Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type

| 5 Mar 2020
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type

Why you’d want a Jaguar S-type

Looking back, many commentators criticise Jaguar for its apparently crazy proliferation in the 1960s saloon market, with the Mk2 and Daimler 2½-litre, plus S-type, 420 and Sovereign and MkX/420G.

But if you look at what was happening to competing firms, Sir William Lyons’ brilliance shows through.

Rivals were dropping like flies – closing or moving out of the big sporty saloon market – to a large extent because Lyons’ products were so good and such excellent value.

By broadening his range, he hoped to mop up all of those buyers who’d previously gone to Alvis, Humber, Sunbeam-Talbot, Armstrong Siddeley, Lagonda, Riley, Standard, or overseas marques such as Delage, Delahaye, Facel Vega and Hotchkiss.

Then, having drawn in that spectrum of new customers to the Browns Lane family, he aimed to capitalise by replacing that abundance of models with just one: the brilliant new XJ6.

The S-type answered critics who felt that the Mk2 was beginning to feel a bit too crude with its heavy live rear axle.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type

Cutaway shows neat installation of MkX’s independent rear end (left); suspension gives an excellent ride, but with plenty of lean

The complex but superbly effective new independent rear suspension, designed to suit both the MkX and the E-type, was too bulky to use in an unchanged Mk2 shell, the boot space of which was already marginal.

Instead Lyons cleverly grafted the MkX rear styling onto the Mk2, together with a slightly higher roofline for improved rear seat headroom and subtle tweaks up front, too.

Adding a much-improved heater (another Mk2 bugbear) and even more luxury inside, he created a new model that retained all the compact charm of the Mk2, while offering a far superior ride and greater comfort with only a small performance penalty. It was still a great deal faster than most other non-Jaguar saloons at the price, though.

Today, it’s more important than ever to ensure you are buying a sorted example. Rust is their biggest enemy and panels (except shared ones) are costlier than for the more popular Mk2.

Check panel gaps for evenness, plus the sills, wheelarches, doors and wings for smooth, ripple-free lines.

Inspect everywhere for corrosion and use a magnet to test for filler. With parts readily available, mechanical issues are minor in comparison.

Images: Tony Baker

Jaguar S-type: what to look for

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type


See above for trouble spots

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type


Look for consistent 40psi oil pressure at speed from the XK twin-cam engine when hot and listen for bottom-end rumbles, plus top-end timing chain noise – a start-up rattle should quickly fade.

Poor performance is often due to worn cams (£115 each), necessitating a top-end overhaul. Beware oil leaks from the back of the crankshaft.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type


If the steering feels heavy, new balljoints might transform it. Try with the front wheels jacked off the ground: it should be free. Inspect the condition of the many rubber bushes.

The S-type’s USP is its sophisticated rear suspension; look for leaks. Drive the car to ensure it has a high enough final drive for your needs (it varied). Some have a limited-slip differential.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type

Power steering

The pump for the optional (and desirable) Burman power steering was driven from the back of the dynamo. It was replaced by the even better Marles Varamatic in 1968.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type


Fine, original seats add massively to the character of an S-type. Modern leather looks and feels different, so repairing the original is always preferable, if possible.

A full set of wood in good order is vital to the ultimate appeal, so check that it’s all the same – whether restored or not. Finding missing items to match is tricky.

The Borg Warner 35 auto suits the S-type: test it for slow changes and working kickdown. On manuals, check synchros, layshaft noise and overdrive operation.

Jaguar S-type: on the road

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type

A potent luxury saloon that can be hustled along quickly (albeit with a fair amount of body roll) if the mood takes you, the S-type should be quiet, comfortable and quick – Grace, Space and Pace, as the Jaguar advert declared.

Dull performance might be down to worn cam lobes, exacerbated by poor oil circulation. Rattly timing chains can often be adjusted and are not costly to replace.

Deeper rumbles and low oil pressure mean that it’s engine rebuild time. Oil leaks are common; most are relatively easy to cure except for the rear crankshaft oil seal, which is an engine-out job to replace. Uprating to a modern seal stops the leaks – a bonus if it’s already been done.

The alloy head needs corrosion inhibitor all year round. Without it, crud can quickly clog the radiator and block coolant passages, causing localised overheating, a blown head gasket and even a distorted head.

While it can be skimmed and overhauled, if the blocked passages and rad aren’t cleared it will recur – too much skimming leads to excessive compression ratio and unavoidable pinking. The standard CR was 8:1, but optional 9:1 engines need super unleaded.

The automatic choke’s thermostatic control is often bypassed to a switch on the dashboard, an acceptable modification.

Dynamo charging systems don’t take kindly to too many high-draw extras, but conversion to an alternator is not feasible if the car has the Burman power steering, driven off the back of the dynamo.

If the brakes are not effective, the calipers are sticking or oil is getting on the rear discs. Also try the handbrake, which often isn’t that brilliant.

Jaguar S-type price guide 

  • Show: c£37,000
  • Average: c£16,000
  • Restoration: c£8,000

Jaguar S-type history

1963 Oct S-type launched

1964 Jun Dunlop SP41 radials replace RS5 crossply tyres as standard fitment

1964 Oct Manual gearbox changed from Moss three-synchromesh to all-synchro Jaguar four-speed unit; larger brake servo

1965 Jun Auto transmission/torque converter modified to improve change quality: P-suffix

1966 Apr Switch for optional heated-rear window (it was previously always live with the ignition on)

1967 Aug Foglamps deleted, Ambla trim instead of leather, ribbed cam covers replace polished type

1968 Jan Marles Varamatic power steering becomes optional, replacing Burman option

1968 Dec S-type production ends

Also consider

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type

A Flaminia (left) and a 300SE are alternative buys


Built with elegant Pininfarina styling similar to the BMC/Peugeot look, the big V6 Lancia was a fine performer with good handling thanks to a de Dion transaxle. Rot has decimated the few made.

Sold 1957-’70 • No. built 3424 • Mpg 17-25 • 0-60mph 15.6/14.5 secs • Top speed 102/106mph • Price new £2848/2946 (’65)


Injected saloon gave storming performance with a great ride, but cost twice as much as an S-type in the UK. Superbly built but thirsty, this is a classy alternative – if costly to run.

Sold 1961-’65 • No. built 6748 • Mpg 13-19 • 0-60mph 10.9 secs • Top speed 107mph • Price new £3890 (’65)

Jaguar S-type: the Classic & Sports Car verdict

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Jaguar S-type

Discerning Jaguar saloon fans will choose an S-type over any other mid-’60s model, with good reason.

A well-maintained example is a delight to drive and to ride in, with supple suspension, great performance, a peerless interior and excellent heating.

But buy one with a poor body and interior at your peril – they can be difficult and costly to put right.


  • Lively performance
  • Magic carpet ride
  • Cheaper than a Mk2
  • Great parts availability


  • Rot can be extensive
  • A poor cabin is very difficult to rectify
  • Costs more to restore than a Mk2, but will be worth less afterwards

Jaguar S-type specifications

  • Sold/number built 1963-’68/9928 3.4, 15,065 3.8
  • Construction steel monocoque
  • Engine iron-block, alloy-head, dual-overhead-cam 3442/3781cc ‘six’, with twin SU HD6 carburettors
  • Max power 210bhp @ 5500rpm-220bhp @ 5500rpm
  • Max torque 216lb ft @ 3000rpm-240lb ft @ 3000rpm
  • Transmission four-speed manual, optional overdrive on top, or Borg Warner BW35 three-speed auto, driving rear wheels, optional limited-slip differential
  • Suspension independent all round, at front by coil springs, double wishbones, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar rear twin coil spring/dampers, lower wishbone, upper driveshaft, radius arms
  • Steering worm and nut, optional Burman or Marles power assistance
  • Brakes discs, 11in front, 11⅜in rear, with servo
  • Length 15ft 7in (4750mm)
  • Width 5ft 6¼in (1683mm)
  • Height 4ft 7¾in (1416mm)
  • Wheelbase 8ft 11½in (2730mm)
  • Weight 3584-3696lb (1625-1676kg)
  • 0-60mph 10.2-11 secs
  • Top speed 112-121mph
  • Mpg 15-22
  • Price new £1670-1800+ (1965)


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