Jaguar is an award-winning luxury British marque recognized across the globe, but what many people don’t know is that it began as a company producing motorcycle sidecars.
Swallow Sidecar Company, which would go on to become Jaguar Cars after World War II, was opened in 1922 by Sir William Lyons and William Walmsley. The pair met in Blackpool, England, when Walmsley was making sidecars for army-surplus motorcycles. Lyons was impressed with Walmsley’s work, and they went into business with financial help from their fathers.
The company focused on sidecar production for the first half of the decade, but later moved into the low-cost car coachbuilding, building bodies for well-known car makers such as Austin and Fiat. Lyons later moved the company to Coventry where production grew to fifty cars per week, and in 1931 the company worked with Standard Motor Company to develop their first car, the SS1.
They began producing the SS1 and went on to change the company name to SS Cars Ltd, but this was short lived. William Walmsley left the company in 1934 and the following year the first Jaguar was offered. In addition to changing the name of the marque, the company eventually also changed names again – this time to Jaguar Cars – in order to avoid the association of “SS” with the Nazi Schutzstaffel.
The British luxury auto manufacturer has passed through several hands since then, with owners including the British Motor Corporation, British Leyland and Ford. Today it is part of Jaguar Land Rover owned by Tata Motors.
Now that you have a brief background of how the marque came to be, let’s take a look at the history of car making that has made Jaguar the illustrious brand it is today.
1935: The first car built as a “Jaguar” is the 1935 SS Jaguar 2.5l Saloon. The sleek, elegant design inspires its name and what would eventually become the marque.
1948: The XK120 is launched to much acclaim. The model introduces the twin-cam motor and ribbed oval grille that would become a signature of the Jaguar style.
1951: The marque understood the value of racing for brand building and the C-type racer is born. It is lightweight and designed for the track – which it quickly proves winning at Le Mans that same year.
1954: Next up is the D-type and the first to use monocoque construction borrowed from airplane construction. Designed by aerodynamicist Malcom Sayer, it features a sweeping hood and stabilizing tail fins.
1955: Jaguar moves into the sporting saloon segment with the Mark I.
1959: The Mark I is followed by the Mark II, which is refined with a sleeker design, larger
front and rear windows, and features a straight six engine.
1961: The E-type is introduced at the Geneva Motor Show, featuring a straight six 3.8 liter engine and the sleekness that Jaguar is known for. A monocoque design with independent front and rear wheel suspension, the high-performance car has a top speed of 150mph. For racing, a dozen lightweight, all-aluminum versions were also produced.
1966: Jaguar created the XJ13 in secret to compete at Le Mans, but regulation changes meant the car never made it to a competition race. Only one of the V12 race cars was built, and that too was almost lost five years later when it flipped during filming for an advertising campaign. It was rebuilt and remains today a part of the Jaguar Heritage Collection.
1968: The full-size luxury Jaguar XJ6 is the last car designed by Sir William Lyon. The Jaguar XJ would go on to become the series with the longest staying power with three platform generations following in 1986, 2003 and 2009.
1975: The XJ-S is released to replace the iconic E-type series. The luxury grand tourer features a V12 engine that was the third all-original Jaguar engine, prominent flying buttress and a concave window at the rear. Over 100,000 cars were produced in the XJ-S series over 20 years and included a full convertible and fixed profile in addition to the coupé.
1996: The introduction of the Jaguar XK8 saw the launch of the first ever V8 for the marque. A
two-door sports car available in coupé and convertible styles, it premiered at the Geneva Motor show and became the fastest selling sport car in Jaguar’s history.
second generation XK is launched. With an aluminum monocoque construction and
throwbacks to the Jaguar E-type styling in the grille and rear lights, the
brand’s newest sports car is designed by Ian Callum to replace the S-type.
Jaguar goes on to release the XKR and XKR-S performance variants and update the
series in 2015.
2009: Jaguar unveils the latest XJ with an all-new exterior design that breaks away from the previous generations in the series. Bigger and longer than previous models, the new XJ is redesigned to “get back to the exciting outlook of 1968”. The X351 is made available in standard and long-wheelbase and special editions are released over the years.
2012: The F‑TYPE is launched as a convertible soft-top model, followed up by a coupé the following year. Jaguar describes the two-door luxury sports car as the spiritual successor to the E-type.
2014: The XE is a compact executive sports saloon introduced by Jaguar at the Paris Motor Show. It is made of aluminum-intensive lightweight construction and offered with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a 3.0 liter supercharged V6.
2016: Jaguar releases its first performance SUV with the F-PACE. The luxury compact crossover is designed by Ian Callum with a vision to design a Jaguar as an SUV rather than to conform to any existing idea of an SUV. The Jaguar F-PACE takes both the 2017 World Car of the Year Award and the 2017 World Car Design of the Year Award.