In the mid-1950s, Jaguar was riding high on the wave created by their revolutionary, highly advanced "XK" twin-cam inline-six. The engine is best known for its tenure in the sumptuous XK120, 140, and 150 sports cars, and it powered the world-beating C-Type and D-Type sports racers to six victories in the 24h of LeMans. Even the massive XK-powered Mk VII and Mk IX luxury cars enjoyed considerable success in British Saloon Car racing in the hands of Stirling Moss, Roy Salvadori, and others. Despite their performance ability, these big saloon cars were stylish and luxuriously appointed. Buoyed by their success, Jaguar saw an opportunity to appeal to an even broader market with a smaller, compact luxury saloon that shared the same successful bloodline with their sports cars and luxury sedans. They debuted an all-new, technologically advanced midsize sedan in 1955. The car featured Jaguar's first-ever road-going monocoque chassis with power coming from either 2.4 or 3.4-liter versions of the glorious XK twin-cam inline-six and manual or automatic transmissions. Inspiration for the curvaceous body style came from the XK sports cars, and despite the smaller size, it featured luxurious traditional leather, wool, and wood trim. Almost immediately, racers saw the car's tremendous potential and soon began racking up even more hardware for Jaguar's already stuffed trophy cabinet.
With the introduction of the revised Mk II version in 1959, the original 3.4 became retroactively known as the "Mk I." Compact and sporty, the Mk I is widely considered the father of the modern sports saloon, and enthusiasts cherish them for their performance, luxurious appointments, and pure, undiluted style.
This 1957 Mk I 3.4 is a superb example of Jaguar's seminal sports saloon. Presented in the classic combination of Old English White over a gorgeous red leather interior, this car is the recipient of a comprehensive, nut and bolt restoration by noted restoration specialists Vantage Motors of Connecticut. Extensive documentation kept by the previous owner shows he purchased the car in 1999, then promptly handed it over to Vantage for restoration. From the photos, we see it was a complete and original car, but quite tired, finished ex-factory in regency red over a red interior, and fitted with steel disc wheels and automatic gearbox.
The body was soon stripped down to bare metal, and the corrosion repaired, followed by the application of German "Schutz" chip guard to the underbody, wheel wells, and inner boot. With the body prepped, a layer of Old English White was applied to the whole shell. The body fit is exemplary, with doors that shut with a satisfying click, straight panels, and tight, even gaps all around. All chrome parts were removed, stripped, and repaired as necessary before being plated to concours standards. Details include chrome knock-off wire wheels fitted with Dunlop radial tires and a set of period-correct Lucas Ranger/Fog Ranger auxiliary lamps. While it has been some years since the car first rolled out of the Vantage Motors workshop, the Jaguar remains in superb condition from top to bottom with gorgeous paintwork and finishing.
Following the body restoration, the interior was handed over to the award-winning experts at Coachtrim, LLC of Stamford, Connecticut. Using the same materials as the factory, including Connolly hides, Wilton wool carpets, and West of England broadcloth, Coachtrim fabricated the soft trim from scratch. Improvements include a subtly reshaped driver's seat for better support and perforated kick panels to conceal speakers for the updated audio system. A hallmark of the Mk I interior is the extensive use of burl wood on the dash and window surrounds. The trim and fascia were restored to a high standard, and housing refurbished instruments and switchgear. In the time since the restoration, the soft trim remains in superb condition and has acquired a charming character in the leather seats from gentle use. Updates include seatbelts, a sporty wood-rimmed Momo steering wheel, and a period-look, modern AM/FM stereo with boot-mounted CD changer, the latter of which is protected by a custom cover to match the factory style boot upholstery.
Photos and receipts show the 3.4-liter inline-six received a complete tear-down and rebuild, with noteworthy components including new pistons, a reground crank, new bearings, new valves, and valve guides. The engine consists of a matching-numbers block with a replacement cylinder head, and a preferred four-speed manual with Laycock overdrive takes the place of the original Borg-Warner automatic, utilizing factory components for seamless integration. The fully-restored chassis features desirable four-wheel disc brakes, stainless steel exhaust, and the addition of Koni red dampers to improve cornering control. The mechanical components show some light signs of use, such as "baking off" of the porcelain exhaust manifolds, and some general road wear on the undercarriage. However, considering the time elapsed since the restoration, it is in superb condition all around.
The result of all of the effort and expense of the restoration came with an award for Most Outstanding Jaguar at the 2003 Greenwich Concours d'Elegance. Since that time, it has received attentive care and remains in truly outstanding condition. We rarely see Mk I saloons so comprehensively restored as this incredible example. With its desirable upgrades, this Jaguar would make a worthy candidate for entry into any number of premier driving events around the world.
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