At the end of the Second World War, the British car industry, like the country itself, was in shambles. Car manufacturing had been put on hold during the war and car factories had been directed to join in the war effort. This meant that when the war ended, the only cars available to buy were ageing pre-war designs quickly refurbished and put on sale.
By the 1950s however, normalcy prevailed and carmakers were able to start putting out cars which were new from the ground up. Jaguar released their first unibody sedan, the 2.4/3.4 Saloon in 1955, although this was a flawed car. Visibility out of the cabin was hampered due to the thick pillars all around and the car’s ride and handling highly compromised because of a rear track which was narrower than the front.
In 1959 Jaguar released the Jaguar Mark 2 (and retroactively renamed the earlier car the Mark 1) to fix these issues. The Jaguar Mark 2, in addressing the issues of the Mark 1, was a revelation. The car was redesigned from the waistline up and the pillars were made thinner, increasing the glass area. The rear saw a slight redesign to mimic the styling of the Le Mans-winning D-Types. But what really turned the car around completely was the 4.2-inch wider rear track, the new suspension geometry, a limited slip differential and the addition of the legendary 3.8-litre twin cam straight six from the XK150. This meant that the Mark 2 turned into the world’s first sports sedan. The 220bhp engine made the Mark 2 good for 125 mph and a 0 to 60-mph time of 8.5s. To put that in perspective, an Aston Martin DB4 from the same era also took 8.5s to get to 60mph, but cost twice as much. Another world-first was the fitment of disc brakes on all four wheels.
This pristinely maintained 1967 Jaguar Mk2 3.8 shown in photos comes from one of Paris’ topmost classic car specialists Eleven Cars, who have quite the collection of well-maintained historically significant vehicles in amazing condition.
The exterior styling largely carried over the understated, flowing lines of the Mark 1, with the only changes being a new grill and repositioned fog and tail lamps. The interior came with a walnut veneer dash, leather upholstery, power steering and a tachometer. The front seats were also reclinable at extra cost.
The combination of superior driving dynamics, a quick, refined engine, comfortable ride quality and high-end interiors made this a great long distance cruiser. It also won a handful of touring car events across Europe and Australia. Interestingly, the speed, understated looks, and the spacious cabin made it the number one getaway car for criminals in England at the time.
The Jaguar Mark 2 was a truly significant car for Jaguar. It effectively set the template for what a Jaguar saloon should be. It was the perfect combination of speed, luxury and dynamic ability that has come to define the brand since. The sense that Jaguars sedans are less clinical and more characterful in their execution, as compared to their German competition, while still being as dynamically satisfying was first seen in this car and is still present in the XEs, XFs and XJs of today.
Photos: Eleven Cars