We return to Utah, examining its third significant iteration.
Right up to the late 1960s, Jaguar product planning operated very much on the whim of what its founder considered necessary. Constantly seeking a competitive advantage, Lyons would latch onto an engineering or stylistic innovation and would not be satisfied until it was brought to fruition. Needless to say, this caused no end of headaches for the engineers and technicians tasked with making them a reality.
Legend has it that in 1957, Sir William, making his daily rounds of the factory, arrived at Bob Knight’s small office in experimental. In passing, he shares his view that Jaguar ought to develop an independent rear suspension and asks Mr Knight how long it would take to design one. Somewhat bullishly and no doubt to his subsequent chagrin, Knight replies that he could have something up and running within a month. ‘Impossible’, says Lyons, ‘A fiver says you can’t’. Knight takes the bait, but only after Sir William departs does he realise he’s been played. Either way, Lyons would win.
Twenty seven days later, a rudimentary system was fitted to a Utah development car, employing torsion bars as the springing medium and lacking the rubber mounted subframe which did so much to aid refinement. It was far from perfect. During 1958, the decision was taken to completely redesign the suspension, the bulk of the work being carried out by Tom Jones (under Knight’s supervision), resulting in the definitive layout which entered production in 1961.
That same year, work began on what was known within Jaguar as XJ3 and at Pressed Steel as Utah Mark 3. Intended, not so much as a replacement for the Mark 2, but a more sophisticated, upmarket model to sit between it and the new Mark X saloon. Needless to say, the double wishbone rear end would form the cornerstone of the car’s technical makeup, necessitating considerable changes to the body structure to accommodate it.
As previously outlined, the aft floorpan of Utah mark 1 (and 2) was unstressed, the rear springs being cantilevered from reinforced mountings beneath the seat-pan. For Utah Mark 3, the structural channel-members were extended rearwards over the wheelarches to the rear of the floorpan and welded to a heavily ribbed, double-skinned boot floor pressing, lending additional strength at the rear of the structure.
Because XJ3 was intended as a more sybaritic motor car, Lyons decreed that while retaining the existing car’s centre section, it must have a more luxurious and commodious interior. This was achieved by revisions within the cabin but most notably by a longer and flatter roof pressing, which combined with a more upright rear screen, made life easier for taller passengers. Seating, while more lavish, was thinner in section than of yore, with the rear bench being further inclined, further liberating lounging space. The dash design was based on that of the Mark X with additional wood panelling and a revised centre console.
Launched in the autumn of 1963 as the S-Type, what most casual observers observed was essentially a Mark 2 with seven inches tacked on to its tail. But look closer and one discovers that door and bonnet pressings aside, no major exterior panels were shared.
Obviously, the ‘S’ differed most noticeably aft of the B-pillar, where the taller daylight openings combined with the longer, falling tail lent it a slightly awkward stance, notwithstanding its rear tack width being a full inch wider than that of a Mark 2. The tail styling was essentially a carbon copy of the larger Mark X, and attractive in isolation. However, when combined with the taller roofline, the transition from the existing Utah hull was not an entirely seamless one.
Despite appearances, changes to the nose required all new quarter-wing pressings. The sidelights migrated to a position above the new slimline bumpers, while the headlamps (and spotlamps) were now recessed – the former housed within peaked fairings. A more elaborate grille completed the overall effect, which on the face of things was perhaps a little ineffectual for what was billed as an entirely new model.
But while nobody hailed the S-Type as a stylistic masterpiece, from a dynamic perspective, it was soon recognised to be a superior vehicle to its more lauded Mark 2 sibling, which continued alongside.
Obviously, the independent rear end considerably aided traction, ride comfort and roadholding, but in addition, the new Burman power steering reduced wheel-twirling from 4.3 turns to 3.5, lock to lock, and owing to the addition of a torsion bar between the input shaft and the hydraulic valve, sensitivity at the wheelrim was dramatically improved. Hence, despite its additional weight, the S-Type could maintain its slightly reduced performance potential more consistently than its older, faster but more wayward sibling, especially on give-and-take roads.
In the US, where the S-Type replaced the Mark 2 entirely, it was well received by the press, who praised its chassis, but were somewhat ambivalent about its appearance; Road & Track not being untypical in October 1964, saying, “we weren’t wholly convinced that the proportions of the car are improved by the longer rear end and increased overhang – but certainly the changes that result from the alterations more than make up for it.”
It appears that the US customer felt similar ambivalence, as sales of the S-Type dropped off alarmingly by mid-decade. By then, the Utah bodyshell was conclusively showing its age, and Jaguar was losing its edge against more modern looking and powerful domestic luxury models. This, combined with America’s refusal to embrace the larger Mark X, precipitated something of a crisis and another of Lyons’ mercurial product-related decisions.
Jaguar had been caught napping and at the UK motor show that autumn, Sir William, horrified by the lack of interest being shown in the ‘S’, muttered to an underling, “we have to do something“, hightailing back to Browns Lane, where he set to work, preparing the groundwork for what would be Utah’s last stand.