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Happy Birthday Jaguar Mk2: Why We Should All Drive One

Conventional wisdom generally has it that original is best. The Jaguar Mk2 is the exception to that rule - a car that, as its simple name implies, wasn't the first version of its innovative mid-size saloon.

The car that we now associate with louche, slightly tawdry, but ever-so-quick motoring was launched 60 years ago this year in 1959. But it was really just a warmed up revamp of a car that had been created four years earlier, the retrospectively named 'Mk1.' Where that car was stylish but a little lacking around the details, the Mk2 emerged almost perfect - as if it had been the designer's original idea all along.

Great Escape Cars has two Jaguar Mk2s for hire. And there's a reason for that. In fact at least five - here's why we think we should all be celebrating 60 years of this British masterpiece.

1. Just Look At It

It's hard to believe but the Mk2 was, as the simple name subtly implies, a mid-life update to an earlier design. And yet it is so cohesive and sculptural that it looks like a one-time effort.

Unlike many saloon cars, the Mk2 looks good from any angle, a seemless synergy of curves and shapes that surprise and delight the more you look at it. And yet it does this without being flashy or superfluous, even managing to make features that shouldn't work - like that cut-down boot - someone seem right. All of this is achieved without sacrificing practicality - the Mk2 is spacious with good visibility and a decent sized boot.

The achievement continues inside - the Mk2 set new standards for interior design, combining wood and leather in a way that few cars then or now have ever surpassed. The Jaguar is just a lovely, lovely place to be - and it could only be a Jaguar.

2. Power for the People

Today's car market is crammed with largely similar models with similar performance. Not so in the 1960s. Before the Mk2 arrived Britain's middle classes had to make do with Ford's Zephry or Zodiac, cars that struggled to crack 100 mph and meandered their way to 60 mph in 16 seconds.

By comparison the Mk2 was a supercar. The 3.8 had nearly 200 bhp and could hit 60 in 8.5 seconds. Even the mid-market 3.4 could top 120 mph. And yet the slower Rover P5B was more expensive.

The Jaguar's combination of performance and value inevitably saw it wind up in the wrong hands. The Mk2 quickly gained a reputation as a bad boy's car - the 3.4 was the weapon of choice for London's legion of getaway drivers. None of which has done much to dent its reputation as a desirable classic car.

3. The E Type You Can Share

As any naughty dad surely knows, half the fun of a fast car is scaring your family witless. But sadly, most sports cars are strict two seaters, which tends to limit the capacity for white-knuckle points scoring.

Not so the Mk2. It may look like a regular saloon car, but its performance and handling tell a different story - this is, after all, a car that is a regular front runner in historic touring car racing. The Mk2 accelerates like an E Type and, arguably, handles better thanks to a more balanced chassis.

Even if you're sufficiently well adjusted not to need to scare the people you love, the Mk2 really does give the best of both worlds - sports car characteristics in a car you can all enjoy.

4. A Cultural Icon

Whether your first introduction to the Mk2 was via Richard E Grant shouting 'Scrubbers' from the grubby window of a Cyclopian 2.4 Mk2 or Inspector Morse tootling around Oxford solving crimes, the Jaguar has cemented itself in the national consciousness like few other cars of its era. And that's before we mention The Sweeney (yes, we know they were S-Types).

The Jaguar Mk2 has managed to be just as popular with drug dealers and doctors, a cross-cultural denizen that helped give Jaguar the distinctive 'bad lad' image that it loves to play up in current advertising.

5. It Sums Up The 60s

For most people the 1960s are fondly remembered as a high water mark in British culture, an era of flash cars, great music and cut-down fashions. In our modern era of uncertainty and national naval-gazing the Jaguar Mk2 is a shiny, chrome-splattered symbol of everything we once did so well. It really was the best saloon car in the world by virtually any benchmark - performance, ride or looks.

There are many reasons to love the Mk2, but those are our top five. We'd love to hear yours.

You can drive one of our two Jaguar Mk2 hire cars from just £59 on one of our road trips, classic tasters or daily hire experiences. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit www.greatdrivingdays.co.uk

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