The #1959 #Jaguar-Mk1-saloon
The car that begat the cops ’n’ robbers Mk2 is surely undervalued by comparison the mark 1 is a genuine landmark in Jaguar’s history, yet it remains undervalued and overlooked. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s no such thing as a Mk1. Jaguar never called it that, yet without the Mk1 there would have been no Mk2. Even more important is the part it played in boosting the company’s fortunes.
So what is a Mk1? Well, first you take a Mk2, then apply custom street-rod aesthetics, remove the garnish, enclose the rear wheelarches and fill in the glass area. Basically the Mk1 is altogether less visually polite, and that’s a good thing – though that’s not quite how it happened. Back in 1955 Jaguar broke new ground with its new 2.4 saloon. It was the company’s first monocoque road car. As a result, it was tough, stiff and over-engineered.
The addition of a ‘compact’ saloon (that’s compact in American terms) meant that Jaguar had its most comprehensive line-up to date, introducing a new group of motorists to Jaguar ownership. Key to that was price (see right) and performance. Today, no-one thinks of a 2.4-litre Jag as sporting, but it was. US mag Road and Track enthused: ‘We think it is a best buy if you are looking for a compact, safe-handling family car with a durable engine and sturdy chassis. The sports car performance is a bonus feature – always there, ready to be used, if you require it.’
That comment was made about the initial offering with its downsized 112bhp 2.4-litre version of the famed XK twin-cam six. Indeed, road test cars managed 102mph. And here’s something that needs explaining: Jaguar never released the later 2.4-litre Mk2 for road tests until the introduction of the run-out 240, because it couldn’t make the ton.
Even in initial form the drum-braked Mk1 hit the mark. But the market, particularly the USA, wanted more, and in early 1957 the 3.4 arrived, boasting 210bhp. Though you shouldn’t always believe Jaguar’s historic horsepower figures, the 3.4 hit 60mph in 9.1 seconds and topped out at 120. Disc brakes became a much-needed option and, in the hands of the likes of Tommy Sopwith, Roy Salvadori and Stirling Moss, as well as ordinary mortals, the 3.4 saloon was a potent force in saloon car racing. Yet the Mk1’s reputation has forever been haunted by the spectre of Mike Hawthorn’s fatal accident in his much uprated car on the Guildford by-pass in early 1959. If people know anything about the Mk1 it’s that its rear track was four inches narrower than the front, which made handling ‘tricky in extremis’, as the potted model guides say. That was, of course, rectified with the Mk2 (introduced as its replacement late that same year, after which the original saloon was retrospectively known as the Mk1).
As for the Mk1, it sold 36,740 copies, more than any Jaguar before. For that alone you could consider it more important than the relatively low-volume XK sports cars, particularly as the Mk1 contributed to Jaguar’s decision to buy neighbouring #Daimler
for extra production capacity and to raise the stakes again in the 1960s with the E-type and the XJ6. Come to think of it, if early E-types are worth more than later ones, shouldn’t the Mk1 saloon be worth more than the Mk2?
1955 There’s no doubt the Jaguar 2.4 was a compelling package, aggressively priced at just £1343. The Rover P4 90 was £1418, the Daimler Conquest 2½ cost £1600 and a Humber Super Snipe would set you back £1643 – and none could match the Jag for vigour. Meanwhile the 3-litre Alvis TC21/100 cost £1928, the Bristol 405 £3189, and the Lagonda 3-litre saloon, with its marginally sporting character, was a hefty £3901. For context, the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud was £5708. The £968 MG ZA Magnette was considered sporting, if not in the Jag’s league.
1957 The arrival of the 3.4-litre Mk1 renders obsolete any comparison with Humber, Daimler or Rover. Priced at £1672 (with the 2.4-litre version pitched at £1495), it outpaced and hugely undercut the £2993 Lagonda 3-litre, the £3451 Alvis TD21 and the £3586 Bristol 405. today Mk1s have always been cheaper than Mk2s, in fact considerably so, but the figures don’t tell the whole story. Within the last few months a 1959 Mk1 3.4, the 46th from last built, set an auction record of £66,000: this was a special-case exceptional car treated to a £60,000-plus restoration. Likewise another 1959 3.4, which made £51,750 at auction: this had been specialist-restored as a Hawthorn replica. Other than race cars, and ones with proper period competition history, most Mk1s are selling at auction below £20,000 and for not much more in the trade. This reflects condition more than true worth, as owners of really good ones hold on to them; there aren’t many around. Pay two-thirds for a 2.4, avoid the 2.4 auto.