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Jaguar MK2 VS S-Type and 420

Cat fight for feline fancies Published: 28th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar MK2 VS S-Type and 420

What The Experts Say...

Jim Patten, executive editor of Jaguar World Monthly and S-type fan told us: Running and restoration costs of these models are broadly similar, although the independent rear suspension on an S-type or 420 could be expensive if worn. Use a lot of common sense when buying. Suspension faults will be highlighted by steering from the rear (although this could be frame mounts), clonking on acceleration or heavy braking (this could also indicate worn splines on wire wheeled cars). Check for excessive oil leaks at the output seals. As with any sixties car, bodywork is the big enemy. Although a 3.8 MK2 is the most desirable, the 3.4 is almost on a par in performance terms and nearly as quick. Seek out the 420 for the best value!

Jaguar MK2 VS S-Type and 420
Jaguar MK2 VS S-Type and 420
Jaguar MK2 VS S-Type and 420
Jaguar MK2 VS S-Type and 420
Jaguar MK2 VS S-Type and 420
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Classic Jags are true gentleman’s transport. They have the ability to mix spor ting performance with subtle road presence and fi ne quality. So if you’re in the market for a classic cat, which one do you pick? After the Second World War Jaguar left behind its Standard roots to produce an engine of such immensity that it has become a legend. During the Coventry blitz, William Lyons, William Heynes, Claude Bailey and Walter Hassan discussed the possibility of a new engine so advanced that only a pure-bred racing powerplant could rival it. Despite enormous performance, this unit would be so smooth thatit would propel both luxury saloons and sports cars. It is consigned to history that the XK engine went on to score wins at Le Mans, power small military tanks and drive those luxurious saloons. A bold step was taken in the 1950s when the company began development of its fi rst unitary construction saloon. This came in 2.4 or 3.4-litre guises and was to provide the bedrock of all the company’s saloon cars to follow. Today, the MK1 has an incredible following but in 1959, something was needed to bring Jaguar up to speed and into the 1960s with verve. The MK2 arrived in 1959 with more glass areas and an updated interior and real production got underway in 1960. But the truth is that Jaguar wanted something better, and from the outset it began designing a more sophisticated car that could harness the latest independent rear suspension to be introduced on the E-type and MK X.With some compromises, the S-type was launched in 1963 in both 3.4 and 3.8-litre form, and it became a much refi ned version of its forebear. A revised front end reminiscent of the MK X led to the 420 in 1966. So there’s certainly no lack of choice, and indeed, when the two ranges ran in parallel, the S-type was the better seller.

Which one to buy?

Judging books by their covers

The Mk2 is generally regarded as the sportier car, while the S-type is more sophisticated. With the arrival of the MK2 came the 3.8-litre engine that put the cat well among the pigeons – taking off where the 3.4 saloon left off, and simply crushed the opposition on the track. International grids were full of Jaguars and in 1963 the car won the fi rst ever European Touring Car Championship. It became the car of choice for solicitors, pop-stars and company heads on the road. While the MK2 was taking the world by storm, the designers at Jaguar sought even more improvement. By using much of the existing tooling, the bodyshell was upgraded with a redefi ned roof and seats fi tted lower into the fl oorpan. The seats themselves were narrowed to create extra cabin space. The independent rear suspension (which went on to be fi tted to cars as late as the Aston Martin DB7) offered unrivalled smoothness on the road, while the necessary redesign of the front and rear lengthened the car slightly and added extra load space. When the 4.2-litre engine arrived, the S-type was more than just modifi ed to take the bigger unit – it was virtually redesigned at the front with styling cues from the MK X. There’s a lot of commonality between the three models, as they have virtual identical engines and gearboxes. But the S-type had slightly bigger brakes and the awesome rear suspension set-up. The 420 brought wonderful three-pot calipers, Varamatic power steering and even more luxury. The preference in the shape is subjective of course but given the classic success of the MK2 we have to assume that the majority prefer the original – rightly or wrongly.


What’s the best to drive?

Sporty or sophisticated

The 420 wins on absolute ability. The difference in outright performance is hardly noticeable but on cross-country A-to-B routes the S-type and 420 excel with superior handling. It’s different on a track of course, as smooth surfaces suit the live axle of the MK2 – but on the road the S type clearly rules. The interiors might look similar but the S-type and 420 have more space and better quality wood veneer – including the centre section console, which is crackle black on the MK2. Both started life with either a four-speed with overdrive manual or three-speed automatic gearbox. The S-type soon had Jaguar’s own all-synchromesh gearbox (420 from the start) but the MK2 soldiered on with the three synchro Moss ’box until late 1965. All models use a steering box, so they also share the same basic traits. Yet the S-type’s ability to absorb the bumps with its well set-up suspension clearly scores. But the Varamatic of the 420 is the best of the bunch – as are the brakes. As for economy – don’t even ask! It will be a decent run before you see anything like 20mpg, although 22-24mpg is possible on a smooth run. All models muster similar economy, but the 2.4 MK2 is the most economical and 420 the most thirsty. In terms of speed, the lighter (by some 300lbs) MK2 clearly has the upper hand. As a guide, the weightier 3.8 S-type is about as quick as a 3.4 MK2 – and remember that most S-types were autos. Sensibly, Jaguar never made a 2.4, as the MK2 was tardy enough already, but the later 240 with its E-type-style cylinder head and twin SUs goes quite well. If straightline speed is important to you then the MK2 is the better car.

Owning and running

MK2’s simplistic approach is the most economical

A Jaguar will never be a cheap car to maintain and neither should it be skipped. Having said that, they are backed by an excellent parts supply and a plethora of specialists. If the trick rear suspension system is neglected then you’ll be looking at £2000 to put it right, so an S-type can be pricier to restore. MK2 parts are more plentiful due to their popularity. Wire wheels – fi tted to all models – will always need to be checked, as will the suspension geometry to keep those 185 x 15 radials (abandon the cross-plies!) fresh. Rust is an absolute killer as it can penetrate as deep as the rear seat platforms. Mechanically, these cars are pretty strong, as long as the maintenance is kept up to date. They’re all great tourers but again, the S-type and 420 have the edge due to their far more commodious boot and far superior ride. And, well… they are something different.

And The Winner Is...

We’d love to go with the 420 as it makes so much sense. But when have practicality and sense been an issue with old cars? In truth, the pedigree of the MK2 with its racing and rallying history is held in such high esteem that it is refl ected in today’s values. Similar condition cars differ wildly and if £12,500 is asked for an S-type or 420, then it’ll be £25,000 for a MK2. So the MK2 has it in the eyes of enthusiasts, although if logic rather than looks prevail, the 420 would be an easy victor.

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