Jaguar Mk1, Mk2, 240 & 340 Buying Guide

Jaguar came up with the high-performance saloon decades before BMW even considered the M5. Here's how to secure a slice of proper British heritage

Jaguar Mk1, Mk2, 240 & 340 Buying Guide

How much to pay

• Project £2000-6000 • Good £8000-23,000 • Concours £14,000-40,000 •

Practicality ★★★
Running costs ★★★
Spares ★★★★
DIY Friendly ★★★
Investment ★★★
Desirability ★★★★

The super-saloon has become big business in the 21st century, but it was Jaguar that really put the genre on the map, back in the mid-1950s with its Mk1. While most family cars could just about get to 75mph, the Big Cat came up with a luxurious saloon that was easily capable of topping the ton. No wonder villains loved them.

Four years after the Mk1 debuted, the Mk2 took its place. It was this car that Jaguar used to crush the competition. Built in big enough numbers to keep prices relatively affordable, the Mk2 had it all: disc brakes all round, powerful and smooth straight-sixes that displaced up to 3.8 litres, sleek lines and a super-luxurious cabin. Later we got the 240 and 340, which offered more of the same, albeit with slightly less luxury.

Even now the Mk2 and its siblings make fabulous family cruisers, as they’re fast and comfortable, strong and beautifully appointed. Buy a Mk2 that’s been sympathetically upgraded, and you’ll have something that’s even more usable, although purchase costs of such cars can be high.

Your AutoClassics Jaguar Mk1, Mk2, 240 & 340 inspection checklist

Engine

All of these cars were fitted with Jaguar’s legendary XK straight-six in 2.4, 3.4 or 3.8-litre forms. It’s an engine that thrives on regular maintenance, and if it’s been neglected it’ll need an expensive rebuild. If looked after an XK powerplant will sail past 300,000 miles, so hopefully the oil has been renewed every 3,000 miles. Check the colour and level of the lubricant; if it’s thick and black, the engine is on borrowed time.

Also, if anti-freeze levels haven't been maintained, the alloy cylinder head will have corroded internally; this in turn leads to the radiator getting blocked up, with the engine then overheating.

A healthy engine will show 40psi when cruising, but gauges and senders aren’t always very accurate. Expect some oil consumption and traces of blue exhaust smoke, but if there are clouds of smoke, especially when applying the throttle after the over-run, a bottom-end rebuild is due – and probably a top-end rebuild, too. That'll be big money.

Oil all over the underside of the car points to a failed rear crankshaft oil seal, and at this point a complete engine rebuild will be needed. The 3.8-litre unit’s construction is different from that of the 2.4 and 3.4, as it has cylinder liners. The 3.8 has an extra water gallery at the top of the block, so it runs hotter, leading to increased oil consumption. When rebuilding a 3.8 engine, the liners must be removed to check for corrosion.

Gearbox

The four-speed Moss manual transmission used until September 1965 has no synchromesh on first, so it can be damaged by ham-fisted owners. Although it’s a tough unit, it eventually wears out, so see if it jumps out of gear. A rebuild is needed if the 'box is unruly, but parts are now scarce.

If overdrive is fitted, check that it works properly. It should cut in smoothly. Check also that the clutch doesn’t slip, because replacement is an engine-out job. If an automatic gearbox is fitted, check that this also works smoothly. A Borg-Warner DG unit was used, parts for which are available if an overhaul is required.

Suspension and brakes

The suspension has no weaknesses, but age has taken its toll on many of the examples out there. Look for tired dampers, sagging springs and worn bushes. Everything is available to sort these issues, and it’s easy to upgrade components while you’re at it.

Some cars have power steering and some don’t. Those without it have a Burman recirculating ball set-up, which is reliable if heavy despite being low-geared. The power-assisted steering fitted to pre-1963 cars is less reliable as it tends to leak, but the later Adwest steering box and subframe can be fitted – it’s more reliable and nicer to use.

Cars driven sparingly can suffer from corrosion and seizures within the braking system, and even when in good condition the brakes are only just up to the job, especially if one of the bigger engines is fitted. Upgrades are very much worthwhile, especially if you’re overhauling the set-up anyway.

Bodywork

As Jaguar’s first unitary-construction car, the Mk1 (and hence the Mk2) has a lot of rust traps built in. Add in low-tech rustproofing, and you’ve got a recipe for an orgy of rust – much of it hidden. While plenty of panels are available, the prices of some of them are eye watering, so don’t take on a project too lightly. Total restoration costs far exceed the value of any Mk2.

Rotten cars can look good, so analyse any potential purchase very closely, including from underneath. Focus on the two longitudinal chassis legs, which meet a crossmember beneath the nose. Water enters the chassis leg and progresses to the jacking point below the A-post, so look for distorted metal and plating.

Scrutinise the bottom of each front wing, and if the door fit is all over the place, suspect rot in the forward section of the sills. Restoring this properly needs a jig for strengthening, and much skilled metalwork.

Also inspect the Panhard rod mounting in the offside rear wheelarch, the anti-roll bar mountings, the rear spring hangers and the floorpans. The same goes for the wheelarches, back of the sills, spare-wheel well and fuel tank. All are susceptible to corrosion, just like the grille and headlight surrounds plus the area where the sill, rear door and wheel spat meet. The trailing edge of the boot lid also rusts, as do the door bottoms.

Interior

When in good condition, a Mk2’s interior is a wondrous place to spend time – but the scope for problems is immense. It’s swathed in wood and leather, with 29 pieces of burr walnut in there. This can all delaminate, while the seats can crack and split, and the headlining and carpets get damaged. Replace that lot and the bill will be wallet wilting.

It’s a similar story with the exterior trim, as there are 160 separate pieces, all of which need to be present and in good condition. If anything is missing you’re better off finding original parts, as some of the repro stuff isn’t very well made.

History

  • Oct 1955: Jaguar introduces the 2.4.
  • Feb 1957: The 3.4 arrives; this and the 2.4 are retrospectively called the Mk1.
  • Oct 1959: The Mk2 debuts with 2.4, 3.4 or 3.8-litre XK engines. There are also disc brakes, plus a wider rear track compared with the Mk1, and front suspension upgrades.
  • Sep 1960: Power steering is now optional.
  • Jun 1965: There’s now an all-synchro gearbox.
  • Sep 1967: The 240 and 340 supersede the Mk2, with thinner bumpers and Ambla trim, while there are now no longer any picnic tables and the fog/spotlights are merely optional.
  • Nov 1967: The final Mk2 3.8 is made.
  • Sep 1968: The last 340 is built.
  • Apr 1969: Production of the 240 ends.

AutoClassics says…

The focus with these sporting saloons is always on the Mk2. Yet while these still represent excellent value, the cars that came before (Mk1) and after (240, 340) are even more affordable – and they offer most of what the Mk2 offers. However, they’re not as iconic and so collectors will always see them as less desirable.

While few luxury saloons have the same presence as the Mk2, really good examples are scarce. That’s despite excellent parts availability, as well as top-notch club and specialist support; restoration costs are simply too high in relation to the final value. Genuinely good cars are in the minority, so inspect as many examples as possible before buying.

You’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a Mk2 with a 3.4-litre engine and one with a 3.8, yet it’s the latter that everyone wants. As a result, values of the best 3.8-litre cars can be significantly higher than for the smaller-engined models, largely because the 3.8 is nearly always the focus of the finest restorations.

Mk2 buyers aren’t generally purists; they prefer their cars to have sympathetic, well executed upgrades because these Jaguars are then much more usable. Anything that changes the car’s shape is out, but tweaked suspension, steering or braking systems add value, as do modern transmissions, modernised interiors and more reliable ignition systems. Most sought after are cars with a manual gearbox, but any really superb Mk2 is worth buying.

Specifications

Jaguar Mk2 2.4
  Power 120bhp
  Top speed 96mph
  0-60mph 17.3sec
  Economy 18mpg

Jaguar Mk2 3.4
  Power 210bhp
  Top speed 120mph
  0-60mph 11.9sec
  Economy 16mpg

Jaguar Mk2 3.8
  Power 220bhp
  Top speed 120mph
  0-60mph 8.5sec
  Economy 16mpg

Jaguar 240
  Power 133bhp
  Top speed 106mph
  0-60mph 12.5sec
  Economy 18mpg

Jaguar 340
  Power 210bhp
  Top speed 124mph
  0-60mph 8.8sec
  Economy 19mpg

Jag MKIIs for sale with AutoClassics here