History of SS & Jaguar

1921 in Blackpool lived a young man named William Walmsley, son of a coal merchant who had a serious interest in motorcycles but more unusually, sidecars, he had in fact made himself one in 1920 before the move to Blackpool.

William Lyons, Harley Davidson, Motorcycle, 1920s SS1 SS2 Jaguar
Photo of William Lyons on a Harley Davidson motorcycle in the 1920’s – Picture provided by Alan Crouch, author of SS1 & SS2 Cars ‘The Birth of the Jaguar Legend’.

Walmsley’s sidecar designs were quite radical for the day, coach built of octagonal shape and covered in polished sheet aluminium, the concept became popular amongst his peers and he started making a few for friends. This drew the attention of a neighbour’s son William Lyons, who then became a customer. Being such close neighbours and both having an interest in motorcycles, it was decided that they should create a partnership to manufacture the sidecars on a larger scale. The chosen name was the ‘Swallow Sidecar Company’ and by 1922 they had a small workforce in Bloomfield Rd. Blackpool.

The business grew quickly and in 1923 a Swallow Sidecar was exhibited at the Motor Cycle Show and all eyes were on them. George Brough of Brough Motorcycle Company, who was also showing at the event, was so impressed he ordered a number of side cars and in turn Lyons & Walmsley bought Brough’s superior motorcycles. At this time Brough’s were regarded as the best motor cycles you could buy.

1932 Jaguar SS1, Coupe, Chassis, George Brough, Motorcycle, Legend, Jaguar
1932 SS1 Coupe (Chassis 135183) The first owned by George Brough of motorcycle fame. Photo taken in David Davenport’s garden by Alan Crouch, Author of SS1 & SS2 Cars ‘The Birth of the Jaguar Legend’.

By 1926 the Swallow Sidecar Company needed a larger premises, this was found in Cocker Street, Blackpool at a former garage complex. The name was changed to the Swallow Sidecar & Coachbuilding Company for the new premises. One of the employees was a Mr Cyril Holland, a very experienced coach builder and the combination of his skills and William Lyons ideas, it was a natural progression to produce a complete car body. The car chosen was the Austin Seven as Lyons knew these well and had used an Austin chummy. In 1927, a new Austin chassis was acquired and new body made, soon after the new factory was producing a dozen a week. The little Austin was so well received that Henley’s Ltd placed an order for 500 of these really attractive little Swallows. The company again needed to expand and a moved to Foleshill, Coventry in 1928, once established other chassis were used even a Fiat along with Swift’s, Wolsley’s and Standards.

1931 was the year for big changes, the first car using the SS logo was produced. The car’s design was very radical for the time, very long and very low using Standard Car Company mechanics and a lowered standard chassis. The car had a choice of engines, a 16hp or 20hp six-cylinder standard, the body design looked amazing but unfortunately the performance really didn’t match its looks. The 1931 Motor Show was its first outing and caused quite a sensation, 1932 carried on production but in 1933 a much more elegant body was developed using a different chassis, longer wheel base and full-length wings. A full range of SS2 cars were also introduced again using the same Standard Car Company mechanics of a 10hp & 12hp four-cylinder engines, these again were very good-looking cars with a choice of many body styles and colours, many in two tone schemes.

1934 & 1935 saw much development and the company was certainly evolving but 1936 saw a total transformation of body styles and mechanical improvements including the Harry Weslake alterations from side valve to overhead. A new look four door saloon for the first time and of course the SS100 2.5 Litre sports car. A new design of the SS logo in a hexagon and incorporating the wings for the radiator motif. This was first launched at the Mayfair Hotel in London just before the 1935 Motor Show. The Jaguar range was also introduced for the newer models. These really were in my opinion the real SS Jaguars, good looks, good performance and nothing to match them for quality at the price quoted. The genuine forerunner to carry the Jaguar name.

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