1919 – William Lyons Junior, age 18
The Jaguar story really begins with a very young William Lyons trying to find his way in life. A story all of us can relate to. William senior was a successful and well known business man in Black Pool. William junior was an average student that really didn’t care for schooling. What he did enjoy was motorcycles. By the age of seventeen he had bought and sold many motorcycles. These included many British marques, but also Harley Davidsons and Indians.
Lyons attended Arnold School until the age of seventeen. At that time he applied for an apprenticeship to Vickor’s Barrow yards. The plan was to learn ship building. Lyons senior was well connected and knew the Managing Director of Crossley Motors Ltd. At that time Crossley was a highly respected name in vehicle making. The plan was for his son to become a trainee at Crossley and study engineering at Manchester Tech.
Lyons gave it a try; for a while. Before long he was at home in Black Pool with his parents; something his father was not happy about. Sounds like a familiar story.
When he got back home he tried working in his father’s business. What he really wanted to do was have his own business. This was pretty ambitious for a nineteen year old. Lyons went back to work as a junior salesman for a local Sunbeam franchise. Jack Mallalieu had gotten Lyons the job. Soon after Jack left to start his own company and William went with him. He did many things for the new company including continuing being a junior salesman. This was a job he liked and was good at.
While Lyons was trying to find his way in life he never lost his passion for motorcycles. One day a new family moved in down the block. He began to notice motorcycle activity happening at his new neighbor’s garage. His neighbor, William Wamsley was building motorcycle side cars. The styling was cutting edge for the day. Most of the side cars were wicker baskets. Wamsley’s had a modern style. Lyons ordered one. Wamsley was building side cars for friends and people that had learned about him through word of mouth. This was Lyons chance. He saw a lot of business potential and it was something he knew and liked.
He ran the idea of partnering with Wamsley to expand his hobby/business to the next level. Wamsley was really not interested. Lyons persisted.
Wamsley’s father, a successful businessman, and wife both liked the idea. Both wanted to see the hobby become a business that could earn real money. Wamsley finally agreed. The fathers went to the bank to sign for a one thousand pound loan. Wamsley was 30 years old.
Lyons was only 20 years old and could not legally sign the documents. The “Swallow Side Car Company” was formed. The real work began in 1922.
The company grew quickley due to better production methods and a real sales effort. It didn’t take long and they needed to rent two other buildings for the growth. By 1926 they moved into the well known building on Cocker Street in Black Pool. The company was now the “Swallow Side Car and Coach Building Company”. The company would now coach build bodies.
Austin – Swallow
Their first car debuted in spring of 1927. It was an Austin- Swallow two seater. But there was a problem. They were producing 100 sidecars a week. There was only room to produce fourteen coach bodies; and that was working on Saturdays and Sundays.
In 1928 the company moved to Coventry. A new facility allowed for more growth. Along with Austin – Swallow there was a Fiat – Swallow, Swift –Swallow, Morris Minor – Swallow and an Alvis – Swallow. Production was now fifty cars a week. It was the Standard – Swallow that would prove to be instumental in the companies future. Lyons built many different bodies for many companies including the beautiful Wosley Hornet – Swallow.
Wosley – Hornet
Lyons wanted his own car. He negotiated a contract with Standard to supply the chassis and running gear. There was a commitment to display the new car at the London Auto Show. The advertising was out; “The SS is Coming”. During the hectic year Lyons became very ill. He was gone from the company for several weeks. When he got back he was very unhappy with the design his partner; Wamsley had signed off on. It was too late and the car was built as designed. The press gave the car good reviews. Lyons greatly improved the design of the Coupe for 1933. New models followed including a Saloon, Tourer, Drophead and finally the Airline.
SS I Coupe
In 1934 Lyons wanted to take the company to the next level. He wanted to take the company public. Wamsley had no interest in that kind of growth. There had always been an unease between the two of them for the future of the company. Time had come for Wamsley to cash out. The company went public. Wamsley took some of his money and put it into a caravan company.
By 1935 the Coupe was technically no longer being produced, although cars were sold as 1935 and 36 models. It was the SS90 sports car that was the last true SS car. For 1936 the SS 100 Jaguar was born. The first time “Jaguar” was used in the name.
The SS 100 would be the last of the ash frame cars. The SS 100 was destined to be an icon for Jaguar. It was built to compete with Bugatti and Alfa Romeo. It couldn’t match the preformance even with the new overhead valve engine; but was a bargin in a price comparison.
The new 2 ½ liter Jaguar Saloon was built in much higher numbers and the main stay for the company. The SSI cars had finally been eliminated by 1936. To accommodate the economy minded, a 1 ½ liter 4 cylinder Saloon was also introduced. In 1938 Jaguar upped their game. They came out with a 3 ½ liter engine. It was used in their complete line up. It now propelled the SS 100 to a true 100 a mile per hour car. That would be the end of the improvements before World War II.
What happened to the Mark IV? There never was a Mark IV. That name did not come about until after the war and the introduction of Jaguar’s new model,the Mark V.
The early years after the war was an interesting time for Jaguar. And it was Jaguar. No more SS cars; for obvious reasons. It was export or die. You couldn’t get materials if you did not export. The only thing they could produce was pre-war models; and that’s what they did. Jaguar was not sitting on their laurels, even in the middle of the war. They had been planning the future of the company during the night fire watches. They had designed a new twin overhead cam engine. Twin cam engines were not new but they could only be found in exotic low production cars.
By the 1948 London Auto Show, Jaguar had a new Mark V Saloon. But the new car was not designed for the new twin cam engine. Lyons had a plan. Build 200 new sports cars. Use that as their test bed for the engines. Let the sports car guys find out what goes wrong and perfect it before the engine goes into the new Saloon. The Mark V was only meant to be an interim car. The sports car body was designed very hastily and put on a Mark V frame.
It was almost a mock up. It went on the stand to showcase the new engine. The iconic XK 120 was born. The car was never intended for production. The public response was enormous. The US distributors said they would buy the first year’s production. Lyons made the decision, at the show, to put the XK 120 into production. 240 coach built “alloy” cars were built while tooling was made for full production. Jaguar spent the next 11 years improving their sportscars. The engine continued to be developed with the SE model XK 120. The car was eventually offered in 3 models. The OTS, Drophead and the Coupe. In 1955 the XK 140 was unveiled. It had bigger bumpers and a little more chrome; changes to adapt to the US market. It also had more cockpit room. This was something that was sorely needed.
The horse power was increased slightly. The US market called the higher horsepower option, the XK 140MC. The final model was the XK 150 and the XK 150S. The XK 150 was almost a grand touring car. It looked very different, although much was done by modifying the tooling. The cockpit was much roomier. The car was streamlined. The open two seater had something sports cars were not supposed to have, roll up windows. They also had the disc brake technology. The final XK 150S had the new 3.8 liter triple carb engine. That engine would usher in Jaguar’s new sports car.
Jaguar had spent a lot of time and money in the 1950’s on racing. They decided it was time to cash in. It was time to take that racing technology and put it into a new sports car. The XK 150 was starting to look dated. The introduction of the E-Type in 1961 was the beginning of Jaguar’s third icon in the sports car world. The E-Type had it all, beautiful lines and performance. Again it was a great value. You would have to spend 2 or 3 times the money and buy a hand built exotic to get close to what the E-Type offered. Even Enzo Ferrari said that the E-Type “was the most beautiful car in the world”.
Jaguar made subtle changes to improve the car over the years. More comfortable seating was added. The engine was bumped to 4.2 liters. It was really US regulations that forced changes. Tail lights had to be moved. The glass over the headlights have to be removed. Carburation had to be changed. Even the knockoffs had to be modified. This new car would be the Series II E-Type. It took away ever so slightly from the purity of the first generation’s lines.
Series III E-Type
It also hurt the performance. A new 2+2 model had been added. Sales had gotten soft. The thought was that E-Type buyers now had young families and a 2+2 would keep them in the fold. By 1971 it was time for a change. Jaguar had been working on a V 12 engine since the mid 1960’s. This required some serious changes to the car. The pure lines of the Series I were gone. It did keep the E-Type going for another 4 years. Everything runs it’s course and by 1974 the Series III E-Type was done.
During the sportscar run of the XK’s, Jaguar was also focused on it’s bread and butter; the Saloon cars. In 1948 the Mark V Saloon was debuted. It was a modernized version of the “Mark IV”. The front of the car had headlights moulded into the fenders. The windshield and door pilars were made more slim. The rest of the styling was very similar. The frame was made stiffer and for the first time it had independent front suspension and was using hydraulic brakes. In 1951 they debuted the Mark VII Saloon. Why no Mark VI? It is believed that they had a gentleman’s agreement with Bentley; they had a MK VI.
The Mark VII carried the new twin cam engine. The body looked very bulbous. It gave the appearance that the car was much larger than the Mark V. In actuallity it had the same wheel base and track width. The body style continued with the Mark VIII and Mark IX. The cars remained very similar. There were minor interior and exterior upgrades. For the Mark IX model, disc brakes were standard. The Mark X was on the stand at the 1961 London Auto Show. It was a completely new car. The lines were completely modern. It was longer, wider and lower. The Austrailian Motor Sports magazine said the Mark X was “Such a success it out shown the E-Type”. That seems impossible! But it does show how cutting edge this car was. The car had unibody constuction with independent rear suspension. The front suspension was also changed. Coil springs were now used in place of torsion bars. The car received the same engine as the E-Type.
By 1966 there was a new model; the 420 G. The 420 designation was a nod to the 4.2 liter engine the car received earlier in the Mark X run. There were not many changes from the Mark X. The interior was upgraded with a padded dash. The exterior got some chrome strips. That was about it.
Jaguar began production of a smaller sports saloon in 1955. It was simply called the 2.4 liter Jaguar. It was popular in the UK market; it wasn’t so popular in the US. The American market which was Jaguar’s biggest; liked bigger engines. So for 1956 the new 3.4 liter Jaguar Saloon was announced.
This was one fast saloon. It was very successful indeed.
In 1960 the new Mark II model was introduced. That of course turned the earlier model into the Mark I; the same way the Mark IV was created. The new model had suspension improvements. The track width was increased 3 inches. The car also now had 4 wheel disc brakes. The exterior also saw changes. The rear window was now full width. The windshield pillars were narrowed. This made the car look more modern and sleek. There were three engine options, 2.4, 3.4, and 3.8 liters. The Mark II with a 3.8 liter engine was almost unbeatable on the race track.
Some race events had almost entire fields of Mark II Jaguars in the Saloon class.
The new S-Type Jaguar was introduced in 1963. The body was very similar to the Mark II except for the boot area. That was extended by 7 inches. Lengthening the backend of the car once again modernized its look. The owner gained some luggage space and lost a little performance due to extra weight. For 1966 the car was renamed the Type 420 or Type 340. Like its bigger brother the 420 was for the 4.2 liter engine and the 340 was for the 3.4 liter engine. The car now had power steering as standard equipment, dual headlights and a much more pronounced grill.
Series I XJ6
The XJ series of cars was introduced in 1968. It happened as Jaguar was being combined with Triumph and MG to become British Leyland. There were many different models of the XJ Saloons over the years. It started with the XJ6 Series I. Which really didn’t exist until the introduction of the Series II model range. While keeping it’s same basic shape over the years there was a dizzying array of change; be it interior, exterior or engine. For example the Series III car had 14 different models between the US and international markets. The XJ got a complete redesign for 2003. From the outside of the car you would never know it. In 1990 Ford Motor Company bought Jaguar. Jaguar’s independence was short lived. Ford added some new models. The S-Type Sport Saloon. After a long gap Jaguar had a successor to what had started out as the “Mark I”. The new S-Type had a production run until 2002.
The car came in a “Sport” model and an “R” version with a supercharged 4.2 motor. The X-Type saloon went on the market in 2001. It was meant to be an entry level car to expand Jaguar’s customer base. It was an all wheel drive car; a first for Jaguar. There was a choice of a 2.5 and 3.0 liter engines. It came in a Sport version. Really unsual; it came in a station wagon model. A first for Jaguar.
When production of the E-Type ended enthusiasts were waiting for the next iconic sports car from Jaguar. In 1976 the wait was over. The XJS was ready for purchase. For many it was a dissapointment. It was difficult to follow the SS 100, XK 120 and the E-Type. The XJS did not have the same world acclaim. In actuality it became a very popular car over time. The first change came in 1981 with the XJS H.E. version. Then in 1986 a 3.6 liter 6 cylinder version was offered along with the V12. There were minor changes made over the years. Special versions such as the “Rouge” and “Classic Collection” were also offered. The first real change came in 1992. The bonnet got a center bulge. Side windows were enlarged. The headlights were changed and the grille was now black. Towards the end of the run the 6 cylinder engine was upgraded to 4.0 liters. The car also got a rear spoiler. The production ended in 1996.
Then there was the ultimate sportscar. Actually it was a supercar. Like the XK 120 at it’s introduction, it held the label of the worlds fastest production car. It was the XJ 220. Top speed was 217 mph; 3 mph short of it’s name. The car was originally designed with a V12. In the end it was propelled by a twin turbo 6 cylinder. This made many of the people that had put a deposit down very unhappy. To make things worse the global economy took a hit. Jaguar had a hard time trying to sell the less than 300 car production run. In fact it took years. It was Ford that finally cleaned out the “basement” and moved the cars.
The successor to the XJ-S was the XK and XKR. This was a completely new car. It had no resemblence to the XJS. The nose of the car was more pointed for cutting the wind. The body had more rounded proportions everywhere. No more V-12. The car was powered by a 4 liter power plant. The XKR was supercharged. It came in coupe and convertible models. The XJS looked more like a grand touring car. The XK looked more like a sportscar. Production ended in 2006.
Jaguar expanded its offering once Tata took control. The venerable XK was completely redesigned in 2006. It was the “new” Jaguar look with a total redesign of the front grille opening. In 2007 the XF model was introduced. Finally in 2013 the E-Type successor was unveiled. The long awaited F-Type was finally here. The car the purists had waited for this since 1974. 2015 brought a “new” XF. A new compact car was offered in 2015. I guess you could say it replaced the X-Type. The car was named the XE. In 2016 the F-Pace was introduced. This would be Jaguars first go at a crossover vehicle. Finally in 2017 the E-Pace was introduced. Again this would be Jaguars first car in the compact SUV market. The large array of new models really shows Tata’s commitment to the Jaguar Brand.