Photos by Larry Nutson
After its beginnings as the Swallow Sidecar Company, Jaguar leapt onto the international racing scene in the 1950s, establishing itself as one of the greatest automotive marques in history. Thanks to the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia, a look at the progression of Jaguar from its beginning through to the 1970s brought us some wonderful images and insights.
Bill Lyons founded the Swallow Sidecar Company, first making sidecars for motorcycles and then car bodies. In the mid-1930s, Lyons decided to build complete cars, initially a sedan, then the SS-90, the 90 referring to a top speed of 90 mph. In 1936 came the SS-100, first with a 2.5-liter engine and later with a 3.5, which enabled the car to top out at 125 mph. Only 116 of the 3.5-L models were made between 1938 and 1940.
Rallying was a popular way to advertise cars and the SS-100 was successful in the Alpine Trials, the Monte Carlo Rally and the Royal Automobile Club Rally.
Following World War II, the SS nomenclature was for obvious reasons now inappropriate and the Jaguar brand was born. Of interesting note is that the name change was also due to Coventry, England having been heavily bombed by the German army during WWII.
Rallying gave way to track racing after the war and Jaguar competed in the international racing scene. The basic Jaguar engine continued for many years with dual overhead cams added to provide more horsepower. The C-type was the first production car to have disc brakes. More horsepower to go fast and good brakes to slow quickly before a turn made Jaguar successful on race tracks and the winner of the 1951 and 1953 LeMans race.
Shown in this Eye Candy are a 1938 Jaguar SS-100 3.5-L, which represents the classic pre-WWII rally car; a 1953 C-type that finished third in the 1953 Sebring 12-hour race; a 1956 D-type that also ran at Sebring, finishing third in 1956; and a 1971 XK-E 4.2-L.
Of interesting note for music fans, when the Simeone Museum bought the Jag D-type, the underbidder in the purchase was Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones who was quite miffed that he “Didn’t get no Satisfaction.”