Cars To Dream About

No.10: Swallow SS1 (1932)

Swallow SS1 image

Jaguar Motors, builders of magnificent, luxury cars, first saw the light of day as the Swallow Sidecar Company when William Lyons and William Walmsley got together in 1922 to make sidecars which could be bolted onto the side of powerful motorbikes. They then moved on to larger premises in Blackpool where they repaired cars, painted them and renovated the upholstery and hoods. They soon added coach building, too, to their repertoire.

Car manufacture was the natural next step. First they took Austin Seven chassis and created a two seater sports car with an open body and detachable hardtop, and this proved very popular, so a saloon version was added. Increasing demand for their cars led to a move to larger premises in Coventry and then in 1932 the SS (Swallow Standard) range, with engines and chassis from the nearby Standard Motor Company, was introduced. The chosen engines were the Standard 16 pattern, which were available in either two litre or 2.5 litre format; and the chassis was designed by engineers Rubery Owen.

Top coachbuilder Cyril Holland created a low-slung, long bonnetted body for it and it was available initially as a four seater fixed head coupe. A tourer was added the following year.

The public loved it, especially since it was considered to be low-priced and excellent value for money, and Lyons loved it too. However, it had a serious drawback. The low-slung body was just too low for drivers of average height! Walmsley decided to raise it but he couldn't discuss it with Lyons who was having a lengthy stay in hospital, and who hated the sight of it when he first clapped eyes on what had become an ungainly looking vehicle.

Radical changes were made over the following year, including a wider and much lower chassis, before Lyons was completely satisfied with it's appearance. The SS1 was a runaway success, despite being relatively low powered (top speed was just around 75 mph) and cursed by dodgy brakes which needed constant adjustment.

Nevertheless, the car was a great success but the name, SS, had seriously bad connotations after World War II. It was decided to drop it, and substitute the name 'Jaguar' instead. The rest is history.

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