S-type: Classic & Modern


Rudy Schats and Jaguar S-type in South Africa

 

THE STORY ABOUT TWO S-TYPES

Jaguar ownership did only come late in my life. I bought my first car, a pre-owned Austin A40 Devon, in Tanganyika in 1956 where the only tarred roads were in town, all others were brownish/red coloured gravel. Air-conditioning did not yet exist, so one drove with open windows and usually came out of the car looking like a Red Indian. Only farmers drove 4X4s –all Land Rovers- in those days and we just used “ordinary” cars on those roads in both dry (dusty) and wet (muddy) conditions. The popularity of cars was decided by their achievements in the EAST AFRICAN SAFARI, an annual rally run during the rainy season.

Needless to say that these conditions did not suit low slung Jaguars, not to mention that Jaguar ownership was simply not compatible with the salaries young expatriates earned.

The first new car I bought was a 900 cc DKW, the last DKW before their cars were renamed Auto Union. This car was used extensively for rallying, slaloms and other speed events. We then moved to South Africa where car ownership was dictated by financial constraints and our need for a decent tow vehicle for caravanning.

A transfer to Hong Kong brought an early Ford Mustang Convertible into our lives; one of only 100 Mustangs converted in Hong Kong to RHD. During subsequent postings to the Netherlands, Australia and a return to Hong Kong, I had company cars.

My first Jaguar was a 2.8 litre XJ6 –bought in Hong Kong- which proved to have so many ailments that efforts to save it from the breakers were abandoned. Retirement loomed and – after a ± 3 year search and research – we decided to settle in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, where we arrived in 1995 with a 3-litre Ford Scorpio and a 1976 VW Beetle Convertible.

Then I saw a saddle brown Series 2 XJ6 and I got a long sales spiel that Jaguar engines gave a lot of trouble and consequently many were fitted with Chevrolet engines, which were reliable, lighter, blah, blah! Not knowing a lot about Jaguars at the time, I fell for it and like my first Jaguar, this one also did not give me a lot of pleasure. But what it did do (when it went!) was to demonstrate that it was the most comfortable and still sporty car to drive, a real drivers’ car and far more satisfying than my top-of-the-range Ford. The Series 2 was soon replaced by a Series 3, which we still own.

We joined the local Jaguar Club, bought a few books and it did not take long before we were hooked and became committed Jaguar Aficionados. A second Jaguar came into our lives, a white 1968 420 which we used on the 2nd JEC Tour of South Africa in 2002. We bought a better 420 and sold the white one, but although the 420 is a very good car, we just did not like the rather bland square front and decided that the grille of the Mark 1/Mark 2 and S-Type looked so much more Jaguar-ish.

Like so often, things happen because of coincidences and outside influences rather than by thorough planning, intense research or what have you. Somewhere in Johannesburg a man had been restoring an S-Type, a hands-on job which he was unable to finish, owing to health reasons. When he left Johannesburg for the coast in 1999, he had to dispose of the car but soon discovered how difficult it is to find a buyer for an unfinished restoration project. The then chairman of the Johannesburg Jaguar Club, rather than see the car go to a scrap yard, took pity on the S-Type and took it off his hands. I then bought it “as is” and arranged that the many jobs that still needed to be done before I could drive it to our home – a 1400 km (875m) trip – at Somerset West, were carried out. Since then a running upgrade has been carried out: power steering has been fitted, an air conditioner has been added which required modifications to its electrical system, etc. We changed to spoke wheels and during 2006 all rust was removed, and the rear wheel arches were modified followed by a complete respray. We now have, in our opinion, a good looking classic Jaguar, which is comfortable to drive even when outside temperatures are over 30 degrees.

To many Jaguar enthusiasts, the Mark 2 is the car to have and the much maligned S-Type is referred to as the black sheep or poor cousin. I disagree! It may not have the sporting background, but where – except on a race track – can one today use the full potential of these cars. In South Africa we have no roads where one can drive faster than 120 km/h (75mph) and at those conditions the mechanically far superior S-Type, boasting independent rear suspension, is the more comfortable to drive. It has pace and exhilaration in style and luxury.

At the time we acquired the “classic” S-Type, the “modern” S-Type (codenamed X200) was announced and like its older namesake, opinions about its styling are mixed, a handsome future classic or an ugly duckling? I liked it and decided that it was my aspiration to own a “classic” AND a “modern” S-Type, which wish became a reality when a friend of mine – who bought a new S-Type V8 in January 2000 – decided to trade it in against an XF when they became available to South African buyers during the 2nd quarter of 2008.

So from May 2008 we have had two S-Types in the garage!

We are not into giving our cars names, so they are simply known as the “Red-S” (in fact the car is opalescent maroon) and the “Blue-S”.

Since acquiring these cars, we have travelled 35 000 kms (21 875m) in the blue car and 20 500 miles in the older car. I promised Letitia to write an article comparing the two S-Types and to my horror I see that it has taken me close to 1000 words to introduce the subject.

You are forgiven Rudy. It has been very interesting!

Can one compare two cars manufactured 36 years apart? Isn’t it a bit like trying to compare an electric typewriter with a modern word processor? But there are similarities, in fact quite a few! Both are recognised immediately as a Jaguar, the styling of the ’64 model is obviously developed from the Mark 1&2 and although some find that the longer boot upsets the balance of the profile, I think the proportions sit well on the car. Its rear view, clearly shown in one of the photos, looks like it has been sculpted. There is of course no accounting for tastes, but I like it! Also the styling of the modern S has its detractors and its fans but despite the mixed reception, it was the first time in almost 30 years that Jaguar would again have three models in its range and deserves its place in the history of Jaguar.

Inside the differences are more pronounced, the dark wood and small windows date the old-S whereas the new one with its big windows has a great, airy feeling. The most noticeable improvements are the heating and demisting systems, the efficient wipers and the reduced noise level as the smooth exterior makes the car slide through the air. I live in a very windy area and the differences how the two cars cope with the force of the wind underlines the progress made in car design during the past 40 years.

Although the two cars perform very differently on the road, the older car never feels wanting in modern traffic conditions. Admittedly, one drives them differently too, knowing the absence of ABS brakes, a slower changing gearbox, the much larger blind spots and less firm seats of the older car makes one drive it unconsciously with greater care.

Recently, our second daily driver was out of commission and I used the “Red-S” to go into Cape Town: from where we live a 45 km drive on a freeway and then into the CBD with a fair amount of traffic, in and out of parking areas, etc. and I never felt at a disadvantage travelling in my 46 year old car.

I enjoy driving both cars but the average annual mileage they have covered in our hands, 2050m in the Red-S and 9400m in the Blue-S shows which one is used more often.

 

Jaguar S-typeThe Red-S on a recent trip on a mountain pass –gravel road! We tried to “do” this pass 5 weeks earlier when it was closed because of heavy snowfall and on this day -22 July 2010- we braved it together with 14 other classic cars of various marques

 

Jaguar S-typeThe two Ss on the JEC Drive it Day -5 September- on top of the hill from where they fire a gun at precisely 12h00 each day except Sunday. The mountain in the back ground is Table Mountain

 

Jaguar S-typeThe Red-S at the grounds of the Franschhoek Motor Museum, with the mountains in the background

 

Jaguar S-typeThe Blue-S at the grounds of the Franschhoek Motor Museum, with the mountains in the background

 

Text and pictures supplied by Rudy Schats, South Africa, March 2011