1961 e-type (above photo) - next ››
Jaguar’s history is one of the classic rags to riches stories,
founded in Blackpool in 1922, building motorcycle sidecars under
the title “Swallow Sidecar Company”. William Lyons and William
Walmsley began to get noticed for their flair and imagination
in building stylish sidecars. In 1927 the Austin-7 was introduced,
Lyons decided to build a more stylish body that could be mounted
on the Austin chassis. Henly, who happened to be one of the
major garage owners in the country, immediately placed an order
When sales of the cars and sidecars continued to increase the
company moved to Coventry, the traditional car-manufacturing
centre of England. The Swallow Company had now been in existence
9 years, the young company was very successful, but Lyons was
not impressed he wanted to expand the company further.
At the London Motor Show of 1931, the SS class was launched,
the public were stunned, and especially that such a beautiful
car could be bought for considerably less than £350. William
Walmsley was less enthusiastic and began to lose interest in
his partner’s ambitions; he left the company in 1934. In 1935
Lyons was persuaded to change the company name to Jaguar, subsequently
SS became the SS Jaguar. Jaguar entered a team of three factory
SS Jaguars in the prestigious RAC Rally of 1937, unfortunately,
a privateer won the race, in an SS100
At the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show, Jaguar introduced the fastest
motorcar to date, the XK 120 Roadster with a top speed of 120
mph, superb road holding and styling plus a smooth ride.
In Britain just after the war, it is little wonder this car
caused such a sensation; initially it was meant to be a limited
volume production car. However the car went on to be a big money
earner for Jaguar, most cars were destined for America, the
car went on to become one of the greatest classics of all time.
During the 1950’s Jaguar had reached a point in its history
of selling only luxury and sports cars. The company also sold
a great deal of its cars abroad.
This put Jaguar in a risky position, Jaguar needed to build
a car that could be sold at home and to a larger market. To
address this, the Jaguar Mk I was launched in 1955. The Jaguar
MK II evolved as an instant success in 1959 with a much larger
glass area and a redesigned dash. Leather seats were fitted
as standard until 1967 when leather became optional to keep
the standard cost down. Another Jaguar classic, its fog / spot
lights, also became an optional extra.
The MK II was loved by all, including bank robbers; this was
hardly surprising, because this was another record for Jaguar,
the fastest saloon in standard production. The 3.8 versions
well over 200bhp, and 125mph
The Jaguar E-Type was an instant classic, launched in 1961.
The car was in huge demand from 1961-75, to begin with the company
struggled to meet orders. In all, 74000 cars were sold. Some
say the best Jag ever made, and the old XK engine now 13 years
old, was still used in the early E-Types. The 4.2 Series 1 are
generally considered the best.
Sir William Lyons died in 1985.