The emergence of inexpensive and small mass-produced cars began cutting into the market share of the Swallow Sidecar Company. Lyons wanted a piece of this new market. He envisioned a more refined vehicle than what was, at that time, being offered. In due course their company sign read, “Swallow Side Car & Coach Building Co.” The company went on to produce small coach-built cars, using an Austin chassis and engine to create the Austin Seven Swallow. Although this vehicle was well received, Lyons aspired to design and build a car from the ground up. He hired a team of skilled engineers to realize his vision of a custom hand-built car, the first iteration of which was the S.S.1 in 1931. Continually seeking increased performance, Lyons instructed his engineers to design a more powerful engine for a subsequent line of cars named S.S. Jaguars. In 1933 the company name was changed to SS Cars, Ltd. The first “Jaguar” was offered in 1935.
With the retirement of William Walmsley, Lyons purchased 100% ownership and thus, control of the company. During World War II, the company primarily focused on war efforts. Vehicle production was switched to aircraft manufacture and repair. Engineering development, however, continued. Lyons and his team worked on a new engine which was to power his vision of a mass-produced sporting saloon car. After the war, Lyons changed the company name to Jaguar Cars Limited as, “unlike S.S., the name Jaguar is distinctive and cannot be connected or confused with any similar foreign name.”
In 1948, the XK engine was ready. It was launched in what Lyons and his team thought would be a one-off concept sports car, the XK120, for the purpose of drawing attention to the new XK engine. The supposedly limited production model was shown at the first post-war London Motor Show in 1948. It became a global sensation. Americans ordered in quantity. The demand was so strong, however, as a result of the recent war, steel was in short supply. Production was slow, but Lyons pushed for a larger steel allocation. Once the XK120 was in production, Lyons again focused on vision and design.
Lyons had panels made to his specification that were then offered up to a mocked-up pattern already in place. As usual he looked at the way the light fell on the curves of the car; using string, wood and metal rods he would fine-tune the shape until he was happy. - Jaguar Heritage Trust