1922 - present
William Lyons Establishes Swallow Sidecars
Jaguar may have started from humble beginnings,
but would grow in stature and dominance with a dogged
determination for success on the race track. William
founded the now most famous of marques, bringing
new style to Swallow Sidecars, then manufacturing a
series of special bodies for much more, shall we say,
common vehicles such as the Austin Seven
, the Fiat Tipo
509A, the Standard 9 and the Standard 16.
Back in the heady days of the Austin Seven, many recognised
that the manufacture of automobiles would turn a tidy
profit, but as with any new business venture such aspirations
were always going to be fraught with danger.
it came to be that, while other start-up car manufacturers,
and even some well established ones, struggled to stay
in business, William Lyons
and his partner William Walmsley
named their new business “SS Cars” –
and business could not have been better.
As was the case with so many manufacturers, the desire
to create their own car would necessitate sourcing components
from other manufacturers – and given their history
of supplying bodies to the industry it seemed logical
that such an arrangement could work both ways.
Standard Supply The Mechanicals
started by asking Standard not only to supply mechanical
components, but to design a new chassis - something
on to which he could design a rakish new body.
The result was the original SS1, and this in turn soon
became a range of saloons, coupes and convertibles.
The most famous derivative was the two-seater “SS90”
of 1935, but this was almost immediately superseded
by the SS100, first offered with an overhead-valve 2.5
litre six, and later a 3.5 litre; the 2.5 was the highly
regarded Standard engine, while the 3.5 was an almost
entirely SS design.
The low-slung chassis helped make the SS100 very quick,
and combined with the rakish open sports style complete
with an exposed slab fuel tank the roadholding was far
superior to many of its competitors. The name of 'Jaguar' was to appear in the autumn of
1935, then as a model designation for some of the saloons
and drop-head coupes. Many critics thought these, together
with the “SS100”, were overly ornate and
detailed. Regardless, they were all easily distinguished
by their unmistakeable styling, and to many they represented
good value (for example, the 3.5 litre S100 cost £445,
had a top speed just over 100mph and made the 0 –
60mph dash in around 10.5 seconds).
Ian Appleyard Drives The SS100 In The Alpine And Tulip Rallies
With such price per performance (dare we say one of
the earliest examples of the now oft used acronym BFYB
or “Bang For Your Buck”), it was inevitable
that SS cars would find their way onto the racetrack.
Appearances included the famous “Brooklands
race track, “Shelsley Walsh” hill-climb,
“Alpine Trial” and RAC Rally’s.
After the war the SS100 would again enter the rally
scene, most notably driven by Ian Appleyard in both
the Alpine and Tulip rallies. But the SS100 would not
re-enter production following the war, and it would
take until 1948 for Jaguar to design and construct a
new model. Indeed the manufacturer decided not only
to design a new model, but to undergo a name change,
given the sinister connotations invoked after the war
with the “SS” moniker. The name Jaguar,
until then a model name, became their manufacturer’s
The Wraps Come Off The XK120 At Earls Court
The wait for the new “Jaguar” was well
worth it; at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show Jaguar
unveiled the sensational new XK120 Roadster
, good for
a top speed of 120mph and one of the fastest production
cars of the day!
Originally conceived as a limited-production sports-car
to test the performance and durability of their new
twin-overhead-camshaft six-cylinder XK engine (which
was intended for use in a future range of saloons, to
be known as the Mk VII models), the XK created such
incredible interest and buyer enquiry that Jaguar could
see the car would be an instant success – and
that more ambitious plans needed to be laid, and full
body tooling needed to be ordered.
For the time the new XK set unmatched standards for
performance, ride, roadholding, styling, practicality,
desirability while offering amazing value for money.
The new 3.4 litre engine developed 160bhp, and could
propel the XK120 up to 60mph in less than 10 seconds.
All this was available (after a long wait) for a mere
The SS100, perhaps the first
car worthy of the title "Bang For Your
The 1951 Jaguar XK120 Roadster.
The XK120 Fixed-Head Coupe featured
superior trim levels, which included a veneer-trimmed
dashboard and wind-up door windows.
Winner of the 1951 and 1953 Le
Mans, the C-Type.
Sand in the fuel tank, then tragedy
the year later tarnished what should have been
a stellar race record for the D-Type.
Do we need to sub-title this
The attractive headlamp covers
would be removed in 1968 with the Series II
to meet US safety requirements.
Technically superior to the E-Type,
the focus was moving away from sports toward
The High Speed Demonstration At Jabbeke
The XK120's potential was so startling that many critics
dismissed the claims as exaggerated publicity. To counter
this, the company organized a high-speed demonstration
run on the Jabbeke highway in Belgium, where all doubts
were dispelled, when a standard car achieved an officially
timed 126mph (132mph with windscreen removed). To complete
the demonstration, the record car was then sedately
motored past the assembled journalists, at 10mph in
There XK120 was again to delight motoring journalists
when, in 1949, Jaguar would loan 3 cars to prominent
drivers for entry into the British Racing Driver's Club
“Silverstone” race meet. The cars would
come in first (Leslie Johnson) and second places (Peter
Walker), and only a tyre
blow-out prevented them from
making it a clean sweep!
Appleyard Wins The Coupes des Alpes, Tulip and RAC Rallies
Ian Appleyard, who had enjoyed success at the helm
of his SS100, now switched to the new XK120 for the
Alpine rallies of 1950
, where he won
Coupes des Alpes for un-penalized runs on each occasion,
while also winning the Tulip and RAC rallies of 1951
would also make his way to the winner’s
podium courtesy of an XK120, on this occasion using
Tommy Wisdom's race-car to win the 1950
race despite appalling weather conditions. His win would
earn Moss a place in the Jaguar ‘Works’
The XK120 Fixed Head Coupe was launched at the 1951
Geneva Motor Show, and was shaped very much along the
lines of the 1930s Bugattis. The added rigidity
afforded by the “tin-top” improved the already
excellent roadholding, and with the weather elements
(remember we are referring to the UK weather here) now
even further removed many believed this coupe was a
better choice for long-distance touring.
The interior featured far superior trim levels, which
included a veneer-trimmed dashboard and wind-up door
windows. There was also a “Special Equipment”
model offered, dubbed the XK120M for the US market,
and featured a wonderful 180bhp engine.
The XK's Enter Le Mans
the factory entered a team of three XK120s in
the Le Mans 24 Hour race, not seeking an outright win,
but seeking to gain experience, and a respectable finish.
They were to go on and finish 12th and 15th respectively
– a result far exceeding the engineer’s
expectations! It got them to thinking what would be
possible if they had constructed and raced a car specifically
built for the race, and so they set about building a
multi-tube frame XK120C, which became more commonly
known as the “C-Type”.
When the “C-Type” was entered in the 1951
it would win the event outright, although the
following year modifications to the cars cooling system
proved inappropriate for such a long event and would
force the cars to retire early. Undeterred, the team
would return in 1953 with new 220bhp engines and Dunlop
to take first, second and fourth places.
In the same year the third variation on the XK 120
theme was introduced - the Drop-head Coupe. The new
Drop-head coupe retained all the refinements of the
Fixed Head model, but was fitted with a fully-trimmed
convertible hood. In production terms (which therefore
translate to collect-ability terms) this was the rarest
of the 120’s - only 1765 being manufactured (compared
with 7612 Roadsters and 2678 Fixed Heads).
In October 1954, the XK140 took over directly from
the 120, though remaining closely based on that design.
Changes included the moving forward of the engine in
the chassis, to allow the cockpit to be enlarged, the
increasing of power to 190bhp, and the fitment of rack-and-pinion
steering. External style changes included the fitment
of occasional seats, although these were only suitable
for carrying children.
The Purpose Built D-Type
But perhaps the biggest news from Jaguar in 1954 was
the arrival of the now-legendary “D-Type”,
perhaps the most famous of all 1950’s racing sports-cars.
The 'D', like the 'C' before it, had been designed with
only one aim in mind - that of winning the Le Mans race,
and reaping all the publicity and prestige which would
follow. Wind-tunnel testing had been used extensively
in the design of the “D-Type”, something
of great importance when considering that the Le Mans
circuit included a four-mile long flat out straight
– and the current lap record for the entire circuit
stood at an astounding 110mph.
The competition XK engines were now fitted with modified
heads and triple weber carburettors, making them good
for 250bhp at 6000rpm. Dry sump lubrication systems
were installed which allowed the engines to be lowered
– and in turn the bonnet profile and subsequent
centre of gravity of the “D” to be lowered.
Independent front suspension was by longitudinal torsion
bars and wishbones, the rigid rear axle was located
by trailing arms and transverse torsion bars, and Dunlop
were at all four wheels.
But the first outing of the “D-Type” at
Le Mans was to prove exasperating for Jaguar. Although
the cars performed well, sand had found its way into
the fuel tanks and caused sporadic fuel starvation.
After the problem was finally diagnosed and rectified,
the Jaguar returned to the track (driven by Rolt and
Hamilton), only to be forced off the track again, but
this time by a slower car. But despite these problems,
the “D” would finish in second place, only
105 seconds behind the first placed Ferrari. The sweet
smell of success was to prove only a few weeks away,
the D-Types finishing the “Rheims” 12-Hour
race in first and second position.
For 1955 the 'works' D-Types had even better aerodynamics
with a longer nose and smoother tail fin – and
with a new side-angle head power was increased to 275bhp.
But it was the Mercedes 300SLR driven by Sterling Moss
and Juan Manuel Fangio
that was setting the pace, the
D-Type being driven by Mike Hawthorn
and Ivor Bueb being
some 2 laps down. 3 hours into the race tragedy would
strike; a lower positioned 300 SLR (driven by Levegh)
colliding with an Austin Healey, and then launching itself into the grandstands.
Tradgedy At Le Mans, And A Hollow Victory
The crash and ensuing fire
killed the SLR’s driver and over 80 of the
spectators. Mercedes-Benz immediately withdrew the remainder
of its team – including the Moss/Fangio SLR –
and the Hawthorn/Bueb team would go on to register a
rather hollow victory. The fact that Hawthorn had set a new lap record of
122.39 mph prior to the accident was quickly forgotten,
and many believed the Jaguars superior disc-brake setup
would have allowed the “D” to catch and
perhaps pass the “air-brake” SLR, but that
was only speculation. Amazingly the Austin-Healey involved was driven by Lance Macklin, who survived, and the car stayed on the track only moderately damaged. The Healey did no damage to any other car or person and Lance walked away.
The following year Jaguar were keen to win the race
“on their own merits”. But this time an
accident on the second lap would eliminate 2 cars, while
another fell well down the leader board after encountering
mechanical woes. Fortunately for Jaguar a privateer,
one Ecurie Ecosse, would win the race. In 1957 Jaguar
withdrew their works team, and so it was left to Ecurie
Ecosse to win for the marque – and he did!
1957 also saw the introduction of the M50 – based
on the same chassis as the M40 – but employing
the wonderful Dunlop disc-brakes. The M50 had a wider
bonnet which in-turn provided more interior room and
easier access to the engine bay. The wing line profile
was now almost straight, and a one-piece semi-wrap-round
windscreen made the car appear far more modern. The
vast majority of XK150’s were sold with the 210bhp
'special equipment' engine, through there was a less
powerful 190bhp tuned version still available.
By 1958 the basic XK design was now some 10 years old,
and the car was beginning to show its age, particularly
when compared to the competition. It did, however, have
a major price advantage over its rivals, the XK150DHC
costing a relatively cheap £1783 when compared
with £2889 for the Aston Martin DB2/4
for the equivalent BMW, and £4651 for the Mercedes
. At first there were only drop-head and fixed-head types,
but one year later the two-seater Roadster (with wind-up
windows in the doors) was also announced, along with
a 250bhp triple-SU carburettors
'S' engine tune option.
In 1959 there was both a 3.8 litre 220bhp tune and a
265bhp “S” tune available.
The New Flagship, And The Most Beautiful Car The World Had Ever Seen
By 1961 Jaguar desperately needed a new flagship. And
we all know the answer, a car that today evokes as much
passion and prestige as it did back then, the legendary
”. Largely based on the construction
of the famed “D”, the “E” was
a great leap forward in visual design, and caught the
imagination of press and enthusiasts alike. Known as
the XKE in the United States, the car was an instant
success, and earned millions of dollars in Jaguar's
most important export market.
Based on a monocoque construction, the E-Type had a
bolt-on front tubular sub-frame that carried the engine
and front suspension. At the rear there was a 'cage'
type of sub-frame supporting the final drive, and coil
spring independent rear suspension, a new departure
for Jaguar. This had already been tried, briefly, on
the E2A prototype
which raced at Le Mans in 1960, and
helped provide a supple ride to this, and also to future
Using the 3.8 litre 'S' engine from the XK, the “E-Type”,
with its vastly improved aerodynamics
and light weight
made the car good for a top speed of 150mph, and able
to do the 0-60mph dash in an amazing 6.9 seconds. There
were two body styles offered, an open two-seater and
a fastback fixed-head coupe with opening rear window.
These cars sold in the UK for £1830 and £1954
Like the XK120 before it, the E-Type won its first
race, this time driven by Graham Hill
. However the on-track
success of the ‘E’ was to be relatively
short-lived, due mainly because racing sports-cars were
becoming far more specialized, and the Italian marques
(particularly the Ferrari) were priced in the stratosphere,
so any car with a semblance of affordability was being
position out of the European racing circuit.
Lightweight Race Bred E-Types
Before succumbing to the inevitable, Jaguar would built
a dozen 'Lightweight' E-Types, some with an aluminium
monocoque and aluminium cylinder block for the engine.
This engine, in fuel injection
form, produced a staggering
320bhp – more than twice that of the original
XK 120 of 1948. Despite racing greats such as Graham
Hill, Roy Salvadori and Jackie Stewart
driving the new
cars, they attained only moderate success and were soon
retired from the track.
In 1964 the E-Type was given the latest 4235cc version
of the XK engine (replacing the 3.8 litre), and though
the peak power output remained the same there was significantly
improved torque. At the same time a new all-synchro
gearbox replaced the old-style box, which had always
been noted for 'slow,' rather weak, synchromesh. Production figures for the 3.8 had been 7827 Roadsters,
and 7669 Fixed Head Coupes, but the 4.2-liter was a
little more popular, selling 9548 and 7770 respectively.
In 1966 the E-Type range expanded, to provide a nine-inch
longer wheelbase fixed-head coupe, with more vertical
windscreen and 2+2 seating. In 1968 the cars would undergo
even further modification, mainly to keep up with the
ever more stringent US safety legislation. Changes included
the deletion of the front headlamp covers, the fitment
of larger tail lamps, and the raising of bumpers. To
identify the new model Jaguar referred to it as a “Series
By the end of the 1960s Jaguar decided to give the
“E” another lease on life, this time courtesy
of a fabulous 5343cc single cam per bank V12 engine.
Producing a very healthy 304bhp, the engine was more
noted for it’s incredible torque, and despite
more stringent US pollution
requirements the upgrade
in power helped maintain the E-Type Series III’s
hold on the status of “Supercar”.
Body styles included the two-seater Roadster and 2+2
Fixed Head Coupe. The last of all were built at the
beginning of 1975, there being 7990 Roadsters and 7297
Fixed-Heads, respectively. The replacement for the “E-Type” can in
the form of the XJ-S Coupe. An entirely different type
of sporting car, it used a single monocoque construction,
based on the under-pan of the 12-cylinder XJ 12 saloon.
Many considered it more an executive-express rather
than a sports-car, however they were perhaps selling
it a little short!
Walkinshaw Takes The XJS To Tourist Trohpy Success
The Jaguar XJ-S
was technically superior to the E-Type, and
featured an auto transmission and 2+2 seating. Both
the front and rear suspension were independent, by coil
springs and wishbones at the front, and by a modified
E-Type /XJ12 system at the rear. The concept was significantly
improved in mid-1981, when the more efficient and more
economical 'HE' engine was introduced, the car then
becoming known as XJ-S HE.
From 1982 the XJ-S began to make its name in production
touring car racing, when Tom Walkinshaw prepared two
cars for the European Touring Car Championship. Initial
success included victory in the Tourist Trophy, after
which Jaguar gave official support for 1983 and 1984.
Jaguar would go on to score five outright victories
(compared with BMW’s six) in 1983, then with a
full three-car team went on to win the Manufacturer's
and the Driver's (Tom Walkinshaw) series in 1984.
Another variation on the XJ-S theme came in 1983, when
Jaguar launched a cabriolet version of the XJ-S featuring
a fixed roll-over bar above the seats and a completely
new 3.6-litre twin-cam six-cylinder engine good for
225bhp mated to a five speed Getrag gearbox. The 80’s
were not, however, halcyon days for the marque, reliability
and build quality issues soon tarnishing what had, until
then, been such a highly regarded marque.
Certainly any pre-1980’s Jaguar is very collectable,
however provided you do your homework a 1980’s
Jaguar may represent exceptionally good buying. Consider
that now most problems should have been addressed, such
examples represent a much cheaper entry into what is
undeniably a fabulous marque…