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Jaguar History

A brief chronological history of the marque.

The Swallow Cars

In 1922, a young motorcyclist by the name of Bill Lyons joined sidecar builder William Walmsley to form the Swallow Sidecar Company in Blackpool, England. Their stylish, distinctive aluminum sidecars proved popular.

In 1927, Lyons crafted a sporty two-seater body for the small, inexpensive but homely Austin Seven. The Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Company was born. The following year saw the addition of the Austin Seven Swallow Saloon and the company moved to Coventry where most of the British automobile industry was based.

Lyons introduced three new bodies at the 1929 London Motor Show -- the Fiat Tipo 509A, the Swift Ten and the Standard Big Nine. In 1930, they outfitted the two-seater Wolseley Hornet. In 1931, they built a body for the four-seater Wolseley and their largest body to date on a Standard with an Enfield chassis and six-cylinder engine. In 1932, they did the very sporty body for the Hornet Special.

Smart styling cues borrowed from more expensive marques, aluminum panels over wooden frames, bright paint schemes and affordable prices typified cars outfitted with Swallow coachwork. These motorcars are known collectively by Jaguar enthusiasts as the Swallow cars. Sidecar was dropped from the company name at this time, though they continued to manufacture sidecars until that operation was sold after World War II.

The SS Cars

It was at the 1931 London Motor Show that Lyons entered the market with cars of his own. The SS-I and smaller SS-II had side-valve 6-cylinder and 4-cylinder engines from Standard but Lyons designed the innovative chassis. Long, low styling complimented with a leather and wood interior would become a Lyons' trademark, even then.

The company name changed to SS Cars Ltd in 1933 when production of Swallow cars stopped. In 1935, Lyons introduced the streamlined SS-I Airline Saloon and the SS-90. But it was the SS Jaguar 100 with its overhead-valve engine that would be the first to bear the Jaguar name.

Jaguar Cars

Hostilities with Germany interrupted automobile manufacturing and shifted company production to sidecars and aircraft parts for the military. Afterwards, the company dropped the SS name and became Jaguar Cars.

Production of the essentially unchanged SS cars resumed under the Jaguar name until the company introduced a new saloon in 1948, the Mark V. Enthusiasts refer to the post-war SS/Jaguars as the Mark IVs, though it was never an official designation.

1948 also saw the introduction of the all new XK twin-cam engine and a new sports car. Named for its top speed, the Jaguar XK120 was the fastest production automobile of its day.

In 1950, Lyons introduced the Mark VII. Now if you have been paying attention, you might be thinking to yourself, What happened to the Mark VI? Rolls-Royce had introduced their Bentley Mark VI in 1946, so Lyons simply one-upped them.

The British Invasion

Jaguar incorporated a company in New York in 1954 to begin exporting cars to the fertile United States market in earnest. Jaguar Cars North America, as it is now known, controls sales and operations for Jaguar in Canada, the United States and Mexico from its headquarters in Mahwah, New Jersey.

Meanwhile back in England, the 1954 XK140 gained rack and pinion steering and a small backseat. The following year, Jaguar went after the small sedan market with an all new, uni-body compact, the Jaguar 2.4, named for its down-sized 2.4 liter XK engine.

In 1956, Bill Lyons was knighted Sir William Lyons for his service to the British automobile industry and The Mark VIII appeared with one-piece windscreen. Jaguar installed disc brakes on the 1957 XK150 and the 1958 Mark IX, which also received power steering and a larger 3.8 liter XK engine.

The compact 1959 Mark II also received disc brakes and more glass. Its predecessor, the Jaguar 2.4, became known as the Mark I. In 1960, the 3.8 found its way into the XK150. Three carburetors made it an XK150S. The same year, Jaguar bought Daimler and moved engine manufacturing to the Daimler plant in Coventry.

Great X-pectations

In 1961, Jaguar introduced what is probably their best known vehicle, the E-type or XKE as it was known here in the former colonies. Seductive styling enclosed the XK 3.8 with three carburetors proven in the XK150S while independent rear suspension kept the power to the ground. The new uni-body Mark X received IRS as well.

In 1963, Jaguar entered a new model between the big Mark X and compact Mark II in the form of the S Type equipped with IRS and choice of 3.4 or 3.8 liter engines. This would become the 420 in 1966, a name derived from its 4.2 liter engine. Also in 1963, Jaguar acquired Grand Prix engine builder Coventry Climax to build a V12.

It was at this time that Sir William Lyons resigned as managing director to become chairman and CEO. Jaguar-Daimler and British Motor Corporation formed British Motor Holdings which merged with Leyland Motor Vehicle Corporation and became British Leyland Motor Corporation. In the Machiavellian restructuring, Jaguar operations were without a champion and floundered. As if that wasn't bad enough, emission and safety regulations in the United States emasculated what power may have been left in the XKE.

In poor financial condition in 1966, management put Jaguar's racing program on the back burner but devoted employees working secretly and on weekends continued development of the, as it would turn out, unlucky-numbered XJ13. Though the mid-engine racer was totaled in a 1967 photo-shoot and never had its chance to compete against the Ford GT40s at Le Mans, the V12 in its engine bay would ultimately make history of its own.

Swinging Sixties - the influence of British Pop Culture

Jaguar sales in America unarguably benefited from the popularity of all things British during the 1960s. Fashion model Twiggy, James Bond movies, television's Avengers and the music of the Beatles and Rolling Stones, to name but a few, propelled interest in British motorcars among US Anglophiles. In the inimitable words of Austin Powers, "Yeah, Baby!"

The Foreign Mystique

Jaguar simplified its saloon line-up in 1968 and introduced the XJ6 in 4.2 or 2.8. The 1971 Series III E-type received the 5.3 liter, aluminum block, transistorized ignition V12 and a wider track and bigger tires to handle the power. A longer floor pan for the 2+2 allowed optional automatic transmission. Power steering was standard.

In 1972, our company, Motorcars LTD, was formed in Houston, Texas to service British cars.

The saloon gained the V12 in 1972. Available as a Vanden Plas or Daimler Double Six, the XJ12 became the fastest production 4-seater in the world . Later in the year Sir William Lyons retired.

In 1973, Great Britain, along with Ireland and Denmark, joined the European Economic Community overcoming tariffs and opening markets in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The same year, a mildly remodeled Series II XJ6 hit the road. Soon thereafter, Jaguar offered XJ6C and XJ12C coupes, stylish two-door hard-tops.

In 1975, the British Government partially nationalized some industries in Great Britain, including British Leyland and its Jaguar subsidiary.

The V12 achieved its greatest glory in an exciting new sport coupe, the 1975 Jaguar XJ-S. Replacing the XKE, this modern tourer had air conditioning as standard equipment and a 150 mile per hour top speed. Jaguar XJ-S race cars would go on to win the Trans Am Championship in 1977 and 1978 and the Manufacturers Championship in 1978.

In 1979, the Conservative Party launched a privatization initiative returning British Leyland and Jaguar to private ownership. Jaguar launched a slim XJ6 Series III. Many enthusiasts believe it may have been the most beautifully styled four-door sedan ever.

The Empire Strikes Back

With a new CEO at the helm in 1980, Jaguar engineered high-efficiency cylinder heads for the V12 and in 1981 boasted the fastest production automobile with automatic transmission in the world in the form of the XJ-S HE, 155 miles per hour. The new AJ6 all-aluminum, 24-valve engine replaced the old XK engine.

In 1984, Jaguar Cars became an independent company once again with shares of stock trading on the London stock exchange. The following year, Sir William Lyons passed away.

Jaguar introduced the new XJ40 body with AJ6 engine in Europe in 1986 and the U.S. in 1987 available as an XJ6, Sovereign, Majestic, Vanden Plas or Daimler. Some markets continued to receive the Series III XJ12.

A Better Idea

In 1989, Ford acquired Jaguar. In 1992, the XJ220 tested the exotic car market in Europe but never made it to the U.S. The XJ12, known as the Daimler Double Six in Europe, re-emerged with a 6.0 liter V12 in 1993 in the XJ40 body.

Jaguar rolled out the new X300 body in 1995 available as an XJ6, Sovereign, Majestic, Vanden Plas or supercharged XJR -- the first supercharged Jaguar. The X330 chassis, stretched five inches in the backseat area, made the XJ6L an executive-carpool favorite.

Jaguar X-treme

Ford's influence was not fully felt until 1997 with the introduction of the XK8 and supercharged XKR sports cars. They were powered by the new AJ-V8 engine which was promptly stuffed into the 1998 X308 body to form the XJ8.

Jaguar joined in the 2000 retro styling frenzy with the X200 body, the S-type. But it was 2002 that saw a whole new kind of cat, the compact X400 bodied, all-wheel-drive, V6 powered X-type.

2004 saw the introduction of the aluminum-bodied X350 for the XJ range which got an additional redesign in 2007 the X358. The XK8 also saw a redesign in 2007 now designated XK, this also was subject to a body style and engine upgrade in 2011.

2008 Jaguar introduced a brand new modeled called the XF and in 2013 the F-type which is Jaguars fastest production car to date.

To be continued..

The information above has been assembled from our own Motorcars LTD library and from numerous Jaguar enthusiast sites on the Internet. To learn more about the history of Jaguar, visit these web sites.

The Classic Car-Nection - Jaguar Database.
Jag-Lovers.org - Huge American Jaugar enthusiast site, Model Guide.
Jaguar Clubs of North America - Production Models from Swallow Cars on up.
Jag-Lovers Swallow and SS Cars - Information and pictures.
Jaguar Enthusiasts Club - Worlds Largest Jaguar Club. Based in the UK.
Jaguar Drivers Club of Queensland - Large Australian club and site.
British Motor Corporation - The BMC Story.
AutoSpeed - Engine Epic - Jaguar - Reviews evolution of Jaguar engines.
Serious Wheels -- Pictures of Jaguars and other cars, really big pictures.

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