The cars : Jaguar S-type development story

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.

Jaguar S-type
Prototype front end shows some work to do
Jaguar S-type prototype
Note the ridges in the bootlid that didn’t make it into production.

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

Jaguar S-type interior
Jaguar S-type interior was a woody paradise…

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.

Jaguar S-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.

2000 Jaguar S-type

Ian Nicholls
Latest posts by Ian Nicholls (see all)


  1. That’s my mobile then…who’s that calling me now.?
    “Hello, is that Mike Butler?”
    “Er, yes. Who’s calling?”
    “It’s Car magazine here; I’m glad to say that you’re one of the winners in our S-type launch competition.”

    So, 24th March 1999, I was off to Brown’s Lane for the launch of the then new S-type Jag. I must admit to being a fan of Jaguars for years, but as I was never going to have enough money to buy one, this was going to be as close as I was going to get to having the Jaguar “experience”.
    The eagerly awaited envelope with the day’s itenery landed on my welcome mat, and ripping the envelope open, like a student awaiting exam results, I looked to see what was in store.
    Obviously, the ride and drive of the new car was top of the list – and we’d be fed and watered – but there would also be a tour of the factory and museum; and a chance to take a ride in some of the museum cars. Now taking a ride in some musty museum piece might not sound like fun, but just look at Jaguar’s back catalogue. Available would be NUB120 – the XK120, a D-type racer, William Lyons’ personal XJ6, the Queen Mum’s Mk VII, the last V12 E – type, the last Daimler limousine (which was the last use of the masterpiece XK engine), a couple of other saloons and drop heads, and even a Daimler SP250 (Dart) managed to sneak in.

    “Sorry, but if you’ve got a camera, you’ll have to leave it here, and collect it after the factory tour.” Well, you don’t want to give away any secrets, now do you? Not that we saw anything secret. I suppose one very clean production line looks much like any other, but when we got to the trim shop, well, there were processes going on there which must have gone back to the first days of car production – admittedly, now with more modern equipment.
    Leather hides being transformed into seat covers, hand brake gaiters, and sections of trim. Wood being turned into veeners for dashes, door trims, gear knobs and steering wheels. Even inlays for the Jaguar name in some of the wood trims. I know, very “olde worlde,” but at the time (only 11 years ago!) very much the make up of the luxury brand.
    After the tour, “optional ride in heritage vehicles.” Optional? When there’s a D – type on offer? Watching the sight of grown men, sometimes overgrown men, using all their strength to wedge themselves into the riding mechanics position was almost worth the trip alone. (Just in case you’re not up on racing regs of the time, the cars had to be capable of carrying a mechanic. They never did, so the space allocated was minimal.)
    Back at the factory, we could hear the D-type roaring through the country side; and upon it’s return, depositing men, bent double, but very happy; grinning from ear to ear. At well over six foot I sadly elected to give this a miss. But the limo, the personal XJ6 of William Lyons, and NUB120 got my attention.

    Buffet lunch seen off, it was time to get to grips with the S type. Teamed up in pairs, we were given a route through the Warwickshire countryside to follow, which would take us a bit over an hour to complete. Our car was a manual 3.0 litre, which; a recalcitrant throttle pedal aside, was a very nice drive – comfy and reasonably quick.
    The route, like the X-type, didn’t go quite to plan. We turned out of the gates, got less than a mile up the road, and some kind soul had decided to dig up the road, closing it completely. So we struck out on our own, managing to re-join the original route not too far away. But on one stretch of road, we did manage to see several other S-types going the opposite way; each convinced they were going in the right direction.
    What struck me was, that although it was an extremely nice car to drive, the “retro” style didn’t quite hit the mark. If you were going retro, I thought the Rover 75 did a better job.
    Also, the interior, whilst comfortable, and with a goodly quota of leather and walnut, just didn’t seem quite special enough. Even though some of the cars on offer had voice activation for the ICE – I wonder what happened to that?

    Upon our return to the Factory I managed to start a conversation with a very smart young chap in, if I remember rightly, blazer and chinos. It turned out that he was one of the engineering team, and he’d just returned from across the pond, after helping the guys Stateside to try to make the forthcoming Mustang go round corners.
    As there was some free time remaining before the whole show would be wound up – and there was an auto V8 on offer – we decided it would be churlish not to accept his offer of a guided tour. This was more like it, somebody who knew the car, and gave us a show of its ground covering capability. If I was to say that the drive was quick, but comfortable, you’ll get the idea.
    Some way down the road I was released from the back seat, and allowed to drive. As we set off, our new best friend commented “There’s a nice stretch of road just over this brow; there’s no roads coming onto it, so if there’s no one about…” No further invitation was required. Earlier comment had been made that with the rear lights on, it looked like you were following a jet on reheat. Well, this backed it up. When I pushed the pedal towards the carpet there was just a continuous shove towards the horizon. Brake for the inevetable bend, set up for the curve, no fuss, no drama; just steer in and away. I remember thinking – “When they get round to supercharging this, and putting an R badge on it – it should fly.”
    All too soon, we’ve followed our man’s instructions, and found ourselves back at Browns Lane, and I’ve got to give the car back. Damn.

    So, back to today, and the wheel has turned full circle. The car I went to see the launch of is now history, and unfortunately, history hasn’t been kind to the S-type. Not that it wasn’t a good steer, but its backward looking styling hindered it. Somewhere I read this – “You can get an old man into a young man’s car, but you can’t get a young man into an old man’s car.” Now the new Jaguar style is anything but backward looking, and from what I’ve seen in the press they can sell everything they can build. Looks like the person who made that earlier statement was spot on.

    Now, there’s a little Arthur Daley on my way to work, and I pass it every day. There’s a mettalic red XJ Sport on a V plate sat there for £1600; I know it’s going to be a money pit, but it looks so good.
    If I can just convince the wife….

  2. I owned an S type when I lived in England in 1978. I consider it one of the best purchases I ever made and I have owned over forty cars.

  3. Hi, when did the name “S type” came to be? The car was called “3.4 / 3.8 ‘S'” not “S type”. I suppose enthusiasts started calling it that?

      • I am not talking about the 1999-on S type, but about the CLASSIC 3.4 / 3.8 ‘S’. It was never called “S type”.

          • As a proud 3.4 “S” model as mentionned in all Jaguar Ltd litterature I fully agree. The Burmann power steering was not standard sadly, I have a manual steering and … it’s heavy ! With the Jaguar synchromesh box it’s a delight, plush interior and comfort. However drivers position, windscreen size, ventilantion, steering, and noise insulation seem prehistoric when I compare to the XJ6 !

          • Philippe, I think pre historic is not the right term, every car that gets made is generally always better then cars that were designed some years earlier, albeit, occasionally it does not work like that, ADO16/Allegro, the XJ6 was a world away from vertually everything when it was launched, which is why it was a massive hit, worldwide, and when you compare your S-Type to the similar models of that era, they will all generally be the same, smaller this that and the other, or not as powerful, or not a good with NVH, and so on, compared to the cars that replaced them.

            As for people moaning on about the new S-Type, it was a Ford car from start to finish, based on a Lincoln, so was never going to be a great car, like all Jaguars before it, but that car was the start of what i think is jaguars downfall, they have had a few good cars since, the MK I XF, and F-Type/F-Pace, the i-Pace is cool, but nothing else in the range is.

            They have had many opportunities to enlarge the EV range, but no, they have not, they have the technology, so where are the newer cars, if many brands can bring back the old, Over new EV technology, why not Jaguar, why not a new E-Type, with EV technology, Renault are bring back the 4/5 and Lancia the Delta Integrale all with EV power, Jaguar themselves have already produced EV versions of many cars via the JLR Heritage workshops, including an E-Type, a few decent brakes, tech, and steering would give the “E” a new life again, and maybe the MK II or S-Type could be reborn, but I hope not, the Woke brigade would moan as there would be wood inside, and heaven forbid that wood is used for anything these days.

            The found a niche and filled it to reasonable success, a shame then that the company has never really embarked on building from that success, expanding each model with derivatives, etc, and my fear now for Jaguars future is that it will not be around for much longer, with the sales in free fall, nothing new on the horizon, or even hinted at, the saloons are going at the end of their lifecycle, and Jaguar have already dumped the new EV XJ, WHY ? they had spend many hundreds of millions on it, and it was ready to go, they could have used the info, and tech to get the rest of the range sorted, and the comment about SUV’s are not Jaguars territory and will be phased out, so, that leaves the F-Type, and that sells like a chocloate fireguard….. All they seem interested in is Land Rover, and making the same car in varying sizes, **YAWN** – they also need to get their reliability sorted, it is by far the worst on the market, the new cars are so bad, that even JLR have admitted it.

  4. Number Two Comment by Yours Truly: The caption on the rear image of the “S” reads: “Note the ridges in the bootlid that didn’t make it into production”. Who wrote that? All S types have those sideways “J’s” or “ridges” on the trunk lid, assuming that’s is what you are referring to?? Mine has them, and I’ve yet to see an S type without them. Again, assuming you are referring to the “ridges” on each side of the license plate area.

    • I am not 100% sure, but looking closer, you can see a V shaped ridée, with the point of the V starting at the base of the rear windows and ending near the lights…

  5. In 1966 when my Dad bought a Vaux VX4/90, the Dealership owner had a Jag S Type. Nice car even though he was a Vauxhall & Rootes dealer, not JAG!

  6. Philippe, the S type IS a prehistoric car, but it is roomier than the MK-2, has better ventilation than the MK-2, and everything else about the S type is better than the MK-2, other than the rear third of the body which most MK-2 owners don’t lIke. but the reason for that rear third is the Independent Rear Suspension which required a lot of acreage. Jaguar could not fit it to the MK-2 so something had to give way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.