Think of the Jaguar Mark 2 and the chances are that black and white movie frames of the saloon – four up with persons of dubious character on a post-robbery getaway run – will spring to mind thanks to the media. For Jaguar founder William Lyons however, the mid-sized four-door was intended to provide just the taste of genteel luxury that was later epitomised by its on-screen selection as Chief Inspector Morse’s chosen method of transport around the scenic Oxfordshire countryside.
Launched in 1959, the Mark 2 was a successor to the 2.4 and 3.4-litre Mark 1 models and although the power plant range was similar, the icing on the cake was the inclusion of a 3.8-litre engine, offering in the region of 220bhp and a top speed of over 120mph. This earned it the accolade of being the fastest production saloon car at the time and, with a 0-60 time of 8.4 seconds, it’s little wonder that it garnered legendary appeal for those aiming to stay one step ahead of the ‘boys in blue’.
Despite the luxurious leather interior and walnut veneer dash, the performance and handling of Jaguar’s new saloon also gained it fans at the racetrack – John Coombs, Graham Hill, Stirling Moss and Roy Salvadori being just a few of the names regularly putting the new model through its paces in period. These days, the appeal remains and the Mark 2 is a frequent competitor at events such as Goodwood Revival and the Spa 6 Hours.
It is easy to see just what made the 3.8-litre Mark 2 so appealing as the 1950s gave way to the ’60s. Despite the imminent launch of the Jaguar E-type, the Mark 2 certainly can’t be considered a lethargic cousin in any way; instead, it combines class, comfort and looks with intoxicating performance and a hefty push of a polished brogue to the accelerator pedal results in the rear gently digging down while the leaping cat motif raises its nose to the sky.
The unmistakable power of the 3.8-litre engine may well have propelled the driver and passengers to more than acceptable speeds on a short length of tarmac, but Jaguar’s inclusion of disc-brakes all round also gave it the ability to stop and as tester, Bill Boddy remarked in the September 1960 issue of Motorsport: “If you turn on all the horses on a wet road in a low gear you will have the tail round… otherwise the Jaguar saloon is safe in spite of its very high speed and power.”
Production of the Mark 2 – and in particular the 3.8 – ended in the latter half of 1967. The smaller-engined varieties were rebadged as the 240 and 340 (2.4 and 3.4-litre respectively) and Jaguar prepared to launch the rakish XJ6 with either a 2.4 or 4.2-litre engine under the bonnet. By this point, over 30,000 3.8-litre Mark 2 Jaguars had been produced and nearly 84,000 across the full engine range and despite its imminent demise, the model remained a popular and hugely appealing acquisition for many.
Arguably, the saloon offered the ideal combination of style, comfort and performance – flawlessly fitting Lyons’ advertising slogan of ‘Grace… Space… Pace’. Six decades on and it arguably still offers the perfect family tourer with space for five and the ability to keep up with modern traffic. Its bank robbing days may be over, but if its style you’re after, the big cat still cuts it.