MYTH BUSTER

De­bunk­ing the most com­mon old wives’ tales

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THIS WEEK - Giles Chap­man

1 IT’S TRICKY TO DRIVE FAST

The first of Jaguar’s com­pact, mono­coque sports sa­loons was quite a beast, with 210bhp on tap from its straight-six en­gine that was very sim­i­lar to the power unit in the D-type racer. Keep­ing it in check on wet roads could be dicey be­cause cars built in the first year – of which the vast ma­jor­ity were ex­ported to the USA – re­lied on old-fash­ioned drum brakes. They were woe­fully in­ad­e­quate, and from 1958 all-round disc brakes were an op­tion that al­most ev­ery sen­si­ble buyer went for. So it was only the very early cars that would be re­ally fright­en­ing.

2 JAGUAR WAS TO BLAME FOR MIKE HAWTHORN’S DEATH

Well, it’s an un­for­tu­nate fact that one of these cars was in a ter­ri­ble crash that robbed Bri­tain of its first ever For­mula 1 World Cham­pion, the charis­matic Mike Hawthorn. He clipped a bol­lard at a re­puted 80mph on the A3 Guild­ford By­pass in Jan­uary 1959, lost con­trol, and hit a tree with fa­tal con­se­quences. This par­tic­u­lar car had been mod­i­fied by Hawthorn, but it emerged years later that the Jaguar it­self prob­a­bly wasn’t to blame. Hawthorn had been rac­ing against his friend Rob Walker in a Mercedes-Benz 300SL; the road was slip­pery; and the tree was at a no­to­ri­ous ac­ci­dent blackspot. Any­way, Hawthorn may have suf­fered a black-out, to which he was prone. The pre­cise cause of the crash will never now be known, although the Jaguar’s im­age suf­fered through the head­lines.

3 THEY WERE PER­FECT

Jaguar knew that the 3.4-litre had flaws. By bring­ing out the Mk2 in 1959 (in­stantly ren­der­ing the older cars as Mk1s), it in­tro­duced a host of im­prove­ments that turned a promis­ing car into a re­ally good one. Not least of these valu­able up­dates were a widened track at the back, disc brakes as stan­dard, and big­ger win­dows for in­creased vis­i­bil­ity. As the Mk2, the car be­came loved by rac­ing driv­ers, com­pany ex­ec­u­tives, po­lice forces and getaway driv­ers, such was the trans­for­ma­tion in han­dling. And Jaguar felt con­fi­dent enough to fit an even big­ger en­gine, the 3.8.

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