Jaguar Mk II 3.8 | Spotted
Beloved by criminals and a certain TV detective, the Mk II remains a fabulous classic car ownership prospect…
By John Howell / Sunday, 22 May 2022 / Loading comments
There are a few versions of the Jaguar MkII to choose from, starting with the fuddy-duddy 2.4-litre car that Morse famously drove about Oxford in. Well, more accurately, was pushed about in, if accounts of that example’s dilapidated state and unwillingness to start on cue are to be believed. Even working, 2.4’s were wheezy, though, so you don’t want one of those. Nor the 2.5-litre V8 for that matter, which came only with the Daimler badge attached and didn’t pack much shove, either. The 3.4-litre is the minimum requirement if you don’t want to turn up to a classic car meet and be constantly ridiculed for buying the ‘wrong’ MkII, while the right one is this: a 3.8-litre with its XK motor plucked from the E-Type.
In 3.8 guise, the MkII had a wholesome 223hp and a glut of torque that would see it bomb to sixty in 8.5 seconds, which is a very healthy set of numbers when viewed against its ‘60s contemporaries. Those included staid and lumbering Humbers, Wolseys, and, at the cheaper end of the market, perhaps a Ford Zephyr or Vauxhall Cresta. The MkII seemed to occupy a middle ground of its own, offering more cache than the blue-collar brigade, while simultaneously emanating a bit too much caddishness for the conservative upper-middle classes. It was a bit nouveau riche, some might’ve said.
Of course, that image was magnified by the criminal masterminds that plucked MkIIs from driveways and roadsides in the dead of night, setting them to work in their clandestine activities. Most famously, perhaps, is the MkII’s role in the Great Train Robbery, with Roy ‘The Weasel’ James at the wheel. Now, James was a handy racing driver in the traditional sense, capable of beating Jackie Stewart on his day, but it’s his sideline as a shadowy getaway driver that made him infamous. This second career reached its zenith with his involvement in the £2.5-million heist that was the largest in the world. He eventually paid the price for this, with a lengthy spell in the clink that curtailed both his business streams.
In their Wolseys the police had no hope against thieves tooled up with MkIIs, so employed the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ philosophy and got some too – my understanding is the boys in blue paid for theirs, though. I remember an old friend of mine, who worked as a mechanic at North London’s massive Henlys Jaguar dealership in the ‘60’s, telling me that the police cars he serviced had a healthy amount more poke to give them the edge in hot pursuits. Whether that was enough of an edge I don’t know, because surely the forces of evil knew some tricks when it came to teasing a few more horses from an XK.
Whether you’re the sort to turn your nose up or down at the MkII’s image, I challenge anyone to find fault with its Lyons’ lines. Don’t you find it a graceful-looking car from any angle? It wasn’t jarringly radical. It still conveyed hints of the ’50s in that curved boot and narrow, elongated, oval rear screen, but the upright bluntness of the MkVIII’s front end had been reclined and softened. Now look at it side on. Check out how the MkII’s muscularity is most pronounced over the front wheels and falls away with the swage line, stretching and thinning the car towards its rear. What does that remind you of? I’ll tell you what it reminds me of: the leaping Jaguar on its nose. That’s a cunning bit of design, akin to Enzo designing a Ferrari in the shape of a stallion.
Inside it was also a charming mix of old and new. The main dials were positioned behind the steering wheel instead of the centre of the dashboard, which is very different to the pre-war feel of a MkVIII. Only the lovely line of auxiliary dials were left in the centre and all the rocker switches lined up beneath. But all that’s still mounted on a big slab of walnut, which, to me, is terrific. As is the fact that this one is a manual: the manual ‘box suits this sporting saloon. I happen to think the colour is spot on, too – light champagne with burnt orange leather. And how lovely is the patina of the leather? It sits on the right side of shabby chic as opposed to just shagged. According to the vendor, it’s had some sympathetic work to keep it healthy but as original as possible. It’s a lovely car, for a lucky buyer with £60,000 to spend.
SPECIFICATION | JAGUAR MKII 3.8
Engine: 3,781cc, straight-six, naturally aspirated
Transmission: 4-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 223
Torque (lb ft): 240
First registered: 1963
Recorded mileage: 63,000
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £59,995
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