Jaguar After World War Two

It was towards the end of WWII in 1945, that Lyons was the first to recognise that the SS initials had become tarnished by their identification with the Schutzstaffel in Nazi Germany – “A sector of the community which was not highly regarded” was how he later put it. So in April 1945, SS Cars became Jaguar Cars, a name Lyons had prudently registered back in November 1937.

Unveiled at the Motor Show in 1948 was Jaguar’s new sports car: the XK120, powered by the 3.4 litre twin overhead camshaft engine developed for the big Mark VII saloon, still two years away. The XK120, so named to respectively reflect its engine and top speed, represented a milestone in British sports car design and its success took Jaguar by surprise. The first 240 examples had hand-built aluminium bodywork, however Pressed Steel then took over reponsibility for the XK120’s body which became an all-steel structure.

Jaguar made its name in the 1950s with a series of elegantly-styled sports cars and luxury saloons. The C-type marked the starting point which was to evolve into the D-type and, ultimately, the E-type. The C-type also marked the start of Jaguar’s foray into post-war Le Mans racing, with success in 1951 when the third C-type, driven by Peters Walker and Whitehead won the event at a recorded speed of 93.49mph. It was the first British win at the Sarthe circuit since a Lagonda victory in 1935. In 1953, C-types came in first, second and fourth.

It was at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961 that Jaguar was to reveal the now iconic E-type. Here was a race-bred, visually sensational, 150mph sports car priced at just £2,097 for the open two-seater. Its nearest rival, the Aston Martin DB4 selling for nearly twice its price.