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Jaguar S-Type

Jaguar S-Type Published: 13th Jan 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar S-Type

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 3.8 S-type manual o/d
  • Worst model: 3.4 S-type automatic
  • Budget buy: All 420s
  • OK for unleaded?: Can be but speak to specialist
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 4750 x 1683 mm
  • Spares situation: Not as good as Mk2
  • DIY ease?: Not quite as good as Mk2
  • Club support: Typically excellent Jaguar
  • Appreciating asset?: Prices are starting to rise
  • Good buy or good-bye?: It can only be the looks as an S-type is a superior car to the Mk2 and yet cheaper, even more so 420
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Superior, sophisticated yet cheaper Mk2 alternative that was popular with Police and criminals alike in their heyday. Body parts can be problematic, especially on the 420, which remains an absolute steal

To say that the legendary Normal Dewis knows his Jags is a bit of an understatement. So when he told Classic Motoring at the recent NEC show that he personally regarded the S-type as the better car than the Mk2 when contemporary you take notice. It’s a pity so few enthusiasts follow suit…

Take a Mk2 and give it what the design always lacked – such as back seat comfort and roominess, a larger boot and a more planted rear end care of the E-type’s suspension – and you have the S-type.

So why has it always been pooh-poohed and regarded as a second-rate Mk2 alternative? Looks and image presumably (S-types were invariably driven by criminals on the silver screen) because the S-type is the car the Mk2 could and should have been.

Why not use this to your favour because not only is the S-type a nicer car to drive, but it’s nicer on the wallet too as values trail Mk2s by a handsome level. However, we reckon it won’t always stay this way – look how values of the Mk1 has overtaken its replacement for example.


1959 Rumour has it that Jaguar was looking at a more upmarket saloon not long after the Mk2’s launch to bridge the gap between this saloon and the soon-to-belaunched MkX limo.

1963 The somewhat hurried S-type saloon surfaced in October as the logical bridge between the ranges. The hull was mainly Mk2 albeit with a flatter roof line and a MkX style rear end to boost boot space plus it also meant that the excellent independent rear suspension, first seen on the E-type, could be used. The shell to be extensively re-engineered to achieve this at a cost of almost 350lb in weight, however. To balance the odd looks, the front end was tweaked with new front wings incorporating novel hooded headlamps and slimline bumpers. Inside a MkX-style interior and kit gave the car a more upmarket image.

1965 At launch, the S-type was criticised for an appearance which looked as though Lyons designed it in a bit of a hurry. Even so, changes introduced this year were more mechanical, such as the substitution of the old Moss gearbox in favour of Jaguar’s own although the vast majority of S-types were automatics. Jaguar resisted the logical step of replacing the 3.8-litre XK engine with the 4.2 despite having done so on the E-type and MkX, nor felt the need to use that excellent Daimler 2.5 V8 (an S-type 2.4 was never offered due to lack of performance).

1966 A downgrading of both the Mk2 and S-type ranges saw Ambla used instead of leather trim, cheaper carpets and a deletion of the traditional standard fog lamps came in the shape of the new 420 (and similar Daimler Sovereign), that August which at last featured the MkX-style nose that Lyons always wanted the S-type to wear but didn’t get round to due to the car’s notably short development time. Mechanically, 420 used a 245bhp twin (not triple) carb tune of the enlarged XK engine. Other improvements included a new front axle incorporating a better power steering and new three pot disc brake callipers. The Daimler version was the best appointed and an auto only whereas the Jaguar could be had as before as a manual plus the option of overdrive.

1968 The 420/Sovereign was essentially a needed stop-gap to make up for the delayed XJ6 launch and bowed out in June to make way for the new Jag although the Daimler version survived well into 1969. However, the S-type also received some important changes in 1968, such as the 420’s Marles Varamatic power steering, while the 420 auto (of which two-thirds soaked up the sales) sported a lower axle ratio (3.5:4) to improve engine response but the useful limited slip differential was no longer fitted on all models.

The S-type is always seen as the Mk2’s poor relation and a commercial flop, yet sales figures paint an entirely different picture and it will surprise many to learn that the S-type consistently outsold the Mk2 when they were produced in tandem. In 1965, for example, well over double the number of S-Types (9741) were made.


ou’d think that the addition of the E-type’s independent rear suspension would have enthusiasts drooling over S-types, but on the road the more skittish Mk2 remains the most preferred thanks to its sportier feel, helped by success in motorsport, no doubt. It did, after all, win the first-ever European Touring Car Championship way back in 1963. Yet Jaguar test drive legend Norman Dewis told Classic Motoring that he liked the S-type better for its more secure handling and better ride. It depends what you are after – if you favour comfort and cruising most of all then go for the S-type.

Due to its lighter weight and better aerodynamics the Mk2 is the more agile cat. A 3.8 S-type is only marginally quicker than a 3.4 Mk2 but on the other hand the 420 is a bit of a Q car, the manual passing 60 in a highly creditable 9.2 seconds and almost 120mph when new but with “little performance gain over the automatic” remarked one road test.

Where the Mk2 scores is in straight-line speed no doubt due to its lighter weight and slightly superior 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” remarked one road test.

In 1967, Motor magazine summed up the 420 (Automatic) saying that despite its E-type pedigree, “This is not a car with any strong sporting pretensions” although contradicted itself somewhat by reckoning the manual version test car (a rare Daimler Sovereign, incidentally) was more sporting than many sports cars! Motor found that by upping the tyre pressures to a bloated 34psi it improved the big saloon’s agility.

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 and ride is a lot smoother.

The respected weekly regarded the S-type as one of the most comfortable cars ever produced and was a marked improvement over the Mk2.

Also impressive and vastly superior to the Mk2 is luggage space, a result of the S-type being seven inches longer. The cabin feels decidedly roomier thanks to a flatter roof line and steeply rake rear screen to increase headroom. Slightly thinner MkX front seats liberated a touch more legroom, too while that elongated tail meant a more usable 19cuft of boot space against the Mk2’s measly 12cuft.

Economy will never impress mind; a wallet-wobbling 15.3mpg from a 3.8 automatic model back in 1964, (after rocketing to 60mph in over 14 seconds) reckoned one weekly. Strangely, manuals fared little better when overdrive should have come into its own, perhaps the added weight meaning more right foot being applied more of the time? There again, you’re hardly going to use yours every day so does it matter. And why not consider an LPG conversion; the boot’s big enough!


It has to be an image thing – surely? Typically, the superior S-type realises around 65 per cent the worth of an equivalent Mk2 and it has to be a superb example (the 3.8 being the most desirable)

to break the £20,000 barrier. Most fair cars go for around half of this, while restoration runners start from £4000. The strangely unloved 420 is the most affordable of them all being in the region of two-thirds the price of an equivalent S-type.

There’s always exceptions in the classic car world – Lancs-based Kult Kars (01253 734199) is advertising a last-of-the-line 3S-type (a manual with overdrive 3.4) at £34,995 which is massive money for this Jaguar but that said, the car has been thoroughly restored which, Kult rightly says, would probably cost over double the price now being asked.

Peter Bell of the JEC says the S-type is a much underrated Jaguar and well worth considering against a poorer condition Mk2 for similar money. “I always advise to buy on condition rather than model,” he told us.

Having owned S-types since he was 17 and currently holding a pair of the best left, it’s fair to say that specialist dealer Robert Hughes is an S-type fan and he says that if he only could keep one classic then it would be an S-type and not necessarily a 3.8 either as he says anyone new to the car would find it hard to tell the difference in performance between the engines.

The Weybridge, Surrey dealer cites the Jag’s great comfort, refinement and handling that’s on par “with a 1992 XJ12” as its best points although admits that it is highly unlikely that the S-type will follow in the tyre tracks of the Mk1 and actually overtake the Mk2, value-wise.

Robert Hughes says the later 420 (and the more upmarket Sovereign) has a different character to the S-type and is more akin to an S1 XJ6, albeit more compact, so it depends what you want although adds that he doesn’t like modified cars, many of which he feels aren’t done properly and rob the true spirit of a car, not simply S-types.


Do you take the view of Robert Hughes? He may have a point because while uprating an S-type for modern use is similar to improving a Mk2, fewer owners do so. Jags don’t have to overheat and a good, upgraded radiator with a Kenlowe electric fan should cure any boil ups (the 420 already used a mechanical viscous type); the S-type’s cooling was of a better design than a Mk2’s anyway.

As the S-type is heavier and slower than a compatible Mk2, more performance 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 firmer here to control roll).

If the brakes are in good order, they’ll suffice, but the 420 has a superior front set-up that’s worth fitting to earlier S-types and Mk2s for that matter.

Overdrive makes the going easier on manual models (you can fit the S3 fivespeed with a bit of graft and lots of cash) but automatics can sound and feel fussy irrespective of model. The answer is to fit a taller axle ratio or a later Jaguar four-speed gearbox which has an ‘overdrive top’ but the job is likely to run into thousands.

What To Look For


  • S-type and Sovereign may be largely Mk2 derived but the 420 has some XJ6 components as well. And due to rarity and past lack of popularity, body and chrome parts are becoming hens teeth to source with many, such as 420 front wings, now obsolete.
  • Because they are not as coveted as Mk2s and it’s only now that serious money is being spent on them, expect to find some old bodges and dodges and don’t expect originality to have been a priority.
  • The 3.8 was the best selling S-type by an appreciable margin (a third) and don’t be surprised to find models uprated to 3.8 spec. Similarly, you may find 420s fitted with XJ6 engines, usually identified by the later fluted cam box covers.
  • There’s even more wood and leather to restore than on a Mk2 so don’t underestimate the cost of a refit. A new dash (padded on the 420) can cost thousands for example while a full interior makeover can run to £10,000 and S-type values don’t generally dictate such expenditure. But one day they may.


  • 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 was common over the decades.
  • Sills, both inner and outer, are common corrosion areas so lift the carpets up and have a good poke around. Also inspect the floor pan and boot floor. While crawling underneath (and you should) check the IRS rear suspension cradle and attachment points – if they’re corroded then the whole assembly can pull away under hard acceleration.
  • Repairs to the rear are more complex than a Mk2’s due to the double-skin bodyshell. Check the floor 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 filler and a splosh of underseal for good measure.
  • S-Type front wings cost the thick end of £2700 but at least they are available; 420s aren’t and are bodged using XJ6 repair panels which are a tolerable but hardly identical match. It depends how much a stickler you are for originality.
  • One quick way of ascertaining the quality of a restoration is to inspect inside fuel flaps to see if they look as good as the rest of the car. A thorough restoration wouldn’t miss this small detail.


  • 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 unit 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 full-bodied 20W/50 at the best of times – try a 20W/60.
  • 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 with upgraded replacements and will cost around £1000. You might wish to carry out an overhaul while you’re at it; a proper job costs around £4000.
  • 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 that all is ok.
  • Don’t be tricked into thinking that all is well if the car runs over cool. Perhaps the thermostat has been cunningly removed. The S-type featured a superior cooling system to the Mk2 and the heater should be better too.


  • 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 fitted, check it works quickly and smoothly (may just need a service).
  • Rear axles are known to leak oil and are harder to fix 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.
  • Listen for undue noise and roughness from the limited slip diff, if still fitted, it’s quite possible the axle ratio may have been changed on an automatic. A rebuilt axle will cost £2000 or more.
  • Three-speed auto boxes are lazy affairs but smooth and long-lived. Inspect the fluid: 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.
  • 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.


  • S-types are hefty things so springs and dampers wear fast. 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 rates to the Mk2.
  • Similarly the steering joints suffer from more wear, as do the steering boxes (roughly £250 and £500 for a PAS). There’s a cluster of bushes that deteriorate; polybushing is popular as they last longer and give a more precise feel.
  • The rear suspension is located on a special sub-framed cradle with insulating rubber bushes, that perish, causing rear steer and they’re very awkward to replace (as are the inboard rear brakes). It’s worth biting the bullet of a £2000 bill if a specialist does it, as a re-bush job transforms the car’s road manners at a stroke. Polybushing is tougher, and improves handling but affects ride quality.
  • That suspension means inboard rear disc brakes are part of the package and apart from the difficulty of renewing the pads, they are prone to picking up oil from a leaking differential (very common).
  • Rear callipers are unique to this model to counter the added weight and dearer to repair or overhaul than on a Mk2. According to Peter Bell, technical advisor to the JEC, XJ6 ones are the best alternative.
  • S-types look great with wire wheels but you rarely see a 420 with them. Check their condition, for loose or broken spokes and spline and hub wear.

Three Of A Kind

Perhaps the Daimler is more in character with the S-type than the Mk2, because the accent is more on smoothness and refinement. What that lovely V8 lacks in pace against the XK (although it’s better than the 2.4) it compensates in its sweetness and flexibility. The interior is more akin to the S-type’s cabin too, and both score over the normal Mk2 in terms of value but prices are starting to rise.
A fine cruiser that's a roomier, cheaper Mk2/S-type alternative. The P5 is pure class and what it lacks in sportiness makes up for everywhere else. Very smooth both in straight six and the more respected V8 form with the former having the edge for refinement if not speed. Values are climbing for good ones but on the other hand there are a lot of poor ones around as rust is rife and a P5 costs Mk2 money to restore.
TRIUMPH 2000/2.5PI
TRIUMPH 2000/2.5PI
While most sports enthusiasts steer towards Dolomite Sprints and Stags, don’t overlook the forgotten 2000/2500 saloon that was the BMW 5-Series of its day. A silky smooth straight six makes the Triumph refined (if overdrive is fitted) and quite quick (especially in carb-fed 2500S form) while estates are very useful yet classy holdalls and the entire range represents strong logic and value for money.


Isn’t it amazing that a 1960’s Jaguar that’s demonstrably better than the Mk2 it is based upon is less popular? We can’t see it staying that way for much longer so why not own the Jag that the ‘baddies’ used on the silver screen and steal one while you can at a bargain price. The S-type and the later 420 is, legal, daylight robbery.

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