Jaguar S Type 1963-68 review

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1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type 1963-68 Jaguar S Type
UNC 372 Jag 5362 UNC 372 Jag 5362

Jaguar's original S Type promised much but ultimately failed to deliver. Does half a century's worth of hindsight cast it in a more favourable light?

Jaguar S Type 1963-68 review
Jaguar S Type (1963-68) review

 

1963-68 Jaguar S Type

For every celebrated classic, there are the ‘nearly’ cars; the ones that ought to have shone but, for one reason or another, didn’t kick on. Amongst Jaguar’s shimmering constellation of Sixties success stories, the S Type is the black hole, the model that everyone overlooks. Yet it is to just these cars that classic car bargain hunters turn, in the hope that values will be dragged up by the reflected glory of its cohorts. The S Type, which made its debut in September 1963, promised much. It was technically intriguing, with essentially the same independent rear suspension sub-frame as the E-Type.

Fifty years on, it now seems that despite the S Type’s excellence, it was a relative lack of focus that has seen it less celebrated than two of three remarkable new Jaguars introduced from October 1959 to October 1961 – the Mark 2, E-Type and Mark X.

Arguably, the classic car market has got it wrong in rating the Mark X and the S Type so far behind the Mark 2 (in definitive 3.8-litre, manual with overdrive and fitted with wire wheels trim). The gargantuan Mark X failed to woo Americans but was a poised and dynamically brilliant luxury car which is only lately starting to achieve a serious following. In fact, Jaguar specialist Mike Roddy, who owns and races the XJS that won Bathurst in 1985, rates the X above the XJ and well above the E-Type as a point-to-point car. And as for the subject of this story, the S Type, when judged purely on its mechanical merits, is a superior car to the Mark 2.

The Mark 2 was a major rework of the smaller Jaguar first shown at Earls Court in 1955, just a few months before Bill Lyons became Sir William in the 1956 New Year’s honours list. It was the Jaguar 2.4 that represented Lyons’ first attempt to broaden the Jaguar range downmarket, the 3.4 following in February 1957.

By the time the S Type cruised onto the scene, the Mark 2 was already a bit of an anachronism. Beneath its truncated curved derrière lurked a tiny boot and a primitive live axle. Significantly, the new mid-size Jaguar’s launch coincided with the arrival of the Triumph and Rover 2000s, each with a more sophisticated rear end than the Mark 2; the Rover’s a slick de Dion configuration.

Following completion of development work on the Mark X, the S Type program began. The S was intended to plug the considerable size and price gaps between the Mark 2 and the Mark X. In effect, it was Jaguar’s first niche product. Visually, it was Mark X from the C-pillar back, grafted onto the existing smaller Jag body. But actually the changes were more extensive.

The roofline was slightly flattened and extended. A more prominent chrome surround for the grille, eyebrows for the headlights, thinner wrapround bumpers and inset fog lamps were key changes to the frontal aspect. The rear window was larger and embellished with a chrome surround. Instead of the dual exhaust outlets exiting at the left, they were centrally placed as per the Mark X.

The interior, too, picked up the Mark X theme. A split-bench front seat and more lavish use of polished walnut took the S Type a step upmarket. The handbrake was mounted on the floor to the right of the driver just like a Riley Pathfinder’s. There was a prominent centre console. So, despite the fact that the S Type was not intended to usurp the Mark 2 3.8’s role as Jaguar’s frontline sporting saloon, its cabin had a more cocooned feel.

Initial press reports questioned the visual balance of the newcomer. Road & Track contrasted it with the Mark 2’s ‘taut compact look’. Indeed, the bluff curves of the front end can look a little odd, juxtaposed with the increased length of the rear boot lid.

Some prospective Jaguar customers doubtless wanted more space and a better ride because for the first few months the S outsold its still very popular smaller sibling. Within a few years though, resale values plummeted as those demands were met.

In 1967 and 1968 the Mark 2 was Jaguar’s strongest seller. S Type sales numbers were 43 (1963), 7032 (1964), 9741 (65), 6260 (1966), 1008 (1967) and 909 (1968). Perhaps rumours of the forthcoming XJ6 diverted buyers from the S Type and 420, while those seeking a compact sports sedan favoured the Mark 2. When it arrived in October 1968 the XJ6 replaced Mark 2, S Type and 420 in one fell swoop, with the 420G soldiering on until 1970.

Significantly the short-stroke 2.4-litre XK engine was never offered in the S Type where the entry level was a 3.4 manual without overdrive. Until October 1964 this gearbox was the slow Moss unit, very much like the one fitted to the 1949 Mark V.

Any S Type was about 150kg heavier than its Mark 2 counterpart which blunted acceleration considerably. While the smaller car in 3.8 manual form could hit 96 km/h in 8.5 seconds, the S took 10, which was still respectably brisk in 1963. As speeds rise there is little between the Mark 2 and the S Type in urge but when road conditions deteriorate there’s a lot between them.

The worst aspect of the Mark 2/S Type is the rather wooden and low-geared manual steering. Optional Burman power steering with a quicker ratio (improved from 4.3 turns lock-to-lock in the Mark 2 to 3.5 in the S Type) is the better choice. Dunlop RS5 crossplies were replaced with SP41 radials in June 1964, giving the S Type grip to go with its ride which was as good as any car in its class at the time of launch. Only the Citroën DS or perhaps the Mark X could deliver smoother comportment; the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow was still more than a year away.

John Thaw’s Inspector Morse chose a Mark 2 but it was the S Type that had been the old banger Jag preferred for television villains and heroes in the 1970s. Numerous cars were destroyed in The Sweeney alone, where Thaw first achieved televisual superstardom. At its nadir the car was perhaps seen as little more than a plush alternative to a Ford Zodiac; the Poms just took them for granted.

No other car in the world combined the performance, ride, handling, braking and luxury of the S Type for anything like the price. Closest was the Mark 2, followed by the dearer, boxier, and relatively austere Mercedes-Benz 220SE.

Nevertheless, there is no question that Sir William Lyons’ determination to broaden Jaguar’s model range led to some loss of focus. By October 1966 when the 420 sedan arrived, there were three compact Jaguars and it was easy to take a satirical view of both the S Type and the 420 when compared with the Mark 2 and the flagship Mark X/420G. By comparison with either, the 3.8 Mark 2 must have seemed at the time like a pure and classic design; many buyers were happy to sacrifice the more poised ride, superior handling and larger boot offered by the S and 420.

Of great importance to some enthusiasts is the Mark 2’s racing heritage. Before the Mark X and S Type, every new-shape Jaguar sedan raced or rallied in Europe. The single-race 1960 and 1961 championships were won by Bill Pitt and David McKay respectively and then Bob Jane’s Mark 2 3.8 was victorious in 1962 and 1963. So there’s a strong local heritage for the original compact Jaguar in both ‘Mark 1’ and Mark 2 guises.

It has been fascinating to observe how the classic car market has treated the Mark 2, S Type and 420. In the early 1990s Miller’s Collector Cars Price Guide showed a price differential of less than 10 per cent between a Mark 2 (£13,500) and S Type 3.8 (£12,500) in top condition while an equivalent 420 was just under half the price of the S at £6000. A dozen years later the Mark 2 was at £18,500+, the S at £10,000 and the 420 was unchanged.

Things might finally be changing in the S Type’s favour, at least in the UK. A recent price guide published in Classic & Sports Car values a concours Mark 2 3.8 at £28,500 and its S Type counterpart at £28,200.

Australia is different and there’s little evidence that S Types of any kind are in huge demand. Warren Smith, owner of this lovely 3.4, hopes local prices will soon trend upwards.

Only a few years ago an immaculate, optimally configured Mark 2 could command $40K and a comparable S towards $25K. Now Mark 2s are much softer with excellent cars rarely exceeding $30K. If you could find an S Type 3.8S manual with overdrive and wire wheels in similar condition to Warren’s – excellent rather than concours – the price would likely be $15K, perhaps $18K. Isn’t that some kind of sensational bargain?

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Jaguar S Type (1963-68)

Number built: 24,993
Body: All-steel, integrated body/chassis four door sedan
Engine: 3442cc or 3781cc 6cyl, DOHC, 12v, iron block, alloy head
Power: (3.4) 157kW @ 5,500rpm
Torque: (3.4) 293Nm @ 3,000rpm
Performance: (3.4 manual) 0-100km/h – 13.5sec, Top Speed - 185km/h
Gearbox: 4-speed manual
Suspension: Independent, with wishbones, coil springs with telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar (f); Independent, with lower wishbone and driveshaft as upper link, radius arms and twin coil springs with telescopic dampers (r)
Brakes: Servo-assisted disc front/rear
Price range: $12,000 – 40,000

 

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