history of the Jaguar auto began in 1922 in England when two
motorcycle champions created the Swallow Sidecar Company.
William Walmsley and William Lyons established the company to
manufacture sidecars for motorcycles. They did this until the
beginning of World War II.
Four years later, Walmsley and Lyons built the Austin Seven.
Considered the “People car”, the Austin Seven became the
protocol for Walmsley and Lyons and led to their creation of
custom bodies for cars like Flat, Morris, Swift, Standard and
Wolseley. At that time, the company name was changed to Swallow
Sidecar and Coachbuliding Company.
In 1931, the company introduced its first auto. The SS1, based
on a modified Standard chassis and six-cylinder engine, made its
first showing at an exhibition in London in 1931. The men also
designed a smaller SS2 version with a four-cylinder engine. The
SS1 had a long body with wire wheels and a luggage boot. It was
considered a value for the price as it had a very expensive
By 1931, the company name changed once again to SS Cars Ltd.
Lyons took on the role of managing director and bought out
Walmsley in 1933. A year later, Harry Weslake, a top engine
expert, joined SS Cars Ltd. Weslake offered his new cylinder
head with an OHV valve, which was quite dependable.
The name Jaguar was introduced in 1935, and an additional
engineer, William Heynes, was hired as chief engineer. At that
time, the company produced convertibles, limousines and sports
cars that held 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5 litre engines. The 3.5 litre SS
100 model was the popular and fastest Jaguar. It maintained
speeds of 100 mph and offered an acceleration speed from zero to
60 mph in approximately 10.5 seconds. It won races at the Marne
Grand Prix of Reims, the Alpine Rally and the Villa Real
International. Winning at the Monte Carlo Rally and the RAC
Rally gave this Jaguar a true claim to fame.
Soon after WWII, the company name changed yet again to Jaguar
Cars Ltd. Lyons began updating some models in 1946 and developed
the XK 120 sports car – fitted with a six-cylinder x 2POHC
engine and inspired by the BMW 328. Jaguar offered the fastest
car thus far in 1948 at the Earls Court Motor Show. Named the XK
120 Roadster, the auto boasted a top speed of 120 mph. It was
infamous for its smooth ride and masterful ability to hold the
road. Other versions of the XK were manufactured through 1961.
In the mid 1950s, Jaguar was in a rather precarious position,
because it was known for its luxury autos and sports cars and
its strong relationships with foreign markets. It was recognized
that foreign governments could shut Jaguar out of their markets
without notice, and a recession could end the sales of sports
and luxury vehicles. Therefore, Jaguar introduced the MK I in
1955, which was designed to lure in a home market and to fill
any product gaps that could occur. The MK I was the predecessor
to the MK II that had a redesigned dash and a larger area of
glass. It became an instant success known for its fog
Sir William Lyons retirement from Jaguar was a low point in the
history of the company. Percy Plant, known for his plant closing
skills, became chairman. Morale was low amongst workers until
John Egan the new chief executive entered the picture. Egan
helped Jaguar’s regain its stability and become the company it
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