Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420
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Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420

James Taylor

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eBook - ePub

Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420

James Taylor

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About This Book

A history of all four generations of compact Jaguar, and their Daimler equivalents, tracing the gradual development of Sir William Lyons' original idea over a period between 1955 and 1969. From the powerful, luxury MK 1 and 2 cars to the 4.2-litre 420, this book covers design, development and styling; special-bodied variants; racing performance; buying and owning a compact Jaguar saloon model and, finally, specifications and production figures. This history of all four generations of compact Jaguar and their Daimler equivalents manufactured between 1955 to 1969 will be of great interest to all motoring and Jaguar enthusiasts. Topics covered include buying and owning a Jaguar saloon model; design, development and styling; the cars' competition successes and rare special-bodied models. Superbly illustrated with 208 colour photographs.

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When Jaguar introduced their new compact saloons in 1955, the company was enjoying an unprecedented wave of success. Most important in that success had been the US market, where the marque had been able to exploit the postwar fascination for European cars that would also make the fortunes of MG, Triumph and others.
To a considerable extent, that success helped to shape the basic parameters of the new compact saloons. Despite the radically new (for Jaguar) engineering that went into them, they had to conform to public expectations of the Jaguar marque. And those public expectations were inordinately high in 1955.
Jaguar’s range for the year that preceded the compacts’ introduction consisted of two basic models. One was the Mk VIIM saloon and the other was the XK120 sports car, available in either open or closed forms. The Mk VIIM was a large luxury saloon, offering spacious accommodation with a traditionally British wood and leather interior, while the XK120 was a stylish and charismatic two-seater. In many respects, they were as different as chalk and cheese and yet they had three very important factors in common: pricing, performance and good looks. It was these three characteristics that defined the Jaguar marque for the motoring public of 1955.
Looking positively benign as an older man in the 1950s, William Lyons (who would be knighted in 1956) still had a keen eye for a good shape.
The 1948 XK120 sports model was an oustanding success for Jaguar and was the first production car to have the company’s own XK engine. The curvaceous shape was superb, as this photograph shows, and the wheel spats are a very modern touch.
It had always been Jaguar’s policy to keep prices as low as possible, both in order to undercut competitors and to promote an image of value for money. In this, the Mk VIIM and XK120 were fully representative of the Jaguar tradition. The Mk VIIM was essentially a ‘poor man’s Bentley’, and in 1954 its basic retail price, inclusive of taxes, was £1,616. The cheapest Bentley then available cost around three times as much. As for the XK120, which was similarly priced, its most obvious rivals came from the likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin, and all of them were vastly more expensive than the Jaguar.
High performance was also a Jaguar trademark, and the company had furthered its image in that field with a spectacular series of successes in international motor sport during the early 1950s. First had come the C-type sports racers (strictly known as XK120C models), which had won the Le Mans 24-Hours road race in 1951 and again in 1953. Then in 1954 had come the D-type, which won at Le Mans in the early summer of 1955. But perhaps the most important aspect of these and other sporting victories, as far as Jaguar customers were concerned, was that the sports racers depended on race-tuned derivatives of the same engine that powered both the Mk VIIM saloons and the XK120 sports cars.
That engine – the XK twin overhead camshaft 6-cylinder – had first appeared in 1948 and would not finally go out of production until more than forty years later. In road-going 3.4-litre form, it endowed the big Mk VIIM saloon with a top speed of 103mph (165km/h) while the XK120 laid claim to 120mph (193km/h) or more. For the early 1950s, this kind of performance was the stuff of which dreams were made: the average family saloon of the time struggled to reach 70mph (112km/h).
Both the XK120 and the Mk VIIM (announced as a Mk VII in 1950 and newly updated in 1954) were strikingly styled cars. Bulky though it undoubtedly was, the saloon looked elegant thanks to its graceful curves and sweeping wing-lines. It had a special sort of presence that was lacking in other saloons of its day, and when parked alongside the rather upright Bentleys and Armstrong Siddeleys of the early 1950s, it appeared low and streamlined. By contrast, it looked upright and traditional next to contemporary American machinery, but that very conservatism (a distinctly British characteristic) distinguished it from the crowd and endeared it to discerning Americans.
As for the XK120, its long and low lines – reminiscent of the sleek pre-war BMW sports cars – stood out in any company. Once again, graceful curves and sweeping wing-lines were the distinguishing features, and the Jaguar could hold its head up in the company of any fashionable Italian exotics from the styling houses of Pininfarina, Vignale, Touring or Zagato. Across the Atlantic, the only additional competition for the XK120 came from the Chevrolet Corvette, which at this stage did not have the attractive lines for which the marque would later become known.
Styling more than any other factor was essential to Jaguar’s roots. Back in the early 1920s, William Walmsley had moved his small motorcycle sidecar business from Stockport to Blackpool where he had met and entered into partnership with the younger William Lyons. Walmsley’s sidecars were notable for their elegant design, and the enthusiastic Lyons, who had served an apprenticeship with Crossley Motors in Manchester before joining the sales staff of a Sunbeam dealership in Blackpool, developed his eye for a good line from Walmsley’s example. In 1922 they jointly formed the Swallow Sidecar Company, and their business was so successful that they were able as early as 1927 to branch out into making car bodies.
William Lyons was a keen motorcyclist in his youth. This photograph shows him in the 1920s astride a Harley-Davidson registered in his native town of Blackpool.
These car bodies had styling that was as distinctive and elegant as the sidecars, but Swallow stuck to a policy of offering bodies for relatively cheap cars. So, while many coachbuilders preferred to work on the grand luxury chassis whenever they could, Swallow instead provided special coachwork for possibly the most mundane chassis of them all, the little Austin Seven. This made their cars attractive to the customer who could not afford an expensive luxury car but nevertheless wanted something that stood out from the crowd of everyday models. The origins of the market positioning that Jaguar cars would later adopt probably lay in this early experience.
The Swallow sidecars had a distinctive elegance about them and soon gained a good reputation.
The next stage was a move into car bodywork. This 1929 advertisement is for the Austin Swallow – based on a cheap everyday chassis but adding an element of style not otherwise available.
There were closed bodies by Swallow, too. This is a 1931 example, again on an Austin chassis, and shows the two-tone paintwork and V-screen typical of the breed. SANDRA FAUCONNIER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
One important factor in Swallow’s success was pricing, and by adopting quite sophisticated production processes the company was able to minimize the cost of making its bodies. So it was that, when the growth of their business forced them to seek larger premises, Walmsley and Lyons looked carefully at how best to use this new opportunity to minimize costs further. One overhead they had been unable to control was the cost of transporting chassis to Blackpool from the Midlands heart of the motor industry; and they had already recognized that it was easier to recruit skilled staff in the Midlands than in Blackpool. The solution was therefore obvious: Swallow would move to the Midlands. And so the company moved to premises at Holbrook Lane, in Coventry’s Foleshill district, in the autumn of 1928.
Expansion continued. Lyons introduced further new production methods and before Christmas 1928 had pushed the rate of production up from twelve car bodies a week to fifty. The sidecar activities meanwhile continued. In 1929, Swallow took a stand at the Olympia Motor Show, and that year they also began to work on a wider range of chassis, including Fiat, Swift and – most notably – Standard. From early 1931 there were Swallow bodies for the Wolseley Hornet with its pioneering ‘small six’ engine, too. In all cases, their combination of attractive lines and striking paintwork completely transformed the perpendicular look of the originals, and created cars that were genuinely different from others available in Britain. Mechanically, however, they were unmodified. The next logical step was for Swallow to start building cars that were mechanically as well as bodily different from anything that could be bought elsewhere, and in 1931 they took that step.
The second-series SS 1 coupé introduced for 1933 had much better-balanced lines than the earlier model of the same name. Those are of course dummy hood irons; rear-seat passengers could not see much out of the car!
The new models that Swallow announced in October 1931 are often described as the company’s first complete cars, although to call them that is really overstating the case. Standard, content with the special bodies Swallow had been offering on their chassis since 1929, had agreed to supply Swallow with their 16hp (2-litre) and 20hp (2.5-litre) 6-cylinder engines, fitted at the Standard works into a special chassis designed to meet Swallow’s requirements. The key to this chassis was that it was much lower than those normally fitted to saloons of the period, which enabled Swallow to clothe it with rakish new sporting bodywork.
It was William Lyons, always the front man at Swallow, who had secured Standard’s agreement, and it was he who had persuaded them to allow the new car to be badged as an SS. Those letters probably stood for Standard Swallow, but their real significance was that Swallow now had a marque of their own. The SS1, as the 6-cylinder car was called, went on sale in 1932, and was then accompanied by a much smaller new model based on the Standard Little Nine chassis with its 4-cylinder 1-litre engine. Even though this was more in the vein of Swallow’s earlier rebodying efforts, it was also badged as an SS – in fact as an SS2 – and this development made fairly clear what Swallow’s next move was likely to be.
The company name had already changed twice, the original Swallow Sidecar Company becoming the Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Company in 1926 and then the Swallow Coachbuilding Company a year later. From October 1930 it had become a limited company and now it was only a matter of time before the name changed yet again to reflect the nature of the new business. In 1933 Lyons and Walmsley set up a new company with the name of SS Cars Ltd and at the end of July 1934 they purchased Swallow.
The SS Jaguars were based on Standard running-gear, but had low-slung and stylish bodywork. This 1935 example was photographed at the Salon Privé event at Syon Park in 2014.
From then on, Lyons’ primary objective was to establish the company as a credible builder of complete cars. Styling remained important and the later SS models were offered with a variety of attractive bodies. Road performance to match that styling was also important. SS improved t...

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Citation styles for Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420
APA 6 Citation
Taylor, J. (2016). Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420 ([edition unavailable]). The Crowood Press. Retrieved from (Original work published 2016)
Chicago Citation
Taylor, James. (2016) 2016. Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420. [Edition unavailable]. The Crowood Press.
Harvard Citation
Taylor, J. (2016) Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420. [edition unavailable]. The Crowood Press. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Taylor, James. Jaguar Mks 1 and 2, S-Type and 420. [edition unavailable]. The Crowood Press, 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.