State of Independence

We return to Utah, examining its third significant iteration.

Image: Jaglovers

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.

Image: Jaglovers

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.

Read the Jaguar’s compact saloon story in full.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

4 thoughts on “State of Independence”

  1. Clearly the independent stance Lyons took to the development of his vehicles did not serve him well. With the US market being what it was and currently is, a lot more attention to detail could have been placed into market research. All things considered, Jaguars have always been beautiful in my eyes. No wrong could be done by the Jaguar styling department for me.

  2. I’ve always liked the S-Type and thought it suffered somewhat unfairly from being so obviously derived from the Mk2. Yes, the rear window is a tad too upright and meets the flowing tail at rather an abrupt angle, but otherwise it’s a lovely design. Of course, I very much share Donga’s viewpoint that Lyons-era Jaguars were all beautiful.

    1. It looks particularly beautiful in the colour chosen for this pic.
      Often, though, it was bought in a light blue, which showed up the clunkiness around the rear, which might have put people off.

  3. As out of date to look at as you could imagine by the 1964 model year when it arrived. The 1965 Corvair was only a year away, along with the coke-bottle GM full-size sedans. The 1963 Buick Riviera existed. The 1961 Lincoln Continental was just being wound up after a few years worth of “updates”. The S-Type arrived like a blast from the past. And as Mr Doyle remarks, something wasn’t quite right about Utah 3 anyway. Still, compared to the hulking Mk 9, a giant bag of air with only a 3.8 l to motivate it and which looked as though it had arrived fresh from an early ’50s horror movie set, it was a delicate flower. A rich kid at my university had a Mk 9 his dad gave him, and to say it didn’t blend in would be an understatement. The Mk 10 was a bit better than the Mk 9, but bulbous mid-fifties styling with wheels so far inboard was passe by 1964. The Utah 2 was fine somehow through all of this, because it just looked like itself. Jaguar must have sold all their big and strange bulbous cars in the UK in the 1960s, because they were as rare as hen’s teeth around these parts. It took the XJ6 to round that corner.

    My styling criticisms are my own, and I make no claim to be technically knowledgeable. But neither is the average purchaser. It’s just that when you’re a teen car nut, you know what you like instantly, and these old fogey cars just didn’t cut the mustard – they were not cars of their time, but fusty updated old-timers. Wire wheels on the later 340 were also a faux pas. The age of the 1962 Thunderbird with its “genuine simulated wire wheels” was in full flow in the arena of bad taste, but at least that car’s looks were gorgeous in an overblown way. All the rabbiting on about Lyons’exquisite taste seem to forget these Jaguars of the 1960s. Against the Toronado of 1966, these things were yesterday’s news to my young mind.

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