Jaguar is a British automaker that specializes in luxury and style. The company has been so successful that the mention of the name Jaguar, for most of us, conjures up images of youth, style, popularity, speed and money. The company is headquartered in Whitley, Coventry, England. In recent years, Jaguar has also manufactured cars for the English Prime Minister.
'Value for money'
William Lyons, a 20-year-old English motorcycle enthusiast, started the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922. Within five years, Lyons and his business partner, William Walmsley, were making bodies for various automakers. In 1931, the company partnered with chassis-maker Standard Motor Company to form the automobile company "Standard Swallow." Lyon's motto, right from the first, was "value for money." The first car the company produced was the 1935 SS Jaguar. Later, after the onset of World War II, the SS designation was dropped because of negative connotations with the Nazis.
The war years
During the war, the company returned to making motorcycle sidecars, filling orders for the British forces. Lyons also used the down time to have his design team develop the Twin Cam Straight Six Cylinder Engine that became the mainstay powerplant of post-war Jaguars. Following the war, the company built its first sports car and showed it at the 1948 auto show in Earls Court, England. Originally, only 200 were planned to be made. But the sporty, speedy, youthful car proved so popular that the company had to retool and begin mass production.
Le Mans 24 hours Race
In the 1950s, Jaguar also started producing a line of competitive cars, meant to earn awards on the world's speedways. The first car appeared in 1951, just in times for the Le Mans 24 hours race. The car took the top prize, driven by Stirling Moss. A Jaguar also took first place in 1953. Another victory in 1955 was downplayed because its driver, Mike Hawthorn, caused an accident before crossing the finish line that took the lives of more than 80 people. A Jaguar also was victorious at Le Mans in 1956 and 1957. In 1956, William Lyons was knighted for his contributions to the British automobile industry.
A changing of hands
The company merged with the British Motor Corporation in 1968 but failed to remain profitable. The company became nationalized and was government controlled for a time as British Leland. Jaguar found its way out of debt 16 years later and reappeared on the 1984 London Stock Exchange. Lyons died the following year.
The company was acquired by Ford in 1989. Currently, Jaguar, along with Land Rover, is owned by the Indian company Tata Motors. But the cars are still designed and built in England with a focus on luxury, style and prestige. The car truly embodies its one-time, long-running sales slogan, "Grace, Space, Pace."