(first posted 5/7/2013) On the west side of Houston’s Hobby airport is a small aviation museum converted from the original, 1940-built air terminal. On the third Saturday of each month, the museum holds a fly-in -drive-in open house. Airplanes park at the front of the terminal, cars at the back. Although organized meets composed of, say, Corvettes or Mustangs (both the Ford and P-51 variety) show up from time to time, just as often, interesting machines just sort of turn up in the parking lot or on the taxiway. One time it might be something like a ’62 Studebaker Champ pickup, the next it might be this: a Jaguar Mark IX.
Throughout the 1950s, Jaguar made considerable coin building some rather imposing luxury sedans- er, saloons, but for whatever reason these seem to have been shaded in the popular mind, in favor of the classic XK sporting cars and the later executive sedans such as the Mark X and XJ series.
The Mark IX seen here was the culmination of successive updates of a 1951 design that began as the Mark VII (above), and is an interesting mix of the creakingly traditional (body and interior fittings) and state of the ‘60s art modern (much of the running gear). Under a skin not much changed from its ’51 ancestor, one could find a 3.8 liter version of Jaguar’s fabled twin-cam straight six, rated at 220 hp. Other modern touches included disc brakes all around and (on the vast majority sold) a Borg-Warner three-speed automatic box. Suspension was independent in front, live axle with leaf springs at the rear.
Interiors had a go at Rolls-Royce-level furnishings, with a dash of polished burl walnut, Connolly leather seating surfaces and Wilton carpets underfoot. Wipe those shoes, passengers!
If it were night, we could maybe see the unusual UV fluorescent instrument lighting. Oh, well. That shifter looks beefy enough to heave the gears into position on its own.
With a wheelbase of 120 inches, a width of 75 inches and a curb weight of 4000 lbs, this is a big bruiser of a car, although with 0-60 times in the 11-second range and a top speed just shy of 115 mph, it could certainly get out of its own way if needed. The various Internet sources I’ve accessed indicate that these were fairly pleasant drivers, with handling and braking that belie both mass and the pretty but rather archaic –looking bodywork. I’ll have to take their word for it, as I’ve never run in the sort of circles that might get me behind the wheel of a machine like this.
That gray strikes me as ever so British and highly appropriate, although two-tone schemes were apparently quite popular on these cars as well. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can pin down the year; I haven’t noticed any identifiable differences over the design’s three-year run. The owner wasn’t around, otherwise I’d have asked after the car’s history. An Internet search of a large site dedicated to Jaguar saloons didn’t turn it up. I’m pretty sure it’s a factory import; despite being festooned with “GB” stickers and wearing UK plates, it’s left-hand drive, innit?
All in all, an impressive ride, although I’m glad I’m not the one shelling out to keep it on the road. Protip: apparently if your car is old and rare enough, you can drive around Texas on vintage British plates without the law saying boo.
Nice write-up. You’re quite correct, these early saloons are overlooked with attention focused on the sports cars and later Mark X sedans.
My first brush with a Mark IX was the Hitchcock classic “Vertigo” where the Madeleine/Judy character drives it around San Francisco.
One quick correction – I believe it was a Mark VIII…..
That was a sweet car in that film, as was Midge’s (Barbara Bel Geddes) Karmann Ghia…
I liked Jimmy Stewart’s DeSoto!
Me too,hard to believe De Soto was on death row in a few years time.
I liked them all.
Last year, I got on a classic Hitchcock kick, and watched pretty much all of the best of them: Vertigo, The Birds, Psycho, The Trouble With Harry, North By Northwest and Torn Curtain. But I think I liked Vertigo the best, with the Jag, DeSoto and other four-wheeled stars.
Did anyone notice the first generation blue Range Rover in pictures 1, 2, 4, and 6? Rather ironic placement, eh?
Love those RRs.
Rover’s passenger-car line would’ve been a direct competitor, although they had a more conservative image while Jags were seen as rakish and “new money” in Britain – to Rover’s disadvantage in export markets. Rovers sold decently in places that had a tradition of buying British (Australia, southern Africa – both also major Land Rover markets) or no domestic auto industry (Switzerland, the Benelux countries – at least until Mercedes started eating their lunch there) but in places like the US the very people they were meant to appeal to were hard-pressed to consider Mercury alongside Buick, Olds, Chrysler and the pricier independents, let alone anything foreign.
Jaguars on the other hand appealed to people who wanted Something Different. They *looked* foreign, not like an old Studebaker the way Rovers did or like a generic domestic compact the way Humbers did.
Thanks for this. I always appreciate learning about the subtleties of a car’s home markets. Often these nuances are lost on we Yanks who have never lived in the UK.
I’ve never lived there, I just know how to read their language.
(*couldn’t decide whether to put an emoticon so that’s not mistaken for sarcasm, or give it the deadpan treatment it deserves)
I remember riding in the front seat of a Mk 7 in the early fifties with my late father and my cousin, who was driving ( his father owned the car). The gist of their conversation was that the big Jaguar was made for the “yanks” ( I hadn’t heard this term previously). A look at the heavy-duty chrome bumpers confirms that they didn’t really build this just for English customers. Of course the XK120 was already selling in good numbers in the US , but that car was meant to showcase the new twin-cam engine and raise awareness of the coming Mk 7 – Jaguar never intended it to be a full production model.
After all these years I still keep forgetting to look at the backgrounds!
Those taillights look like those on a Morris Minor. In fact the rear looks like a fat Minor.
And you’d be correct but I think the Jag was first.
The tail lights were the standard L549 assembly from Lucas, hence being found on both this Jaguar and the Morris Minor of the similar period.
Brilliant – trust somebody here to know the part number! 🙂
And MGs, Morgans, Austin-Healeys, Triumphs…Never realized that whenever I saw the back of a British car from the ’50’s, I was looking at the same taillights. Wow!
Or is this the original tail lamp shrouded in chrome? This is from Srilanka, a former British colony. Cheers
Cool find. Wow, but that shifting mechanism looks like an afterthought. I presume that most of these in England still used a floor-shifted manual? Or perhaps not.
The styling on this car is simply fascinating to look at. So much going on, yet all pulled together so beautifully. I agree that the gray color is just right on this car.
There were still a lot of column shifters about for a long time.I had a 70 Vauxhall Cresta with 3 on the tree
So did I and a PC Cresta can eat an old Jag on the road, tree shift or not
At last another PC Cresta owner!I loved mine,American glamour with the steering wheel on the proper side!
Auto Trans JP the manual shift was on the floor, I think these used the D.G. auto box same as the Austin Westminster if memory serves, I was sent to RJR for my Austin parts but due to a family fued I couldnt shop there so the car became rebar.
The smallish rear tail lights hint at 1958 I would guess. As to the registration number, FF was allocated to, I think, Bangor in Wales. Presumably all those ‘England’ stickers on the boot lid were affixed after the original Welsh owner sold the old girl on! My Latin master at school ran one of these in the mid sixties. When it finally rusted out he headed for the opposite end of the scale and bought a brand new Austin Healey Sprite. The Jag was a tank and I remember that you could actually see the fuel gauge moving at anything much over 70 mph!
Those little bitty taillights! How could anyone see them? Or maybe folks had better vision back then.
One of my Principles of Car Styling is, when you can’t change anything else for the next model year, make the taillights bigger! The VW Beetle is an easy example, as was Jaguar’s XJ-6. I bet you can find other cases.
Nowadays, taillights are huge, esp. on certain badge-engineered luxury vehicles like the Navigator. Yet even that is not enough, & we must have center brakelights as well (per regulations). Reductio ad absurdum, someday the entire rear of the car will be a massive taillight.
With triple SUs @ 100mph sure you can see the gas gauge move it falls like a stone but theres still plenty of boogie left, stop and steer at that speed I guess so, contempory tyre testing shots show many a Jag on full lock at 90 plus trying to peel the rubber off the loaded wheel nothing else went well enough for tyre testing so Jags were the only choice. there was a record Auckland Wellington run done for a 1000pound bet in 1957 in New Zealand, Fuel stops were pre arranged servicing etc and the car for this trip a brand new MK7 Jaguar saloon, This at a time when our Highway one was mostly gravel. under 8 hours was the bet and 7and half it took including a breakdown in Taupo and a blowout at high speed on the desert rd. A repeat performance in 61 was stopped by police as people travelling on public roads at speeds exceeding 100mph are a menace.
I had a triple SU 4.2 in my 1969 420G and it definitely drank fuel, 13 mpg (imperial gallon) was not hard to reach.
It also came with crossply tyres which I would imagine were very similar to the car featured. At the time I was driving from Newport to Cwmbran, about 7 miles filled with roundabouts. After 3 months I looked at the passenger side front tyre, the one that dug in cornering on the roundabout, there was nothing left of the outer tread and the beading was showing.
I could not believe the rate of the wear and they were dam expensive tyres. Put on a set of much wider XJ6 wheels and tyres I had saved from my Daimler Sovereign. Much better grip and durability, never again will I use narrow crossply tyres
The “FF” index mark was allocated to Merionethshire (Wales) at the time this car was new, since that was in the days when registrations were handled by the individual county and borough councils. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where the car last resided in the U.K., since in most cases a car keeps its original number when moving to a different area.
After the creation of the centralized DVLC (Driver & Vehicle Licensing Centre), the “FF” code was then allocated to DVLC’s Aberystwyth office (Cardiganshire), which appears to have been closed in 1981, at which time Aberystwyth area registrations were handled by the Bangor office (Caernarfonshire).
It’s not a Welsh number.. You have only part of the story on UK registrations!!
It’s a DVLA age-related number issued all over Britain in the 1990s, for old pre 1963 cars which had lost their original numbers.
These numbers were usually unissued combinations from rural parts of Scotland or Wales which had never used up all their combinations before the suffix-letter system became compulsory in 1965… Merionethshire actually never issued beyond HFF### in 1963, so any number JFF onwards is 1990s national issue.
I’m guessing the original number was sold into the ‘cherished number’ (US = vanity plate) market.
Knew a girl in New London who had one of these, have no idea of the year. Had a caution sign above the windshield about having the windows closed at some triple digit speed. It would run.
You certainly get around. Good story. Haven’t been to Hobby in years.
In the fifties, Jaguar was the dominant import premium/luxury/sporty car, by far. They dominated the US market with a very full range, and these large Marks were quite common. One used to see them quite often. They conveyed (and imparted) a lot of exclusivity and luxury for the money. A 1959 Mk IX listed for $6000; the Rolls Royce was $15,600, or almost three times as much. That goes a long way in explaining why Jags were so successful.
But in the sixties and seventies, they gave up that dominant position to MBZ and BMW.
Wm. Lyons had a killer marketing concept: Great looks & performance at modest cost. But they dropped the ball on quality; Yet Another British Opportunity Lost. Considering how popular Jags seem to have been among style-conscious women (Middle-Aged Chick’s Car), quality is a serious matter — everyone hates being stranded, but it’s scary as well for many women.
My sister-in-law, following our advice, traded her aging, moneypit Jag S-type for a Prius 5. Nuff said.
They were a rare sight in the UK,growing up as a car mad tomboy in 60s Britain I don’t ever remember seeing one.I read that it had a fair bit of success in early saloon car racing until the Falcons,Galaxies and Lotus Cortina showed up.It’s elegant but very dated for 59 compared to what was coming from Detroit or even Dagenham and Dunstable!
Not exactly a common car in NZ unless you grew up where I did where Jaguars were very popular due to having an internationally know Jaguar/Rover wrecking yard in town parts were easy to get.
Fast cars in their day the first time I saw 100mph attained was in a MK7 Jag smooth quiet comfortable and fast of course they were popular in later years we could get fast American cars but those are only fast on paper or in a straight line and are too softly sprung and damped to really drive quick and also tend to fall apart if used hard.
Jags like this were raced with success, they also won the MonteCarlo Rally aqnd various other events, These cars were sporting saloons unlike Rovers and Humbers which were just luxury cars with no performance ability.
Charles Bronson liked the little Marks. Then of course there is this unusual variant.
That wagons another new one to me,I remember a Bronson film where he drove a column shifting Jag,St Ives?
I like it!
Didn’ t anyone see the twin gas filler caps? AGB
Twin fillers was normal on full-size Jag saloons.
It’s as though they forgot to design a fuel tank, and had to put in a couple of little ones where they could find room – in the rear wheel arches iirc. A friend’s dad had a Mark VII – I remember the mechanism for switching the fuel feed and also to switch so the gauge would read from the correct tank. With about a seven-gallon tank it’s no wonder you could see the needle move when you were driving fast.
Little ones? Little ones? well I suppose if you come from Texas twin 50/60 litre tanks are little but for the rest of the world………phew! (See gas gauge dropping visibly at speeds over 100 MPH above)
Great article on the Jaguar. Thanks.
As a native Houstonian, architect (with a predilection for the historical stuff), and an aviation enthusiast, as well as a car buff, I also appreciate the mention of the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. For those who would like to know more about the museum the web site is http://www.1940airterminal.org.
Austrian born architect, Joseph Finger designed the air terminal building and it is interesting to compare it to another of his projects, the 1939 Houston City Hall building.
I have a black and white picture taken in front of the air terminal building soon after it first opened. With his back to the camera is a young blond boy. That is my father who recently celebrated his 77th birthday. Standing in front of him, facing the camera, are two grown men. One is in a business suit and the other in a military uniform. The first of these is my father’s Uncle Allen who worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad at the time. The second was my grandfather who was in the U. S. Army Reserve and was apparently flying somewhere.
I believe the picture was taken prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My grandfather might have been “called up” prior to that day. I know that was the case for some other reservists. He was a chemist and pharmacist and was part of the chemical warfare division.
The picture is really too small to scan and retain any resolution but it is neat that I found it. It was in a box of similar photographs found as the family prepared for an estate sale of Allen’s daughter-in-law’s effects when she died in 2006.
Here is a post card image of the 1940 Air Terminal Building
That’s a beautiful building. I know CC is about cars, but I just love old buildings; a CC of a different type 🙂
Lovely car. I never noticed the mail-slot backlight before–I like it!
The Lincoln & Continental Owners Club goes there about once a year. Here’s a picture at the entrance to this great museum.
Having owned a 1960 Mark IX for several years, I can verify that the vehicle that you are reviewing is a Mark VIII. The main difference between the VII and VIII is the front windshield. VII had a split screen. And the main difference between the VIII and the IX is the tail lights. The IX has a large light with more chrome housing.
Re: “Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can pin down the year; I haven’t noticed any identifiable differences over the design’s three-year run.”
I don’t think anything visible changed during production, but the car is still on the British vehicle database, so can be tracked down as 1959.
The 1995 issue number means either the original number was sold into the ‘cherished number’ (US = vanity plate) market, or that the car had been off the road since before the vehicle records went computerised in the late 1970s (many records of unused vehicles were lost at that time)
Details cut & pasted from DVLA data site below. (not a clue where the 2000cc comes from, as these ware all 3800, but the DVLA are known for messing up vehicle records in various ways!)
Tax due: 01 January 1997
Vehicle make JAGUAR Date of first registration 01 January 1994 Year of manufacture 1959 Cylinder capacity (cc) 2000cc CO₂Emissions Not available Fuel type PETROL Vehicle status Not taxed”
My dad bought a 61 MKIX new, and drove it sparingly. I own it now – 41K miles, all original, and in perfect shape. I consider myself lucky. I’ve driven 1961 bentleys and RR, and the Jag – with all wheel disc brakes, power assist steering, and a two carb version of the E-type 3.8L XK engine; is far superior in handling, acceleration, and quickness on the road. And a lot more cost effective since vintage jag parts are easily found. It has the Same quality burled walnut, Connelly leather, and plush Wilton carpet interior as the Rolls line, the driving experience is awesome, the interior aroma sublime! Yet these are the forgotten jaguar mark – rust buckets not considered worthy of restoration. If you find one in great original condition – buy it – they are cheap. And you won’t be disappointed. Click photo for upright view.
(No idea why it posted upside down!)
When i was growing up, the neighbor had one of these, I don’t know which model, as they all looked the same. I seem to remember a divided front window. It was parked in the shed in the backyard. We lived in the country. The shed was unlocked, the Jaguar was too. It had been running, once – his wedding pictures had the happy couple driving away in the car, but it never once ran in the years (20?) they lived there. When I was just a wee boy, maybe 7, I discovered the shed, discovered the car, and spent many afternoons just sitting behind the enormous steering wheel, dreaming. If I remember it had a floor shift. Later my father and brothers and I became great friends with the owner and his family, and worked on and enjoyed many cars and motorcycles together. But never once did we deign to touch the Jaguar – it was never spoken of. One day the owner stopped living there, and sometime afterward the Jaguar was towed away. There’s the beginnings of a novel there…
Is it wrong that my first thought upon seeing the lead photo was of the Mitsuoka Viewt?
Yes. That’s bad and you should feel bad.
These are fantastic cars but they do seem to end up moribund in a garage or shed. Hopefully they will someday arise from the dead! My project has hit a snag and other more pressing needs have put it on hold. Still at least I have the car and progress will continue at a somewhat slower pace.
My ’59 Mk IX has the small Lucas taillights. Those larger, two-piece lens ones didn’t show up till the 60’s.