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The First Steps

Wait! The “SS” is Coming

The 1930s

Williams Lyons could not be content with just fitting bodies onto chassis that belonged to other manufacturers. This held back his creative aspirations, limiting his activities to the production of cars that were more lazy than sporty. To overcome these limitations, it was necessary to create their own chassis to match its goals. As a result, he contracted with the Standard Motor Company to produce Swallow-design chassis that were powered by standard engines. At the same time, Lyons, a forward-thinking publicist, was setting the stage.

WAIT! THE "SS" IS COMING said an advertisement in July 1931. “Two new coupes of exceptional beauty. SS is the new name for a new car that will shake the hearts of car enthusiasts and professionals alike. It will be something completely new…different…better!”. The SS1 and SS2 coupés, announced in this way, were presented at the London Motor Show in 1931 and, of course, made a sensation. The body was extremely low, and the hood was extremely long. According to the press, the car looked to be worth £1,000, although its modest price of £310 underlined Lyons' unique commercial ability.

SS 1

Lyons was obsessed with making his cars as low as possible. By pushing the engine further back in the chassis than was customary, and paralleling the leaf springs, Lyons was able to achieve a long, low sports car. The SS 2, which appeared at the same time and was doomed to remain in the shadow of the SS 1, was only a smaller version of the Standard Nine chassis. In July 1933, the SS1 Tourer joined the coupe. It was the first open SS model and was entered into serious competition for the first time. In 1933 a team of three Tourer cars entered the Alpine Rally on the European mainland, and the following year they greatly enhanced the SS's reputation by taking the team prize in this particularly tough competition. At the end of 1933, the small SS II was significantly improved with specially designed chassis, which added over a foot to the length of the wheelbase. At the same time, the front fenders were restyled to match the new styling of the larger model.

SS1 Airline

In the second half of 1934, William Walmsley, who did not share the ambitious plans of his partner and lost interest in the enterprise, broke off relations with Williams Lyons. Turning his attention to the mechanical integrity of the car, Lyons turned to Harry Weslake, an eminent consulting engineer specializing in engine development, who designed a new cylinder head for the Standard engines used in the company's cars. He formed a technical department and appointed the young William Haynes as chief engineer. For the next 35 years, Haynes held a leading role in the company. In 1935, the lineup was expanded with the addition of the SS I Airline sedan. This design was not one of Lyons' favorites, but the uniform was in vogue at the time and was in high demand.


The fruits of the work of Weslake and Haynes became apparent in no time when a new, very stylish sports car was introduced. Known as the SS 90, the model had a 2.7-litre side-valve engine, but performance again did not quite match the car's flashy looks. However, all this was soon to change: in 1935, the Jaguar name reappeared on the scene for the first time with an entirely new line of sedans and sports cars. William Haynes has been working on a completely new box section cruciform stretched chassis for a new, vastly improved range of models. At the same time, Weslake was busy improving the Standard engines: by using heads with an overhead valve, he was able to increase the power of the previous 2, 5-liter engine with side valves from 75 to 105 hp For the new chassis and engine block, Lyons created a new body style that is less flashy than previous models, but no less stylish.

SS 2.5 liter Saloon

Showing his characteristic ability to attract attention, Lyons organized a dinner at the Mayfair Hotel in London to present his new model to the press a few days before the 1935 motor show. The introduction of the 2.5 liter SS Jaguar sedan was accompanied by enthusiastic comments, and the assembled guests were invited to name the estimated cost of the car. The average price quoted was £632, while the actual price was only...£395! All earlier SS models were removed from the production din, with the exception of the Tourer body, which, having received a number of changes, became known as the SS100. The superb sports car design was re-introduced in the SS Jaguar 100: With a new chassis and engine, the company began producing cars to be proud of. For many, the SS 100 is a pre-war classic among sports cars. This model was designed to achieve significant results in competitions, both national and international.

The Second World War

During the war, the production of sidecars for military use increased to almost 10,000. At the same time, technologies for the production and design of aircraft were mastered, which later was of great importance in the design of automobile engines. Not surprisingly, in wartime, Coventry was a special target for bomb attacks, and special groups of people were formed to watch the tower in case of fire. On duty in one of these groups, Lyons, Haynes, Hessen and Claude Bailey made plans to create a new engine with which the company would become world famous. The first post-war years were not easy for British companies. Among other problems, there was a shortage of steel and foreign exchange. The government issued an official statement: "Export or die" and steel quotas were directly dependent on export activity; in other words: no export - no steel! First of all, however, it was necessary to resume production as soon as possible, and the best option was the re-introduction of the pre-war series.

Jaguar Models of this era
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