Work on Jaguar's advanced new saloon had been interrupted by the war, and in 1948 elements of the proposed newcomer made their first appearance in other models: the twin-overhead-camshaft engine in the XK120 sports car, and the chassis design in the interim Mark V saloon.
It was not until 1950 that the two were combined in the Mark VII, which would be the first of a family of high-performance luxury saloons that would culminate with the Mark IX.
A considerable improvement on what had gone before, the Mark VII's cruciform-braced chassis featured torsion-bar independent front suspension and all-round hydraulic brakes. The 3.4-litre 'six' had already demonstrated its prowess in the XK120 and proved capable of propelling the Mark VII's not inconsiderable bulk past 100mph.
Priced at a mere 40% of its Bentley Mark VI rival, but available at first only for export, the Mark VII was a big hit in the USA, where that market's demands prompted the introduction of an automatic transmission option in 1953.
Two years later the model was revised as the Mark VII M, with maximum power increased from 160 to 190bhp.
The first Jaguar to be associated with the firm’s marketing slogan, ‘Grace, Space and Pace’, the Mark VII established Jaguar as a serious contender in the arena of high-performance luxury saloons.
It was the fastest production saloon car in the world at the time.
The Mark VII also acquitted itself surprisingly well at the highest level in motor sports, including at the Mille Miglia, the Monte Carlo Rally (won outright in 1956 by Ronnie Adams), and the annual production car race at Silverstone, where drivers of the ilk of Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb won consecutively from 1952 to ’56.
Stirling Moss once said of the Mark VII that it was, “a fantastic car... nobody thought that it would do any good, but it really was very good.”
Eagle-eyed movie buffs will know that Kim Novak was driving a Mark VII M in Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’.