hike to 120 bhp, but now there was a new top spec engine. The 3.8-litre used in the XK150 the year before was now put in to the Jaguar 3.8 Mkll and was rated at 220 bhp. Prices for the 3.8 started at just below £1,800 in the UK and it had virtually no competition. With a top speed of 125 mph and 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds the 3.8 is one of the cars that established Jaguars reputation for elegant performance. With 0-100 mph in 25.1 seconds the Jaguar was fast for its day in standard and there were plenty of people willing to improve upon those figures for money. And one of the best known was John Coombs, a Jaguar dealer from Guildford in Surrey.

In 1963 the Sporting Motorist magazine tested a Coombs Jaguar and the figures are below compared against standard models:

3.8 Mkll
Coombs Jaguar
E-type 3.8
0-60 mph
8.5 sec
7.0 sec
6.9 sec
0-100 mph
25.1 sec
16.2 sec
16.2 sec
Jaguar 3.4 Mkll from Wikimedia Commons. A public domain image.
Jaguar 3.4 Mkll from Wikimedia Commons. A public domain image.

Jaguar 240 and 340

In 1967 with sales starting to drop the 3.8 was dropped from the line and the 2.4 and 3.4 were renamed the 240 and 340. The 240 got another power hike up to 133 bhp now at 5,500 rpm with an improved cylinder head and carburration also improving torque figures. However, the performance wasn't as good as it had been in comparison to the competition who had been catching up over the years and with the launch of the new Jaguar XJ6 the mid-range saloons were all slowly dropped and by 1970 were no more.

There were around 37,000 Mkl saloons built and 85,000 Mkll's.

Jaguar 2.4 by Charles01 on Wikimedia Commons. CC-A-SA-3.0.
Jaguar 2.4 by Charles01 on Wikimedia Commons. CC-A-SA-3.0.


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