Jaguar History – What is the Story behind the Jaguar Cars?

Jaguar History - What is the Story behind the Jaguar Cars?
Jaguar has long been the quintessential British luxury brand, an icon of old world sophistication and elegance. Jaguar is able to draw on a long and impressive history in order to give the current lineup the sort of heritage that other brands either don’t have, or haven’t been as successful in drawing from. To really understand Jaguar as a brand, more so than most other brands, you really have to dig into the history. So we put together a guide to the history of Jaguar, where it’s been, where it’s going, and how the current line-up is simply a continuation of the epic story of Jaguar.

1937 SS Jaguar

Jaguar Early Years

Jaguar didn’t start out as a car company, it didn’t even start out with the name Jaguar. First founded in 1922 as the Swallow Sidecar Company, the work was focused, as you can probably guess from the name, on building motorcycle sidecars. The business grew quickly, and by 1930, the company had expanded into coachbuilding for cars as well, prompting a name change to Swallow Coachbuilding Company. The transition from coachbuilder to a fully realized carmaker happened quickly as well, along with another name change to SS Cars in 1934. It was in 1936 that SS Cars debuted its latest model, the Jaguar, a car that so perfectly embodied what the company was aiming to achieve,that it would eventually take over as the brand name.

As was the case with most car companies in the world at the time, SS Cars production shut down because of the Second World War, in 1940. When production started back up in 1945, it was decided that a name change was in order, and Jaguar Cars Limited was born.

1948 Jaguar XK120

Postwar Period

Following the war, Jaguar decided to place a greater emphasis on sports cars. And not just “any” sports cars – groundbreaking sports cars. This started with the iconic XK120 in 1948. With its top speed of 133 mph, the XK120 was the fastest production car in the world at the time of its debut. Jaguar decided to take the XK120 racing, and in 1951 it grabbed Jaguar’s first-ever win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Jaguar would become the dominant manufacturer at Le Mans through the 50s, taking five overall wins, more than any other manufacturer in that decade. The first win came from an XK120C, and the second win from an evolution of that model called the C-Type. This would evolve into the D-Type, which won in 1955, 1956, and 1957. For the 1957 win, Jaguar took five of the first six places, including 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

Jaguar E-Type
The follow-up to Jaguar’s wins at Le Mans was the legendarily cool E-Type, a road car that took what Jaguar had learned from racing and made it into a comfortable and effortlessly stylish sports car. This served as a halo model, and Jaguar during this period was selling so many cars that it became necessary to rely on third-party coachbuilders to supply the bodies for these cars, as demand was simply too high for Jaguar to keep up otherwise.

Jaguar XJ6

Changes In Ownership

Jaguar was acquired by British Motor Holdings in 1966, which would become British Leyland in 1968, and the focus would shift to large luxury sedans with big, powerful engines, like the Mark X and the V12-powered XJ. British Leyland fell apart in 1984, but Jaguar was able to break away and once again become an independent company. It wasn’t long before the company was back racing, and Jaguar grabbed two more wins at Le Mans in 1988 and 1990, making it one of the winningest marques to have ever competed in this especially grueling race, beating longtime competitors like BMW and Mercedes-Benz. And just like in the 50s and 60s, Jaguar followed up those wins with a new supercar, the XJ220. With its top speed of 210 mph, the XJ220 was the second Jaguar to hold the title of world’s fastest production car.

Jaguar XJ220
Jaguar was acquired by Ford in 1990, which provided an infusion of cash and manufacturing infrastructure that allowed Jaguar to update and expand its lineup, buoyed by the halo effect of the XJ220 supercar. Ford would eventually acquire Land Rover as well, but sold both brands to Tata in 2008. In 2013, Jaguar and Land Rover would together split off from Tata and become Jaguar Land Rover, which brings us to today.

Jaguar I-PACE Race Car

Jaguar Today And Beyond

Today, Jaguar continues the tradition of offering exciting and luxurious models that serve as the standard for luxury in their segments. Racing remains an important part of the brand’s identity, and as Jaguar begins its transition to an all-electric exotic brand, the racing efforts have been focused on Formula E. This is the highest tier of racing for electric vehicles, and the lessons learned by Jaguar in Formula E will make their way to future electric models just like they did for the gasoline-powered E-Type and the XJ220. And given the absolutely legendary status of those cars, the future of Jaguar road cars looks incredibly exciting indeed.