The Good Oil: Lyons and Jaguars
Search Driven for Jaguar for sale
What would Sir William Lyons think of Jaguar’s decision to go pure-electric by 2025? For the most part you’d have to think he would approve, because he was never shy about reinventing the car company he created.
When Lyons founded Jaguar with friend William Walmsley in 1922, it focused on stylish motorcycle sidecars under the brand Swallow Sidecars (SS). It later made coachbuilt vehicles and in 1933 became SS Cars Limited.
Lyons was known as something of an autocrat and by 1935, when the first “SS Cars Jaguar” model was launched, Walmsley had left the company. It worked mostly on aircraft manufacture and repair during the Second World War, and in 1945 Lyons dropped the “SS” name for obvious reasons. He renamed the company “Jaguar”.
And then it was all on. During the war the engineering team had also continued with development of a new engine, XK, that was ready for production in 1948. The XK120 sports car was an instant icon and the same core powerplant was used until the 1970s.
Lyons was not a designer or engineer, but he oversaw, contributed to and personally signed off every new Jaguar model during his tenure.
He made another big call in 1966 by merging Jaguar with British Motor Corporation (BMC), which later morphed into British Leyland (BL). Not a brilliant period in hindsight, but a bold move nonetheless.
Lyons might be a bit miffed at Jaguar’s recent decision to cancel the new pure-electric XJ, a project which was 90 per cent finished but seems to have fallen victim to manufacturing logistics: it was based on the larger Land Rover MLA platform rather than the smaller EMA underpinnings of future Jaguar BEVs, and there simply wasn’t the factory capacity to build it.
A shame, because a BEV XJ to rival the Tesla Model S and Mercedes-Benz EQS could have been an awesome flagship for a reborn Jaguar; but presumably the company has other sporty and/or luxurious BEV surprises up its sleeve.
The original XJ of 1968 was of course a watershed model for Jaguar and a groundbreaking car for the luxury market. It was also the very last car signed off by Lyons, before his retirement in 1967.