The 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 appearance.

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 spotlights.

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 once was.

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