At the end of the Second World War, the British car industry, like the country itself, was in shambles. Car manufacturing had been put on hold during the war and car factories had been directed to join in the war effort. This meant that when the war ended, the only cars available to buy were ageing pre-war designs quickly refurbished and put on sale.
By the 1950s however, normalcy prevailed and carmakers were able to start putting out cars which were new from the ground up. Jaguar released their first unibody sedan, the 2.4/3.4 Saloon in 1955, although this was a flawed car. Visibility out of the cabin was hampered due to the thick pillars all around and the car’s ride and handling highly compromised because of a rear track which was narrower than the front.
In 1959 Jaguar released the Jaguar Mark 2 (and retroactively renamed the earlier car the Mark 1) to fix these issues. The Jaguar Mark 2, in addressing the issues of the Mark 1, was a revelation. The car was redesigned from the waistline up and the pillars were made thinner, increasing the glass area. The rear saw a slight redesign to mimic the styling of the Le Mans-winning D-Types. But what really turned the car around completely was the 4.2-inch wider rear track, the new suspension geometry, a limited slip differential and the addition of the legendary 3.8-litre twin cam straight six from the XK150. This meant that the Mark 2 turned into the world’s first sports sedan. The 220bhp engine made the Mark 2 good for 125 mph and a 0 to 60-mph time of 8.5s. To put that in perspective, an Aston Martin DB4 from the same era also took 8.5s to get to 60mph, but cost twice as much. Another world-first was the fitment of disc brakes on all four wheels.