1948 Jaguar Mk IV Drophead Coupe History - www.mister-cars.com

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» Home » Articles » Classic Car Reviews » Add - Classic Car Reviews » 1948 Jaguar Mk IV Drophead Coupe

1948 Jaguar Mk IV Drophead Coupe

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08/07/2010   Story and Images by MURRAY HUBBARD  
Mk IV Jaguars hold a special place in Jaguar history. They were the first cars with Jaguar badging as the manufacturer thanks to events in Germany between 1939-45. Those events include the name of Hitler's body guard troops, the SS or Schutzstaffel. Until 1945 Jaguar was a model name of SS Car Ltd that used the Jaguar name with the SS 90 and SS 100 pre-war two seater sports models as well as it's saloon range.

Classic lines of the 1948 Mk 4 Jaguar
 
 
With the SS name innocently coming from Swallow Sidecar Company, where Jaguar traces it's roots –  and with the same initials as the feared German SS – the decision was taken after WW2 to adopt the Jaguar name instead of the detested SS moniker.

Rear view 1948 Mk 4 Jaguar convertible
 
 
The Mk IV has another distinction that is quite remarkable: in reality there was no such Jaguar. The Mk IV simply does not exist ... certainly not on any badging. The Mk IV only came about retrospectively when the replacement, the Mk V was launched. Being the car before the Mk V naturally led to the car becoming known as the Mk IV, to differentiate it from the Mk V.

Interior 1948 Jaguar Mk 4 convertible
 
 
The Mark `Four', as it is pronounced, was an elegant saloon produced by Jaguar between 1945 and 1948. Elegant, that is, of Audrey Hepburn proportions. These were known as the `litre' cars as they came with 1.1/2 litre, 2.1/2 litre and 3.1/2 litre engines. Our featured car is the top of the tree 3.1/2 litre, four seat two door drop-head coupe. It is simply a  drop-dead gorgeous example of this rare breed.

Close up of dash board in 1948 Jaguar Mk 4 convertible
 
 
Another interesting aspect of the Mk IV is that it's a remake or perhaps a re-launch of a pre-war model manufactured by the SS company in 1938-39. Those were called SS Saloons and Sport Saloons and also powered by similar 1.1/2, 2.1/2 and 3.1/2 litre engines. This also goes to demonstrate just how timeless a classic shape can be. The reality is perhaps Jaguar needed to get cars on the production line as soon as WW2 ended and the tooling was already in place to get the Mk IV into the market place.

Roff stowed on 1948 Mk 4 Jaguar
 
 
The Mk IV is an emphatic statement of what Jaguar is known for: luxury, extravagance and elegance. The upright grille with leaping Jaguar atop the radiator, massive freestanding headlights, extensive use of chrome all at the pointy end of a long bonnet and framed with two huge bookends called mudguards or fenders, the Mk IV is a distinctive, captivating piece of British motoring history.

Close up of head lights and grille on 1948 Jaguar Mk 4
 
 
While the front of the car is car art at it's best, the sides and rear are pure simplicity, functional and without the glamour. It's a combination that works well, the front the car's face and the rest literally the body that supports the extravagant public persona.

The interior is so British you almost expect Winston Churchill to hop out from behind the steering wheel. If the interior upholstery was finished in dark leather, it would have that gentlemen's club feel. The interior is finished in white leather and the dash board is of timber, as you'd expect, and contrasted with a number of dials with black faces, chrome switches and handles and buttons. There's an old-fashioned tunnel allowing for the drive shaft to the rear wheels and a  lever with four forward gears on tap at the fall of the drivers' left hand.   

1948 Jaguar `leaper' bonnet emblem
 
 
The three `litre' cars were different in a couple of ways. The 1.1/2 litre engine was powered by a four cylinder made by the Standard company and the car was on a six inch shorter wheelbase. This baby of the range had a top speed of 70 mph and sold 5761 examples over the lift of the Mk IV.

Rear view 1948 Jaguar Mk 4 convertible
 
 
The 2.1/2 and 3.1/2 cars had a straight six engines under the bonnet to go with the longer wheelbase. The 3.1/2 litre was no slouch, at least in top speed, being able to top 90 mph.  The 3.1/2 litre was introduced in 1938 on what was in overall terms a body much the same as the 2.1/2 litre.

Close up of timber dash board in 1948 Jaguar Mk 4 convertible
 
 
While the style and shape of these Jaguars are timeless, the same cannot be said of the suspension. The cars ride on leaf springs at the rear – nothing unusual about that – but also up front, with live axles. This would mean the car's driveability could never reach the lofty heights of its style and appearance. This was rectified with the Mk V that boasted independent front suspension with double wishbones and torsion bar, along with a new chassis.

Front view 1948 Jaguard Mk 4 Convertible
 
 
Sales of the three Mk IV variants, as saloon cars, are quite interesting. Being immediate post-war petrol was scarce and expensive which lead to the most economical car, the 1.1/2 litre being the top seller with 5761. The 2.1/2 litre seemed to be caught in no-man's land and sold just 1861 units. The top of the line model, the 3.1/2 litre sold 4420 units. The 1.1/2 litre was not available as a convertible, but the 2.1/2 litre sold just 104 units and our featured car the 3.1/2 litre sold 560.  
 
 

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