home page

 

Home < Jaguar < Jaguar Historical Cars

Bookmark and Share  

4 September 2007

"The car is the closest we come to making something that feels alive."
Sir William Lyons, Founder of Jaguar Cars

2007 marks the 85th anniversary of Jaguar Cars, founded by Sir William Lyons in 1922 on his 21st birthday. Since then, Jaguar has evolved from the production of motorcycle sidecars to become one of the world's leading designers and manufacturers of sports cars and premium saloons. William Lyons began in a tiny garage producing just one motorcycle sidecar a week with his partner at the time, William Walmsley who then left the company in 1934. In time, the business succeeded beyond his expectations to become a cultural icon producing some of the most aristocratic and stylish cars ever built.

The most famous of these are the legendary E-type of 1961, the unforgettable sports racing car and Le Mans winner, the D-type of 1955 and the XJ series of saloons.

Sir William Lyons (September 4, 1901 February 8, 1985), known as "Mr. Jaguar", was with fellow motorcycle enthusiast William Walmsley, the co-founder in 1922 of the Swallow Sidecar Company, which became Jaguar Cars Limited after the Second World War.

In 1921, converting surplus army motorcycles for civilian use and making sidecars. Lyons and Walmsley obtained from their fathers a substantial 500 bank guarantee to go into business. Their plans were delayed as Lyons was under the legal age, but on his 21st birthday he formed a partnership with Walmsley. It was called Swallow Sidecars and had a staff of "three men and a boy". The company manufactured stylish sidecars, but after 1927 made increasing numbers of low cost coach-built cars, especially the Austin Swallow which the Blackpool factory produced at the rate of 12 per week. In 1928 Lyons moved the company and his family to Coventry. Production increased to 50 cars each week. The name was changed to SS Cars Ltd.

In 1931 they began selling the SS1, which then became company name in 1933. The following year, William Walmsley left the company. The first "Jaguar" model was offered in 1935. SS Cars Ltd changed its name to Jaguar after WW2 to avoid confusion with the Nazi "SS". During his time as managing director of Jaguar, Lyons kept a tight rein on the company and was responsible for the styling of every new model introduced (except for the C-type, D-type, E-type and XJ-S which were designed by Malcolm Sayer).

In 1956 Lyons was knighted for his services to British industry and for the fine export performance of the company. In 1966, faced with the strengthening global industry, he merged Jaguar with the British Motor Corporation (BMC) to form British Motor Holdings, which was later absorbed into British Leyland. Lyons retired as managing director near the end of 1967 but remained as chairman of Jaguar Cars Ltd. He retired completely in 1972, and kept prize-winning sheep and cattle on his farm at Wappenbury. Lyons died on 8 February 1985 at Wappenbury Hall, Leamington Spa, his home in Warwickshire.

Home < Jaguar < Jaguar Historical Cars

Bookmark and Share