Origin's of the Jaguar XK Engine

Origin's of the Jaguar XK Engine

The iconic Jaguar XK is an inline 6-cylinder dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) engine that has been central to the history of the brand for over seventy years now. Although it was produced as far back as 1949, the beginning of this story starts earlier, during WWII and was pulled through to the classic jaguars we love today - which obviously includes the Jaguar E-type!

Who created the Jaguar XK engine?

William Lyons, Bill Heynes, Walter Hassan, and Claude Baily.

During WWII, Foleshill factory in Coventry repaired Whitley bombers and making sidecars and trailers for the military. Lyons tasked Heynes and his team with secretly developing a new series of engines so that Jaguar (then 'SS Motors') could land on its feet after the war. William Lyons ultimate goal was to create a sporty sedan that could reach 100mph. 

Initially, the team worked on a 4cyl engine, of which there are multiple stages of production over the years, but it was scrapped in the early 50s to focus on the more powerful, efficient and worthwhile 6-cylinder version. In September 1947, standard-based 6-cyl units were to be replaced with the new 3.2-litre XJ6 engine, but they needed more torque at lower speeds, so the stroke was lengthened to 2,334cc and the 3.4-litre XK was born. 

Jaguar now had this incredibly innovative engine, but it was intended for a sports sedan that remained unfinished with the all-important 1948 London Motor Show just over a month away. The team threw together a testbed and a show car which took the world by storm, in the following years, the Jaguar XK120 was the most popular sports car worldwide. 

How many types of Jaguar XK engines are there?

Jaguar produced five displacements ranging between 2.4 litres and 4.2 litres for passenger cars, and a collection of other sizes for racing. 

The first production of the XK was 3.4 litre in 1948, followed by 2.4 litre in the mid-50s. In 1958, Jaguar released the 3.8 litre, and then 3.0-litre versions were built for FIA racing from 1959. In 1964, an official bored out 4.2-litre XK was released, although racing teams had been doing this unofficially for some years. In 1968, a new 2.8-litre XK arrived, which was then replaced by the "new" 3.4-litre in 1975. In 2020, Jaguar released a 3.8 litre XK engine block, available for the first time as new in more than 50 years.

How does the Jaguar XK engine perform?

The Jaguar XK engine was an innovation and a big step forward when it was first unveiled. Even today, it's lauded for being the smoothest Jaguar has to offer and was heralded as a good few steps above the competition on the market from the same era for some time. 

It was a hungry engine, and this rate of fuel consumption is why it was eventually replaced with the AJ6. However, the strength of the XK engine is celebrated and it was praised for its low-down pulling power and impactful mid-range.

The other defining characteristic of the Jaguar XK engine is its distinctive loud growl that identifies any of the models carrying this engine as part of a rich heritage. It's something people know to look out for and definitely capable of turning heads and making itself known!

Which classic car models have a Jaguar XK engine?

With the meaning of 'classic' being defined as older than 40 years, this makes anything produced before 1982 a classic car. In light of the fact that Jaguar only produced the XK engine until 1992, it's fair to say that the majority of models lucky enough to house an XK engine would now be considered classic. 

The XK engine is responsible for winning Le Mans, which means that you can find a lot of the famous Jaguar competitors, like the D-Type, as well as the famed Jaguar saloons - a diversity that made it appeal to people all the more. 

The XK engine also became the beating heart of the Jaguar E-type, with the earliest examples fitted with a torque 3.8 L straight-six, offering a quick and tight drive, perfect for British winding and narrow roads. 1964 saw the Series 1 E-type fitted with the larger capacity 4.2 L allowing the E-type to stretch its legs more and for longer, the 4.2 XK engine became the centre of the E-type mechanicals until the introduction of the Series 3 V12 in 1971.

If you need help or are looking for a stunning classic Jaguar E-type Series 1, Series 2 or Series 3, or perhaps something different, then visit our sister company DM Historics’ Kent-based showroom, or if you can't find your dream E-type contact their friendly sales team via the office line +44 (0) 1732 440 494, to start the search on your behalf.


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