Jaguar 240

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Keywords: Jaguar 240
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It’s a fact, two out of three cats could be costing you dearly! When it comes to Jaguar Mk2s, the general opinion is that only the 3.4 and the 3.8 models are worth giving garage space to. And yet, for many, the runt of the litter, the later 240 and 340 models, have everything they want from this classic saloon, plus they’re far cheaper to buy into the bargain. Compared to a ‘proper’ Mk2, the 240 and 340 (not forgetting the vastly under rated Daimler V8 250 – a car that’s always been in the shadows of the Jag) are faster, better built and easier to maintain and restore – plus are a heck of a lot cheaper to buy!

Most enthusiasts consider the 240 and 340 Mk2s as the runt of the litter; the fag end of what was a great car, but in truth while they were cheapened cats the degeneration started 12 months before the 240 and 340 surfaced, in September 1967.

Launched in 1959, by the mid 1960s this great sports saloon was coming under increasing attack from newer upstarts such as the Triumph 2000, Rover 2000TC and the plush Vauxhall Viscount (the latter voted British Car of 1966 by the Sunday Times). With Jaguar now coming under control of BLMC, after merging in July 1966, rationalisation quickly took place to cut costs. For the Mk2 this meant replacing the standard leather with Ambla (an upper crust pvc!), making the fl ush-mounted fog lamps optional (replaced by ugly mesh grilles) and dumping the lovely old traditional Windtone horns.

The Daimler V8 2.5 was a curious car in ways and reckoned to be the resultant child after a marriage of convenience. That truly wonderful 2.5-litre V8 engine (taken from the SP50) was only slightly larger than the 2.4 ‘six’ but with a quoted 140bhp it was 20bhp to the good of the then underpowered 2.4. Yet, coupled with standard automatic transmission, it was priced the same as the fl agship 3.8 Mk2.

With the ‘open secret’ XJ6 delayed until 1968, Jaguar took the step of launching the 420 – an S-Type with a MK10-style front end plus the 4.2-litre engine – to sustain sales during 1966, although sales of the 3.8 Mk2 had dwindled to just 689 that year. In contrast, almost 1600 2.4s were sold although, during 1967, Mk2 sales had dramatically tailed off all round.

To bolster the range until the XJ6 was launched in September 1968, Jaguar took the step of down-marketing the Mk2 and saw the entry model 2.4, the cat that was so unloved, as the key to saving the range. Introduced in September 1967, the 240 (and the 340) were identifi ed by their slimmer S-Type bumpers and 420 style hubcaps, along with modernised badging. Inside the already budgeted interior was further cost cut by deleting those legendary picnic tables (never featuring on the Daimler, strangely) fi tted to the front seat backs, although the wood trim remained, thankfully, but not of such high a quality as before many believe.

But the 240,in particular was amply compensated for such undignified belt tightening because it was given the sort of power it should have enjoyed years before.

Out went the old restrictive B-Type cylinder head and Solex carbs, replaced by a straightported E-type-style top end with twin 1.75 SUs plus a new distributor, improved cooling system and twin exhausts (so it looked sportier too). All this raised power of the 2483cc engine by a healthy 11 per cent, from 120bhp to a far more respectable 133bhp, with torque slightly improved, now up to146lb.ft, albeit produced at a heady 3700rpm, against the earlier tune’s slightly lustier 3000rpm.

Although it was kept quiet at the time the 340 engine also received the improved straight-port cylinder head, while the Marles power steering – hitherto only an extra on the 3.8 – became optional at long last.

Penny pinching or not, you couldn’t knock the value of these new cost-cutting cats. The 240 was pitched at £1364 was just £20 more than the original 2.4 of 1956. The 340 was even better value and only cost £1422- over £200 less than when the MK2 was launched!

The Mk2’s stay of execution didn’t last long, mind. The 340 was dropped almost as soon as the sensational XJ6 arrived, while the 240 bowed out the following April. The Daimler V8 250 actually survived until July 1970, replaced by an XJ6-derived Sovereign.

Options at that time were varied and included modifi ed cylinder head and camshafts on all models, limited slip differential, high ratio steering rack and a steel sliding sunroof – but we’ve never seen a Mk2 fi tted with one!

Not as well built as the The Growler’s reputation would have you believe, the last of the line Mk2s were much better screwed together than the earlier mounts it’s claimed. Autocar in particular praised the new 240 for its smoothness and said it was “better than most Jaguars tested over the years.” Praise indeed!

It’s the 240 which gains the most, where the added pep gives it much more respectable performance over the original 2.4 and makes you have second thoughts over a more expensive 3.4, where that larger engine may still be swifter but isn’t as smooth. Contemporary road tests (Jaguar never offi cially released an earlier 2.4 to the press because of its lacklustre performance!) had the 240 post a 0-60mph time of under 12 seconds and truck on to 106mph, making the car much more competitive against the likes of the in-house British Leyland rivals such as the Rover 2000 TC and the Triumph 2.5PI, all which cost similar money at the time. However, the newly launched and very swanky Ford Cortina 1600E had it licked for pace and price. But at £1363 the 240 was only £6 dearer than a Rover 200SC!

“It is a pity that the praises of the 2.4/240 have been a trifl e neglected in the past because the car has so much to offer”, said Motor, praising the smoothness of the shorter stroke engine over the 3.4.

The 340 stood up well against modern opposition such as the Vauxhall Ventora (a Victor with the Cresta six pot engine), the newly launched Rover 3500 V8 and even the Mercedes 250 SE – a car costing almost double the Jag’s price. If nothing else the revamped Mk2s offered outstanding value for money.

Again, according to contemporary road tests at the time, the automatic Daimler V8 was a shade faster than a manual 240, although on both economy isn’t a strong point, at around 17-20mpg - a penalty of the heavy bodyshell. But best of all, the tweaked 3.4 engine made the 340 almost as fast the exalted 3.8 – see our box out to compare the performance table.

The handling remained much the same – the biggest criticisms concerning the heavy low speed steering (fi ve turns lock to lock) but Motor was “surprised at the nimble, responsive handling… allied to outstanding adhesion and roadholding” in its test of the 240 back in January 1968, although described the ride quality as only adequate.

Even though these later Mk2s were downgraded, they are still opulent enough for most of us, with the Daimler in particular offering loads of leathered luxury as well as nicer seats than the Jaguar. “Almost the only cost cutting expedient adopted in the facelift – and one which few owners are likely to notice – is the use of Ambla leathercloth for the upholstery instead of real leather”, commented Motor.

So long as overdrive is fitted, the Mk2 cruises very well. The automatic models lose out on performance somewhat, but the driver is spared the weighty clutch and gearchange. At least it’s not the old Moss box on these late Mk2s, and it’s something you do get used to.

Traditionally these cut-price cats lag behind the more fashionable earlier Mk2, perhaps worth up to a third less, although prices for what was regarded as “the old man’s Mk2” are steadily closing on the Jag, as an increasing number of enthusiasts appreciate what the V8 has to offer.

Not so the 240 and 340, meaning cars can cost not much more than a grand for a basket case, with decent examples hovering around the £7000 mark. Unless it’s something really special, even the best cars should still leave a wedge of change out of £15,000. Considering how much earlier Mk2s sell for, the smart money should go on one of the ‘roaring 40s’.

Photogallery Jaguar 240:

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