A history of Jaguar from the early days of Jaguar.
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A History of Jaguar
By Mike Owens
On September 4, 1922, in Blackpool, England, two young motorcycle enthusiasts, William Lyons and William Walmsley, set up the Swallow Sidecar Company to produce sidecars for motorcycles.
The company's first car, the SS1, was based on a Standard six-cylinder engine and a modified Standard chassis. It was introduced to the public at a London exhibition in 1931. The smaller SS2 had a four-cylinder engine
In appearance the larger SS1 was a long, low vehicle with a short passenger compartment, wire wheels, and a luggage boot with a spare tire at the rear. Its expensive looks belied its excellent monetary value.
In 1933 the name of the company was changed to SS Cars Ltd. with Lyons becoming managing director. He bought his partner out in 1936.
The name Jaguar was used for the first time in 1935. Also in 1935, William Heynes joined the company as chief engineer.
During WWII, production shifted to the war effort, of course. After the war, the company's name was changed to Jaguar Cars Ltd. and production resumed. The first Jaguars were produced with the option of left-side driving controls!
In 1946, in addition to updating the older models, Lyons developed a new sports car, the XK 120, which was inspired by the BMW 328 model and fitted with a six-cylinder x 2 OHC engine with a capacity of 3442 cc.
In 1948 at the Earls Court Motor Show, Jaguar introduced the fastest motorcar to date, the XK 120 Roadster with an alleged top speed of 120 mph, superb roadholding and styling plus a smooth ride.
In the mid-fifties Jaguar had reached a point in its history of selling only luxury and sports vehicles. The company also sold a great deal of its production in foreign markets.
This put Jaguar in a precarious position and the company needed to cement a stronger position by producing a car that could be sold at home and to a larger market. Thus, the Jaguar MK I was introduced at the 1955 Motor Show.
The vehicle was designed to fill their product gap and to appeal to the home market. This Jaguar was of monococoque construction which in itself was new for the company.
The Jaguar MK II evolved as an instant success 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 base cost down. Another Jaguar classic, its fog/spot lights, also became optional at this time.
Several other Jaguar variations were produced to fill a market gap between the 3.8S and the large MK X Jaguar.
In 1960 Daimler was bought by Jaguar.
In 1968 a merger with Leyland formed the largest British car complex.
In 1972 Sir William Lyons retired, 50 years after forming Swallow Sidecar Company on his 21st birthday.
Sir William Lyons died in 1985.
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