Jaguar Enthusiasts Club

The Birth of a Legend

From Sidecars to the Iconic Cars

The 1920s

After the war, motorcycles became more affordable, and William Lyons' dream came true: he bought a cheap Norton motorcycle, which was called an "oil bath" because oil was pouring from everywhere. At the same time, Lyons met William Walmsley: his polished aluminum stroller attracted the attention of a 20-year-old neighbor who bought it and was delighted with the idea. The young Lyons had two traits that remained his greatest qualities for the next 50 years: having business acumen and foresight, he immediately recognized the profitable commercial opportunity that was opening up, and his sense of style helped to correctly appreciate the attractive appearance of these, in principle, ordinary creations. He foresaw the wide potential opportunities that would open up if production was properly organized, ensuring its viability. Lyons ended up offering Walmsley a partnership.

Swallow Sidecar

In September 1922, after William Lyons came of age, the friends decided to set up a business and, with the support and blessing of their fathers, they took out a £500 bank loan to start a motorcycle sidecar company, Swallow Sidecar (abbreviated as SS). It got its name from the name of the owner of the garage where the first strollers were built, and since Swallow means “swallow” in English, this nimble bird has become their emblem. Very stylish aluminum strollers Swallow immediately attracted the attention of motorists. The partners purchased modest real estate on the second and third floors of the building, in which production was launched by a small number of workers. As a sales assistant, the partners hired a young Arthur Whittaker, but he excelled in purchasing. Subsequently, Whittaker would work for the company for about 50 years, becoming one of the most forward-thinking professionals in his industry. Model 1 octagonal motorized strollers, for the first time aluminum was used for the production, became more and more popular in the market, as a result, their production developed rapidly, which led to the growth of the company, which in 1927, in addition to the production of sidecars, mastered the production of car bodies on third-party chassis.

The first Swallow factory

The first Swallow factory

Austin Swallow

In 1927, Herbert Austin presented his brainchild - the famous car Austin Seven. The miniature Sevens were cheap, easy to drive, reasonably reliable and mass-produced, but they lacked personality. This is what the talented and enterprising William Lyons took advantage of: deciding not to stop there. Having made enough capital in the wheelchair business, in 1927 he decided to try his hand in a new direction - the production of Swallow car bodies on the Austin Seven chassis. The first achievement of the company in this area was the development of the Austin 7 car body, thanks to which the William Lyons company received an order for the manufacture of 500 similar bodies. Inexpensive "swallows" Austin Swallow, equipped with 2 and 4-seater original bodies, were in very good demand.

The Swallow Sidecar bodywork was beautiful and sleek, which boosted sales even though it was priced higher than the standard Austin. Orders for cars were constantly increasing, and Austin was unable to supply enough chassis, so Swallow began to purchase them from various manufacturers: Morris, Fiat, Swift, Wolseley and Standard (later became Swallow's main supplier). During the economic crisis, many had to lower their claims, but the Swallow models, which were copies of the style of the more extravagant and luxurious cars of the era, softened the blow and allowed the owners to "keep the mark". Details such as the exquisite hood and Ladies Companion Set elevated the Swallow above average. Sales of cars and strollers increased, and it was decided to move to the Midlands (Midlands), the traditional center of the British automotive industry. Thus, the young company "in full force" moved to Coventry.

Jaguar Models of this era
Jaguar History