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.
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
As soon as William Lyons came of age,
the Swallow Sidecar Company was formed in September 1922, with a bank
overdraft of £1,000.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
If Lyons and Walmsley were to throw off
these shackles, they needed to create their own chassis to suit their
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
The result 'stole the show'. It as known
as the XK120 and was destined to become one of the greatest sports cars of
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
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
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
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
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'.
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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!