Jaguar hit the jackpot in 1959 when it redesigned the company’s fast, monocoque (body and chassis as single unit) four-door saloon. The Mark IIs bigger windows created an impression of airy brightness, and minor changes to the trim, instrument panel and external styling all added up to a handsome car that drivers felt to be ‘adult’.
It made much more of the existing 2.4 and 3.4 litre engines — but the star of the range was the new 3.8 litre version of the legendary XK. Ensconced in serious leather-and-walnut comfort (that subsequently became one of Jaguar’s hallmarks), Mark II drivers discovered how easily the 3.8 could embarrass contemporary sports cars in both acceleration and speed. With a slightly wider rear axle, the improved road-handling was impeccable; and even the optional wire wheels had an additional, useful function in providing extra cooling for the now standard disc brakes.
The Mark II catapulted Jaguar into the role of style leader for sports saloons. In practice, its speed and maneuverability made it first choice both for old-style criminals in need of a getaway car, and for the police chasing them. Featured in lots of British films and TV shows of the early 1960s, the Mark II has always retained its image of quirky individualism. It still does.
It even transcends the usual barriers of class and wealth: owners were and are just as likely to be wage-earners as aristocrats. More than fifty years after it was first launched, its unceasing popular among connoisseurs makes the Mark II the perfect expression of its originator’s (William Lyons, Jaguar’s Chairman) desire to build a car I ‘grace, space and pace’. Its combination of luxury and performance] it a paragon of aspirational sophistication that may have been equal but never surpassed.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1959 (until 1967)
2,483 cc, 3,442cc, 3,781 cc DOHC Straight Six
Top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h);0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.5 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Jaguar Mark ll’s most enduring cultural success is probably as the car driven by Inspector Morse in the internationally successful TV series based on the novels of Colin Dexter.
Although the car used in the TV series was the less desirable 2.4 version, and somewhat battered, it was sold in 2005 after restoration for over £100,000.