The sole example I’ve driven (a late 340 – I’ve actually driven more Daimler 250s than ‘real’ Jaguar MkIIs) was very enjoyable but, personally, I had to keep putting myself in the shoes of someone from the ‘Sixties to get a handle on why it was so highly regarded. In isolation it just didn’t seem to quite match the hype. Unlike its successor – I didn’t have to drive an XJ6 for very long before realising that not only did it fully deserve all the praises it gets but, if anything, it’s slightly underrated.
But this isn’t an XJ6. This is a MkII 3.4. The one that raised the heartrates of boys (and boys-at-heart) in the ‘Sixties. This isn’t the later car with plastic seats, a padded dashboard, cheaper bumpers and a parred down specification – this is the real deal.
And what a deal it is. This Jaguar has been treated to a full restoration in every sense of the word. The crammed folder of receipts and invoices covers virtually everything from a £10,000 engine rebuild to rechromed bumpers to sundy nuts and bolts. The file also contains every bit of correspondence the last owner had with each firm engaged to work on the car. The interior wasn’t merely restored but almost wholly replaced, with the work being done by a cabinet maker to a much higher standard than Browns Lane could ever achieved.
All this means that the MkII gleams inside and out and appears ‘as new’, if not better – the metallic blue paintwork and the external chrome has that unmistakeable depth and evenness of finish that betrays a car that has had much more attention lavished on it than the original manufacturer could ever hope to do.
ON THE ROAD
As nice as it is to sit cosessted inside this Jag, with its soft blue leather and polished walnut you can see your face in, it’s a car that begs to be driven. The XK engine has been fitted with an electronic choke so it purrs into life on the first stab of the starter. From inside it makes a muted hum but the sound from the twin tailpipes is a lovely crackling growl that, as a good Jaguar should, imparts a sense of smooth menace.
The automatic gearbox’s column-mounted selector shifts with a fingter-tip lightness and makes its changes in a slick and unobtrusive fashion, although it seems a bit hesitant to change up at partial throttle openings. Being an early car it lacks the choice of ‘D1’ and ‘D2’ driving modes but instead has a rather baffling extra toggle on the veneered dashboard marked ‘Intermediate Speed Hold’. When engaged this stops the ‘box selecting top gear (or forces it to kick into second if you’re already in third). The big straight-six’s effortless power delivery means that for blasting around A-roads second gear is all you need – the big Smiths rev counter swings easily around its face and there is more than enough poke on tap at any part of the engine’s range.
The steering is, like on all Jaguars of the time, light and it lacks both finesse and feel, but it is smooth, easy and predictable. The vaunted all-round disc brakes have been upgraded and do a good job of reigning in what is a quick and rather heavy car.
I needed no introspection to ‘get’ this MkII. Just gripping the thin steering wheel and looking over the XK120-style nose at the haunches of the Leaper on the prow, my view flanked by two wing mirrors as I was propelled along the road by over 200 straight-six horses in a cocoon of sublime wood and leather was enough to bring home to me why the MkII is a car that gripped the imaginations and stoked the desires of so many people.
TOP SPEED: 120mph
0-60mph: 11.8 secs
GEARBOX: 3-sp auto