1967 Jaguar Mk2 3.4 Auto BIG CAT ON the PROWL
A road trip beckons in the ultimate getaway car for the Sixties corporate raider. Words Dale Drinnon. Photography Martyn Goddard.
Big Cat on the Prowl Welsh road trip recalls the Mk2’s natural role – as the businessman’s cross-country grand tourer.
Contrary to popular myth, the typical Jaguar Mk2 owner was far more likely to be a successful businessman than a cop, robber or hero racer. So, when relating the Mk2 driving experience, it really has be done on its qualities as a luxury executive express. Assigned with this plum job, and with one of the great all-time business hot-rods at beck and call, a dash through the lovely Warwickshire countryside for a visit to the stunning former residence of former top Jag exec SirWilliam Lyons seems entirely appropriate. And after that, some motoring R&R in typical red-blooded, Jag-owning Sixties honcho style – hit the road west before settling in beside the Welsh coast for a quiet weekend, giving the Jag a hard, healthy run along the way.
Mk2s are best suited to a mixed-touring style of driving – admiring country estates and twee villages while blasting down safe straights and flicking through the odd open S-bend. Our car loves this; borrowed from Jaguar specialist Classic Motor Cars, which is selling it fettled and preened on the owner’s behalf, it’s an outstanding town and country package, an auto 3.4 from 1967.
The Borg-Warner unit isn’t history’s smoothest-shifting under heavy load, and is easily confused by jumping on/off/on throttle, but in normal operation it’s fine. Even during rather spirited driving the shifting quality isn’t what’s noticeable, it’s the infrequency; sheer Jaguar mid-range grunt alone takes care of most road-based situations. Besides, my own ancient Stateside management career taught me that a manual-shift daily business car simply isn’t worth the aggro. Trust me.
After briefly experiencing the splendour of Sir William’s old 329-acre Wappenbury Hall estate, we make a ‘getaway’ assisted by the wonderfully helpful Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club, which has supplied a rundown of former works test roads nearby, plus historic Jag locations. We elect to pick up the B4113 that runs through Stoneleigh village, where every marque’s test drivers leaving Coventry (when there were multitudes) took Stoneleigh as their tea stop. It seems somehow fitting for us to stop there, too.
But not for long. Time has flown and miles must be made, and we’ll have to use the car for the purpose it was intended – as an executive express. Our target is Snowdonia and the Welsh coast, meaning that the modern motorway and modern traffic going around greater Birmingham is inevitable – and sooner better than later. Some of it is stop and go (thank heavens for that automatic transmission), some is a sprint between the stop and goes, some of it is nose-to-tail in a jostling pack at speed.
‘Parked along the Porthmadog seafront, the Mk2 still looks fabulous’
The Jaguar handles all of it like a champ. There’s ample acceleration to take advantage of sudden openings in the traffic stream – don’t diss the 3.4, dear reader – and good visibility all around to spot those openings. That’s something I rate highly indeed; how can you go quickly if you can’t see? Braking performance is just as you’d expect from the disc-brake pioneer; pedal feel is probably the best of any Sixties all-disc system, and when making way for an emergency vehicle forces me to unwillingly bother the national limit, the chassis feels planted and safe as houses. Bring on your Audis; we are not afraid.
Of course lots of qualities besides speed go into a proper CEO’s ride, and one of them is much in evidence on this run. The Mk2 Passing Sir William’s old pad Stoneleigh village: road tester’s tea stop is quiet, blissfully quiet, no matter the velocity or the road, and generations of bosses should thank Norman Dewis (see his accompanying comments on the following pages) for ensuring them a place of blessed peace to get some thinking done on the three-hour trip to deal with that screw-up plant manager.
It’s a comfortable place, the driving position is decent and ingress/egress in appropriate office attire and topcoat would be a breeze. Or if dressed for dinner, the driver’s footwell would have room to manoeuvre my favourite pair of Northampton plain-toe Derbies without getting tangled up amongst the pedals. Cargo space is equally impressive, easily swallowing a foursome of golf bags; sometimes a little client golf is a wretched inevitability. The interior accommodates those clients in style, amid subtly ‘see how successful I am’ fittings of polished wood and lustrous chrome.
Fuel economy, on the other hand, well, suffice to say that running costs look to be something else that’s on the CEO level – our first fill-up comes after barely 150 miles. Granted, there’s plenty of country lanes and tailbacks in that, but tonight I’ll be parked up in the neon glow of a faux-Fifties diner in Oswestry on the phone trying to get my credit card limit extended.
Morning comes unexpectedly damp and chilly, with mist in the air and rain threatening, and I hold my breath, turn the key and listen for the fuel pump to tick down before pressing the starter button. The engine fires seemingly on the first crankshaft revolution, however, and takes up the most gorgeous tickover you’ve ever heard; apologies, ol’ Jag, I’ll never doubt you again, and kudos to CMC for its prep standards. Remarkably, owner Grant Dudley-Toole says it’s never been fully restored, only mechanically overhauled and resprayed. Furthermore, the 39k on the odo is correct, and from 2001 it actually was the car of an accomplished senior executive.
That would be his mother, Jill Dudley-Toole, co-founder and chairwoman of Frank Dudley, Birmingham, manufacturer of steel stampings for the car industry including Jaguar Land Rover. Son Grant, himself having three E-types under the care of CMC, is selling the Mk2 following her sad passing last spring.
Meanwhile, the rain is starting in earnest and this is our driving glove day, so with engine warmed and boot reloaded – I have no intention of using my grandfather-in-law’s old clubs, by the way, but they sure look cool in there – we’re onto the A5. The plan is to follow that west to the A494, then the B4396, and hence to Bala, along the Welsh Marshes and into Snowdonia National Park, where we’ll join the A4212 and see what kind of interesting B-roads we find. Eventually we’ll work across to the Glaslyn Estuary and the final destination, Porthmadog.
It’s a great plan; the opening leg is beautiful country and sweet, winding A-road – once past the tractors, logging trailers and farming muck covering the lower A494 – and as we climb, the weather breaks and the views back down the valleys are magnificent. This is good territory for the Mk2; like the roads around Wappenbury Hall, the running is mostly in top gear, on moderate throttle and thorough turns of medium radius, if considerably narrower in places, and with no hairpins to crowd the long wheelbase. If we were out on a rally, this would be a semi-quick transition stage.
Albeit a thirsty transition stage, and Bala brings another fill-up; fortunately that credit extension was approved. While stretching my legs I admire the Jag, as you do, and a flood of memories from my long-ago corporate days yields a home truth: this is the perfect exec-car colour, bar none – it doesn’t show dirt. Called ‘Golden Sand’ by Jaguar, many premium car manufacturers have employed similar rich metallic shades; you can visit a dusty building site and go on to the country club with no wash necessary in between. Today it still looks as fresh as yesterday morning. Consider that my insider tip for this month’s issue.
From Bala the A4212 winds and rises into Snowdonia, smooth, and well-sighted for several miles, and to me, it’s the most enjoyable drive of the journey. Turn-in is surprisingly crisp for such a tall and relatively heavy saloon, and once you get the hang of managing the weight transfer, it scats along rather well. You’re gonna hate this, but it reminds me of a ’1968 Ford Fairlane 390 I had, with the heavy-duty suspension – be steady and patient while it rotates and stabilises, feed power progressively all through the exit phase. Bags of fun, without the patent stupidity of chasing the grip limits on a public thoroughfare.
And after that I frankly have no idea about the route numbers and directions; it’s the driving itself that grips me. We take B-roads, going up and over the ridgelines, sometimes so narrow even the sheep can’t travel them two abreast; rain starts, stops, starts, often pouring, and fog slows us to a crawl and I’m sounding the horn on blind corners, Alpine style. We descend onto sparsely trafficked A-roads, then cruise for a while like respectable gentlemen before finding another mountain trail, heading upward and bashing around like hooligans.
Until we hit the A487 leading toward the coast, then cut over past Portmeirion and the A497 across ‘The Cob’ causeway and bang into the centre of Porthmadog. Teeming with shops, traffic and people, it wouldn’t seem ideal for stress relief from the last board meeting; loop around the back side of the harbour, though, and you’ll discover Borth-y-Gest village. It’s exactly the ticket: small, secluded, with big Victorian guest houses, little B&Bs in soothing Art Deco pastels, charming views across the water, and lots and lots of quiet. Job done.
Parked along the seafront, the Mk2 still looks fabulous, and after two days of serious driving the only thing I would change is, aaaahh... nothing, really. Maybe interval wipers; the toggle switch is sort of awkward in a long drizzle. Maybe a tape player; eight-track, naturally. As for more horsepower or a four-speed, this car does almost everything very capably without those, and more than a few things quite splendidly. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend some time with the maps and see how many nice winding A-roads we can pack into the trip home.
Thanks to Classic Motor Cars (classic-motor-cars.co.uk), the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club (jec.org.uk), and Tony O’Keeffe of Jaguar Classic.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 1967 Jaguar Mk2 3.4 Auto
Engine 3442cc straight-six, dohc, two SU HD6 side-draught carburettors
Max Power 210bhp @ 5500rpm
Max Torque 216lb ft @ 3000rpm
Transmission Borg- Warner three-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Brakes Discs front and rear
Suspension Front: independent, double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: live axle, leaf springs, Panhard rod, telescopic dampers
Steering Recirculating ball
Weight 1501kg (3304lb)
Performance Top speed: 120mph; 0-60mph: 11.9sec
Fuel consumption 16mpg
Cost new £1951 (UK 1961 price, with automatic)
Classic Cars Price Guide £10,000-£32,000
Mk2 had more glass area than MkI Cosseting quiet at the wheel, but grunt to push on when required
Mk2 offers fine visibility to take in rural idylls.
Passing Sir William’s old pad Stoneleigh village: road tester’s tea stop
‘Admiring twee villages while blasting down straights and flicking through open S-bends. Our car loves this’
Cavernous boot will happily take golf clubs for four ‘Fuel economy is at CEO level... our first fill-up comes after barely 150 miles’ The 3.4 is responsive even paired with the auto ’box Midrange poke makes easy meat of Welsh hill climbs.
Lusty driving makes a Mk2 thirsty.
Scratch and sniff for probable cigar-smoke aroma.