1936 Jaguar SS1. Click image to enlarge
Article and photo by Bill Vance
The British marque, Jaguar, has a long and storied past that includes such outstanding models as the SS 100, XK120 and E-Type sports cars, C- and D-Type Le Mans winning racers, and the beautiful Mark II and later sedans.
Jaguar was an independent company until the 1960s when it merged with the British Motor Corporation which become British Motor Holdings, and in 1968, British Leyland Motor Corporation. It was nationalized in 1975.
Jaguar finally broke away from the nationalized bureaucracy to become independent again in 1984. Its ownership journey was not complete, however, and Jaguar was purchased by the Ford Motor Company in 1989 and became part of that company’s Premium Automotive Group.
But even that wasn’t the end of it. In 2008, in an ironic twist of British Empire fate, Jaguar was purchased by India’s Tata Motors. Thankfully, Chairman Ratan Tata has promised that Tata will not interfere with the mystique of this grand British marque.
The Jaguar company had grown from humble roots. In 1922, a couple of young motorcycle enthusiasts named William Walmsley and William Lyons formed the Swallow Sidecar Company. In their small shop in Blackpool, England they produced a stylish aluminum-clad, zeppelin-shaped motorcycle sidecar.
The Swallow sidecar was a good product and by the late 1920s Walmsley and Lyons had progressed to fabricating stylish open and closed bodies for the tiny Austin Seven, and later for Standards, Swifts, Fiats, Morrises and Wolseleys. They relocated to Coventry in 1928 where they renamed their enterprise Swallow Coachbuilding Company, and then in 1934 to reflect its venture into manufacturing cars it became S.S. Cars Ltd. It was renamed Jaguar Cars Ltd. after the Second World War.
In the early 1930s, Swallow Coachbuilding Company started building its own SS cars using Standard Motor Company chassis and engines. They were stylish machines emphasizing imaginative styling and low-slung lines. The first SS I, introduced in 1931, was based on the Standard 16 and was a signal that S.S. Cars was on its way as an automobile manufacturer. The SS 1 had Standard’s 2.0-litre, side-valve six, the beginning of the company’s preference for six-cylinder engines.
The SS I’s dramatic styling had a long louvered hood, front cycle fenders, Rudge-Whitworth centre-lock wire wheels, no running boards and a rear-mounted continental spare tire. What we would now call a two-plus-two, it accommodated two adults in front and two children in the rear.