Jaguar was founded as the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922, by two motorcycle enthusiasts, Sir William Lyons and William Walmsley, the SS Jaguar name first appeared on a 2.5 litre saloon in 1935, sports models of which were the SS90 and SS100.
The Jaguar name was given to the entire company in 1945 when the “SS” name was dropped due to its association with Germany’s SS military organisation much publicised and in Britain greatly reviled during and following World War II. Cash was short after the war and Jaguar sold to Rubery Owen the plant and premises of Motor Panels, a pressed steel body manufacturing company which had been acquired in the late 1930s when growth prospects had seemed more secure. Nevertheless, Jaguar achieved relative commercial success with their early post war models: times were also tough for other Coventry based auto-makers and the company was able to buy from John Black’s Standard Motor Company the plant on which Standard had built the six cylinder engines which, hitherto, they had been supplying to Jaguar.
Two of the proudest moments in Jaguar’s long history in motor sport involved winning the Le Mans 24 Hour race, firstly in 1956 and again in 1957, in the hands of the little known Scottish racing team called Ecurie Ecosse whose name later went down in legendary status for twice pulling off a David v Goliath effort in the famed car killing race.
Jaguar D Type
Jaguar, made its name in the 1950s with a series of elegantly-styled sports cars and luxury saloons. In 1951 the company leased what would quickly become its principal plant from the Daimler Motor Company (not to be confused with Daimler Benz), and in 1960 purchased Daimler from its parent company, the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA). From the late 1960s, Daimler was used as a brand name for Jaguar’s most luxurious saloons.
1939 Jaguar Mk IV 3½ Litre
Jaguar merged with the British Motor Corportation (BMC), the Austin Morris combine, to form british Motor Holdings (BMH) in 1966. After merging with Leyland, which had already taken over Rover and Standard Triumph, the resultant company then became the British Leyland Motor Corportation (BLMC) in 1968. Financial difficulties and the publication of the Ryder Report led to effective nationalisation in 1975 and the company became British Leyland, Ltd.
1958 Jaguar XK150
1963 Jaguar XK-E – 3.8 litre
In the 1970s the Jaguar and Daimler marques formed part of BL’s specialist car division or Jaguar Rover Triumph Ltd until a restructure in the early 1980s saw most of the BL volume car manufacturing side becoming the Austin Rover Group within which Jaguar was not included.
1963 Mk11 Jaguar
The big breakthrough was the launch in 1948 of the XK120 sports car, which combined a body shell essentially copied from a 1940 BMW 328 Coupe with the new XK twin overhead camshaft (DOHC) 3.5 litre hemi head six-cylinder engine designed by William Heynes, Walter Hassan and Claude Baily. This engine had been designed during the long nights during the war when they would be on fire watch in the factory. After several attempts a final design was arrived at. That is until owner William Lyons said “make it quieter”. The car had originally been intended as a short production model of about 200 vehicles as a test bed for the new engine until its intended home, the new Mark VII saloon, was ready. The XK120′s reception was such that production continued until 1954; it was followed by the XK140, the XK150, and the E-Type, keeping Jaguar in the sports car market.
Introducing the large Mark VII saloon in 1951, a car especially conceived for the American market, Jaguar soon found itself overwhelmed with orders. The Mark VII and its successors gathered rave reviews from magazines such as Road & Track and The Motor. In 1956 a Mark VII won the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally.
The 1955 Mark 1 small saloon was the first monocoque (unibody) car from Jaguar and used a 2.4 litre short stroke version of the XK engine. In 1959, the car was improved with a larger engine and wider windows and became the Mark 2, one of the most recognizable Jaguar models ever produced. It would be popular with British police forces for its small size, light weight, and powerful engine.
The Mark VIII of 1956 and Mark IX of 1958 were essentially updates of the Mark VII but the Mark X of 1961 was a completely new design of large saloon with all round independent suspension and unibody construction.
The independent rear suspension from the Mark X was incorporated in the 1963 S-Type which closely resembled the Mark 2, and in 1967 the Mark 2 name was dropped when the small saloon became the 240/340 range. The 420 of 1966, also sold as the Daimler Sovereign, put a new front onto the S-type, although both cars continued in parallel until the S-Type was dropped in 1968. The Mark X became the 420G in 1966.
Jaguar XJ6 Series 11
Of the more recent saloons, the most significant is the XJ model introduced in 1968.
The XJ6, using 2.8 L (2790 cc/170 in³) and 4.2 L (4235 cc/258 in³) stright six cylinder versions of Jaguar’s renowned XK engine, replaced most of Jaguar’s saloons – which, in the 1960s, had expanded to four separate ranges. Apart from the engines, the other main component carried over from previous models was the widest version of Jaguar IRS unit from the Mark X.
Jaguar Mk X
An upmarket version was marketed under the Daimler brand and called the Daimler Sovereign, continuing the name from the Daimler version of the Jaguar 420.
The “XJ” designation was from the car’s code name during development, standing for Experimental Jaguar.
The car was introduced in September 1968. Power assisted steering and leather upholstery were standard on the 2.8 L ‘De Luxe’ and 4.2 L models and air conditioning was offered as an optional extra on the 4.2 L. Daimler versions were launched in October 1969, in a series of television advertisements featuring Sir William. In these spots, he referred to the car as “the finest Jaguar ever”. An unusual feature, inherited from the Jaguar Mark X, was the provision of twin fuel tanks, positioned on each side of the boot / trunk, and filled using two separately lockable filler caps: one on the top of each wing above the rear wheel arches.
In March 1970 it was announced that the Borg-Warner Model 8 automatic transmission which the XJ6 had featured since 1968 would be replaced on the 4.2 litre engined XJ6 with a Borg-Warner Model 12 unit. The new transmission now had three different forward positions accessed via the selector lever, which effectively enabled performance oriented drivers to hold lower ratios at higher revs in order to achieve better acceleration. ”Greatly improved shift quality” was also claimed for the new system.
In 1972 the option of a long wheel base version, providing a modest increase in leg room for passengers in the back, became available.
The XJ12 version, featuring simplified grille treatment, and powered by a 5.3 L V12 engine (coupled to a Borg Warner Model 12), was announced in July 1972: the car was presented at that time as the world’s only 12-cylinder four door car. 3,235 of these first generation XJ12s were built. Again, an upmarket version, this time called the Daimler Double-Six, was available, reviving the Daimler model name of 1926-1938.