The History Behind the Jaguar Car Brand

Background

One of the longest-running British luxury vehicle companies today, Jaguar has built iconic and luxurious sports cars and sedans as early as 1922. Some of the most influential and renowned sports cars that car enthusiasts have loved include the Jaguar XK120 and the E-Type which have proved their skills on the race track for winning prestigious races in different years such as the 24 hours of Le Mans. Like other famous car brands, Jaguar has experimented with different car models like sedans such as the Jaguar Mark 2, XJ and XF series to cater to a larger market.

The car company is also praised for its determination and willingness to expand, experiment, and improvise car models through the years through the purchase of other companies like the Daimler Motor Company and the Rover group, which is known for the Land Rover and the Triumph car brands. Because of Jaguar’s adaptability, it still continues to produce a wide range of modern luxury sports cars and sedans like the Jaguar F-Type, and the I-Pace which is the company’s first electric car.

Let’s look back at how the Jaguar brand evolved and created a legacy in the automotive industry through the years.

Transitioning from Swallow Sidecar Company to Jaguar Cars

The SS 100

Before the company became known as Jaguar all over the world, it first started as a small sidecar and motorcycle business named Swallow Sidecar Company founded in 1922 by William Lyons and William Walmsley in Blackpool, England. After it was renamed to S.S Cars Limited, the company produced its first car in 1935 during the pre-war era – the SS Jaguar 100, or also known as the SS 2 ½ litre model which was a two-seater sports car with a maximum speed of 100 mph, thus it was named the SS 100. This model, along with the 3 ½ liter version also became widely recognized as one of the most aesthetically pleasing sports cars during the 1930s. It has also become a rare item where only 198 models were produced for the 2 ½ litre version, while 116 models were produced for the 3 ½ litre version. [1]

The Jaguar XK 120

In 1945, S.S Cars limited was renamed to Jaguar Cars so as to make it distinct from other foreign names that also used it according to Lyons. The company then produced the first sports car under the Jaguar name with the Jaguar XK120 which was designed by William Lyons himself. It was an open two-seater sports car or roadster that had a top speed of 120 mph but can even go to a faster speed of even 133 mph with the windscreen removed. Because of this, it was considered as the world’s fastest production car during its time.[2] It also came available in different body styles including a coupe and a drophead coupe or convertible. It became so famous that the first production car was delivered to Hollywood film actor Clark Gable, in 1949.

The XK120 was also highly recognized due to its victories in numerous races including its first win in the Daily Express-sponsored One-Hour production race in 1949 in England and the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1950, among many other races. Succeeding car models include the Jaguar XK140, XK 150, and the XK-E. [3]

“The Most Beautiful Car Ever Made”- The Jaguar E-Type 

 

Although the previous cars were already considered as legacies of their own, Jaguar produced one of its most iconic and “most beautiful” model yet in 1961 – the Jaguar E-Type, or the Jaguar XK-E. It was first introduced as a two-seater coupé and a two-seater convertible roadster with 3.8 litre engines and a top speed of 150 mph (which was maintained in the succeeding versions of the E-Type cars). It had a sleek and stylish design with a small mouth opening at front,  equipped with leather bucket seats, and a four-speed gearbox. Its 4.2 liter version however had better and more comfortable seats, as well as brakes and electrical systems.[4]

Famous personalities like race car driver and Italian automobile manufacturer, Enzo Ferrari, even considered it as one of the most beautiful cars ever made. Meanwhile, world-renowned American singer, Frank Sinatra, once said that he “wanted the car and wanted it now”. [5] Moreover, the Jaguar E-Type was placed number one in The Daily Telegraph’s online list of the 100 most beautiful cars of all time in March 2008, making it one of the most eyed cars in the market that has been considered as a classic and timeless beauty for over 50 years. [4]

The Expansion and Diversification of Jaguar Cars

During the 1960s, Jaguar expanded and diversified its products by launching new models, as well as acquiring and being part of other companies. Some key events and developments in the expansion and diversification of Jaguar include

 

  1. The Jaguar Mark 2 – Launched in 1959, this midsize luxury saloon car also became one of the most recognizable cars of the 1960s as it was often used by both the British police forces and even as a getaway car by criminals due to its small size yet amazing speed of 120 to 125 mph. [4] Because of this, it was even used in the 1980’s television series “Inspector Morse”, where the main character, Detective Chief Inspector Morse, drove a 1960 Regency red Jaguar Mark 2. Thanks to the advanced Jaguar XK6 I6 engine, the Mark 2 was considered to be a perfect manifestation of William Lyon’s advertising slogan, “Grace…Space…Pace”. Additionally, the car could fit around 5 adults and had a stylish wooden and leather interior. [6]
  2. Jaguar buys the Daimler Motor Company – In 1960, Jaguar purchased the Daimler Motor Company which was a British automobile manufacturer that specialized in producing fleetline buses, closed and open-drive limousines, lorries, and trucks. For a whopping £3.4 million, Jaguar expressed its interest in acquiring the Daimler to gain ownership over their profitable bus and commercial vehicles. They also took the opportunity to expand their production facilities using Daimler’s existing area and gain access to the V8 engine that powered the Daimler SP250 sports car and the Majestic Major saloon. [7]

After its purchase, Jaguar helped Daimler become the second largest producer of public vehicles next to Leyland Motors. Jaguar then re-engineered some of its models to fit the brand’s standards,  but still using the Daimler name. This included the Daimler 2.5 V8 and the Daimler Double Six which were based on Jaguar’s saloon cars. [7]

  1. Jaguar merges with British Motor Corporation – While Jaguar experienced a long period of success since its foundation, it also faced a huge dilemma after its steel supplier, the Pressed Steel Company Limited, was sold out to another company. Fearing for the future of Jaguar, William Lyons ensured the extension of the company’s life by merging with the British Motor Corporation, thus being renamed to British Motor Holdings in 1965. [2] However, because of financial difficulties, BMH was forced by the government to become nationalized and was renamed to British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). Meanwhile, Jaguar was let off and it became an independent company again in 1984. 

Fortunately, Jaguar got up on its feet and continued production with the leadership of Sir John Egan, the chief executive and chairman of Jaguar at the time, and made decisions to save the company. He addressed issues in quality control, delayed delivery schedules, and poor productivity, but had to lay off around 10,000 employees just to cut costs. [8]

  1. Ford buys Jaguar – In 1999, Ford bought Jaguar in an attempt to remake and mass-produce  their cars and have them sold for around $30,000 to $40,000.[9] With this, they released the Jaguar S-Type (1999) and X-Type (2001). However, it didn’t become as successful as expected and Ford lost billions of dollars in investments. Miraculously, the company survived after introducing models such as the Ford XJ6 and XK8. However, efforts to gain profit from the Jaguar models including the S-Type and X-Type were still unsuccessful since they both shared a platform with the Ford Lincoln LS and Mondeo/Contour. By 2008, Ford decided to sell both Jaguar and Land Rover for $2.3 billion to Indian automotive manufacturer, Tata Motors, after suffering from a $15 billion loss in the past two years. [9]

Jaguar cars in the Modern Era

 

After Tata Motors acquired both Jaguar and Land Rover in 2008, they merged the two and established the Jaguar Land Rover Limited as a company subsidiary. In the modern era, the Jaguar lineup has received a total upgrade after JLR announced its electrification programme wherein all models will be equipped with a fully electric or hybrid powertrain option. With this, they produced a plug-in hybrid model in 2018 – the Jaguar I-Pace which is JLR’s first electric car. The car has a top speed of 124 mph and has a charging time of 85 minutes using a 50 kW charger, and 45 minutes with a 100 kW charger. Its design and engine performance gained recognition in March 2019 as  the European Car of the Year, World Car of the Year Award in April 2019, as well as bagging the  Best Design and Best Green Car awards. [10]

Other Jaguar Car models that are still in production include the following:

  1. Jaguar XF (2007) – an executive and estate/station wagon car
  2. Jaguar F-Type (2013) – a sports car
  3. Jaguar XE (2014) – a compact executive car
  4. Jaguar F-Pace (2016) – a compact luxury crossover SUV
  5. Jaguar E-Pace (2017) – a sub-compact luxury SUV

References

[1]  Jaguar SS 100 (1936) – pictures, information & specs – netcarshow.com. (n.d.). Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://www.netcarshow.com/jaguar/1936-ss_100/

[2] Our history – jaguar heritage: Jaguar USA. Our History – Jaguar Heritage | Jaguar USA. (2023). Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://www.jaguarusa.com/about-jaguar/heritage/index.html

[3] Sports Car Digest. (2022, August 21). Jaguar XK120 – World’s Fastest Production Car of the early 50s [review]. Sports Car Digest. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://sportscardigest.com/jaguar-xk-120/

[4] Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, January 24). Jaguar E-Type. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguar_E-Type

[5] Miller, N. (2022, May 19). Famous jaguar models list. Discovery UK. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://www.discoveryuk.com/motoring/jaguar-models-list-top-10-most-famous-jaguars/

[6]  Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, January 31). Jaguar mark 2. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguar_Mark_2

[7] Bell, M. (2020, February 10). Daimler – the jaguar Years. Classics World. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://classicsworld.co.uk/news/daimler-the-jaguar-years/

[8] Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, January 24). Jaguar Cars. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguar_Cars

[9] Printz, L. (2021, November 13). The Rearview Mirror: Jaguar becomes a Ford subsidiary. The Detroit Bureau. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://www.thedetroitbureau.com/2021/11/the-rearview-mirror-jaguar-becomes-a-ford-subsidiary/

[10] Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, January 28). Jaguar I-Pace. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaguar_I-Pace