Jaguar SS1

Actually it wasn't a Jaguar at all. The SS1 was built by the Swallow Coachbuilding Company which eventually changed its name to Jaguar Cars Ltd.

William Lyons and William Walmsley formed the Swallow Side Car Company and started creating those uncomfortable sidecars that were bolted to motorbikes back in 1922, although to be fair the ones that they created were far more stylish and comfortable than most. They eventually graduated to building cars, the first one of which was based (as so many others were at the time) on the Austin Seven. This was called the 'Swallow' and from then on the company was known as the Swallow Coach Building Company under the ownership of SS Cars Ltd. Such convoluted changes of name and ownership were quite common at the start of the nascent motor industry.

By the beginning of the 1930s Lyons had decided that he would like to build an affordable (at least relatively speaking) sporty coupe; and an attractive one to boot. He commissioned the old established (and still existing) engineering company of Rubery Owen to create the chassis and the engine was to come from the Standard 16. This was a reliable six cylinder side valve engine which was available in either 2 litre or 2.5 litre format. A coachbuilder named Cyril Holland was brought in to design the bodywork and the result was a very popular two seater coupe or tourer which was introduced in 1931.

Lyons hated it. When it was first produced he was in hospital. He has had his own ideas about the design and the roofline that he had fixed upon was so low that anyone of even average height would have been unable to sit inside the car! Walmsley had it raised but when Lyons came out of hospital he literally hit the roof! Several revisions followed until he was satisfied and the car went on to be very successful for it's day with 148 built by 1936.

The SS1 was perhaps, as many critics claimed, 'more show than go'; top speed was around 75 mph and acceleration figures from nought to 60 were never recorded but they cannot have been terribly impressive . However it was low-priced, a good looker and well built so it was generally considered to be good value for money.

A number of other 'SS' cars were produced with more powerful engines but after World War II that name had unfortunate connotations so it was decided to drop it completely and go with the name 'Jaguar' which is one which had been used for a sports model in 1936. The rest is history.

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