The Jaguar S-type was designed to bridge the gap between the Mk2 and MkX, and ended up being a hybrid of both.
We tell the story of this interesting and underrated performance saloon.
Jaguar S-type: Bridging the gap
As if the story of Jaguar’s compact saloons was not complicated enough already – what with the original Mk1 mutating into the Mk2 and then the 240/340 – they spawned two further offshoots, the similar looking S-type and the 420. Not to mention the Daimler variant of that model. Both the S-type and the later 420 were technically more sophisticated than the Mk1/2, for which Jaguar was able to charge a higher price. This was fortunate for the Coventry concern because, as the 1960s progressed, the lower end of the luxury car market at which the original Mk1/2 had been aimed became dominated by the Rover and Triumph 2000s.
The catalyst for the S-type seems to have been the launch of the MkX saloon in October 1961 as the new top of the range Jaguar. With its independent rear suspension, better handling and smoother ride, it made the existing Mk2 saloon look antiquated. Jaguar therefore needed a more sophisticated car than the Mk2 with the refinement of the MkX, to sell in greater volume than the bulbous range topper. In other words the Coventry concern needed a cheap-to-develop car to fill the gap in the range that had emerged between the Mk2 and the slower-selling MkX.
The only way to do this was to transplant MkX technology onto the Mk2 body. Experience with the MkX showed that any attempt to upgrade the Mk2 by simply fitting independent rear suspension would result in a heavier car which would, in turn, retard performance. Anxious not to antagonise Jaguar’s traditional customer base, which was seen as the sporting motorist, the decision was taken to retain the existing Mk2 in production and develop a more sophisticated and upmarket model from it.
A confused development
In development the Mk1 saloon had been known as the Utah, the Mk2 was christened Utah Mk2, and therefore the factory named the independent rear suspension Mk2 as Utah Mk3. It also went by the new Jaguar codename of XJ3. As with all Jaguars of the period, Utah Mk3/XJ3 would use the twin-cam XK engine in 3.4-litre and 3.8-litre capacities. Due to the increased weight, some 335lb, there would be no place in the range for the smaller, short-block 2.4-litre XK engine found in the Mk2 lineup.
The Jaguar independent rear suspension design was in essence a double wishbone system using the drive shaft as the double wishbone. The system was contained within a subframe which was bolted to the body with the extensive use of rubber bushes to help reduce noise vibration and harshness (NVH) and Jaguar Cars had the expert in this on their payroll in the shape of Chief Development Engineer Bob Knight. The Jaguar IRS also improved ride comfort.
Styled by Lyons
The styling as always was the work of Jaguar boss Sir William Lyons. It was the task of Chief Body Engineer Cyril Crouch to translate Lyons ideas into reality in co-operation with Pressed Steel who had to build the body. Cyril Crouch commented to author James Taylor: ‘Lyons was completely in charge; he was the stylist. So he decided, “Let’s make it look more like the MkX.’ On a facelift like that he wouldn’t resort to a wooden block. He would go straight into panels, wheeled up in the shop – a laborious job – until he was satisfied. It would be done as a complete vehicle, taking a Mk2, lopping off the affected panels back to the scuttle, and starting again with panelwork from there.’
Cyril Crouch confessed he was not impressed with the resulting vehicle. ‘We ourselves appreciated what an ugly looking car it was, and when it came out there was a… “Is that the best you can do?” sort of thing. People like myself had to take the stick for producing such an abomination! It seemed an odd looking vehicle.’
As Cyril Crouch hinted, the Utah Mk3/XJ3 took many styling cues from the bigger MkX, mainly around the extended boot. The nose of the car looked very similar to the existing Mk2 saloon, but there were subtle differences such as peaks over the headlamps and sidelights and indicators from the MkX. Lyons also altered the roofline and the rear of the car was substantially re-engineered to accept the independent rear suspension. The fuel tank was taken out of the floor of the boot and in its place were twin tanks, one in each rear wing as in the MkX. Burman power steering was fitted as standard. Sir William Lyons designed the interior, effectively adapting the MkX design to fit the Utah Mk3/XJ3 bodyshell.
Designed for drivers
Lyons also made sure that all the interior features such as the radio and window winders were easy to reach, a contrast to how Alec Issigonis worked over at BMC! Also transplanted from the MkX was the improved heating and ventilation.
Launched against tough opposition
The Utah Mk3/XJ3 was announced on 30 September 1963 as the Jaguar S-type, although only 42 were manufactured that year. The new model was available with 3.4-litre and 3.8-litre XK engines in the same state of tune as the equivalent Mk2, combined with the choice of manual or automatic transmission. The move upmarket was just in time as the following month saw the announcement of the Rover and Triumph compact executive saloons that would eat into the older Jaguar Mk2’s market share.
It would be sometime before the gentlemen of the press got hold of an S-type. John Bolster of Autosport was the first in August 1964 when he tested a 3.8-litre, three-speed Borg Warner DG automatic transmission model, 2233 KV. Bolster managed to get 115.4mph out of 2233 KV and a 0-60 mph time of 11.6 seconds. He was impressed with the S-type’s refinement, ride and improved heating and ventilation system. He concluded: ‘This car will cause a lot of re-thinking among the manufacturers of luxury vehicles.’
Motor magazine tested the same car in December 1964 and achieved a top speed of 116mph, 0-60 mph of 11.8 seconds and overall fuel consumption of 15.3mpg. The magazine stated: ‘The S-type is one of the most comfortably sprung cars in the world and it will maintain its extremely high cruising speeds with the utmost safety and stability over road surfaces which demand a considerable reduction in speed from most cars.’
Smooth and effortless
The magazine added that performance was inferior to the Mk2, but went onto say: ‘It remains, however, a very fast car indeed with a smooth and effortless engine and the ability to return remarkable average speeds without tiring the driver at all.’
Unfortunately, Jaguar Cars, as was its wont, declined to loan the press an example of the smaller 3.4-litre S-type to test. In 1970 Autocar did test a used manual with overdrive 3.4-litre and managed a 0 to 60mph time of 13.9seconds and fuel consumption of 14 to 17mpg, but no top speed was recorded. In October 1964 the Jaguar -designed all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox replaced the outgoing Moss manual transmission in the S-type, and all the examples subsequently tested by the press would be of this later type.
In 1964, the first full year of production, Jaguar managed to produce some 7032 S-types. Mk2/Daimler production slightly dipped to 12,043, but MkX production slumped alarmingly to 2458, a drop of 62.6%. Had Jaguar shot itself in the foot by introducing the S-type? Were potential MkX customers defecting to the S-type which seemed to offer all the benefits of the larger car, but without the ungainly styling and at a cheaper price? During 1965, EDU 482C, a manual overdrive 3.8-litre was tested by both Autocar and Motor magazines. Motor extracted a top speed of 121.1mph out of this car, a 0-60mph time of 10.2 seconds and fuel consumption of 15.3mpg. The magazine stated: ‘It is only when travelling over 100mph that wind and some engine noise begins to rise above an unobtrusive rush.’
Autocar managed to get a top speed of 121.5mph out of the same car and a 0-60mph time of 10.4 seconds. However, overall fuel consumption was a dire 12.8mpg, a taste of things to come in certain future Jaguar models. During 1965 the S-type became Jaguar’s most popular saloon, with 9741 produced, the peak year of production. Mk2/Daimler production slumped to 8277, perhaps because as Motor magazine had suggested, it was well worth paying the extra £200 for the S-type. MkX production recovered to 3296, perhaps because the larger 4.2-litre XK engine was now fitted to it, but this rally was to prove only temporary.
And on to the 420…
By May 1966 Jaguar was running the first XJ4 prototype, the model intended to replace all the existing saloons and combining all the engineering expertise the company had learned on previous models. In July 1966 Sir William Lyons sold his Jaguar Group to the British Motor Corporation, although it was described as a merger, to form British Motor Holdings. Then to confuse the Utah story further, on 13 October 1966 Jaguar announced the final variant, the 420 saloon which will be dealt with in a separate development story. The 420 was an evolution of the S-type, which remained in production. During 1966 all Jaguar saloon production slumped by 24.9% to 15,990.
A Government credit squeeze announced in July suppressed domestic demand, and Jaguar went onto a four-day week in September, but clearly there was not a buoyant overseas demand for Jaguar’s now-ageing range either to fill the void. Disturbingly, the MkX range, which was only five years old, now seemed to be dead in the water saleswise. Jaguar hoped the XJ4 project would solve the problem, but delays meant that the Utah series would have to soldier on for the time being. In September 1967 Ambla replaced leather in the interior along with cheaper carpets and the Borg Warner Type 35 supplanted the DG as the automatic transmission at a time when the Mk2 was metamorphosing into the 240/340 series.
With the 420 now on the market, production of the S-type dived to 1008 in 1967 and 909 in 1968, the year British Leyland was formed. With the XJ4 about to be launched as the Jaguar XJ6 on 26 September 1968, the S-type became redundant and ceased production the preceding August after 24,933 examples. What was encouraging for Jaguar was that 15,065 of these were of the more expensive 3.8-litre variety, some 60.42%, which indicated that the future lay in more upmarket cars. Of course, the S-type soubriquet was revived in 1998 by the now Ford-owned Jaguar Cars to not altogether great success, it must be said, but that is another story.