Jaguar began life as the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922 and began by making sidecars for motorcycles before taking on higher goals of creating entire automobiles. The company was founded by William Lyons and William Walmsley, two motorcycle enthusiasts. Walmsley decided to leave in 1934 leaving Lyons to form S.S. Cars Limited. In order to raise capital Lyons floated the company publicly and the first cars to bear the name S.S. Jaguar appeared in September 1935. These were the SS 90 and SS 100, 2.5 litre saloons.
At a shareholders general meeting in March of 1945 it was agreed to simply change the company name to from S.S. to Jaguar Cars Limited.
Although there was plenty of demand for Jaguar cars after the end of the Second World War production was hamstrung by a general shortage of materials, but in particular steel. It wasn’t until 1950 that certain materials would become widely available again. Until then the materials were distributed by a central authority under governmental strictures.
In the 1930s Jaguar had bought a pressed steel body manufacturing company which is sold in the 1940s in order to buy the plant where Standard had built Jaguar’s six-cylinder engines.
Originally owned by S.S. Cars Limited the parent company would eventually change its name to Jaguar in 1945. In 1966 the company would merge with that of the British Motor Corporation and the entire was renamed British Motor Holdings (BMH). In turn this company merged in 1968 with Leyland Motor Corporation to become British Leyland. British Leyland was nationalised in 1975 with Jaguar later regaining independence in 1984 when it was listed on the London Stock Exchange until it came under ownership by Ford in 1990. Jaguar has been owned by Tata Motors since 2008. Tata Motors is the biggest Indian automobile manufacturer.
Today Jaguar Land Rover has engineering facilities at their Whitley plant in Coventry and at their Gaydon site in Warwickshire. Jaguar automobiles are produced at the Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham.
Subsequently Jaguar made headlines by creating some of the most attention-grabbing sports car designs in the world. The Jaguar XK120, K140, XK150 and E-Type all appeared between 1948 and 1961. Each car carried with it Lyons’ determination that they should provide value for money.
The cars also achieved success in worldwide motorsport activities. The roots of this success lay within the twin-cam straight six engine that had been conceived before the war. This led Jaguar to win the Le Mans 24 hours race twice. It first won the race in 1951 and again in 1953 and 1955 before adding further wins in 1956 and 1957 for the Scottish team Ecurie Ecosse.
Lyons’ ambition was always to build sporting saloons in great numbers. Before long Jaguar had a reputation as a manufacturer of excellent luxury saloons including the Mark VII, VIII, and IX. Models that also furthered this reputation were the Mark 1 and 2 as well as the XJ6 and XJ12. All these cars were praised for their excellent handling and high performance.
In July 1965 Lyons and British Motor Corporation chairman George Harriman announced a merger between the two businesses as the initial step towards a joint holding company. In 1968 with encouragement from the government British Leyland Motor Corporation was announced as a new holding company that included BMH (British Motor Holdings, which had changed its name from British Motor Corporation) and Leyland Motor Corporation Limited. Unfortunately poor decision-making along with financial difficulties at some of the companies meant the nationalisation of the holding company in 1975.
In 1984 Jaguar was floated as a private company on the stock market and was eventually bought outright by Ford Motor Company in 1990. Under the guidance of Ford Motor Company the product line was expanded at Jaguar with the launch of the S-Type in 1999 and the X-Type in 2001. In 2000 Ford Motor Company bought Land Rover and the latter with Jaguar began a close association sharing engineering and facilities.
In March 2008 Ford Motor Company announced it would sell Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors for a cost of £1.7 billion.