Jaguar 3.8Mk.II

One of the best saloon cars in the World

It was recently a privilege as well as a pleasure to carry out a long road test of a 3.8-litre Mark II Jaguar saloon, after which only one conclusion could be reached, namely, that this is one of the World’s best saloon cars. What justification, if any, is needed for this statement ? We consider the explanation easy—here is a car capable of 125 mph, of devouring a 1/4-mile from a standing start in not much more than 16 seconds, and endowed with a full complement of Dunlop disc brakes which are well able to cope with high-performance of this calibre. Add to this the ease with which this 220 horse-power Jaguar can be driven, the sense of well-being conveyed by its hide upholstery, deep seats and polished veneers, its silent functioning and its very complete equipment, and no one, surely, will dispute our claim. That such a car can be sold for just over £1,800 is a commercial miracle understood only by Sir William Lyons. Fastidious businessmen and keen motorists can save themselves or their businesses something like £3,000 by bearing these facts in mind, and expensive motor cars with double-barrelled names seem somewhat expensive when compared with this Coventry-built twin-cam machine.

Points that appeal

The big-engined Jaguar is a fascinating car because it has such enormous powers of effortless acceleration, reaching, for instance, 80 mph from rest in under 15 seconds, 50 mph as quickly as 61/2 seconds, that there is little need to wear oneself out hurling it at corners or playing angry bears in traffic. Like a certain well-known big-twin motorcycle it hunches itself up and streaks away from corners and congestion and, with retardation to match, can afford to behave with dignity in adversity. For this reason alone the 3.8 Jaguar is an effortless motor car in which to cover many miles. If its road-holding is bettered in some sports cars or in Continental GT vehicles costing fabulous sums, this is scarcely relevant if the driver is in sympathy with the style of driving this Jaguar encourages.

In fact, the wider rear track of the Mk II version has cured a certain tendency to rear-end skittishness, and this compact but not claustrophobic saloon will hustle round corners with little roll and the RS5 Dunlops mute. Naturally, if you turn on all the horses on a wet road in a low gear you will have the tail round, and as the steering pays for being unexpectedly light by asking nearly five turns lock-tolock, there is every reason to employ the driving methods advocated above. Otherwise the latest Jaguar saloon is safe in spite of its very high speed and power. Incidentally, criticism of the low-geared steering, heard in some quarters, must be met by remarking on the usefully taxi-like turning circle, and here it is appropriate to comment that the steering is commendably free from kick-back or shake, has an adjustable column, and vigorous castor return action to ease the driver’s task after acute corners. The new wheel is neat, with single spoke and a half-horn ring, and is small and placed sensibly low.

The remote, rigid central gear-lever could hardly be bettered, except that unless a driver has long legs and arms and likes his or her seat right back to gain the fashionable straight-arm stance, its position is apt to be too far aft. The synchromesh can be beaten all too easily but, especially if the optional overdrive is ordered, there can be few grumbles about the spacing of the gear ratios in this best saloon car (certainly at the price) in the World. The engine, in spite of its rather ancient dimensions of 87 x 106 mm runs up to 6.000 rpm, actually peaking at 5,500 rpm. Yet it is so docile that it is quite permissible to run down to 20 mph in o/d top gear, and in fact this Jaguar has vintage qualities, for then the engine speed is below 1,000 rpm, 20 mph in normal top representing still fractionally under this speed, while even when motoring determinedly one changes up at around 3,500 rpm the full potentialities seldom being required, although it is exceedingly satisfying to have on tap a maximum of 98 m.p.h. in third gear, and as high a pace in the 7-to-1 second gear as many cars stagger up to in third. And there is no finer engine to be behind than the twin-cam, six-cylinder of a Jaguar.

The clutch likes to be fully depressed to effect quiet gear changes. The Dunlop disc brakes are superlative, light pedal pressures producing such fantastic stopping rates that it never becomes necessary to tread really hard, while the action is silent, straight-line and progressive. The handbrake is well located on the right of the driving seat.

The new facia is very attractively laid out and the grouping of switches and auxiliary dials on a central black-finished metal panel sunk into the veneered panel is convenient as well as stylish. This is probably the same panel as that used, polished, on the Sunbeam Alpine but if this, and the Lucas switches, are not special to the Jaguar, such semi-standardisation of proprietory parts was not unknown even in vintage times and is entirely permissible at the price. The six flick switches have their functions neatly lettered below them, from left to right : Interior; Bright—Dim—Panel; Fan—Fast/Slow; Ignition; Cigar; Starter; Map; Wiper—Fast/Slow; Washer,—which should be intelligible to those who find themselves behind the wheel of a Jaguar—if not, they should not attempt to drive such a powerful machine ! The wipers and horn function only with ht current in circuit. A small crank-handle under the facia extends the radio aerial.

Above this row of switches are four dials recording water temperature, oil pressure, amps and fuel contents. Before the driver, visible through the wheel, are the neat, matching Smiths tachometer and speedometer. The former has an inset clock and reads to 6,000 rpm, with a red warning from “five-five”; the speedometer goes to 140 mph and has total and trip odometers, the latter with decimal readings. Further right is a light which stays on while the handbrake is applied. This may seem unnecessary but it would be easy to burn out this brake with over 200 horse-power beneath the bonnet and in any ease the idea is very ingenious, because this light also comes on if the level in the brake fluid reservoir becomes too low, while if the light fails due to a bulb going the owner is likely to notice this when using the handbrake and have a new bulb put in, so that the fluid-level warning isn’t impaired. There are, additionally, the usual warning lights, including one for low petrol level (which didn’t function, a trek to a garage with a can thus becoming part of the test).

Before the front-seat passenger there is a wooden-lidded lockable cubby-hole, which is supplemented by a very useful map shelf under the centre of the facia, in which a lever controlling the scuttle ventilator is placed. Between this shelf and the transmission tunnel is the HMV radio, and behind it a huge lidded ash-tray which brought joy to Robert Glenton when he reported on the Jaguar in the Sunday Express.

Besides the cubby-hole and shelf there are spring-loaded flap-type pockets in the front doors and open pockets in the back doors. When the cubby lid is dropped a big blue bulb burns, for map reading. The back compartment passengers inherit the tables, corner lamps, arm-rests with ash-trays and openable quarter-windows of the Mk IX, and there is a central folding arm-rest.

The front seats are slightly on the hard side and rather flat. There are quarter-windows with tamper-proof catches, but no rain gutters, the driver’s apparently spring-loaded against wind pressure. The front window handles need 21/4 turns, the rear ones 21/2 turns, for full ventilation. On the test car the driver’s window was very hard to open. Naturally there is a very efficient heater/ventilator, with the merit of a quiet fan. Forward visibility is good (even if the average driver cannot see the near-side wing) for the broad bonnet slopes away, topped only by the low-set leaping-Jaguar mascot, and the screen pillars are thin. A good point concerns the “tell-tales” on the sidelamps; another is the dimming of the overdrive-indicator lamp when the sidelamps are on.

Overdrive is selected by the left-hand stalk below the steering wheel and a matching stalk on the right works the flashers or, moved in and out, flashes a full-beam warning with the headlamps even when the lamps are not switched on—good for Jaguar ! The former arrangement of the facia switch selecting sidelamps, then headlamps. then spotlamps, is retained, so that it is not possible to use head and spotlamps together, which too many dazzlers do. Dimming is by a big foot-operated knob, and there is a good roof hung central mirror, incorporating a map lamp with facia switch. Less clever are the rigid wood anti-dazzle vizors normally flush in the roof. It is hardly necessary to add that the Jaguar’s doors shut “expensively” and have good “keeps,” or that the switches work beautifully, or that the two-position facia lighting is nicely arranged. The lockable boot lid rises automatically, the interior then being illuminated; the spare wheel is hidden under the floor. The bonnet lifts to reveal that splendid twin-cam power-unit and its accessible components; the dip-stick is easier to remove than to replace. Curiously, the ignition key would also start the Editorial Mini-Minor !

Petrol consumption averaged 163/4 mpg and in 1,000 miles three pints of Castro! XL topped up the sump. The fuel gauge was apt to be optimistic, showing half-full with but four gallons in the tank. The twin petrol tanks and separate fuel system of the Mk. IX have unfortunately been abandoned and the tank capacity is rather less than 12 gallons, so that the range is limited to a feeble 200 miles, or less if cruised at 100 or more mph, as this Jaguar can easily be along motor roads or on the Continent. The filler is under a flap, making refuelling from a can difficult.

There are many extras available, such as laminated screen, radio, centre-lock wire wheels, etc, but a Powr-Loc limited-slip differential and vacuum-brake-servo are included in the highly competitive price of £1,779 0s 10d, which increases to £1,842 15s 10d if overdrive is specified, while an automatic transmission model is available for £1,927 15s 10d. Were purchase tax abolished Sir William Lyons would be able to offer the basic 3.8-litre Mk II Jaguar at £1,255— incredible, especially when it is remembered that it is only 12 years since the first XK120 was introduced.

Such a car is virtually sans rivals and if anyone likes to provide the Editor with one of these excellent, race-bred, and very-English motor cars he will raise no objections !—WB.