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William Lyons and William Walmsley set up the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922, before branching out to selling coachwork for Austin Sevens. Lyons commissioned Standard to prove him with a chassis, unveiling the SS1 and SS2 sports cars in 1931. Lyons set up S. S. Cars Ltd. in 1934 and Walmsley left. A 1935 SS Jaguar saloon was offered, the first time the name appeared on one of Lyons’s cars. After the war, the SS initials were politically incorrect and Jaguar became the name for the whole company.

Its strategy was to provide beautiful automobiles at value-for-money prices. The XK120 of 1948 looked like a supercar but was hardly priced like one; the XJ6 of 1968 demonstrated that Jaguar could create a car that could dynamically be considered the best in the world but be totally affordable.

However, the 1968 mergers that created the British Leyland Motor Corp. saw Jaguar absorbed into the giant, and quality suffered through the 1970s. Floated on the stock exchange in 1984, Jaguar finally broke from BL, and Ford made an offer for the company in 1989.

The cars were much delayed: the 1970s’ XJ40 was not produced till 1986, but Jaguar’s goodwill kept it going globally. However, it indulged too much in retro design, failing to capture new buyers under Ford.

Ford ownership may have seen new models and a more rigorous R&D programme, but it never made money on the marque, forcing a sell-off to Tata of India in 2008, just as things were going right with Ian Callum, a lifelong Jaguar fan, heading its design department and finding himself a worthy successor to William Lyons.


q.v. Daimler





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