With a handful of employees, production commenced. Pioneering the use of aluminium, the very stylish sidecars were immediately popular and production expanded rapidly. Then in 1927 Herbert Austin introduced his baby car, the famous Austin Seven. Intended to bring motoring to the masses, the tiny Sevens were cheap, easy to drive, reliable, but lacked individuality.
Lyons saw another opportunity. He created a most stylish two-seater body which was mounted on the Austin Seven chassis. An order for 500 was obtained from one of the main London garages and production commenced. The splendid little Austin Seven Swallow proved most popular and the company introduced a Swallow body for the larger Morris Cowley chassis. The range then increased significantly with the introduction of the Austin Seven Swallow Saloon, late 1928. Such features as the polished radiator cowl and Ladies Companion Set elevated the Swallows above the average.
With sales of the cars and sidecars continuing to increase, it was decided to move to the Midlands, traditional heartland of the british motor industry. Thus, the young company was moved 'lock, stock and barrel' to Coventry. In 1931 the Standard 16 hp six-cylinder Enfield chassis received the Swallow treatment and this introduced the company to the 2054 cc sidevalve engine, which admirably suited Lyons and Walmsley's purpose for the next ambitious step forward. The Swallow company had now been in existence for a year short of a decade and it had been an exciting time of steady expansion and sound success. But the ambitious Lyons was far from satisfied and a further bold step forward was needed.
William Lyons was not content to merely build bodies on other people's chassis. This constrained his creative desires and equally restricted him to products which were stolid rather than sporting. He arranged for the Standard Motor Company to build a chassis to Swallow's design but fitted with Standard engines. The SS I and SS II Coupés were duly presented at the 1931 London Motor Show, and sensation they certainly caused. The body was ultra low and the bonnet outrageously long. It had, stated the press, the £1,000 look, yet was priced at a very modest £310.
Lyons was almost obsessive about making his cars as low as possible. By moving the engine further back in the chassis than was normal practice and by mounting the road springs alongside, Lyons was able to achieve this long, low, sporting appearance. In July 1933 the SS I Tourer joined the Coupé, and apart from being the first open SS model, the significance of the Tourers was that they were the first to be entered in a serious competitive event. A team of three Tourers were entered in the 1933 Alpine Trial in mainland Europe and the following year they enhanced the SS name very considerably, taking the team prize on this particularly tough event. And from then on the legacy of Jaguar remains.
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