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Jaguar S Type (1963–1968)

Daylight Robbery Published: 13th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar S Type (1963–1968)

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 420
  • Worst model: 3.4 Automatic
  • Budget buy: Daimler Sovereign
  • OK for unleaded?: Generally yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): mm L4750 x W1680
  • Spares situation: Generally fi ne
  • DIY ease?: As good as the MK2
  • Club support: As good as the MK2
  • Appreciating asset?: Yes, but it should be better
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Former as a MK2 with the most
Still a lovely sight, S-Types never used the 2.4 XK unit but the 4.2 was fi tted to great affect on later models Still a lovely sight, S-Types never used the 2.4 XK unit but the 4.2 was fi tted to great affect on later models
Interior even posher than MK2’s with more wood and luxury; lack of popularity and value may keep condition low Picture Interior even posher than MK2’s with more wood and luxury; lack of popularity and value may keep condition low Picture
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A classic 1960s getaway car, the S-Type is a MK2 with more grace, space and, sometimes, pace. It’s better value too!

Pros & Cons

Great value for money, comfort and refi nement, +roominess, usual MK2 feelgood factor
Ungainly looks, lacks MK2’s image and sporty nature with inferior pace and economy

On paper this sensible but seductive mix of MK X, E-type and MK2 sounds like the ideal 1960s sports saloon, yet the S-Type is still completely overlooked by enthusiasts in favour of the icon that it’s based upon. But don’t follow the herd, because the S-Type is the better all round classic and cheaper to buy, too.


S-Type actually sold better than the mk2!

Rumour has it that Jaguar was looking at a more upmarket MK2 soon after its late 1959 launch and the somewhat hurried S-Type saloon surfaced in October 1963 as a logical bridge between the MK2 and the cruise-liner MK X. Sadly, rather like the X-Type of today, the S-Type was a somewhat unhappy mix and match of popular Jaguar body styles. The hull was mainly MK2 albeit with a fl atter roof line and a MK X style rear end to boost boot space – it alsoadded independent rear suspension, which was fi rst seen on the E-type. It sounds simple but the shell had to be considerably redesigned, doubleskinned and strengthened to achieve this at a considerable cost of almost 350lb in weight. To balance the car’s odd look, the front end was tweaked with new front wings featuring hooded headlamps and slimline bumpers, but even when it was launched the S-Type was criticised for its appearance with numerous magazines hinting that the Jag looked as though it was designed in a hurry – which it indeed was! Inside the MK2 cabin was revamped to MK X level of luxury with even more wood plus a fullwidth parcel shelf under the facia. As befi tting its more upmarket status, various other updates, including automat i c t ransmission and power steering were mo r e p o p u l a r wi t h the S-Type than on the MK2. Those trusty XK engines were offered in familiar tune, but this time only in 3.4 and 3.8-litre g u i s e s a s t h e sluggish, if smooth 2.4 was rightly deemed far too underpowered i n t h e l a r g e r, heavier S-Type. Apart from receiving M k 2 m e c h a n i c a l upgrades, including the Jag gearbox to replace the old Moss unit in 1965 – usually identifi ed by the ball-like gear knob (together with the Borg Warner Type 35 auto) the S-Type remained largely unchanged but was downgraded like the MK2 in 1966 with Ambla instead of leather trim, cheaper carpets and a lack of standard fog lamps. The S-Type is continuously seen as the MK2’s poor relation and a commercial fl op, yet actual sales fi gures paint an entirely different picture and it will surprise many to learn that the S-Type outsold the MK2! In 1965, for example, well over double the number of S-Types (9741) were produced. True, in total 83,701 MK2s were made against 24,993 S Types (according to the JDHT) but remember the MK2 had a longer production life by fi ve years. But the fact is that when the S-Type was sold parallel to the MK2 it was the more popular pick (so where have they all gone then?-ed) Imagine a MK2 with the 4.2 E-type engine. Sounds like Jaguar heaven, yet the 420 was and remains the least popular S-Type. The 420 (also known as the even more luxirious Daimler Sovereign) was introduced in August 1966 as a stop gap to keep customers sweet until the long-awaited XK6 hit the showrooms two years later. Rumour has it that Jaguar legend Sir William Lyons always intended that the S-Type was to have the sharper looking MK X nose from the outset but time constraints meant the MK2’s snout had to be grafted on instead. There’s little argument that the 420’s shape was the best balanced as a result.

The 420 is probably the best MK2 variant of them all too, offering 245bhp (slightly less than the E-type) and swathes of torque that suited it particularly well. Most 420’s were autos but manual with optional overdrive was also offered on the Jaguar model - most Daimlers were autos. The S-Type and the 420 bowed out in June 1968 to make way for the XJ6 but the Daimler version survived well into 1969.


You’d think that the addition of the E-type’s independent rear end arrangement would have enthusiasts drooling over S-Types, but on the road the more skittish MK2 edges it for many due to its sportier feel, helped by success in motorsport. It did, after all, win the fi rst-ever European Touring Car Championship way back in 1963. In a 1967 road test, Motor magazine summed up the 420 Automatic saying that despite its E-type pedigree… “This is not a car with any strong sporting pretentions” but reckoned the manual version (a rare Daimler Sovereign, incidentally) was more sporting than many sports cars! There’s little argument that the S-Type feels far more polished and planted compared to a MK2 thanks to that superior rear end plus the ride is a lot smoother, too. Motor found that upping the tyre pressures to a bloated 34psi improved the car’s agility although it felt that the excellent ride was a result of “quite high angles of roll”. That said, the respected weekly regarded the S-Type as one of the most comfortable cars ever producedand a marked improvement over the MK2. The message is clear – if you favour comfort and cruising go for the S-Type. Where the MK2 scores is in straight-line speed due to its lighter weight and better aerodynamics.

Generally, a 3.8 S-Type is only slightly quicker than a 3.4 MK2, although the 420 was a bit of a Q car, hitting 60 in a highly creditable 9.2 seconds and almost 120mph but with “little performance gain over the automatic” said one road test. Economy will never impress; 15.3mpg on a 3.8 automatic model back in 1964, (after rocketing to 60mph in over 14 seconds) reckoned one weekly. Strangely, manuals fared little better economy- wise at 15.6mpg except on a run when overdrive came into its own and the dizzy heights of19mpg were possible! For the family owner, the S-Type’s bigger boot certainly makes it a more practical proposition, boasting 19cuft of space against the MK2’s measly 12cuft, but there again the S-Type is 178mm (seven inches) longer. The cabin feels decidedly roomier thanks to a fl atter roof line and steeply rake rear screen to increase headroom. Slightly thinner MK X style front seats liberated a touch more legroom.


It’s all down to image – surely? Here’s a Jag that is not only trumps the MK2 but is much better value for money, too. Typically the S-Type realises around 50-65 per cent the worth of an equivalent MK2 and it has to be a superb example to break the £20,000 barrier. Most examples will go for around half of this, while restoration projects start from £2500 upwards. The unloved 420 is even more affordable – perhaps two-thirds the price of an S-Type. Surely prices can’t stay this way for much longer?


Uprating an S-Type for modern use is as similar affair as it is for a MK2. Jags don’t have to overheat and a good, upgraded radiator with a Kenlowe electric fan should cure any boil ups. As the S-Type is heavier, more go may be appreciated and there are various routes to take, but using later 340 head is a good, cost-effective tweak along with E-type cams. If you’re happy with stock spec, then consider an electronic ignition. As the S-Type is more of a cruiser than the MK2 you don’t want to spoil the serene ride so just overhauling the suspension set-up and renewing the Metalastik mountings can work wonders along with new springs and dampers (although you can go slightly fi rmer here to control roll). If the brakes are in good order, they’ll suffi ce, but the 420 has a superior front set-up that’s worth fi tting to earlier S-Types.

What To Look For

  • The S-Type and Sovereign may be largely MK2 derived but the 420 has some XJ6-componentsas well. And due to today’s rarity of the S-Type some minor chrome parts are becoming hens teeth to source.
  • Essentially S-Types suffer the same horrors as MK2s plus a couple of their 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 so bodging is common.
  • Sills, both inner and outer, are common corrosion areas so lift the carpets up and have a good poke around. Also inspect the fl oor pan and boot fl oor. While crawling underneath (and you should) check the rear suspension cradle and attachment points – if they’re corroded then the whole assembly can pull away.
  • Repairs to the rear are more complex than a MK2’s due to the doubleskin bodyshell. Check the fl oor and also the twin fuel tanks which seem more prone to rust and subsequent leaking than the MK2.
  • Serious but not so terminal are the door bottoms, wings and the front ‘snout’, the latter of which can rust badly and is frequently disguised with some fi ller and a splosh of underseal.
  • The once advanced XK engine is now long lived and pretty simple to care for. Listen for oversilent 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 40lbsqin at 3000rpm when good and hot. Watch for valve guide and bore wear (smoking under hard power or at idle) but don’t be over-concerned by excessive oil usage: Xks like a drop of 20W/50 at the best of times.
  • On the other hand, they also love to leak the stuff! Prime areas are warped cam covers and – more likely – a leaking rear crank oil seal. You’ll have to live with the latter unless really bad because it’s an engine out job to rectify.
  • Overheating XKs are not unknown of course but hardly as common as many would have you believe either. It’s usually due to furred up waterways, caused by low-quality anti-freeze gumming up the channels over the years. Take the car for a good long run to check.
  • Don’t be tricked into thinking that all is well if the car runs over cool. Perhaps the thermostat has been cunningly removed. On the other hand, the heaters were always feeble so don’t expect furnace-like output even when in good shape.
  • Although the Jaguar gearbox is better, both units are characteristically heavy and slow to use but watch for weak synchromesh causing gear crash when shifting up or down. If overdrive is fi tted, check it works quickly and smoothly.
  • Like the MK2, a combination of either steel rims with hub caps or wire wheels may be used. Check the latter for broken and lose spindles. A fully refurbished wire wheel costs over £250 a pop but strangely you don’t see many S-Types or 420s wearing them – even when new
  • All three-speed auto boxes are lazy affairs but smooth and long-lived. Inspect the fl uid: it should be clean and not smell ‘burnt’. If it does then it suggests wear. Check for slipping,slow, clunky take up and loss of ratios. Try the box in manual modes but bear in mind that on the later (Daimler-sourced) Borg Warner Type 35 unit, ‘D2’ position allows the car to move off in second for smoother, slower progress so don’t assume there’s something wrong with the ‘box on a test drive.
  • Clutch replacements are a major job and beyond the realms of many home mechanics because the engine and transmission have to come out as one. And it’s real heavy duty stuff.
  • Rear axles are known to leak oil and are harder to fi x than on a MK2 due to the independent rear suspension set-up plus the bearings in the alloy hub carrier can fail, leading to clonking.
  • S-Types are hefty things so springs and dampers wear over time. See that the car sits straight and true. If replacing springs, ensure that you get the right ones as the heavier S-Type used different spring rates to the MK2.
  • The rear suspension is located on a special sub-framed cradle with insulating rubber bushes, that can perish, causing rear steer and they’re 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 at a stroke.
  • That independent rear suspension means inboard rear disc brakes are part of the package and apart from the diffi culty of renewing the pads, they are prone to picking up oil from a leaking differential (very common).
  • There’s even more wood and leather to restore than on a MK2 so don’t under estimate the cost of a refi t. A new dash can cost thousands for example while a full interior makeover can run to £10,000 and S-Type values don’t dictate such expenditure.
  • Most part prices mirror that of the MK2so reckon on £600 for a stainless exhaust, £30 per brake disc (£75 for the caliper), £200 for a clutch kit, a fiver for new lower wishbone bushes and £67 for replacement front springs. A decent, fully overhauled XK engine will cost around £4000 and anything significantly cheaper can’t be the real deal.

Three Of A Kind

Daimler V8 250
Daimler V8 250
Perhaps the MK2 is the natural choice but the Daimler is more in character with the S-Type, with the accent on smoothness and refi nement. What that lovely V8 lacks in pace it amply compensates in its sweetness and fl exibility. The interior is more akin to the S-Type’s cabin too, and both score over the normal MK2 in terms of value. Buy soon, as Daimler prices are starting to rise – and about time too.
Rover P5
Rover P5
A fi ne car and one that’s been overlooked for too long as a good MK2 alternative. This old school Rover is pure class and very smooth both in straight six and the more respected V8 form – although the former has the edge for refi nement if not speed. Values are starting to drift upwards for good ones but be warned, as there are some dodgy ones around rust is rife and cost MK2 money to restore.
Triumph 2000/2.5PI
Triumph 2000/2.5PI
While most people look to Dolomite Sprints and Stags, don’t overlook the forgotten 2000 that was the BMW 5-Series of its day. A silky smooth straight six makes the Triumph refi ned and quite quick in 2500 form – the fuel injection can be made reliable these days but carbs are the best bets. Estates are very useful classy holdalls and the entire range represents strong logic and value for money.


Our advice is to view the S-Type from a fresh angle, not anymore as a second-rate MK2, but as the more sophisticated, sweeter alternative, especially the forgotten 420 and Sovereign versions. The fact that it’s the cheaper buy makes one a real steal, too.

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