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Jaguar history


 

The Jaguar story is a 'rags to riches' one. It was, for 50 years, the story of one man who built up one of the world's greatest automotive names which is renowned for style, performance, tradition and quality.

Swallow Sidecar circa 1924

To trace the birth of this British company, we must go back to the northern seaside town of Blackpool. Here a young motorcycle enthusiast by the name of Bill Lyons, not yet 21 years of age, met William Walmsley, who was building a rather stylish sidecar which he was attaching to reconditioned motor cycles.

Young Lyons immediately displayed the two traits that would be his greatest qualities for the next 50 years or so. His business acumen shrewdly espied a good commercial opportunity and his eye for style appreciated the attractive appearance of these normally mundane creations. He felt there was great potential if the activity could be organised along business lines and production increased to make the operation viable.

As soon as William Lyons came of age, the Swallow Sidecar Company was formed in September 1922, with a bank overdraft of £1,000.

Swallow Sidecar circa 1924

Humble first and second floor premises were obtained in Blackpool and, with a handful of employees, production commenced. A young Arthur Whittaker was taken on to help with sales but proved better at buying. He remained with the company for around 50 years becoming one of the shrewdest buyers in the business.

Pioneering the use of aluminium, the very stylish sidecars were immediately popular and production expanded rapidly.

Then in 1927 Herbert Austin introduced his baby car, the famous Austin Seven. Intended to bring motoring to the masses, the tiny Sevens were cheap, easy to drive, reliable, but lacked individuality.

Lyons saw another opportunity. He created a most stylish two-seater body which was mounted on the Austin Seven chassis. An order for 500 was obtained from one of the main London garages and production commenced.

It was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between Lyons and Bertie Henly, who operated Henlys, one of the country's leading garages.

At £175, or £185 with a hinged hardtop, the splendid little Austin Seven Swallow proved most popular and the company introduced a Swallow body for the larger Morris Cowley chassis. The range then increased significantly with the introduction of the Austin Seven Swallow Saloon, late 1928.

Priced at £187 10s, the Saloon was not expensive yet it looked it. At a time of economic hardship, many people were having to lower their expectations, yet the Swallows, by aping the style of the more exotic or luxurious machines of the era, softened the blow and allowed owners to 'keep up appearances'. Such features as the polished radiator cowl and Ladies Companion Set elevated the Swallows above the average.

1927 Austin Seven Swallow

With sales of the cars and sidecars continuing to increase, it was decided to move to the Midlands, traditional heartland of the British motor industry. Thus, the young company was moved 'lock, stock and barrel' to Coventry.

At the annual London Motor Show of 1929, three new Swallow models appeared for the first time. These were based on the Fiat Tipo 509A, the Swift Ten and Standard Big Nine. Most important of these was the Standard for it was the beginning of a significant relationship as we shall see.

The Standard Swallow was a rather larger saloon and sold for £245. Again the body style offered a more extravagant treatment than the manufacturer's own product and an extrovert range of colour schemes.

In 1931 the larger Standard 16 hp six-cylinder Enfield chassis received the Swallow treatment and this introduced the company to the 2054 cc sidevalve engine, which admirably suited Lyons and Walmsley's purpose for the next ambitious step forward.

Meanwhile a model of rather more sporting pretensions was introduced with the addition of the Swallow version of the Wolseley Hornet. Offered just as a two-seater at first, a four-seater was added a year later in 1931 and, a year after that, the bodywork could be supplied mounted to the even more sporty Hornet Special chassis.

The Swallow company had now been in existence for a year short of a decade and it had been an exciting time of steady expansion and sound success. But the ambitious Lyons was far from satisfied and a further bold step forward was needed.

the SS cars 1932 - 1935

William Lyons was not content to merely build bodies on other people's chassis. This constrained his creative desires and equally restricted him to products which were stolid rather than sporting.

If Lyons and Walmsley were to throw off these shackles, they needed to create their own chassis to suit their ends.

sstourer

However, the industry was scattered with failures and Lyons determined that a cautious approach was necessary. Consequently, he arranged for the Standard Motor Company to build a chassis to Swallow's design but fitted with Standard engines.

Meanwhile Lyons, the shrewd publicist, had set the scene. 'WAIT! THE "SS" IS COMING,' stated an advertisement in July 1931. '2 New Coupés of Surpassing Beauty. SS is the new name of a new car that's going to thrill the hearts of the motoring public and the trade alike. It's something utterly new … different … better!

Thus announced, the SS I and SS II Coupés were duly presented at the 1931 London Motor Show, and sensation they certainly caused. The body was ultra low and the bonnet outrageously long. It had, stated the press, the £1,000 look, yet was priced at a very modest £310, highlighting Lyons' unique ability to offer remarkable value for money.

1935 SS1 Saloon

Lyons was almost obsessive about making his cars as low as possible. By moving the engine further back in the chassis than was normal practice and by mounting the road springs alongside, Lyons was able to achieve this long, low, sporting appearance.

The SS II, which appeared alongside and was inevitably over-shadowed by the SS I, it was simply a smaller version based on the Standard Nine chassis. Basking in the reflected glory of its more flamboyant and larger sister, the SS IIs would be popular and sell well. Remarkably it cost only £5 more than Standard's own version.

Shortly after the announcement of the new SS models, the larger 2552 cc 20 hp Standard engine could be specified and for 1933 a number of revisions were introduced to make the larger car a little more practical. Lengthening the wheelbase by seven inches and widening the track by two, allowed two passengers to be carried in the rear.

In July 1933 the SS I Tourer joined the Coupé, and apart from being the first open SS model, the significance of the Tourers was that they were the first to be entered in a serious competitive event.

A team of three Tourers were entered in the 1933 Alpine Trial in mainland Europe and the following year they enhanced the SS name very considerably, taking the team prize on this particularly tough event.

The little SS II was considerably improved in late 1933 when it was given its own purpose-designed chassis which gave a wheelbase more than a foot longer.

At the same time the front wings were altered to conform to the new style of the larger model. Also, following the form of the SS I, Saloon and Tourer models of the SS II were introduced.

For 1934 a new saloon was added to the line-up. Known as a four light (four windows) saloon, this model was rather less flamboyant and rather more practical - at least the rear seat passengers could now see out!

William Walmsley, who did not share his partner's driving ambition and was losing interest in the venture, severed his connections in late 1934.

Lyons now turned his attention to improving the mechanical integrity of the cars. First he turned to Harry Weslake, a distinguished engineering consultant specialising in cylinder head design. Then he formed an Engineering Department and appointed a young William Heynes to be his Chief Engineer. Heynes was to play a major role with the company for the next 35 years. 

The range was once more supplemented in 1935 with the addition of the SS I Airline Saloon. This design was not a particular Lyons favourite but the shape was fashionable for the time and sold well.

Yet another model joined the line-up in March of that year when the SS I Drophead Coupé joined its brethren. In appearance it was very similar to the Coupé but now the whole hood folded away under a hinged cover on the luggage locker and resulted in a most pleasing appearance.

1935 SS Airline Saloon

The fruits of Weslake and Heynes' work were shortly to be seen but, meanwhile, a very stylish sports car was introduced. Known as the SS 90 and powered by the 2.7 litre side-valve engine, the performance once again did not quite live up to its dramatic appearance. But all that was about to be changed.

1935 - 1938

In 1935 the 'Jaguar' name sprang upon the scene for the first time with a completely new saloon and sports car range.

William Heynes had been working to produce a completely new box section cruciform braced chassis for a vastly improved new model range. Meanwhile Weslake had been turning his talents to the Standard engine and by adopting overhead valves he succeeded in increasing output from 75 hp of the previous 21/2 litre sidevalve engine to no less than 105 hp.

For the new chassis and engine unit, Lyons designed a fresh body style, less flamboyant than previous models, yet still stylish. Indeed it was closer to contemporary Bentleys which cost nearly four times the price! Sophistication was increasing, and now customers were offered four doors for the first time on an SS. Indeed so different were the new models that it was felt that a new model name was needed. The Company's advertising agency suggested 'Jaguar' and though Lyons took some persuading, it was finally adopted. Thus the new cars would be known as SS Jaguars. The 'Jaguar' name was an ideal choice for feline grace and elegance, combining docility with remarkable power and agility. The cars have matured and developed to justify the analogy in every way.

With typical showmanship, Lyons had arranged a lunch at the Mayfair Hotel in London to launch the new model to the press a few days before the 1935 Motor Show. The SS Jaguar 21/2 litre saloon was unveiled to much favourable comment and the assembled company were asked to guess the price. The average guess was £632. The actual price just £395. All the earlier SS designs had been superceded with the exception of the larger Tourer body which lived on with a revised radiator grille and the fitment of the new 21/2 litre engine. The superb new sports car design, which had been glimpsed just briefly as the SS 90, reappeared in similar form as the SS Jaguar 100. With a revised treatment around the fuel tank area at the rear, and more importantly, the adoption of the new chassis and engine, the company now produced a sports car to be proud of.

For many, the SS 100 is a pre-war classic amongst sports cars. The price, incidentally, was just £395.

This new model was to be used to considerable effect in competitions, both national and international. In 1936 the motoring journalist Tom Wisdom, driving with his wife Elsie, won the International Alpine Trials in an SS 100. This car, which came to be known as 'Old Number 8' was run very successfully at the Brooklands circuit by Wisdom and in the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb by Coventry garage and theatre owner, Sammy Newsome.

A year later a team of three cars was entered by the factory in the RAC Rally, the premier such an event in Britain. The team, which included the Hon. Brian Lewis (later Lord Essendon) took the Manufacturer's Team Prize but outright success eluded them. Instead the event was won by a privately entered SS 100!

A new, enlarged 31/2 litre engine had been developed and tested in 'Old Number 8'. In September 1937, this engine, together with a new 11/2 litre unit, joined the 21/2 litre version in a completely revised model range.

The new models were not very different in appearance, distinguished from their predecessors by the lack of the side mounted spare wheel, but the range now employed 'all steel' construction. Additionally the old Tourer was replaced by Drophead versions of the saloon in each engine size.

Heynes had designed a further stronger chassis for the new body construction resulting in more interior space and bigger doors. Prices ranged from £298 for the 11/2 litre saloon to £465 for the 31/2 litre Drophead Coupe.

The new 31/2 litre engine was fitted to the '100' model and this gave genuine sports car performance with sixty miles per hour reached from a standstill in 10.5 seconds and a top speed of over 100 mph. At £445 the bigger-engined SS 100 was in a class of its own.

Meanwhile the experimental 31/2 litre unit fitted to 'Old Number 8' was being increasingly modified. Responsible for this work was a man who had accepted the position of Chief Experimental Engineer with SS in 1938. His name was Walter Hassan, a man destined to become a legend in the motor racing world and one who would play an important role in the Jaguar story.

For the Motor Show of that year Lyons had designed a stylish closed body for the SS 100. Reminiscent of the Bugattis of the period, just one was made before the outbreak of World War Two decreed an end to car production.

1938 - 1953

During the war, the manufacture of sidecars was increased for military use with nearly 10,000 made. Additionally, aircraft and fabrication work had the beneficial side effect of introducing the company to aircraft design and techniques.

Not surprisingly Coventry had been a particular target for bombing raids, and it was necessary to organise rosters of people for what was known as 'fire-watching'.

One such group consisted of Lyons himself, Heynes, Hassan and Claude Baily. Together they made plans for a new engine that would establish the company as a world force.

Early post-war times were difficult for British companies. Amongst other problems were shortages of steel and foreign currency. The Government issued the dictum, 'Export or Die' and steel quotas were closely related to export performance - in other words, no exports, no steel!

Firstly however, it was necessary to resurrect production as soon as possible and the best way to do this was to reintroduce the pre-war range in largely unchanged form. At the same time it was decided to drop the SS name, which had acquired an unfortunate wartime notoriety and simply call the company Jaguar Cars.

Soon after the war the sidecar division was sold and the 11/2, 21/2 and 31/2 litre saloons and dropheads were reintroduced to begin the big export push. The 31/2 litre model proved a little thirsty for the UK market, but was ideal for the USA where the majority were shipped.

The SS 100 model was not produced after the war, but a lone example had been stored, unregistered throughout the war. Known by its subsequent registration, LNW 100, the car was very successful in the Alpine and Tulip Rallies in the hands of Ian Appleyard.

In September 1948 Jaguar announced its first new post-war, stop-gap model. Something more radical was being conceived but various constraints dictated that the Mark V would carry the company's fortunes for a couple of years.

The main innovation was the adoption of independent front, suspension conceived by Heynes. The exciting new engine was virtually ready for production, but it was considered that the Mark V was a little too conservative in which to launch this and so the Saloon and Drophead Mark Vs were offered with the usual 21/2 and 31/2 litre power units.

Lyons had specified that the output from the new engine should be that ultimately achieved with 'Old Number 8', 160 bhp. the designers bravely chose an overhead camshaft layout and after trying several configurations, the final engine was decided upon. It was to be a straight six of 3442 cc and given the name XK.

The achieved output was - 160 bhp!

Jaguar now had an excellent new chassis, a tremendously exciting new engine, but no sports car. So the decision was made to produce a small number of sports cars, which would generate publicity and perhaps gain a few competition successes.

The task fell then to William Lyons to design a suitable body in just a couple of months for the 1948 Motor Show.

1949 XK120 Aliminium Super Sports
 

The result 'stole the show'. It as known as the XK120 and was destined to become one of the greatest sports cars of all time.

This was no thinly disguised racing machine. It was refined in the usual Jaguar manner, had unrivalled comfort for such a car, and to cap it all, was priced at just £998 (£1,298 with tax).

The name was based on top speed which made it the fastest production car in the world. Indeed at first people were sceptical and refused to believe what was being claimed for the XK120.

To convince the sceptics however, some tangible proof of the claimed prowess was needed. Accordingly Jaguar took over a closed section of dual carriageway in Belgium where, in front of the assembled press, a standard XK120 proceeded to clock 126 mph. With the windscreen removed 133 mph was achieved and, as if this was not enough, the driver then pottered past the amazed press at a mere 10 mph in top gear.

The orders came flooding in and Jaguar quickly realised that the couple of hundred originally intended could not possibly meet demand.

The waiting lists were lengthened still further after the XK's racing debut at Silverstone in a Production Sports Car race. Three cars were loaned by the factory to well known drivers Peter Walker, Leslie Johnson and Prince Bira of Siam. Bira was unlucky enough to have a puncture but the others finished first and second.

In 1950 it was decided to take three cars to France for the world famous Le Mans 24 hour race, merely to assess their capabilities against international opposition. They were unlucky not to finish in the top three, when the leading example succumbed to clutch trouble after 21 hours. However, valuable lessons had been learnt.

One of six specially prepared XKs had been lent to Tom Wisdom for competition use. He proposed offering the car to a young up-and-coming driver for the famous Dundrod Tourist Trophy race in Ulster.

Jaguar were not too keen as this young man was reputed to be too fast for his own good. Reluctantly they agreed, and in appalling conditions, Stirling Moss left the field behind to take one of the most important wins of his career.

On the rallying front Ian Appleyard had replaced LNW 100 with one of the six special XKs. NUB 120 took Appleyard and Lyon's daughter Pat, to success in the Alpine Rallies of '51 and '52 and the Tulip Rally in '51 and became one of the most successful rally cars of all time.

At the 1950 Motor Show the Mark VII saloon was unveiled and once again Lyons 'stole the show'.

1950 Mark VII Saloon

Designed with the US market in mind, it was, by European standards, a very large car. It was certainly a full five-seater but being powered by the now-famous XK engine it was no slow coach.

Americans took to the Mark VII and some $30m worth of orders were taken within months of the car's introduction. Such was the demand that a larger factory was required and the company moved to the present manufacturing plant at Browns Lane, Coventry in 1951/52.

1951 also saw an addition to the XK120 range - The Fixed Head Coupé. As the name implied, the model had a solid roof reminiscent of the one-off SS 100 Coupé prepared for the 1938 Motor Show of pre-war Bugattis.

The long distance capabilities of the Fixed Head Coupé were demonstrably proven when Bill Heynes' own road car was taken to Montlhery Autodrome near Paris. Here Stirling Moss and three others drove the car for seven days and nights at an average speed in excess of 100 mph.

After the three XK120s exploratory trip to Le Mans in 1950, it was realised that Jaguar had the makings of a successful competition car if weight could be saved and aerodynamics improved. Consequently Lyons was persuaded by Heynes and the Manager of the Service Department, Lofty England, that a car should be produced solely with racing in mind.

Hence was born the XK120C, or as the car is more generally known, the C-type.

1951 C-Type

To reduce weight, a multi-tubular triangulated frame was chosen and designed by Bob Knight. The body was designed by an aerodynamicist, Malcolm Sayer, who had joined the company from the aircraft industry.

Many components were carried over from the production XKs including, of course, the engine. This, however, was modified with larger exhaust valves, higher lift cams and larger SU carburettors.

Three C-types were finished just in time for Le Mans in 1951. They were to be driven by Stirling Moss (now the team leader) and 'Jolly' Jack Fairman; the Peters, Walker and Whitehead (a couple of gentlemen farmers); and Leslie Johnson with Clemente Biondetti.

The Jaguars were an unknown quantity and the crowd were watching the Ferraris, Talbots and Cunninghams. However, Moss set off at a great rate of knots breaking the lap record and the opposition. An amazing 1,2,3 looked possible until an oil pipe flange broke on Biondetti's car. Then a similar fate befell Moss.

The third car's luck held however and Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead recorded a remarkable victory first time out for the C-types.

Unfortunately the return to France in 1952 did not yield the expected second victory. Concerned about reports of the new Mercedes' straightline speed, Jaguar hastily and unwisely fitted more streamlined bodies but were unable to test them at sustained speeds of 150 mph.

Within hours all three had retired with overheating problems.

Jaguar built a small quantity of 'production' C-types and of the 53 built, including the works cars, a number found their way to the States where they were successful in racing.

In April 1953 a third version of the XK120 joined the Open Two-Seater Super Sports and the Fixed Head Coupé. It was a cross between the other two and known as the Drophead Coupé being a more sophisticated open version.

Meanwhile Jaguar engineers had been working in conjunction with Dunlop on a completely new type of brake that had, as yet, only been used on aircraft.

The new development was the disc brake and was to be Jaguar's secret weapon upon their return to Le Mans in 1953.

The 24 hour race that year was notable for having representatives from most of the leading European motor car manufacturers and most of the top Grand Prix drivers. Rarely, if ever, has the competition been so intense.

With their fade-free brakes the C-types could decelerate at the end of the three and a half mile Mulsanne Straight from speeds of around 150 mph time after time with complete confidence and furthermore they could leave their braking far later than their rivals. The result was a complete walkover, the Jaguars finishing first, second and fourth.

The winning car was driven by a couple who typified the amateur drivers of the era. Major Tony Rolt had won the Military Cross for distinguished war service and Duncan Hamilton was a larger than life character to whom it was very much sport for sport's sake. Moss and Walker finished second after suffering fuel feed trouble early on.

If further proof were needed that Jaguar was now a world force and the XK engine a world beater, then the emphatic triumph of '53 against one of the strongest fields any race had ever seen provided it.

1953 - 1963

In 1954 the XK120's were superseded by the mechanically updated XK140's fitted with the more powerful 190 bhp XK engine which had been used in the Special Equipment 120's.

The new models were visually similar to their predecessors differing in external details only. The fixed head had an extended roof line and together with the Drophead Coupe, was given two small extra seats in the rear, suitable for children or adults for a short journey, but they made the XK's a little more practical for the family man.

Overdrive was now an optional extra and the car could be ordered with a C-type head in which case power output was increased to 210 bhp. The price of the roadster, all but a handful of which were exported, was now £1,127 (plus tax). Special Equipment versions were known in the States as XK140M's and, when fitted with the C-type head, as MC's.

The XK140's maintained the XK's popularity but very few found their way into competition.

However, the C-type was just about to be superseded by the D-type. A prototype had made a couple of private appearances in 1953 and this was a halfway stage between the 'C' and eventual 'D' models.

The D-type was to break fresh ground as it was of largely monocoque construction. To this 'tub' of magnesium alloy was attached a tubular front sub-frame which carried the engine, steering and front suspension. With its bag tanks for the fuel, the D-type borrowed a good deal from aircraft practice. It was created by Bill Heynes and Malcolm Sayer.

The new D-types were taken to Le Mans in 1954 with high hopes pinned upon them. Engine problems early on in the race were traced, rather suspiciously, to the presence of a fine grey sand in the fuel supplied. With the cause diagnosed the drivers began a valiant battle to make up lost ground. Hamilton and Rolt leading the charge in the 'D' they were sharing.

Further frustration was experienced when Rolt was pushed off by a slower competitor and the heavens opened to almost flood the track - Hamilton was getting wheelspin at 170 mph! After many hours of driving as fast as they dared, during which the D-type ran faultlessly, they finished just one minute and 45 seconds adrift of the winning Ferrari after 24 hours.

Revenge was gained a few weeks later when Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton won at the 12 hour race at Rheims.

Jaguar had now carved for itself a fine reputation. It had in production a superb large saloon and a very fine sports car, but it needed a high volume smaller car.

One million pounds in 1955 was a very significant amount and that was the investment expended on designing and developing Jaguar's important new compact saloon.

The saloon's unitary method of construction was a new venture for Jaguar. This type of body, in which the basic shell doubled as the chassis, had an advantage in that it saved weight and was inherently more rigid.

There were concerns that the new models might be too noisy, because unitary bodyshells often acted like steel drums when noise and vibration were fed into them. Here, Bob Knight founded his reputation for ride and refinement by insulating potentially noisy components from the bodyshell by the use of rubber mounting blocks, a technique still prominent in today's assembly methods.

When Heynes, Hassan and colleagues had first designed the XK engine the intention had been also to produce a four cylinder version, and indeed an XK100 was actually listed. This engine was considered for the small saloon but the refinement levels were not up to Jaguar's requirements and high standards.

Consequently the decision was made to use a reduced version of the 3.4 litre six cylinder. Thus a 2.4 litre was produced and fitted to the new saloon, the model simply being known as the Jaguar 2.4. Indeed this was to be a most important model for Jaguar and would remain in production, in one form or another, for more than 10 years.

Le Mans 1955 had all the makings of a titanic struggle. British driver, Mike Hawthorn, joined the Jaguar team as Moss had moved to Mercedes-Benz in his quest for Grand Prix success. For the first hour or so a magnificent dice was fought by Castellotti in the Ferrari, Fangio in the Mercedes he was sharing with Moss and Hawthorn in a D-type.

Racing D-type

The D-types' had been revised and now wore 'long-nose' bodywork to improve air penetration. A new 'wide angle' cylinder head with increased valve sizes had been designed with a resultant increase in power to 275 bhp.

Sadly this was the year of the tragic crash with a large number of spectators killed when one of the Mercedes crashed into the crowd. Fangio and Hawthorn were locked in a most thrilling tussle, passing and re-passing until the remaining Mercedes were with-drawn. Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb went on to a rather empty victory.

Just as Jaguar had manufactured a small quantity of 'Production C-types' so they now began selling a limited number of 'Production D-types'. Again these were mainly intended for competition use. Of the 42 made, some 18 were exported to the States.

The big Mark VII's were showing that they could also be used to good effect in competition. Indeed Ronnie Adams crowned a number of successes with victory in the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally.

Jaguar thus became the first manufacturer ever to win both Le Mans and the Monte Carlo Rally in the same year.

Indeed 1956 was a very special year for Jaguar and Sir William Lyons, for such he had been bestowed in the New Year's Honours' List.

Le Mans that year was a curious one for Jaguar. On the second lap two of the cars collided with each other in the Esses and the third was put out of contention by a split fuel line. It would have been a complete disaster had it not been for the fact that Jaguar had, in effect, a back-up team. A private Scottish team by the name of Ecurie Ecosse had been racing Jaguar's for several years and were running two D-types. Luckily for Jaguar the one driven by Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson crossed the line in first position.

Late in 1956 the Mark VII was replaced by the evolutionary Mark VIII. In appearance the car benefited from being given a one-piece windscreen, and the radiator grille was altered.

Mechanically the car was given a new cylinder head christened the B-type, illogically following the C-type! This new head had an altered valve angle and enabled the engine to produce 210 bhp.

Around this time the very exciting XK-SS, a road-going version of the D-type, with refinements, was produced. Amazingly, this was to use up D-type parts which were surplus because of poor sales of that model! However, XK-SS production was abruptly halted after just 16 had been made due to an enormous, and potentially catastrophic, fire at the factory. Luckily damage was reasonably restricted, and with marvellous co-operation from workforce and suppliers, normal production was resumed remarkably swiftly. But the vital jigs for the D-types and XK-SS's had been destroyed.

XK-SS

The same near-disaster almost ruined the launch of a new sister for the 2.4 saloon. Logically, Jaguar had decided to fit the 3.4 engine in the saloon body and this made a very sprightly sporting saloon. Maximum speed was 120 mph and 60 mph could be reached in just 11.7 seconds.

Having developed disc brakes in the best testing conditions possible - endurance racing - Jaguar were ready to fit them to production cars and the first models to benefit were the new XK150's in May, 1957.

Apart from the XK140 engine, which produced 190 bhp, the 150 could also be purchased in Special Equipment guise. Fitted with the 210 bhp B-type engine. Braking had never been the XK's strongest point and with performance and weight gradually increasing the new disc brakes adequately provided much needed improvement.

At the end of 1956 Jaguar announced that it intended retiring from motor racing, at least for a year or so. The small engineering team was hard-pressed to maintain Jaguar's outstanding record on the track, and also design and develop new road cars.

There were no factory D-types at Le Mans in 1957, but there were private entries and Ecurie Ecosse had a pair of ex-works cars out once more. All five D-types finished, the Ecurie Ecosse cars driven by Flockhart and Bueb and Sanderson and Lawrence, taking the first two places, the French duo of Lucas and Mary third, and the Belgian pairing of Frere and Rousselle fourth. Duncan Hamilton and American Masten Gregory, though the fastest, were delayed when the exhaust burnt a hole in the floor, and came home sixth.

That same year it had been decided to mount a challenge race between the best of Europe and the fastest Indianapolis cars from the States. Billed as the 'Race of Two Worlds' it was to be held on the banked track at Monza in Italy and was given the name, Monzanapolis!

With the exception of Ecurie Ecosse, the European teams boycotted the event. The US cars were designed specifically for this type of event but only three of their eight starters were still running at the finish. The three D-types, two of which had just completed 24 hours of racing, ran faultlessly and finished 4th, 5th and 6th.

1959 XK150
 

In early 1958 the roadster version of the XK150 joined the other two body styles in answer to demand from the States. This roadster, had the luxury of wind up windows and a less crude hood.

Coincidental with the launch of the XK150 Roadster was the introduction of the 'S' variant with a new cylinder head developed by Harry Weslake. This was known as the 'straight port head' and, with three SU carburettors, increased power considerably to 250 bhp. With this engine the XK150 could attain 133 mph and reach 50 mph from stationary in just 7.3 seconds. Soon afterwards the 'S' engine became available in the other XK150's.

At the 1958 Motor Show the Mark VIII was succeeded by the Mark IX. Visually the cars were virtually identical, but the new car was given an enlarged 3.8 litre version of the trusty XK engine and disc brakes. Power assisted steering was also offered.

During '59 it was the turn of the small saloons to receive attention and a vastly improved Mark II model was announced towards the end of the year, these benefiting from an increased rear track and disc brakes fitted as standard. The changes that were most apparent, however, were in appearance, with the glass area being increased significantly by using slender roof supports.

The 120 bhp 2.4 litre and 210 bhp 3.4 litre models continued to be offered, but were joined by a racy stablemate in the shape of the new 3.8 litre. With 220 bhp on tap this turned the already rapid small Jaguars into businessmen's expresses which cost only £1,842.

As the horsepower race continued to hot up in the States, Jaguar countered once again by offering the new 3.8 litre engine in the XK150 from 1960. This could also be had in triple carburettor 265 bhp 'S' form giving a top speed of 136 mph.

Not surprisingly, a number of Mark I's and II's, were raced. Their successes were prodigious and examples were driven by top Grand Prix drivers of the day, such as Mike Hawthorn, Stirling Moss, Graham Hill, Roy Salvadori, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Mike Parkes.

A positive plethora of rallying successes were gained with overall success in the Tulip Rally for the Morley brothers in 1958 and team prizes and class wins in the Monte Carlo, RAC and Alpine Rallies. Five successive victories were gained in the increasingly tough Tour de France. The 1963 event, which saw Jaguar's last victory, consisted of 3,600 miles of high speed motoring.

Touring car races were won in Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania, and International Long-Distance Records set in Italy. In the UK the Mark II's kept up Jaguar's tradition of winning the Production Car race every year at Silverstone and in 1961 took the company's 13th annual win.

In 1960 Jaguar purchased the motor pioneer firm of Daimler. Jaguar needed more space and Daimler had a large factory in Coventry, to which engine manufacture would subsequently be transferred.

1963 - 1968

Jaguar had planned a short retirement from racing, but various factors delayed their return. The factory fire; the need to concentrate on road cars and, above all, high market demand for the product.

However, the engineering department had been planning a successor to the D-type as far back as 1955. Malcolm Sayer, the legendary aerodynamicist, had been working on a car that could be both a sensational road car and a Le Mans winner - the E-type.

Sayer was one of the first to apply the principles of aerodynamics to motor car design.

During development the E-type project diverged into two distinct categories; a road car and a sports racing car, a prototype of the latter being built in 1960.

Briggs Cunningham, the American sportsman and gentleman racer, had, in the mid-fifties, transferred his allegiance to Jaguar. He opened a large dealership and ran D-types in American colours.

Whilst visiting Jaguar in early 1960, he was shown the prototype, E2A, and persuaded Lyons to let him run it at Le Mans that year. Lack of development time mitigated against the venture and, although it set the fastest time in practice, retirement followed in the race during the early hours of Sunday morning.

By 1961 the XK150s though good cars were no longer pacesetters and Jaguar needed to make a quantum leap forward to maintain sales and prestige.

1962 E-Type

The E-type, which was announced at Geneva in March 1961, was just that. Like the XK120 in 1948, it was an absolute sensation. The body styling was sensuous, beautiful, and the car set new standards in all areas.

A brand new independent rear suspension was designed by Bob Knight and situated in a cradle which was mounted via rubber blocks to the body unit. This brilliant rear suspension, still used on the XJ-S today, gave excellent roadholding, a first class ride and great refinement.

The car had the triple carburettor 3.8 litre XK engine first seen in the XK150 'S'. Producing 265 bhp in a lighter aerodynamic body gave virtual 150 mph performance, with acceleration of 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds.

The E-type, or XK-E as it would be known in the States, seemed to have the best of all worlds. It was very fast, had vivid acceleration, great flexibility, unheard of comfort, refinement for such a car and pure good looks.

Even the launch was dramatic. Most testing had been on a couple of open roadsters, but it had been decided to produce a Fixed Head when a brilliant American sheet metal craftsman, Bob Blake, created a mock up for Lyons.

A Fixed Head version was built and loaned to various motoring magazines and newspapers in early 1961. The car was just capable of the magic 150 mph a relief to Jaguar who had already printed the brochures.

This same car was due to be launched to the press at Geneva. The press reaction was ecstatic, as was that of the public. Rarely, if ever, had a car been so lauded. The price added to the incredulity at £1,830 for the Roadster and £1,954 for the Fixed Head. Aston Martins were twice the price and Ferraris nearly three times.

A few weeks later two Roadsters and two Fixed Heads were shown at the New York Motor Show. The reaction was equally extraordinary.

As with the XK120, Jaguar's claims were tested on the race track. Two cars were entered in the 25 lap GT Trophy race on the twisting, undulating circuit at Oulton Park. They were entrusted to Graham Hill and Roy Salvadori, who were up against competition Ferraris and Aston Martins.

The two E-types led until Salvadori experienced brake trouble and was passed by Grand Prix driver Innes Ireland in a DB4 GT Aston Martin. Try as he might, Ireland could not pass Hill who used all his skills to fend off the Aston and the three finished in close formation. It was a brilliant victory first time out and unassailable proof of the E-type's prowess.

Later the same year, Jaguar announced another new model, a replacement for the Mark IX. This time the new Mark X was no evolutionary update but a completely new concept.

Whereas the Mark IX had still employed a separate chassis, the Mark X was of full monocoque construction. It used a widened version of the new independent rear suspension as fitted to the E-type and was fitted with the same engine.

The car was designed almost wholly with the US market in mind. It was very large by European standards and seated five people.

In spite of the car's bulk, it was not slow with a top speed of 120 mph, and it certainly appealed to Americans with the US and Canadian dealers placing orders worth 63 million dollars (£22.5m). Unfortunately the model did not turn out to be quite as successful as hoped, though gradually it matured into an excellent vehicle capable of transporting four or five people quickly and in great comfort.

Three E-types were privately entered for Le Mans in 1962. One retired but the Briggs Cunningham entry, driven by Briggs and Roy Salvadori, finished a highly creditable fourth followed by the Peter Lumsden/Peter Sargent E-type one place behind.

Meanwhile E-types had been clocking up a number of successes around the world and one car, entered by Jaguar dealer John Coombs, was being increasingly developed. The success of the E-types inspired Ferrari to build the 250 GTO and this led Jaguar to counter with a special racing version of the E-type, developed from the Coombs car.

E-type 2+2

Generally known as the 'Lightweight E', these cars, of which just 12 were built, had an aluminium monocoque body and engines with a block of the same material. With fuel-injected, dry sump engines, considerably stiffened suspension and wider wheels, they posed a genuine threat to the Ferraris and beat them on a number of occasions.

In 1963 Cunningham took three Lightweight E's to Le Mans. Unfortunately one retired with gearbox problems, the second crashed heavily after hitting an oil patch at 170 mph on Mulsanne and the third only managed to finish ninth after a long pit stop to repair a badly damaged bonnet.

Also in 1963 the S-type saloon car was announced. This was a pleasing compromise between the Mark II and the Mark X in shape. Most importantly the S-type was given independent rear suspension and the S-type was offered with either the 3.4 or 3.8 litre engine.

Mark II

Two 'Lightweight Es' were entered for Le Mans in 1964. Sadly, both cars retired with mechanical problems.

To improve torque, the E-type was given a new 4.2 litre XK engine and synchromesh gearbox. Braking was improved by the deletion of the Kelsey Hayes bellows-type servo in favour of a Lockheed vacuum booster.

Internally the 4.2 E-types were given far better seats. The aluminium dash panels and centre consoles were now covered in black leathercloth. Like the Mark X, the only external way of distinguishing the 4.2 E-types was by the badge upon the bootlid.

Sir William Lyons had felt for some time that the company needed a four seater 'sports car'. In 1966 this was achieved by lengthening the E-type and adding a pair of small seats in the rear, so that the car could 'extend dad's youth for another seven years' as Motor put it.

The new car, known as the 2+2, was not to everybody's liking but certainly made a more practical machine.

Performance was not helped by the extra weight and frontal area. Top speed was now down to 136 mph. Price, as ever, was very competitive at £2,385 and a very healthy number were sold with, like all E-type production, the vast majority crossing the Atlantic to the States.

The 420 saloon was introduced in 1966. This was akin to a revised S-type with the Mark X frontal styling treatment. Offered, as the name implied, with the 4.2 litre engine, the 420 was an excellent car. It was, though, a stopgap model for Lyons and Knight who were working on something very special which would appear in a couple of years time.

For many years Jaguar had been Britain's top dollar earner and, the most popular imported car in the States. By 1966 Jaguar's post-war exports totalled £200m.

A year later the Mark IIs metamorphosed into 240s and 340s. The models, now near to the end of their lives, were rejuvenated by a few minor trim changes and the 3.8 model was dropped from the range.

From time to time Jaguar's thoughts had turned to competition and Sayer had wanted to build a mid-engined car. Heynes and colleagues had realised that if Jaguar was to remain competitive it would need to design a completely new engine, preferably of 12 cylinders.

In 1965, with the Lightweight E-types uncompetitive, a small team including Sayer and Mike Kimberley, later to head Lotus Cars, drew up plans for a mid-engined sports racing car. To power it, they designed a four cam V12 of 5 litres.

The XJ13

The car, the XJ13, was built in great secrecy in 1966 but there was an unfortunate lack of urgency about the project. It was eventually run in 1967. Sadly it was never to race and has become a museum piece for enthusiasts.

The shape was another Sayer masterpiece. Of obvious ancestry, it was one of the most beautiful cars ever conceived, and a lasting tribute to this brilliant man who prematurely died in 1970.

In 1968 the E-types underwent changes dictated by the US Federal Regulations.

With a less clean shape and increasing weight, the E-type was in need of another boost both in terms of prestige and performance. Jaguar were working on the answer and it had rather more than six cylinders.

The continuing history is quite well known, but for the purposes of Thoroughbred cars, the story ends here. With Jaguar now under the Ford banner, it does seem that exceptional cars are again being built. Only time will tell!