State Of Contraction

We examine Utah’s final iterations.

Image: Curbside Classic

When Sir William Lyons made his hectic dash to Browns Lane to begin stylistic work for the S-Type facelift in October 1965, it was not only the act of a true autocrat, but one who was coming face to face with some home truths.

During the early 1960s, Jaguar had expanded, diversifying into commercial vehicles, encompassing trucks, buses and forklifts. These were, on the face of things, sound, viable businesses, providing the potential for additional revenue and an astute opportunity to provide a buffer against the vicissitudes of the UK auto market – one which was at the time frequently prey to market shifts and unwelcome government intervention[1].

However, these moves also could be argued to have provided something of a distraction at a time when Lyons clearsighted judgement had never been more urgently required. By mid-decade, Jaguar’s primary sales success in the crucial US market lay with the one model in which he was least invested – the E-Type. Owing to an initial lack of faith in the model, he would not commit to tooling-up for large-scale production, meaning that a car for which the American market had developed an insatiable appetite, could not be produced in anything like the volumes required.

The period between 1961 and ’64 saw a succession of proposals being evaluated for a new series of cars to both replace the compact saloons and provide the US dealers with a four-seater they could sell alongside the unloved Mark X. From this environment the somewhat expedient S-Type emerged, and while it was never intended for a long life, it doesn’t require the benefit of hindsight to see it as embodying that sense of uncertainty.

By 1965, Jaguar’s sales growth had broadly stalled. The UK compact ‘executive car’ sector was becoming dominated by Rover and Triumph’s mid-sized challengers; cars which made up in modernity, convenience and nimbleness, for what they might have lacked in displacement and outright performance. It was these cars and not the Jaguar that spoke of the mid-’60s UK zeitgeist. Certainly, they made the S-Type, technically, a logical evolution of the Mark 2 formula appear like the product of the previous decade.

This was even more apparent in the US, where the landscape was shifting at an even more markedly. For a marque which primarily sold on style, Lyons’ procrastination was a grievous misjudgement. Therefore, it could be suggested that Lyons had nobody to blame but himself for the S-Type’s fading appeal, one which reached a watershed in 1967 when slightly over 1,000 S-Types were sold in the entire year; a sizeable number of those being to police forces, who favoured them as motorway patrol cars and probably got them at highly favourable rates.

You’re nicked! Image: AROnline

Salvation had by then arrived with the advent of the 420 saloon[2], brought to market in less than a year on Sir William’s insistence – a job nobody involved was likely to forget or forgive in a hurry. To an extent, the 420 was the car the S-Type ought to have been in 1963, but four years on, it seemed antediluvian next to the personal luxury offerings Detroit was serving up.

Road & Track magazine put a 420 up against FMC’s Mercury Cougar in a 1967 comparison, and despite the Jaguar’s more sophisticated chassis, the Mercury offered a far more compelling overall proposition. However, unlike the S-Type it displaced in US showrooms, the 420 proved a commercial success, Jaguar’s US sales chief recalling to chroniclers that the model took off immediately with American customers.

In the US, each successive compact saloon model supplanted the other, whereas in the UK, all three were sold concurrently, in addition to the Daimler branded derivations of Mark 2 and 420 models. Add to this the Mark Ten, Daimler’s Majestic Major/ Limousine and it was obvious that Jaguar were building too many models with too much product overlap in dank, cramped and ill-resourced conditions, leading to no end of headaches for Jaguar’s engineers, plant directors, procurement teams and sales organisation.

But because Jaguar sales policy had always been to create demand though scarcity, maintaining production as close to order book as possible, the stark truth was that Jaguar probably needed the volume simply to keep the lights on – and as the decade moved towards its conclusion, the cars’ combined age meant that demand sometimes had to be ‘massaged’.

In 1966, Lyons bowed to what he saw as an inevitable industry-wide trend, casting his lot in with George Harriman’s British Motor Corporation – a fateful decision he would regret at leisure. The following year, the Mark 2 received its final refresh, losing the 3.8 litre model entirely. Now sold as very much a value proposition; inside, vinyl seats greeted passengers, although little else visible within the cabin was cheapened.

Image: Jaglovers

By far the most significant improvement was to the entry-level XK engine, which gained a straight-port cylinder head with twin HS6 SU carburettors, which raised maximum power for the 2.4 litre model to 133 bhp at 5500 rpm, finally making the newly re-badged 240 at last a genuine 100 mph car. Visually, slimline bumpers, and revised wheeltrims were the primary external differentiators.

With the September 1968 launch of the XJ6, Jaguar’s sprawling saloon car range was drastically pruned back, with only the 240 and 420-bodied Daimler Sovereign surviving into 1969 – these being the last of the Utah-derived Jaguars to cease production.

Sir William believed in amortising his investments over lengthy production runs and in the case of the Utah programme, he certainly got his money’s worth, gaining what was for a specialist carmaker, a huge number of model derivatives. In some ways this was a far-seeing strategy, but the time for back of an envelope product planning was well and truly over.

Read the compact Jaguar saloon story in full.

[1] Throughout the 1960s, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer used interest rates (and ergo borrowing costs) as a tool to control inflation. This constant see-sawing of restraint and easing made it impossible for carmakers to plan and would contribute markedly to the labour problems which bedevilled the industry.

[2] The 420 was dubbed XJ16 by the factory, or Utah Mark 4.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “State Of Contraction”

  1. Lyons also considered casting his lot with Leyland Motors had Sir Henry Spurrier lived a bit longer.

    What would be worth touching upon were Jaguar’s plans to challenge both the Triumph 2000/2500 and Rover P6 with a 1.8-2.5 Baby XJ project, a curious two-door (instead of four-door) saloon of roughly similar dimensions to the Alfa Romeo Giulia that was to be powered by 1.8/2.5-litre Coventry Climax CFF/CFA V8 engines* of unknown parentage** with the 2.5-litre reputedly capable of putting out 200+ hp (via Walter Hassan’s book).

    *- As opposed to a more conventional and even logical 2-litre 4-cylinder version of the unbuilt 2.6-3.0-litre all-alloy short-stroke XK6 prototype engines, the 3-litre capable of up to 185 hp (net).

    **- Am rather fascinated by whether the 1.8/2.5-litre CFF/CFA V8 planned for the Baby XJ project was derived from an existing Coventry Climax engine or had any tenuous links to what the Rootes Group were up to during the 1950s-1960s.

  2. It seems odd that the 420 was such a success in America when the Mark X / 420G was not, given how similar the styling was.

    1. While it’s perhaps fair to say that the Mark X’s styling bore a certain resemblance to the well-loved Hudson Hornet series, I think this is a factor which has been overplayed. It may have turned off some customers, but there were other, more compelling factors weighted against the car.

      Jaguar’s US representative, Johannes Eerdemans memoed Lyons in 1963, saying that until the Mark X could be supplied with a more powerful engine and a new gearbox, it would not figure in his plans for the US market. This suggests that the car was simply outgunned by Detroit’s V8 engines and sophisticated automatic transmissions. Furthermore, early problems with the model, the result of a rushed and largely unfinished proving regime prior to launch meant the Mark X developed a poor reputation, which it failed to shake off.

      With these handicaps, any perceived issues around styling would only have added insult to injury. The 4.5 litre Daimler v8 would have solved a lot of the Mark X’s issues in the US, but Lyons was allegedly advised by Eerdemans to go for a V12, in order to stand out from the opposition. But that was a very long time coming.

      Regarding the Leyland tie-up: It is indeed said that Sir William would have moved to tie-up with Leyland had Spurrier not been forced to retire through illness. (He wouldn’t have anything to do with Donald Stokes) However, for the life of me, I can’t see how Jaguar merging with Leyland would have changed anything. The BMH/Leyland merger, while disastrous, was inevitable.

    2. With or without Jaguar, Leyland Motors could have simply walked away from acquiring BMC/BMH with the latter either collapsing or managing to bounce back from the brink.

      There would likely be some complications of Jaguar coming under Leyland, depending on whether Rover still becomes part of Leyland (or opts instead to join BMC – which was something also considered during the 1960s). Nevertheless there are more positives than negatives IMHO.

      As for the Jaguar Mark X that is one of a number of Jaguars which could have better utilized the Daimler V8, especially since a 280-290+ hp 5-litre version was tested at one point and the existing 4.5-litre version was said to have produced about 40 hp more then its officially stated 220 hp figure.

    3. Leyland could have walked away, I’m sure, but from my understanding of events, in 1967, then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson invited Donald Stokes of Leyland and George Harriman of BMH to Chequers (the PM’s country retreat) to discuss the possibility of a merger – in the national interest. It was very much policy at the time for the government to intervene, especially in the wake of the Wilson government’s failure to prevent Chrysler from taking over the British Rootes carmaking concern. A great deal of pressure was subsequently exerted upon both Stokes and Harriman to come together, with a £25 million inducement in the form of a guaranteed government loan. Furthermore, it was latterly suggested that the idea of being boss of Britain’s largest carmaking business rather appealed to Donald Stokes’ vanity.

      Regarding the stillborn 2+2 which was being considered to replace the Mark 2, there is very little meaningful known about it, outside of what Bob has quoted above. There was some discussion of using the Daimler V8, of it sharing suspension components with certain BMC models (although which remains unclear) in addition to the suggestion of the Coventry Climax unit. It seems that Malcolm Sayer carried out a number of design layouts for a similar type of car, (alongside a separate BMC sportscar project) around this time but it’s unclear exactly what they were intended to be. Sayer operated an advanced engineering skunkworks within Browns Lane, so there was a lot of ‘blue sky thinking’ going on the time. Once the BLMC merger occurred, Jaguar was forbidden from pursuing this line of thought, as it was viewed as being Triumph’s market.

      3.0 litre XK units were built in experimental form during the 1960s and fitted to a development E-Type, and also a Mark 2, the latter giving similar performance to that of the existing 3.4 litre model. It was considered a nice engine – very sweet running. 3.0 litre XK units were also fitted to prototype XJ4s until quite late in the programme, when somewhat mystifyingly, they were substituted for a 2.8 unit derived from the larger (and somewhat flawed) 4.2 litre. There appears to be a lack of clarity as to whether these prototype engines had an alloy block. They are not to be confused with the racing XK engines prepared for the 3.0 litre formula, which certainly did. Allegedly, the four cylinder XK suffered from severe vibrations and was not proceeded with.

    4. Still while it ended up happening the BMC/Leyland merger was not completely inevitable, both in retrospect would have been better off as separate entities as opposed to one big monstrosity in a perfect storm of the many individual marques having already investing significant amount of money/tooling/etc on the next generation of cars.

      Some info on the XJ Junior 2+2 saloon is available in Nick Hull’s Jaguar Design book, where it is described as being inspired by the Alfa Romeo Giulia GT, to have been based on a BMC platform, presumably of all-new design (though others mention it being derived from MGC-derived running gear yet featuring the 1.8-2.5-litre CFF/CFA V8s), it would have been a unique car, a compact 2+2 coupe somewhat akin to a more powerful Triumph Vitesse or a BMW 2002.

      Several versions of the car were schemed up on paper, one looking like a larger Mini Marcos with a chopped kamm tall. Another larger version had a front a bit like the TVR Trident, and plain body sides (specifically the Trident Clipper or Trident Venturer plus hints of the early 1963-1968 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT/GTC/GTV Coupes or mk2 Triumph 2000 / Triumph Stag at the front indicators with the rear-half resembling the Jensen FF).

      Nick Hull’s book also includes a 1/20-scale scheme by Sayer that appears to be of the larger Trident/Jensen-inspired XJ Junior proposal where it is mentioned having a proposed wheelbase, width and length of 96-inches, 66-inches and 164-inches respectively (the closest thing thing BL ended up producing would be the Triumph Stag), along with the engine by that point being assumed to be the 60-degree V8 version of the Jaguar V12.

      The BMC sportscar project in question would be ADO30 aka Fireball XL5 by any chance or was it another project?

      Am aware the early versions of the XK4 engine suffered from vibration issues during development pre-1960s, though of the view it was a idea that could have been revisited using both the P6 OHC (an engine not known for being smooth compared to the Triumph I6) and Alfa Romeo Twin-Cam as benchmarks.

      The last page of the following PDF makes mention of engineer Jack Wicks working on a 4.5-litre V8 diesel engine, however it is not clear whether it was for commercial or private car applications let alone if it was basically derived from the 220 hp (actually 260 hp) 4.5-litre Daimler V8. –

    5. Bob, I wholeheartedly agree that both entities would have been better off apart. Large conglomerates rarely prove successful and in the case of BLMC, was probably doomed from the start. However, and I’ve done quite a lot of reading on the subject, I cannot for the life of me see how it could have been averted, given the characters involved and more to the point, the UK Government’s highly interventionist policies at the time. This was part of the Wilson government’s industrial strategy and enormous pressure was exerted upon Harriman and Stokes to agree to it. The former was by then a very unwell man and the latter was highly ambitious and it has been suggested, wanted it almost as much as Wilson’s cabinet did – if for different reasons.

      Returning to the Sayer schematics. As reproduced in Philip Porter’s history of the E-Type, they show a similar car, dubbed 3-Litre GT 2+2 with a clear notation from Sayer which reads, (“V8 Daimler”) – also shown in position within the car. This might suggest there had been an intention to expand the Daimler unit to 3-litres, which would have been a very prudent measure indeed, had it proven possible. Porter also quotes from a Memo from Bill Heynes to Lyons which makes mention of a new six cylinder engine, which again, may be reference to the all-alloy 3-litre version of the XK.

      Unfortunately, just about every Jaguar historian has their own interpretation of these matters, and one therefore finds oneself having to connect the dots oneself. Speaking personally by the way, I wasn’t fantastically impressed with the Nick Hull book, albeit, some of the pictures were quite interesting. I’m not actually convinced that anyone has a definitive on what was going on at the time, especially since very little appears to have been written down (especially when it comes to timelines), most of it was entirely speculative and would have been subject to Sir William’s approval anyway, and as Professor Randle said to me in 2016, people sometimes invent stories. History is a minefield.

  3. Will have to check out Philip Porter’s history of the E-Type someone, aside from Nick Hull’s book are there any other books which feature many more of the Sayer schematics?

    Even though there was some value in Jaguar continuing to utilize uprated/updated 3-litre / 5-litre (if not a 3.5-4-litre) Daimler V8 or the more exotic 1.8-2.5-litre Coventry Climax CFF/CFA V8*, what would have allowed Jaguar to develop a 90-degree V8 whilst carrying over much of the architecture of the V12 as possible instead of developing the unproduced 60-degree V8 from the V12?

    History is indeed a minefield, at the same time it is interesting looking at things from an what-if or alternate history point of view.

    *- The following is unproven on my part though cannot help but speculate the CFF/CFA V8 sharing some distant relation to the Imp or even the unbuilt Swallow engines despite the unusual displacement.

  4. From what I have seen Bob, the Porter book has the largest concentration of Sayer’s drawings and schemes – both for road cars and racing machines. Unfortunately, they don’t appear to have been dated, so Mr. Porter does his best to propose a timeline, but he’s most likely making educated guesses. The E-Type book is a very impressive piece of research, but it isn’t cheap. Neither is the Hull book, which I baulked at paying, having spent 24 hours with a loaned copy. I wouldn’t necessarily call it essential reading.

    Of course I enjoy a good counterfactual as much as the next fellow, but I always try to ground myself to what was possible. The sticking point with all of this was always one of money. Jaguar was run on a shoestring, so the engineering team was massively understaffed, meaning that as much as they might have been fizzing with ideas – and Mr. Heynes was someone who wasn’t afraid of innovating – they simply didn’t have the resources to carry out even a fraction of what they wanted to achieve. As the costs of developing new cars shot up during the ’60s, it became clear to Lyons that his business simply couldn’t absorb another failure like the Mark X, which probably underlined his determination to find a backer.

    Lyons was courted at one time by most of the UK industry, (including Rolls Royce allegedly). But nobody was really offering a safe berth, with a guaranteed body supply. Once BMC purchased Pressed Steel, the game was up really. Frankly, unless Lyons could have found a UK equivalent to the Quandt family, who underwrote BMW for so long, (and still do) it’s really a case of all roads leading to BLMC.

    The other thing to bear in mind was the fact that by 1968 BLMC was already awash with V8 engine programmes. We’ll never know if Stokes would have sanctioned Jaguar’s 60 degree V8, had they ironed out its problems in time, but by 1972 I somewhat doubt it. By then, the answer to every question was the Buick V8, developed by Rover, which was proven and available. Even obtaining sanction for the Turner V8s to be developed further and built in larger volumes would have been by no means certain.

    1. On the subject of counterfactuals or even what is known as butterfly-netted counterfactuals / alternate history (where the butterfly effect is mitigated and grounded in what was possible), while BMC was in decline prior to its merger with Leyland am also of the view the former’s problems were just about survivable. However the ideal for BMC as well as its earlier Austin and Morris precursors amongst other things would in some respects require earlier points of divergence in order for an alternate BMC to be a merger of equals, with other UK carmakers ultimately consolidating along different lines compared to what actually ended up unfolding.

      One unusual story about Jaguar would be a proposal by Lyons for Lotus’s Colin Chapman to takeover the company, which included Lotus looking at the possibility of using the Daimler V8. Not sure though whether this was before or after Lotus became involved with Ford, also read of Lotus previously looking at the A-Series as a base for what became the Lotus Twin-Cam before rejecting it on the basis there was no longer evolution plan for the engine which lead them to opting for Ford.

    2. There is a body of opinion that BMC, under the day to day leadership of Joe Edwards was already turning the corner when the Leyland merger was proposed, and left to their own devices, may well have pulled themselves out of the red. Certainly, had BMH remained independent, model policy would have been somewhat different, and a lot of grievous errors on that front may have been averted. But we’ll never know for sure.

      Regarding the Lotus story – according to Lyons’ official biography, it was to have been a takeover. In 1963, following Lyons’ acquisition of Coventry Climax, Colin Chapman, Fred Bushell and Ron Hickman visited Browns Lane. It’s believed that Lyons offered them the design for the Daimler SP252 (the redesigned version of the Dart sportscar), but they were uninterested. However, they were very interested in the Turner V8, Hickman telling the authors that it was “envisaged the new Lotus [Elan +2] would have a Daimler engine”). Following the visit, Jaguar’s FRW. England visited Hethel at Chapman’s request, later informing Lyons they could “buy this lot for half a million, complete with the racing side”. Negotiations reached a conclusion with Chapman shaking hands on an exchange of shares. I have read elsewhere that Chunky was offered the job of running both companies, but I find that a little hard to swallow – Lyons would never have relinquished control over ‘his’ company. Anyway, about a week after they had agreed terms it seems, Chapman asked if they could withdraw, which was agreed.

    3. Joe Edwards comes across as very competent, shame he did not succeed Lord in the early-60s.

      Have heard similar about Stanley Markland, though not sure how he would have operated Leyland Motors any differently compared to Donald Stokes let alone what Markland’s disposition or position on competing in motorsport was.

      Find it difficult to imagine the Daimler V8 fitting into the Lotus Elan +2 and slotting above the Lotus Twin-Cam, though have heard the odd murmur about the 2-litre Lotus 900 Series being investigated as a stop-gap only to be quickly discounted due to engine length and weight.

      Speaking of the latter, it seems some within Lotus (not sure who the initials GA refers to) wanted a 1800cc version of the Lotus 900 Series in an Elan +2 based car to sort engine issues prior to the 1974 Lotus Elite’s launch (though seem to recall demand for a 1800cc version also stemming from within the context of the 1973 fuel crisis). –

  5. The what-ifs concerning Jaguar in the 1960s and 1970s could be examined from here to eternity without coming to a conclusion., it seems to me. But there’s always something new to learn, so these articles on Utah have been intriguing for me.

    Having found a site where some benevolent soul has scanned hundreds of road tests, I found it instructive to compare a Daimler Majestic Major limo at 5,018 lb all -up weight and a Mark 10 4.2 at 4487 lb. The Jaguar is much fleeter, especially at higher speeds, and a whole second quicker in the standing-start quarter mile. Quicker than the 500 lb weight advantage might suggest. Surprised me as I thought the 4.5l V8 was fleet.

    From Autocar:

    There are 12 Jaguar “reprints”, two of Utah Mk II 3.8, one from 1960, the other a 1963 automatic. That poor old Borg Warner three speed automatic hi-torque version shared by Ramblers was a bit of a giant heat sink, but American Motors had remedied all the carping by dubbing it Flash-O-Matic circa 1957. See? Simple. Problem solved.

    All the road tests from all featured magazines can be accessed from:

    And yes, there’s one on a 240. They certainly geared it to wring its neck! What a gas guzzler. The 1960 Mk II 3.8 with overdrive is as quick as most big V8 options from Detroit that year. That kind of dig is what sold Jags to Americans. Walnut, leather and a bit of oomph. Two years later when the Mk 10 arrived, it was very slow compared to a full-size Chevy 327 4 barrel V8 – I know my friend’s was timed at 15.5 second standing start quarter with a 4 speed manual. And then some very big V8’s came along that really got rolling. In those days, not much point having a Jag if it didn’t keep up with a car half-the-price. My pure guess is that the 420, not looking quite so ginormous as the Mk 10, sold to a different type of buyer than big Jaguars had been pitched to previously in North America. Times were a ‘changing.

    1. The two Autocar tests I see have the Daimler substantially quicker – especially trap speed which correlates best to power to weight ( less dependent on transmission or driver technique)

      Jaguar Mk 10 Road Test 1962 (2)

      Daimler Majestic Major Limousine Road Test 1963 (2)

      I have no idea how careful or consistent those tests were, but trap speed is a lot less sensitive to driver, weather, temperature, traction, gear ratios, response time etc.

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