|JAGUAR XK HISTORY
||Originally conceived as a stop-gap project, the Jaguar XK went on to become one of the most glamorous and successful of all British postwar sports cars. The magnificent twin-cam
Swallow Sidecar Company was formed in Blackpool by William Lyons, on his 21st Birthday on the 4th September 1922, with the nine year older William Walmsley as his equal partner. The company was formed with a bank overdraft of £1000 guaranteed by their respective fathers. The company was to produce sidecars for motorcycles, a follow-on of Walmsleys previous line of reconditoned war-surplus Triumph motorcycles and fitting of sidecars.
In spite of the economic stagnation of the early 20's the company bloomed and had their first stand at the 1923 Motorcycle Show. In 1926 the growth was sufficient to enable the company to move into larger premises at Cocker Street and change the name of the company to "Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding. "The transformation from William Lyons' first Swallow sidecar, made in 1922 in company with William Walmsley, to the Jaguar and the superb XK engines, is one of the fairy tales of the automobile industry. From modest beginnings in Blackpool, they progressed after 1927 to making custom bodies (for Austin, Morris, Fiat, Standard, Swift, and Woseley).
Three years later the SS car appeared; the letters have been translated as "Standard Swallow" or "Swallow Sports," but they are not in fact an abbreviation. The make was based on a specially built Standard chassis, with sporting body lines, but had a quite modest performance.The name of "Jaguar" appeared for the first time in the autumn of 1935. The saloons and drop-head coupes, along with the SS100 sold for £445, could just reach the magic 100mph, and accelerate from rest to 60mph in about 10.5 seconds. Not surprisingly, this performance led several owners to use the cars in competitions. Most notable successes were gained in rallies. Every Jaguar ever built has had sporting pretensions.
In 1936 the first SS Jaguar model was introduced; in 1945 the meaningless and perhaps slightly sinister initials were dropped. With the XK engines on which chief engineer W.M. Heynes had been working during the war years, Jaguar Cars Ltd. occupied a new place in the world market after 1948 to present day.
In 1948 at the Earls Court Motor Show, Jaguar startled the world by launching the sensational new XK120 Roadster, whose implied top speed of 120mph made it the world's fastest production car of the day. The new car was an instant success and set unmatched standards, at the time, for high performance, a supple ride, roadholding, styling, practicality, and amazing value for money. The new 3.4-liter engine developed 160hp, and could propel the XK120 up to 60mph in less than 10 seconds. All this was available (after a long wait) for a mere £1298.
In 1951 the XK120 Fixed Head Coupe was launched at the Geneva Motor Show, having a shape rather reminiscent of certain late-1930s Bugattis. Because it was rather more civilized than the Roadster, it made an excellent long-distance touring car. The interior was altogether better trimmed, and there was a veneer-trimmed dashboard, and wind-up door windows.
In 1953 a third variation on the XK120 theme was introduced, this being the XK120 Drophead Coupe, it had all the refinements of the Fixed Head model, but was fitted with a fully-trimmed, convertible hood. In production terms this was the rarest of the 120s only 1765 being produced, compared with 7612 Roadsters and 2678 Fixed Heads.
In October 1954, the XK140 took over directly from the 120, though remaining closely based on that design. Changes included the moving forward of the engine in the chassis, to allow the cockpit to be enlarged, the increasing of power to 190hp, and the fitment of rack-and-pinion steering. The price of the Roadster had risen to £1598. External style changes included the fitment of larger bumpers, a cast grill, and extra chrome decoration on bonnet and bootlid. The Drophead and Fixed Head models now had space for two tiny occasional seats, suitable only for carrying children.