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The History of Jaguar Cars - Part 1.

A brief overview of the Jaguars that built the legend.

To go into great detail about the many many Jaguars that have been built would take a sizeable book in its own right, so on this page is a potted history of some of the key models from Jaguars past.
Austin Swallow Seven
It was 1922 when the Swallow Sidecar company set up in Blackpool, coincidentally the same year that Herbert Austin launched the budget motoring Seven. As had many coachbuilders, William (later Sir William) Lyons saw the potential in this compact little chassis, and decided to market his own coachwork for it in 1927. The Swallow is now seen as perhaps the most pretty of the Sevens, and in it's day commanded 30 over the 175 list price of the basic 4 door Austin Seven. In 1928 a saloon variant came along, and introduced bright two tone paint finishes to this curvy little car. Such was the demand that the 14 cars-per-week output of the Blackpool factory simply wasn't enough, so it wasn't long before Swallow and Lyons upped sticks and moved down to Coventry, Foleshill to be exact. By 1929 he was producing not only bodies for the Austin 7, but also for FIAT, Standard, Swift and Wolseley, and was building upto 100 bodies per week. Production continued of the Swallow Seven into 1932, when it made way for a new larger model. Approximately 3500 examples of the Swallow were built, and they are keenly sought after today by marque enthusiasts.
This was the first of Lyons' production cars to be built on a chassis of his own design, built by Rubery Owen, and to be fitted with the engines and running gear from 16hp and 20hp Standard cars. The first car, a 16hp, was shown at the 1931 Motor Show and was fitted with swoopy coupe bodywork. The asking price was 312, and an upgrade to the 20hp 2.5 engine was just 10 more. The 1933 model year saw a revised chassis introduced, and alterations made to the bodywork. The first SS saloon came along in 1934, and was followed in '35 by the Airline SS. By now the cars were using the latest engines from John Black's Standard company, namely the 2.1 and 2.6 litre versions. 4,254 SS1s were constructed, production ending in 1936.
S.S.90 & S.S.100
The first sports car to come from the Lyons' factory was the rakish SS90 of March 1935. Top speed was 90mph from the open top SS90, based on a shortened version of the SS1 chassis. It was only available with the larger 2.6 litre sidevalve Standard motor, but had a balanced crankshaft and high lift camshaft. Telecontrol and Hartford shock absorbers were standard fit. The elegant body styling featured long flowing wings, a slab tank fitted behind the cockpit, behind which stood the spare (spoked) wheel. Price? around 395 to you sir. Production didn't even last the year out however, with the 23rd and final example being built in November of 1935. It was during the build run of the SS90 that William Heynes joined the Foleshill factory, overseeing the development of an overhead valve engine for the following years' SS range. The SS100 came out in 1936 and, with this new engine on board, could crack the magic ton. Production continued til the outbreak of WW2.
S.S. Jaguar
The Jaguar model was announced in 1935, for the following seasons line-up, and featured the overhead valve engine. This was a radical update of the old sidevalve unit from Standard, effected by tuning guru Harry Weslake who designed and built an OHV head that could fit to the Standard 2.6 block. A handy 103bhp was the end result. The 2.5 engined car showed a useful increase in performance, the smaller 1.5 car sticking with the sidevalve unit for a while until 1938 when it too went over to OHV. In the same year the 3.5 litre OHV engine was rolled out, and headed the S.S. lineup.
S.S. Jaguar 100
When the S.S.90 was fitted with the new 2.6 OHV unit it became the SS100. Top speed was now 95mph, increasing in 1938 to 100mph with the introduction of the still larger 3.5 unit. The price of such pace? just 445. By now enthusiastic weekend racers had begun to spot the potential in this rapid machine, and numerous successes came the SS100's way prior to the outbreak of war in '39.
Continued in Part 2 of the Jaguar Story...