On September 4, 1922, in Blackpool, England, two young motorcycle enthusiasts, William Lyons and William Walmsley, set up the Swallow Sidecar Company to produce sidecars for motorcycles. The company continued to make sidecars until the advent of WWII.
In 1926 the company built the small Austin Seven, a "people's car" of rather Spartan design. At this point the company changed its name to the Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Co. and moved to a larger manufacturing space. There it made custom bodies for such cars as Morris, Fiat, Wolseley, Swift, and Standard.
The company's first car, the SS1, was based on a Standard six-cylinder engine and a modified Standard chassis. It was introduced to the public at a London exhibition in 1931. The smaller SS2 had a four-cylinder engine
In appearance the larger SS1 was a long, low vehicle with a short passenger compartment, wire wheels, and a luggage boot with a spare tire at the rear. Its expensive looks belied its excellent monetary value.
In 1933 the name of the company was changed to SS Cars Ltd. with Lyons becoming managing director. He bought his partner out in 1936.
The First Jaguar
In 1934, Harry Weslake, regarded as one of the industry's top engine experts, joined the company. His new cylinder head with OHV valve arrangement was quite reliable.
The name Jaguar was used for the first time in 1935. Also in 1935, William Heynes joined the company as chief engineer.
The firm's production included limousines, convertibles, and sports cars fitted with 1.5-litre, 2.5-litre, and 3.5-litre engines. The most notable vehicle of the period was the 3.5-litre SS 100 model. This was the fastest and most famous pre-war Jaguar, with speeds of 100 mph and acceleration from rest to 60 mph in about 10.5 seconds. The engine had a compression ratio of 17.5:1. Racing successes in the Marne Grand Prix of Reims, the Villa Real International event, the Alpine Rally, The Monte Carlo Rally, and the RAC Rally made this one of the most famous Jaguar cars.
During WWII, production shifted to the war effort, of course. After the war, the company's name was changed to Jaguar Cars Ltd. and production resumed. The first Jaguars were produced with the option of left-side driving controls!