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Jaguar S Type

Published: 22nd Dec 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar S Type
Jaguar S Type
Jaguar S Type
Jaguar S Type
Jaguar S Type

Buyer Beware

  • Essentially S-Types suffer the same horrors as Mk2s, plus a couple of its own. The good news is that, like the Mk2, there’s an army of specialists to help service, renovate and restore one and parts are just as plentiful with the exception of some body parts.
  • As with all old Jags, rust is the biggest concern and all that glitters isn’t gold. As with the Mk2 the main areas for rot are the chassis box sections and the front cross-member, particularly at its ‘crow’s feet’ which are welded to the valance and cross-member. Check these areas with utmost care as repairs are involved and expensive.
  • Sills, both inner and outer, are common corrosion areas so lift the carpets and check, also inspecting the floor pan and boot floor. While crawling underneath (and you should) check the rear suspension cradle and attachment points – if corroded the whole assembly can pull away.
  • Listen for over-silent tappets (meaning the cam shims are worn and need replacing – a DIY but involved job that’s best carried out when doing a decoke), and rattly timing chains, the bottom ones being the worst to replace.
  • Oil pressure on a healthy XK should be in the region of 40lbs @ 3000rpm when good and hot. Watch for valve guide and bore wear (smoking under hard power or at idle) but don’t be overconcerned by excessive oil usage: XKs like a drop of 20W/50 at the best of times.
  • Although the Jaguar gearbox is better, both units are characteristically heavy and slow to use but watch for weak synchromesh. All three-speed auto boxes are lazy affairs but smooth and longlived. Inspect the fluid: it should be clean and not smell ‘burnt’.
  • The E-Type rear suspension is located on a special sub-framed cradle with insulating rubber bushes, which perish causing rear steer and are very awkward to replace (as are the inboard rear brakes). It’s worth biting the bullet though as a re-bush job can transform the car’s road manners.


Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    Smoother and better handling than a Mk2 but not as quick or as sporty.

  • Usability: 3/5

    Ignoring fuel returns, S-Type makes a practical classic, roomier than Mk2.

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    Identical to Mk2 except certain body and interior parts are much rarer.

  • Owning: 4/5

    With usual excellent specialist support, ownership is extremely rewarding.

  • Value: 4/5

    Considering prices of good Mk2s, the S-Type is a bargain, especially 420.

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It’s the Mk2 with the most that you’ve probably never considered before but should do – and what bargains!

Take a Jaguar Mk2 and give it more grace, space and, in some cases, pace and you’ve got an S-Type. On paper, this sensible mix of MkX, E-type and Mk2 sounds the ideal 1960s sports saloon and yet this cat remains grossly overlooked by Jaguar enthusiasts, in favour of the car it is based upon. It wasn’t always like this. When these cars were produced in tandem, the S-Type actually outsold the Mk2. In its first full year of production (1964), 7032 3.4/3.8 S-types were made (the 3.8 being by far the most popular pick, incidentally) against 6170 Mk2 equivalents. In 1965 the S-Type really left the Mk2 for dead in the showrooms, with 9741 finding happy homes against just 3492 Mk2s, and it only started to gain ground in 1966. So, don’t follow the herd, the S-Type is arguably the better classic and cheaper to buy over a common Mk2 as well.

What model to buy

Actually, the best S-Type isn’t even badged as one, but we’ll come to that later! Jaguar introduced its S-Type saloon in October 1963 as an upmarket offshoot and a useful bridge between that now iconic saloon and the cruise liner MkX. The hull was mainly Mk2, albeit with a flatter roof, with a MK X style rear end to gain added boot and passenger space, plus accept the famous IRS rear end first seen on the E-type. It sounds simple yet the shell had to be redesigned and strengthened to achieve this, and at a cost of almost 350lb in weight.

To balance the car’s look, the front end was tweaked with hooded headlamps, but even at launch the car was criticised for its appearance; numerous magazines hinting that the Jag looked as though it was designed in a hurry, which considering it was a stop gap range was a justifiable comment, and probably goes some way to explain why the car has never lived in our hearts quite like the Mk2.

Inside, the Mk2 cabin was used but revamped to MK X levels of luxury, with even more veneer plus a fullwidth parcel shelf under the facia. As befitting its posher status various other updates, including automatic transmission and power steering options were more popular with the S-Type than on the Mk2.

The sluggish if delightfully smooth 2.4 was rightly deemed too underpowered in the larger, heavier S-Type, leaving just the 3.4 and 3.8 ranges – the latter being the far more popular pick by the way.

Apart from receiving Mk2 mechanical upgrades, including the Jaguar gearbox to replace the old Moss unit in 1965 – usually identified by the ball-like gear knob (together with the Borg Warner Type 35 automatic) – the S-Type remained largely unchanged during its production life but was downgraded like the Mk2 in ’66, with Ambla instead of leather trim, cheaper carpets and the deletion of standard fog lamps.

Less than 25,000 S-Types were made but the best model was the most unpopular of the lot – the 420. Essentially the 420 was a facelifted S-Type, sporting a Mk X-like nose and a derated 245bhp E-type 4.2-litre engine. It was introduced in the summer of 1966 as a ploy to keep customers sweet until the XJ6 arrived two years later. A more luxurious Daimler version was called the Sovereign. Most were autos but manual with overdrive was also offered on the Jaguar, which, along with the lower ranked S-Type, bowed out in June 1968, although the Daimler survived well into 1969, replaced by the XJ6-derived Sovereign.

The 420 had the measure of a 3.8 Mk2 in terms of real world performance plus boasts better (Marles) power steering and brakes as well as MkX levels of luxury and comfort. Less than 10,000 were made and value-wise they are cheaper than a normal S-Type, which in itself is usually around 50-65 per cent the worth of an equivalent Mk2 depending on model. You do the sums… but it means that you can still buy a really good S-Type for less than £10,000 and a decent example for around £7500. Generally the more popular 3.8 is only worth a couple of hundred more.

Behind the wheel?

“Jaguar legend Norman Dewis preferred one over the Mk2!”

You’d think that the addition of the E-Type’s independent rear end in place of the Mk 2’s quirky, cantilevered, live rear axle arrangement would have enthusiasts fighting for S-Types, yet on the road the more skittish Mk2 edges it for many, thanks to its sportier appeal and feel, helped by success in motorsport; it did, after all, win the first-ever European Touring Car Championship in 1963. However, given the choice, legendry Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis told us that he’d sooner have an S-type over a Mk2!

S-Types feel more polished and secure, thanks to the superior rear end, plus the ride is a lot smoother and comfier; without doubt the S-Type was Jaguar’s best handling saloon made at that time and it’s prowess almost matched the hallowed E-type sports car – especially if (as Motor testers suggested) the tyre pressures were raised from 30 to 34psi, to give the chassis more poise, steering precision with much less tyre squeal but without unduly hurting the refinement either. In general terms, a 3.8 S-Type is only slightly quicker than a 3.4 Mk2 so don’t expect fireworks. Motor slogged a 3.8 auto to 60mph in over 12 seconds although a manual did it in around 10. The 420 can match a typical 3.8 and is lustier. Motor’s test 420 fairly rocketed to 60mph in a highly creditable 9.2 seconds, although the magazine did comment that despite its E-type pedigree “which shows up as outstanding roadholding” it was “not a car with any strong sporting pretensions”.

The daily option?

If anything an S-Type is nicer to use than a Mk2 because most buyers opted for automatic and power steering when new and, while it takes the sportiness of this Jag, it certainly makes for an easier time – for the majority of the time. The smoother ride will be appreciated, especially by back seat drivers, and for the family owner, the S-Type’s larger, longer boot and 3ins added rear seat room certainly makes it a more practical proposition over a Mk2 and that’s else something to bear in mind.

Of course, the biggest downside of using any old classic is fuel consumption and this Jaguar supped the juice up more than most. Economy will never be too good on any model: expect anything between the high teens and low 20s (Motor achieved a miserable overall figure of 15.3mpg on a 3.8 automatic back in 1964). Strangely, manuals fared little better economy-wise over an auto except on a run, when overdrive – if fitted – came into its own. At least the XK engine seems to run happily on unleaded without the need for continuous lead replacement additives.

Due to their lower values, more S-Types were neglected and a cheap car will probably need thousands spent on it before it is reliable enough for regular use. Regular, rather than daily, use is the watchword to ensure durability and prevent things from seizing up.

There are any number of modifications if you are willing to sacrifice originality, but a minimum of changes will suffice: fit halogen headlights to light up country roads at night, and consider electronic ignition to reduce maintenance and increase reliability, plus an uprated radiator to prevent hot running.

Ease of ownership

There is a healthy industry supplying all the parts you’ll need to keep this cat purring but it is a quality car and prices are correspondingly high. You don’t have to be rich to run an old Jag, but you do need to have some cash in reserve. If you have sunk every penny you can afford into buying a car, then it will be a nerve-wracking experience waiting for the first big bill to arrive under your ownership.

Having said that, there is nothing excessively fancy about the technology employed. Servicing and repairs can be carried out by any competent DIY mechanic; a few specialist tools are needed, but these can be hired from groups like the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club.

Even if you elect not to do your own spannering, there is still a maintenance cost that comes with ownership. This can be reduced by fitting things like XJ40 sealed-for-life balljoints to eliminate a few of the grease nipples, but you will still have to keep an eye on things like a high oil consumption (especially if the rear crank seals is failing – an engine out job).

Clutch replacements are also a major job and beyond the realms of many home mechanics because the engine and transmission have to come out as one. Rear axles are known to leak oil and harder to fix than on a Mk2 due to the IRS set up employed.

As the car is basically a MK2 with an E-type IRS grafted on at the stern, mechanical spares aren’t a problem. However body and trim parts can be as they are considerably more rare although if you search long and hard enough what you need will turn up.

The time to buy an S-Type is now because recent auction results are showing that enthusiasts are cottoning on to what bargains they really make.



Introduced to fill the void between the Mk2 and the flagship MkX by being a bit of both, plus sporting the E-type IRS set up. Power is from the normal 3.4 and 3.8 engines (no 2.4) with popular options such as automatic and power steering.


In common with the MK2, S-Type suffers from downgrading of trim and equipment levels while that October the 420 is introduced, identified by its MK X style front end. A new tougher Type 8 automatic has to be employed due to 4.2’s torque output.


The S-Type and 420 are dropped as soon as the XJ6 hits the showrooms although some hung around while the Daimler Sovereign-badged 420 lasts until 1969. Many regard the 420/Sovereign as the best and best looking S-Type of them all.

We Reckon...

It’s an image thing, surely? Why else should a good Jaguar like the S-Type – a car on paper much superior to the Mk2 – still be looked upon as the poor relation. You tell us! Well, here at Classic Cars For Sale we view the S-Type, not as a second-rate Mk2 but the far more sophisticated, sweeter alternative, especially the forgotten 420 and Sovereign versions. Shouldn’t you do the same?

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