Jaguar is a name that stands on solid ground when it comes to luxury car manufacturing. The British company, pronounced 'Jag-war' in North America and 'Jag-you-ahr' in the UK saw fit to name the brand after the fastest cat on the planet. It's agile and powerful and it's easy to draw the connection between animal and machine. Some of the richest celebrities and entrepreneurs in the world choose from their impressive lineup, which further boosts the desirability of ownership. Jaguar has a long and interesting history in the automotive business and here are twenty things that you didn't know about the brand.
1. Jaguar started as a motorcycle sidecar manufacturer
The Jaguar company began in 1922 by a pair of motorcycle enthusiasts who got into the motorcycle sidecar making business. The new business didn't even closely resemble what it has become today. William Lyons and William Walmsley established the Swallow Sidecar Company. The owners began with motorcycle accessory production which evolved over a short period of time to coachbuilding, and then made the transition to automobile manufacturing. This was quite an evolution, but it's a familiar story as many of the established automakers of today began making other items, including bicycles, scooters and so forth.
2. The first automobiles were manufactured under a different name
Just four years after founding the Swallow Sidecar Company, in 1926, the name of the company was changed to S.S. Cars Ltd. They were in the business of making upscale motorcycle sidecars, but they added partner John Blake who was from Standard Motor Company, and along with their new partner, they began coachbuilding. Their first vehicle was produced under the S.S. brand name. It was the SS 1 which was a 2 seat sports car that made its debut to the word at the 1929 London Motor Show. This is a fact in the history of Jaguar that not many people are aware of. An SS model is very rare, and although it may not bear the Jaguar brand name, it is still, very much a Jaguar.
3. The second model was produced in 1935
The second model made by S.S. Cars Ltd was the SS 90, which was also a 2 seat sports car. It was named the SS 90 because of its ability to reach a top speed of 90 mph, which was lightning fast in the mid-1930s era. Its no wonder that the company has such a solid reputation. They hit the ground running when it comes to sport and speed, and they haven't let up since. The SS90 became immensely popular with the public and this was all the encouragement that the automakers needed to push forward in their endeavors to produce more of what the public wanted. The company had only been producing automobiles since 1926 and they were just beginning to get their feet wet in the industry, but they saw an opportunity in a growing consumer market and pursued their endeavors in the hope that it would lead to bigger and better things. They were on a roll that would continue forward for decades.
4. The first SS Roadster came out in 1936 as the first real Jaguar
The SS 100 was the third model created by the S.S. Cars Ltd. company that would later change its name to Jaguar. This car was deeply inspired by its predecessor, the SS 90, but there were notable differences. The team began focusing on aesthetics with this model and it was named as the "most aesthetically pleasing" and was well received by the public. If you can get your hands on an SS 100, you're part of a small and elite group because only 314 of them were ever built. It's a rare collectible that was the first to sport the Jaguar mascot which was neatly placed on the radiator cap. This would become the signature for the automaker in the near future.
5. S.S. Cars Ltd changed its name to Jaguar Cars Limited after the Second World War
The name of the brand was too similar to the infamous SS of the Nazi regime. After WWII had ended, it became obvious that any unintended linkage with the Nazis would be detrimental to business, so the company had no choice but to change the name of the company for posterity. They decided that the name Jaguar would be a suitable brand name that could not possibly be confused for any foreign entity, plus it was distinctive and would easily set the company apart from its competitors. This would be a lucky break for the company with an infamous brand name. Little did they know at the time of the name change, that Jaguar would become an iconic brand with logos that are easily recognized if not revered by the masses throughout the entire planet.
6. Jaguar established the Mark IV as its flagship model in 1945
The Jaguar Mark IV was inspired by the SS models that were made between 1935 and 1940. The Mark IV was produced from 1945 through 1949 and it was offered in a variety of engine sizes that ranged from 1.5 liters to 3.5. This gave automobile enthusiasts options that were appreciated as the automobile market was beginning to grow at this time at a very fast rate. Customer demand began to be an issue that carmakers paid attention to because there were quite a few brands on the scene that were competing for the customers' attention and loyalty. The Mark IV is an important model in the history of Jaguar because it had such a huge appeal with consumers who were looking to invest in a high-end vehicle.
7. Jaguar produced the fastest car in the world in 1948
The Jaguar XK120 was released to the public in 1948. This vehicle was in many ways, their breakthrough model. It was widely known throughout the globe as the fastest car in the world at the time. It was a sports model that the brand had produced since the end of the SS 100 production in 1940. This roadster made its debut at the London Motor Show in 1948 and was just a testbed model at the time to show off the new Jaguar XK engine. The prototype was so well received that the company decided to put it into full production. The first models reached a speed of 100 mph and by 1950, it boasted a top speed of 120 mph.
8. Clark Gable was the first owner of the XK120
The first production example of the XK120 rolled off the manufacturing lines in 1949. The very first example that was made in the production run was on reserve for a person of some notoriety. Upon its completion, the new XK120 was delivered to American movie star and Hollywood icon Clark Gable. The two-seat sports car had a removable windscreen which gave it the ability to scream down the road at 120 mph with less resistance. This was a sensational bit of news in 1949 and it's a novel and historical fact that will forever be a part of the history of the Jaguar XK120 model.
9. Jaguar merged with the Daimler Motor Company in 1960
Daimler Motor Company was a famous automaker in Britain. We're not talking about the Daimler-Benz brand, but rather one that was as highly esteemed. Jaguar entered into negotiations with Daimler in 1950 as the brand made cars that were quite similar to Jaguars. It took ten years for the two automakers to work out the details of the merger, but they accomplished the feat in 1960, and the two companies became one under the Jaguar umbrella. This was a good move for both automakers because their similarity created an intense field of competition. The merging of the two into one company funneled more traffic into the showrooms and increased sales of Jaguar vehicles. Since Daimler had already established an excellent record for producing quality vehicles, there was little no concerns over the quality of materials and workmanship, nor about the anticipated performance of the vehicles.
10. William Lyons was knighted
William Lyons was one of the beginning founders of the Jaguar automobile brand. He joined the ranks of selected British elite by receiving this distinction. Lyons had been given the nickname of "Mr. Jaguar" because of his successes in taking the Swallow Sidecar Company and turning it into Jaguar Cars Unlimited. He was born in September of 1901 in Blackpool, United Kingdom. He was not only a famous automaker, he had also written several books including "Tales of Small Adventure," " God Quest: The Shaping of My life," "The Death Dealers" and "Joseph, Ruler of All Egypt." after the Jaguar XK-120 C type ravaged the tracks in motorsports, he was knighted by the Queen in 1955. Sir William Lyons passed away on February 8, 1985.
11. Jaguar has a crazy climate testing process
When an automaker claims that their vehicles undergo stringent testing, including climate, you may assume that the cars are simply tested during extreme weather conditions. That's not the case with Jaguar. Their system is totally radical. Jaguar wants to make certain that the vehicles they release into the public are going to start wherever they call home, even if it's in a region with freezing cold temperatures. Here's how it's done. They begin the climate testing process by placing a car into a very large freezer that is dialed down to a bone-chilling negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They leave it in the icebox for a full twelve hours. After the extreme cool down, the vehicle is moved onto a rolling road with a wind tunnel that features wind gusts that are zero degree temperatures and less, all the while with water hoses spraying frigid water on them. How's that for a stringent test?
12. They're picky about the leather for interiors
When Jaguar produces a high-end luxury car, they mean business. The company maintains a group of hide specialists that won't accept just any cowhide. They insist upon using Scottish Angus Bull hides for the XE. They never use cows because pregnancy in these animals can cause stretch marks to form in the hides. They use selected herds that are grown up north because there is less likely that there will be flying pests such as mosquitoes, to cause damage and flaws in the leather with their bites. The cattle in this elite group are grown in pastures or other areas where there is no barbed wire, and when the winters get cold, the cows must be sheltered indoors. How's this for picky?
13. The leather is specially designated
The process of choosing the leather continues forward with a thorough inspection of each hide. It must be without flaw, and the hide specialists carefully notate which area of the bull each piece comes from. This is because they are particular about making sure that the skin from the neck and the belly of the bull is made specifically for use on the doors and the dash. Their rationale is that these portions of the hide are ultra soft. When it comes to choosing leather for the seats, they're looking for a tougher and more durable cut. This is taken from the hide areas that cover the backbone and the rump of the animal. This is to ensure that the leather seats will hold up under the frequent use that they know these vehicles will be subject to because they're such a pleasure to drive.
14. The British Government placed a protection order on the brand
Under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, the British Government established a protective covenant for Jaguar Cars, that prevented the company from being absorbed by foreign companies. In 1984, they retained a fifty percent share protection measure for Jaguar Cars Ltd., that was referred to as a "golden share." The measure was kept in place until 1990 but was lifted at this time. As soon as the move was made to eliminate the golden share, the Ford and General Motors automakers engaged in a bidding war as ownership or holding majority shares in the Jaguar company was considered to be the brass ring in auto manufacturing.
15. Jaguar was sold to two foreign automakers
Most people are not aware of the fact that Jaguar was acquired by two different automakers. After a hard-won battle against General Motors of America, the Ford company purchased Jaguar Cars Ltd. with the winning bid being placed in 1990. What could have become a gold mine for Ford, sadly did not reach its full potential. The American company's acquisition of Jaguar didn't lead to anything spectacular and perhaps they had bitten off a little more than they could chew. Under the management of Ford, the new Jaguar division failed to turn a profit for the new owners. Ford, realizing that they were not going to profit from ownership of Jaguar, sold the shares it had acquired to Tata Motors, an Indian automobile company on January 1 of 2008.
16. A rock star is a designer for the XE
Wayne J. Burgess is the name of the man who designed the Jaguar XE. In case you're wondering what Burgess does in his spare time when he's not designing high-end luxury sports cars, he's busy playing in his metal band called Scattering Ashes. If you haven't heard of them, they're good enough to join bands like Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath at Festival events. Burgess divides his time between playing his Les Paul in practice sessions and on the stage at concerts while spending the rest of it eating, sleeping and helping to shape the future of the Jaguar company.
17. It takes a special environment to work on Jaguar design
When Wayne Burgess and other design experts at Jaguar are about the business of creation, the environment that they work in would absolutely blow your mind. It's commonly referred to as a virtual reality cave. A lot goes into automotive design, especially when the stakes are high with perfection and innovation being requirements of the job for each new product. The cave is fully equipped with eight 4K projectors that are of cinema quality, and two of each point at three walls and the ceiling. The system projects images of parts and concepts in 3D models with large displays that allow the designers to walk around, view and do a mock sit in session. This allows them to test the proportions and make any needed adjustments of the concepts prior to production. In fact, there were more than 43,000 renderings of the XJR concept made during the design phase of development. The virtual reality environment is saving Jaguar millions in the amount of time, effort and money that it would take to carve them out of clay or to use 3D printing that works at a slower pace.
18. Jaguar made its SUV as cool as Evel Knievel
When Jaguar first produced their F-Pace performance SUV, they wanted the world to be aware of the fact that this is not just another SUV, but rather, a special performance vehicle. They could have subjected it to a variety of alternative testing scenarios (and they did), but Jaguar decided that it would be a good idea to put their new SUV to the ultimate test and use it in a stunt test. They drove the SUV through a loop, and literally pulled off the Loop de Loop stunt with amazing success in celebration of the 80th birthday of the company. This stunt not only landed them in the Guinness world record book, it showcased the performance and lightweight features of the vehicle. As far as we know, Jaguar's not planning to make the Grand Canyon jump any time soon.
19. Jaguar built a special edition XKR-S for Nicko McBrain
If you're a heavy metal fan and are familiar with the members of the group, Iron Maiden, then you'll know who their drummer Nicko McBrain is. He and other members of the group are all big fans of Jaguar vehicles, but Nicko had the audacity, and obviously the pull to get himself a custom built XKR-S. Jaguar entertained his request and we believe that they must be fans of Iron Maiden because his wish was granted and the car was designed with decals that were crafted with the notorious font used in the Maiden logo in a beautiful metallic blue color. We're wondering if this amazing feat had something to do with his music connection to designer Wayne J. Burgess?
20. Jaguar is known as one of the strongest brands in motorsports
Jaguar established itself as a contender in motorsports as far back as the 1950s, and no pun intended, they've kept the pace. Their spectacular lineup of racing models made history and began racking up the racing achievements with the Jaguar XK-120C which won the 24 Hours of LeMans in the 1951-52 racing season. The same year, the Jaguar C type won the same race for three consecutive years from 1951 through 1953. It continued on with a trifecta win for the Jaguar D-type at Le Mans from 1954 through 1957. Jaguar wasn't finished with their impressive record at Le Mans because again in the 1963-4 season the Jaguar E-Type Lightweight achieved yet another victory at the race. They seemed to cool off a bit until the Jaguar XJR-5 surfaced in 1985, and took the win at Le Mans, then did it again in 1992. This ultra-fast racecar entered the World Sportscar Championship and won on three separate occasions.
The Jaguar XK220 was released in 1991 and it made history as the brand's very first supercar. It came at a high price tag of 413,000 in British pounds, establishing it as the most expensive as well as the fastest car in the history of Jaguar reaching a top speed of 217 mph. Jaguar's involvement in motorsports served to showcase not only the speed of the vehicles but also their efficiency, hence their decision to take on the 24 Hours of Le Mans challenges. They proved several points with the Jaguar C Type achieving the greatest success in motorsports, winning a variety of motorsports competitions to the tune of thirty-seven separate titles. It was just after the victory of the D-Type at Le Mans that the British public was moved and the Queen knighted the founder of the automaker, Sir William Lyons in 1955. Jags still hold a reputation for speed and agility.
Written by Garrett Parker
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