The man who built Jaguar
Sir William Lyons shaped Jaguar into one of the world’s premier sports-car manufacturers and designed some of the most beautiful automobiles in history. Lyons was born in Blackpool, England in 1901. He was fascinated by motorcycles as a young man, and happened to live across the street from one William Walmsley, who owned a motorcycle sidecar company called Swallow. Lyons was impressed with his products, and would later join Walmsley as a business partner in 1922 at age 21. Lyons’ keen business sense helped the company expand into coach building. In 1927, they used an Austin chassis and engine to create a stunning two-seat automobile.
Though the car was well received, Lyons dreamed of designing and building his own cars from scratch. He began hiring skilled engineers to help him develop new products, the first of which was the S.S. 1 in 1931. Always seeking better performance, Lyons instructed his engineers to design a more powerful engine for a new line of cars called S.S. Jaguars. Following WWII, the company name was changed to Jaguar Cars, Ltd., and Lyons continued pushing for more powerful products. Wanting to create a car capable of going 100 mph, Lyons and his team developed a new inline-6 engine, which was installed in the ground-breaking Jaguar XK sports-car. The engine enabled the XK to not only reach 100 mph, but achieve 120 mph. The XK debuted in 1948 at the London Motor Show, and caught the attention of motoring enthusiasts all over the world.
The XK was extremely successful on the racetrack, scoring victories at Le Mans as well as other prestigious races, and helped Jaguar develop the C-type and D-type racecars. The feline-like shapes of those cars helped define Jaguar’s new look, and this design language was later applied to the Jaguar E-type, considered one of the greatest automobile designs of all time. In 1956, Queen Elizabeth granted Lyons knighthood. He would retire in 1972, but even in retirement, he would frequently visit the Jaguar factory, offering his advice to eager listeners. Sir William Lyons passed away in 1985, leaving behind a company and a string of products that reflected his grand vision.