1960 Jaguar Mk II 3.8 Saloon

Concours restorations can exceed six figures; if you’re very lucky, you might get half of that back when you sell

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“Grace, pace and space” was the Jaguar slogan in the 1960s, and no model epitomized this more than the mid-sized Mk II sedan, which was affordable, elegant and quick. In its ultimate form as the Mk II 3.8, it was termed the “gentleman’s express” and the car of choice for British bank robbers and the pursuing constabulary.

As Jaguar’s most popular model at the time, this sedan also marked a turning point for Jaguar Motor Cars. Previously, Jaguar’s line appealed primarily to the well-off sportsman, with two-seat sports cars and large luxury sedans. Since the introduction of this model, Jaguar has always had a mid-sized sedan in its line-up.

However, it took Jaguar a while to reach the zenith of development represented by this Mk II 3.8 Saloon. Introduced in 1955, the Jaguar 2.4 (these cars weren’t called Mk Is until the launch of the Mk II in 1960) adopted the monocoque construction first used by Jaguar in the D-type race cars.

This chassis was adapted to a small sedan with a styling theme that replaced the swooping front fender and short rear fender lines of the XKs and Mk VIIs with a single fender/beltline extending from headlamp to taillamp in one continuous sweeping curve.

The Mk I wasn’t entirely successful, however, since the design had fat A-pillars and solid door frames, which gave the greenhouse an awkward appearance.

On the inside, Jaguar worked its artistry with leather upholstery and wood trim on every possible surface except the center instrument panel, which juxtaposed a WWII fighter look of white-lettered black dials on a matte-black background.

Unfortunately, perhaps to underline the sleekness of the body, the rear wheel track was 4.5 inches narrower than the front track, which seriously affected handling. Still, the model sold well and in 1960, Jaguar unveiled the substantially improved Mk II.

Though the sweeping lines of the Mk I were preserved, the rear track was widened to match the front. Gone were the full rear fender skirts, replaced by partial skirts that displayed the rear wheels and tires, which came optionally with centerlock wire wheels and even with white sidewalls.

The Mk II was the same length as the Mk I, and the open and airy greenhouse-restyled with slender pillars and window frames outlined in chrome-made the car more elegant and graceful.

Two major performance improvements accompanied the changes. The Jaguar 3.8-liter DOHC engine, shared with the Mk IX and XK 150, made the car the fastest four-door production sedan. With 220 horsepower on tap, 120 mph was easy to achieve, and the car could outrun bigger cars (police Wolseley 6/99s, for example). The 2.4- and 3.4-liter engines, carried over from the Mk I, continued to be available.

Four-wheel disc brakes had proven their worth on the D-types and were standard. Jaguar was so proud of this that a red caution triangle and the words “Disc Brakes” were incorporated into the rear bumper trim. The interior was as Jaguar-luxurious as ever, and even the smallest details were attended to. As an example, the chrome pivoting lock on the rear door wind wings consisted of nine separate pieces, accented with a cross-hatched finger pad.

Fully restored from the ground up with no expense spared, this Mk II 3.8 Saloon was an AACA National Prize winner. Finished in black with a biscuit interior, it was described as fully sorted and upgraded with a 5-speed transmission.

Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson - SCM Contributor

Gary is also Editor in Chief of The Star, the magazine for the Mercedes-Benz Club of America. He has been active for many years in the Austin-Healey Club USA and is co-author of MBI’s best-selling Austin-Healey Restoration Guide, as well as editor of the Austin-Healey Magazine. An avid vintage race driver, he ran his 1960 MGA in three Monterey Historics, four Wine Country Classics, and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. He is the author of Motoring: Getting the Maximum from Your New Mini, a comprehensive guide to the new MINI Cooper, available through Amazon.com.

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