The history of one of the U.K.'s most glamorous car companies began in the early Nineteen Twenties in the not so stylish setting of Blackpool, a seaside town in the northwest of England.
It was there that Billy Lyons, born and raised in the town, far away from the epicentre of the UK car industry in the midlands of England, decided to form his own company- in partnership with William Walmsley, a close friend and neighbour.
The duos' simple plan was to fill a niche in the market -to manufacture sidecars for motorcycles.
Showing a considerable lack of vision, Walmsley didn't last the course and their partnership was soon dissolved.
Lyons, only 21, was left to go it alone to manage is business venture, remaining as undaunted and determined as he would be through his entire business career.
To take maximum advantage of his engineering skills and intrepid eye for style, Lyon's s His plan was simple- if he was going to be involved in the manufacture of something so basic as motorcycle sidecars, they would not only be soundly and solidly constructed but would also be aesthetically pleasing.
Lyons’ sidecars, manufactured under the Swallow label, were very well received and sold steadily, providing the young man with the confidence and capital to diversify into manufacturing motor vehicles.
By the early Nineteen Thirties S.S. Models, as Lyons named his car manufacturing concern, got underway, producing compact cars based on the Austin 7 Swallow, in open and saloon versions.
>By the early Nineteen Thirties S.S. Models, as his car manufacturing company was known, got underway, producing compact cars based on the Austin 7 Swallow, in open and saloon versions.>
Once again the emphasis was on style, and the first Swallow “ mini” began to take a share of the market, particularly in the North West of England.
S.S. Models next big step forward was to form a working relationship with the Standard Motor Company to custom manufacture both the engines and chassis ,
These parts were produced according to SS design and specifications that would allow the Lyon’s company to attach their own bodies.
These bodies were in-house designed and manufactured, each to a sports car theme.
To add a little flair. Lyons decided to add the title Jaguar to the company, and from the mid-Thirties onwards, all of the cars produced were marketed as SS Jaguars.
Towards the end of the Thirties, the SS Jaguars company launched the SS100 sports car, which was the subject of tremendous critical praise thanks to its winning combination of exotic good looks and excellent performance.
SS Jaguars’ activities were put on hold during the Second World War years.
As peace returned to the British shores, Lyons was ready and willing to continue his dream of developing Jaguar Cars into a market leader not only in the sports touring sector but also to build luxury saloons.
With cars usually styled by Sir William himself, and the engineering department masterfully managed by William Heynes, almost every post-war Jaguar was not only a work of art but a fast car blessed with colossal character.
In 1948, at the Earls Court Motor Show, Jaguar launched their first post-war open-topped sports car, the XK 120. The XK 120 was met with tremendous critical approval, setting a design trend that would continue throughout the Fifties and Sixties as Jaguar became a global force in the sports and touring car sector. William Lyons was the brain behind the design, proving once again that his flair for design was still unsurpassable. With its low and flowing lines, according to media experts of the era, the Jaguar XK 120 design was a combination of the flowing lines of the pre-war Swallow sidecars and the aircraft that Lyons had been involved in designing in the war years. Jaguar used the launch of the XK120 to introduce the World to their vertically ribbed oval-shaped grill, which would go on to a trademark for the company well into the Sixties. Also new with the XK120 was its straight-6 3,441 cc engine, which would be fitted in Jaguars sports car, saloons and touring cars for more than four decades.
In the Fifties, Jaguar reinforced that impression with a sports car racing program which saw C-Types and D-Types win the Le Mans 24 Hour race no less than five times in the space of seven years.
One vital factor was the reliable and powerful twin-cam XK engine, which powered every new Jaguar, either for the open road or the racetrack, in the Fifties and Sixties.
Milestones of the immediate post-war years for Jaguar, was the launch of the new XK engine, the move to a much larger and more modern manufacturing plant in Browns Lane in Coventry in 1951.
Jaguar learned a serious lesson from that fire, particularly due to the significant production backlog that it caused.
To prevent the likelihood of such a situation recurring, Jaguar rounded off the Fifties nicely with the successful acquisition and absorption of the Daimler Car Company.
Take me back to the home page
A guide to acquiring, restoring and maintaining UK or European Classic Cars of the Fifties and Sixties- as well as a recollection of the iconic cars of the era and the visionaries that produced them.