SS Jaguar and William Lyons - The Early Days

William Lyons

William Lyons, the founder of Jaguar cars pre-runner The Swallow Sidecar Company back in 1922 (where the SS came from), wanted to expand from manufacturing sidecars and start car production. They started to do so in the early thirties with a range of bought-in chassis and an engine from Standard but it was in 1935 that the first 'real' Jaguar appeared and was launched at the Mayfair Hotel in London. It was the SS Jaguar 2½-litre saloon. Very fast for its day with a top speed of almost 90 mph it also came with a low price tag of only £385.

The car was loved by all but lacked the power to really set it up in the prestige class that Lyons fancied running in. Then in the late thirties the car was revamped and the chassis and body construction updated and a new 3½- litre engine fitted. With 125 bhp available top speed now topped 90 mph and 0-50 mph was in 9 seconds, very fast for the day.

The sports car version, the Jaguar SS100, had the classic vintage sports car shape and with the 3½-litre engine was one of the fastest cars on the road, especially for the price of £445.

Jaguar SS100
Jaguar SS100

Lyons and the XK engines

By the time the Second World War started Lyons had built over 20,000 cars and during, and immediately after, the war years he designed the famous XK engine that was to largely power Jaguars for nearly half a century. The first test of a 3.2-litre 6-cylinder twin-cam version was in September 1947. It was quickly increased to 3.4-litres to improve torque output and later on (1954-ish) a short-stroke version was built at 2.4-litres. The engines which powered the new compact Jaguar saloons, the Jaguar Mark 1 and Jaguar Mark 2, also the Jaguar XK120, Jaguar XK140 and Jaguar XK150 and later the Jaguar E-type.

After the war the SS badging for the Jaguars was dropped due to the Nazi connotations.

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