Jaguar: A History
April 14, 2009
One of the world’s most well known luxury cars, Jaguar had its beginnings in an inauspicious way. The company itself was actually begun as a motorcycle sidecar company. It was founded on September 4, 1922 in Blackpool, England as the Swallow Side car company by two motorcycle enthusiasts, William Lyons and William Walmsley.
The Swallow Sidecar Company changed its name to the Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Company in 1926. That same year it produced its first car called the Austin Seven. A rather Spartan design, the car was a moderate success and allowed the company to move to a larger manufacturing facility. The next big venture for the company was the production of the SS1, which had a Standard six-cylinder engine and a modified Standard chassis.
The SS1 had a long low look with a short passenger compartment, wire wheels and a luggage boot with a spare tire on the back. The SS1 had an expensive look but was quite affordably priced and sold quite well.
The company became SS Cars Ltd in 1933 and William Lyons, one of the original founders became the managing director, buying out his partner, William Walmsley, in 1936.
The name Jaguar was not actually used until 1935 and the first productions for the company included limousines, convertibles and sports cars. The fastest pre war Jaguar was the SS100, which gained speeds of 100 mph. The Jaguar SS100 truly began to make a name for itself by winning such races as the Marne Grand Pix of Reims, the Alpine Rally, the RAC Rally and the Villa Real International. The most famous event, the one that really put Jaguar on the map however was when it took the Monte Carlo Rally that same year.
During World War II, as with most manufacturing companies, the company shifted to assist the war effort. Once World War II had ended, the company changed its name once again and was for the first time, know as Jaguar Cars LTD.
The first true Jaguar sports car was developed in 1946 by William Lyons himself. It had been inspired by the BMW 328. This new Jaguar sported a six-cylinder x2 OHC engine with 3442cc. However, the introduction of the XK120 would push Jaguar to the top of the mountain of luxury sports cars. The car had a body shell that had also been inspired by a BMW vehicle. However, Lyons would give the new XK120 a dual overhead camshaft and a 3.5-liter hemi head six-cylinder engine. This engine had been designed by William Heynes, Walter Hassan and Claude Bailey during the many long nights during World War II when the three had been on fire watch together. The XK120 was so well received by consumers that the model would stay in production until 1954.
During the fifties and sixties, Jaguar gained a reputation for producing luxury and sports vehicles however; it had boxed itself into a corner. The problem faced by Jaguar was twofold: the first of these was that it only produced high-end cars so any shrinking of the world economy could trigger a recession that had the potential to devastate Jaguar. The second problem entailed the fact that Jaguar sold very few cars at home. It had a mostly international market base and this left Jaguar vulnerable to the whims of foreign government.
Jaguar badly needed to open up a home market and with this in mind developed the Jaguar MK1. The successor to this had the desired effect and was a lower cost base model that appealed to a wider audience and the home market loved it.
Jaguar would continue to enjoy success until 1972 when its founder, Sir William Lyons retired after 50 years at the helm. Confusion would ensue in the coming years and after being, sold time again would finally find some stability as a part of the Chrysler Corporation. Although rumors have abounded recently of Chryslers plan to sell Jaguar, at the moment no suitable buyer has been found.
Ronnie Tanner is a contributing writer at SW Engines. He writes about purchasing used Jeep Engines as a cost effective alternative to costly car purchases.
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