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David Anderson

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Sir William Lyons had already established a successful business that began by building stylish and aerodynamic 'Swallow' sidecars for the motor-cycle craze which had grown in England after World War One. In 1928 he then expanded his operation to building bodies and interiors for Austin, Swift, Wolseley and Fiat automobile chassis.  In 1932 the company, now re-named Swallow Coachbuilding offered the rakish S.S. 1 Coupe. Already Lyons' eye for beautiful design was evident.

The original S.S. name has always eluded those searching for meaning, 'Standard Swallow' and 'Swallow Special' are two conjectures. A drophead coupe and the smaller S.S. 2 soon joined the original model which by 1934 had shed it's cycle type guards for running boards and gained rear side windows for a less claustrophobic interior. This year also saw the introduction of a new body design, the 'Airline', which Sir William disliked but produced because it was fashionable at the time.

The first car called a 'Jaguar' was released in 1935. This S.S. Jaguar was a 2.5 ltr 4 door saloon and remained the basis of production until 1949. A redesigned OHV 'pushrod' 6 cylinder Standard motor from engineer Harry Weslake propelled the new saloon to 90 miles per hour!  It also set the mark for all future saloons carrying the Jaguar name to combine elegance and comfort with performance. Soon an open tourer version was added to the model range.

Another exciting development from 1935 was the appearance of the S.S. 90 sports car. This was soon superseded by the fabulous S.S. 100. Sir William knew the value of rally and racing victories which would boost prestige and publicity for his company. Before the war the 3.5 ltr engined S.S. 100 and also the saloons would be very active in British and international sporting events.

The onset of World War Two saw the S.S. marque change it's production line for the war effort and automobiles were not made. However the fertile mind of Sir William looked ahead to the future and envisaged an independent business that did not rely on outside manufacturers for engine production. He directed engineers like Bill Heynes and Wally Hassan to design a new engine that had to be powerful but also beautiful to look at. The apocryphal 'fire-watch' meetings which supposedly took place during the years of air-raids and bombardment by V1 and V2 rockets would result in the famous DOHC XK engine.

With the war Sir William realised that 'S.S.' had negative connotations due to the Nazi organisation of the same name and the company would now be called 'Jaguar'. After the war Sir William also realised that even though Jaguar was in the process of mating the new XK engine to a new saloon design (the Mk VII) it would take some years before this could be done. It was vital for the company to regain it's momentum and much needed export sales.

The solution was the production of what would later be known as the 'Mk IV' saloons. These cars were slightly modified versions of the immediate pre-war saloons and were offered in 1.75, 2.5 and 3.5 ltr versions. A drophead coupe was also available. However it looked a little out of date by the late '40s and a newer style of saloon was needed to maintain sales, especially for the all important U.S. market.

The resulting 1948 Mk V still looked fairly traditional but was sleaker and more streamlined. Mechanically it was certainly more modern with a new rigid chassis, independent front suspension, softer rear springs and hydraulic brakes. The car was only offered in 2.5 and 3.5 ltr versions and could be had in drophead coupe form. The last Mk V came off the production line in 1951. The Mk V Jaguar is still a very useable classic car today! 

© 2014 Jaguar Drivers Club of Australia PO Box 1485. Macquarie Park NSW 2113.