Timeless Elegance Jaguar Mk2 3.8 Automatic Reader Restoration

Although regular exposure on the TV as the car of choice for Detective Inspector Morse has no doubt boosted the current profile of the Mk2 Jaguar, this sporting saloon was always regarded as a giant killer in its day and truly deserves its current status as an iconic classic.

Although the Mk2 may not be quite as electrifying as a well sorted 4.2-litre E-Type, this practical sporting Jaguar saloon can carry four adults in comfort and timeless elegance for a fraction of the cost of an XK-powered two-seater.

Someone who can confirm this fact is retired Derbyshire businessman Ray Phillips whose ambition is to own an example of every car he once owned, as well as a few favourites he missed along the way. A glance around the impressive unit where Ray stores his collection shows he’s made a good start as it revealed an Old English White XK150 and a similar coloured E-Type parked at the end of a row of dozens of immaculate classics. “I’ve even managed to track down a 1930s Singer 1500 similar to the one I learned to drive in,” said Ray as he explained how he started collecting scale models of all the cars he’d once owned but couldn’t quite fill all the gaps.

“The easiest way was to concentrate on just one marque and that ended up being Jaguar. However, once I’d collected around 40 scale models, including some of the more exotic racers, I decided to move on to the real thing,” smiled Ray who over the years has owned several XJ6 saloons. As he always fancied an old Jaguar, the first one he bought was a kit-built SS replica but he didn’t like the way it drove. The replica SS was sold and an XK150 in need of a considerable amount of TLC eventually took its place.

This avid collector explained how buying and restoring the Jaguar XK150 helped him to retire as it kept him busy. Although the XK was the first of many classics, the car Ray always fancied was a Morse-style Jaguar. “We went to look at one but it turned out to be no good.

Someone mentioned there was a Mk2 for sale for a very reasonable price down in Cornwall and that’s the one you’re looking at now,” explained Ray.

First registered in Coventry in 1966, Ray’s immaculate 3.8-litre Mk2 was driven from the factory to Southampton docks where it was loaded onto a ship bound for Australia. Ray’s Mk2 spent most of its life down under and came back to the UK in 2004 after being bought by someone who intended to restore it. Ray explained how when he first saw the Mk2 three years ago it looked a ‘right mess’, as no work had been done to the car since it came out of the container. All the paintwork was badly blistered and the interior was almost non-existent. One of the doors had been left open and the weather had seriously damaged the interior.

Ray then went on to explain how after the Jaguar’s body had been stripped back to bare metal at the start of an 18-month long restoration, the structure was found to be really solid and didn’t require any welding or major repairs. When I asked Ray what was the hardest part of the Jaguar’s restoration, he said it was the learning curve. “When we had the engine out, the head was removed and everything looked in order. A new gasket was fitted and the cylinder head replaced but I wouldn’t dream of doing that now, as the engine would be sent off to a specialist to be checked over and rebuilt if necessary,” said Ray before going on to say how there is nothing wrong with the Mk2’s twin-cam engine, as it runs like a dream.

Although the restoration of Ray’s Mk2 has been carried out to a very high standard, this fastidious owner says there are a few things he would do differently, such as pay more attention to detailing some of the Jaguar’s underbonnet ancillaries. Ray’s obviously a perfectionist when it comes to the presentation of his cars, as the Jaguar’s engine bay looked immaculately clean, even though the car is used regularly. “We like to use all the cars in the collection as often as possible and enjoy taking part in organised classic road trips. In my opinion it’s no good just looking at them, as cars, no matter what their age, should be driven to get the maximum amount of enjoyment out of them,” grinned our affable host as he threw the covers off an immaculate, and now very rare, early Range Rover parked next to his prized Singer 1500.

Despite the inside being totally trashed by the elements before Ray rescued the car, the interior has been refurbished to a very high standard. All the seats were recovered in soft red leather and the yards of high quality matching carpet in all the footwells set them off a treat.

Despite being exposed to the elements for several years, the Jaguar’s veneered door cappings and interior woodwork have all been restored to what could only be described as Rolls-Royce standards. In fact the interior of this Jaguar probably looks a lot smarter now than it did when the car left the Browns Lane factory back in the year England lifted the World Cup at Wembley.

Walking around the Jaguar, Ray opened the car’s cavernous boot and proudly showed off how the trimmer, who used to work for Jaguar, had lined the whole luggage area with the same high quality carpet as used inside the car. There are no painted wheelarches on show in this Mk2’s boot – just a huge expanse of bound edge red carpets covering everything in sight. Again, it’s this owner’s attention to detail that makes this Mk2 stand out from the crowd. Ray went on to explain how all his cars are restored to the same high standard before casually adding how he was having a rare half-timbered Mini Countryman rebuilt from the roof down. “My wife had one of these Minis as her first car and this similar one was in a very poor condition when we bought it. The restoration is about half way through and you’ll be very welcome to cover this car when it’s finished,” said Ray as he slid into the Jaguar and fired up the car’s 3.8-litre, twin-cam XK engine.

While admiring the sound of the Jag’s engine purring away, Ray explained how a set of chrome wire wheels was fitted as a final touch to the Jaguar’s restoration. Ray then added that although his Mk2, XK150 and E-Type were all supposed to have been painted in Old English White, the shades are all slightly different. The Mk2’s paintwork has a greenish tinge, almost like Snowberry White, when compared to the XK. “I’m not too bothered, as I think they were all painted by different companies, so getting an exact match would have been virtually impossible,” he admits.

Ray’s Mk2 is an automatic and while Chris our photographer and myself were following behind on our way to photograph the Jaguar at a local beauty spot, my six-pot diesel Mercedes was hard pushed to keep up with the 3.8 when it got into its stride, powering along the Peak District’s winding A-roads. It’s no wonder this lucky owner is so fond of this car, as it’s a very practical classic and Ray reckons it can hold its own when going head-to-head with modern traffic as well as eating up the miles on regular Continental jaunts. During the rebuild, electric power steering was fitted to the Jaguar. “I know the 3.8 Mk2 had hydraulic power steering fitted as standard, but we replaced the original with this electric set up. OK, so the concours guys would all frown at this but I like to use my cars and so does my wife occasionally.

“This modification hasn’t altered the way the car drives,” said Ray as he went on to say how 1966 was a very special year for him. Not only was that the year his superb Mk2 rolled off the Browns Lane assembly line at Coventry, it was also the year Ray got married and he told me how he was planning to feature the Jaguar as a centrepiece at a big party celebrating this lovely couple’s golden wedding anniversary.

Ray’s a self-confessed classic car addict and has an impressive range of restored classics at his disposal, but from what he’s told me he’s had to work hard for what he’s achieved. It’s nice to see how an enthusiastic collector moved over from scale models to collecting the real thing and as Ray told me before I left: “Now the restoration bug’s bitten me, I don’t know were to stop as I’ve got another barn full of restored cars and projects to complete.”

As Ray only lives a few miles away from me I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of his collection, including that splendid Mini ‘Woody’ Countryman, splashed across the pages in future editions of Classics Monthly.

This can only be good news as all Ray’s cars have been meticulously restored and this proud owner seems delighted to share the fruits of his labours with other like minded enthusiasts.


In 1955 Jaguar launched its first monocoque saloon, the 2.4, which went on to become retrospectively known as the MkI. Power was increased two years later when a 3.4-litre XK twin-cam engine joined the line up and in 1959 the covers came off the heavily revised Mk2. The new model’s external styling was very different above the waistline, as the Mk2 had a much larger area of glass due to improved monocoque manufacturing procedures.

A much wider radiator shell and a pair of sidelights repositioned on top of the wings graced the front of the revised model and the restyled bodywork now covered a slightly wider rear track. Other changes to the front of the Mk2 included fitting air vents where the previous model’s spotlights had been positioned.

Disc brakes were now fitted all round and the Mk2 also received a modified front suspension set up. Inside the car, picnic tables were fitted into the rear of the Mk2’s front seats and a revised dashboard layout, with the most important dials located directly in front of the driver, was promoted by Jaguar’s marketing department as being ‘more user friendly’.

Power steering was fitted as standard to the 3.8 from 1960 onwards and the car’s notoriously clunky Moss four-speed manual gearbox was replaced with an allsynchromesh affair in 1965.

Two years later the downgraded Jaguar 240 and 340 models took over from where the Mk2 left off and the revised models are easily identified by having narrower chrome bumpers and cost cutting Ambla upholstery on the seat facings.

The final Jaguar 340 rolled off the assembly line in 1968, the year the advanced XJ6 saloon was unveiled.

Production of the Jaguar 240 soldiered on until 1969 and the highly underrated Daimler V8-powered 250 remained available until the following year. Although enthusiasts of the marque claim a 3.8-powered Mk2 is the best of the bunch, the most desirable Mk2s are the ones modified by John Coombs. Although very few genuine examples of this high-performance Jaguar survive, a well-sorted example will always command a very healthy premium over the best standard Mk2.

The proud owner (left) of this fastidiously restored Mk2 explains to our Managing Editor how he opted to have the car’s boot fully carpeted.


BODY & CHASSIS Steel monocoque

ENGINE 3.8-litre XK twin-cam

POWER 220bhp at 5500rpm


BRAKES Discs all round

SUSPENSION Coil front, leaf rear

PERFORMANCE Max speed: 120mph / 0-60mph: 9.8 sec

The 3.8-litre XK received a new cylinder head during the rebuild.


Fitting out the painted shell is always a high point of a rebuild.

A set of chrome wire wheels now filled the Mk2’s arches.

A freshly restored white Mk2 made the perfect wedding car.

It took a lot of hard work to get the interior back to this condition.

The Jaguar as Ray bought it with badly blistered paintwork. Once the paint was of f, the Jaguar’s body was found to be rust-free.

Leaving a door open to theelements had trashed the interior.

The previous owner had made a  start on restoring the car.

Interior work was performed by an ex-Jaguar trimmer.

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