We examine Utah’s final iterations.
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.
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.
Salvation had by then arrived with the advent of the 420 saloon, 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.
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.
 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.
 The 420 was dubbed XJ16 by the factory, or Utah Mark 4.