Swallow Sidecar Company Centenary
100 Facts Exhibition
To celebrate the foundation of the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922, which later became Jaguar Cars, we published 100 facts.
From January to September 2022, leading up to the ‘Swallows to Jaguars at Gaydon’ event, which took place on Saturday 3 September to kick off the centenary celebrations, we shared the 100 facts on our social media platforms.
Fact 3: Walmsley regarded building sidecars as a hobby so was initially reluctant to go into business but William Lyons, a young enthusiastic motorcyclist neighbour in King Edward Avenue, Blackpool, convinced Walmsley’s father Thomas that it could be a viable proposition.
Lyons was then left to sort out the business plan and find some premises as the Walmsley’s garage was clearly not large enough.
Fact 4: In August 1922, William Lyons senior and Thomas Walmsley put up £500 each to fund the enterprise by guaranteeing a £1,000 loan (roughly £60,000 in 2022 terms) at Williams Deacon’s Bank in Talbot Square, Blackpool.
William Lyons and William Walmsley signed their Partnership Agreement on 21 November, though it was backdated to 11 September 1922.
Fact 6: Harry Teather was the youngest employee, starting as a general assistant in April 1923 at the age of 14. He started in the paint shop but as he couldn’t stand the pear drop smell he was put in charge of the stores.
He would go on to become Purchasing Director of Jaguar Cars Limited and the company’s longest serving employee, working for over 50 years before retiring in the summer of 1973.
Fact 7: The second female employee, Alice Fenton, started working at Bloomfield Road in 1925 as an office junior alongside Miss Atkinson, the first female employee of Swallow Sidecar Company, and then as William Lyons’ secretary.
Alice went on to help with sales and was eventually appointed Home Sales Director, the first female director of Jaguar Cars and at the time, the highest placed woman in the UK (possibly the global) motor industry.
Fact 8: The name ‘Swallow’ is not mentioned on any of the surviving documents from the time of the partnership agreement, but from the very start they traded as the Swallow Sidecar Company.
Fact 9: The company initially started producing just one motorcycle sidecar a week, with Walmsley supervising the manufacturing aspect and employees, while Lyons looked after the advertising and administration.
Fact 10: The first Swallow-bodied car was made from the burnt-out remains of an Austro-Daimler car given to William Walsmsley by his brother-in-law.
Harry Gill helped to make a new body while Arthur Whittaker (shown) rebuilt the engine and refurbished the chassis.
The car was first used as personal transport by Walmsley and it was later sold locally.
Fact 11: Walmsley made a sidecar-style push-car complete with wings, running boards, windscreen and leather seat for his son, Robert ‘Bobby’.
When Bobby outgrew the ‘pram’, Walmsley made him a Swallow pedal-car.
Fact 12: In 1922 Walmsley and Lyons were fined 40 shillings for blocking Cross Cheaping, Coventry, with a motorcycle and sidecar.
Fact 13: William and Mary (Minnie) Lyons, Lyons’ parents, lived at Red Cottage in Newtown Drive, Blackpool, close to the open space that in the 1920s would be laid out formally, and opened officially on 2 October 1926, as Stanley Park.
This meant that when the Swallow Coachbuilding Company photographed their Austin and Morris Swallow cars outside the new gates – normally with Alice Fenton in the driving seat – Stanley Park was a very new feature of the Blackpool landscape.
Fact 14: In need of more space, in 1928 the company moved from Blackpool to a site in Holbrook Lane, Coventry, without loss of production – just as they had managed when they moved from Bloomfield Road to Cocker Street.
The task to clean and setup the new buildings in Foleshill fell to the company’s workforce as they had done at the previous factories.
Fact 15: After an incident one evening when passing the Holbrook Lane fish and chip shop in Coventry, where Alice Fenton and Connie Dickson were pushed into the road, either Lyons or Walmsley usually walked them home at the end of the day’s work.
Fact 16: Lyons knew the company needed to create their own chassis, so in 1931 he arranged for the Standard Motor Company to build a chassis to Swallow’s design but fitted with Standard engines.
Fact 18: Three Tourers were the first to be entered in a serious competitive event, the 1933 Alpine Trial in mainland Europe, taking the team prize the following year.
Fact 19: On 28 November 1934 William Walmsley gave notice of his resignation at the first Annual General Meeting of S.S. Cars Ltd, as he did not want to see the Company go public in 1935. Lyons bought out Walmsley’s shares and assumed sole responsibility of S. S. Cars Ltd.
Fact 20: Alice Fenton and Connie Dickson used to go dancing at the Winter Gardens after work and on Saturday nights when production was at the Cocker Street factory, Blackpool.
The company also used the Winter Gardens for a meal in the Spanish Room on a ‘Back to Blackpool’ trip from Coventry in 1934.
Fact 21: Lyons was focused on improving the mechanical integrity of the cars and formed an Engineering Department, appointing the role of Chief Engineer to a young William Heynes, who went on to play a major role in the company for the next 35 years.
Fact 22: The SS Jaguar 2½ litre Saloon was the first model to carry the Jaguar name, in 1935, and the first four-door car offered by the SS Company.
Fact 23: When the SS Jaguar 2½ litre Saloon was launched in September 1935 at the Mayfair Hotel in London, Lyons asked the journalists to guess the price and the average guess was £632, the actual price was only £395.
Fact 24: Early in the war, Lyons was able to secure a contract to repair battle-damaged Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bombers which, in 1939 together with the Vickers Wellington and Handley Page Hampden, formed the backbone of RAF Bomber Command.
The quality of work from Swallow and SS Cars was obviously recognised as further contracts were then granted assembling the aircraft.
Fact 25: The first Whitley aircraft under Jaguar control, flew from Tachbrook Aerodrome, Warwickshire, on 4 April 1942.
Fact 26: In 1947 Bry-law Motors of Melbourne, Australia, donated 100 food parcels to Jaguar employees in time for Christmas.
Fact 27: On 23 March 1945 at the 11th AGM (Annual General Meeting) Lyons announced the change of name from SS Cars to Jaguar Cars.
Fact 31: Jaguar took over a closed section of the new dual carriageway at Jabbeke in Belgium where, in front of the assembled press, a standard XK120 with the XK engine proceeded to clock 126 mph. With the windscreen removed, 133 mph was achieved and orders came flooding in.
Fact 32: Ian Appleyard and his wife, William Lyon’s daughter Pat, drove their XK120 (NUB 120) to success in the Alpine Rallies of 1950, 1951 and 1952 and the Tulip Rally in 1951, becoming one of the most successful rally cars of all time.
Fact 34: The C-type was made with racing in mind so, under William Heynes’ direction, to reduce weight a multi-tubular triangulated frame was chosen and designed by Bob Knight. The body of the car was designed by aerodynamicist, Malcolm Sayer, who had joined the company from the aircraft industry.
As a result, the C-type weighed around 25% less than the XK120.
Fact 39: In 1955 one million pounds was invested in designing and developing Jaguar’s new compact saloon, the Jaguar 2.4 – a reduced version of the 3.4 litre six cylinder and the first Jaguar production Monocoque.
This model would remain in production, in one form or another, for more than 10 years.
The body’s basic shell doubled as the chassis, saving weight and inherently being more rigid.
Large pieces of debris from Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes flew into the crowd killing 83 spectators and injuring nearly 180 more. Levegh was also killed in the crash.
Fact 41: Following Ronnie Adams’ victory at the Monte Carlo Rally in a Mark VII and Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson’s victory at Le Mans in an Ecurie Ecosse entered D-type, Jaguar became the first manufacturer ever to win both races in the same year, 1956.
Fact 42: In 1956 Sir William Lyons was bestowed a Knight Bachelor in the New Year’s Honours List.
Fact 43: In 1956 Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip paid their first visit to a Jaguar factory.
Fact 44: At the end of 1956 Jaguar announced that it intended retiring from motor racing so for the 1957 Le Mans, there were no factory D-types.
However, two D-types privately entered by Ecurie Ecosse scored first and second place. Three other D-types finished third, fourth and sixth.
Fact 45: Having moved from Foleshill to the Browns Lane site on the edge of Coventry, Jaguar continued to grow rapidly during the 1950s and bought the site outright in 1959, a transaction which Lyons counted among his most satisfying achievements.
This was the first that the Board of Directors knew about the purchase because Lyons simply went ahead and bought Daimler knowing that time wasted with board meetings may have caused a delay that would see Daimler being bought by someone else, even just for the land at Radford.
Fact 47: The first new vehicle produced by Daimler since the Jaguar take-over was the 78-seat Fleetline bus.
Fact 48: Briggs Cunningham, the American sportsman, was shown the prototype E2A and persuaded Lyons to let him run it at Le Mans that year, 1960.
Due to a lack of development time the car retired from the race, but it did set the fastest time in practice.
Fact 49: On 15 March 1961 the E-type was launched at the Geneva Motor Show.
Three E-types were present: chassis 885005 on the show stand; 9600 HP taken to Geneva by Jaguar PR man Bob Berry and used for press and test drives; 77 RW driven to Geneva in a ‘mad dash’ by Norman Dewis to help Berry with the high demand for demonstration runs.
Fact 50: Jaguar produced a small batch of ‘Lightweight E-types’ specifically for racing.
In 1963 Briggs Cunningham took three of them to Le Mans but unfortunately, one retired with gearbox problems, the second crashed heavily after hitting an oil patch at 170 mph on Mulsanne and the third only managed to finish ninth after a long pit stop to repair a badly damaged bonnet.
Fact 51: In 1963 Jaguar acquired Coventry Climax who in the fifties and sixties had built highly successful Grand Prix engines, as well as fork-lift trucks and fire pumps.
Fact 52: At the New York Motor Show in 1965, Jaguar launched the new 4.2 litre E-type with a real Jaguar on the stand.
Fact 53: The XJ13 was built in secrecy in 1966 as a potential Le Mans contender, but there was an unfortunate lack of urgency about the project and by the time the car was completed, its design had become obsolete against new cars from Ferrari and Ford, never mind the Porsche 917.
However, the XJ13 is still one of the most beautiful racing cars of all time thanks to the talent of aerodynamicist and designer Malcolm Sayer, nor should anyone doubt the potential of its 502 bhp, 5 litre V12 engine.
Fact 54: On 20 January 1971, a film crew arrived at MIRA to capture footage of Norman Dewis driving XJ13.
On the penultimate lap, the car went into the safety fence and started to roll. Luckily Dewis quickly turned the ignition off and wasn’t strapped in so he managed to dive “under the scuttle and hung on to anything that was there”.
He escaped unharmed and XJ13 was rebuilt.
Fact 55: In 1968 the XJ6 was launched and the following year, it won the ‘Car of the Year’ Award.
The shape was another Lyons masterpiece and is regarded by many as the pinnacle of his career. The car was notable for its suspension which chief engineer Bob Knight had developed to reach new standards of handling and road holding, coupled with remarkable passenger comfort.
This was Lyons’ crowning achievement. Jaguar could now claim that the XJ12 was the fastest production four-seater in the world. The maximum speed was just short of 140 mph, whilst 60 mph could be accelerated to in 7.4 seconds.
Fact 57: In 1972, Sir William Lyons retired at the age of 71, handing over the Jaguar reins to Lofty England.
The company had been in existence for some 50 years and was now one of the most respected in the world.
Fact 58: On 28 July 1980, Jaguar took control of the Castle Bromwich body plant.
Fact 59: In 1981, following the fuel crises of the seventies, Jaguar announced new High Efficiency (HE) cylinder heads for the V12 engines to result in less fuel consumption.
The XJ-S HE was capable of 155 mph and returning 27 mpg at a steady 56 mph.
Fact 62: The 1984 season was a good one for Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), who had added a third XJ-S to the team.
The team dominated the European Championship with a string of wins and Walkinshaw ended the season as the European Champion.
Fact 63: Sadly, in February 1985 Sir William Lyons passed quietly away at his home, Wappenbury Hall.
Fact 65: After its flotation in 1984 Jaguar achieved considerable success in the growth and development of its business.
The profitability of the company funded substantial improvements to manufacturing and engineering facilities, and the establishment of a new £52 million product engineering centre at Whitley in Coventry which opened on 23 May 1988
Fact 66: For the 1988 Le Mans, three of the five XJR-9 entered went on to finish first, fourth and sixteenth.
The winning Jaguar, driven by Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries and Andy Wallace, completed 394 laps and covered a distance of 5,330.86 km (3,313.15 miles). In comparison, the winning D-type of 1957 covered a distance of 4,397 km (2,732 miles)
Fact 67: In September 1989, Jaguar announced considerable enhancements to the XJ6 range.
The fundamental change was an enlarging of the 3.6 litre AJ6 engine to 4 litres. In introducing the new 4.0 litre, Sir John Egan stressed the extent of the changes which resulted in what he liked to describe as a ‘world class car’
Fact 68: At the beginning of 1990 the Ford Motor Company purchased Jaguar and immediately began an investment programme for new models and build methods
Fact 70: Ford continued to build on Jaguar’s heritage by continuing the firm’s participation in motorsport and in 1990, two XJR-12s scored first and second place at the famous 24-hour Florida classic at Daytona.
The winning Jaguar, driven by Davy Jones, Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace, was four laps ahead of the other Jaguar
Fact 71: At the 1990 Le Mans, Jaguar came in first and second place with the XJR-12, earning the company its seventh victory.
Jaguar also regained the World Sports Car Championship with the revolutionary XJR-14, dominating the series which included the Le Mans 24-hour race
Fact 72: Despite narrowly missing out on victory, Jaguar finished second, third and fourth with three V12 engine XJR-12s at the 1991 Le Mans
Fact 73: Having made its public debut as a concept car at the 1988 Motor Show, the XJ220 became a production reality during 1991.
JaguarSport created a purpose built factory at Bloxham near Oxford for a limited production run of 350 cars
Fact 74: During August 1993 Jaguar installed a new, £8.5 million, assembly line at the Browns Lane Plant replacing lines that had been installed thirty years previously.
The new state-of-the-art facility provided a further boost to quality control and efficiency at Browns Lane, so that both Browns Lane and Castle Bromwich achieved the coveted Ford Quality Standard – Q1
Fact 75: A new XJ Series made its world debut at the Paris Motor Show in October 1994.
Code named X300 during its development, the new XJ Series represented an investment of over £200 million and was the first product programme to be delivered by Jaguar since its acquisition by Ford
Fact 76: In December 1994 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II honoured the company with a visit to the Browns Lane plant.
It was the Queen’s first visit to Jaguar since 1956 and it proved to be a memorable day. She also ordered a new 6.0 litre Daimler in British Racing Green
Fact 77: During 1996 the motor industry celebrated the centenary of motoring.
To celebrate the centenary of the Daimler Motor Company of Coventry – the oldest surviving British car marque – Jaguar produced a special commemorative “Daimler Century” model
Fact 79: In 1996 Jaguar won the ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ award and in 1997 the ‘Manufacturing Excellence Awards’
Fact 80: In 1997 Jaguar celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding
Fact 81: The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust Museum, situated at Browns Lane, was officially opened in September 1998
Fact 82: In October 1998, Jaguar’s most eagerly awaited new model for decades, the S-type sports saloon, made its world debut at the Birmingham International Motor Show and went on sale in March 1999.
It was designed and developed at Jaguar’s Engineering Centre at Whitley and built at the company’s Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham
Fact 83: The development of Castle Bromwich to accommodate S-type production represented one of the largest inner city investments in the UK in 50 years, and the largest brown-field site development in Europe.
The total investment for the S-type programme amounted to £400 million, of which around £200 million was associated with the development of the Castle Bromwich site
Fact 84: In April 1999 it was confirmed that Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle would become Group Vice President of Ford’s newly-formed Premier Automotive Group and Chairman of Jaguar Cars Ltd.
He then confirmed Jonathan Browning as the new Managing Director of Jaguar Cars and Mike Beasley as Executive Director responsible for Manufacturing and Engineering
Fact 85: In October 1999 Jaguar announced its intention to enter the FIA Formula One World Championship and confirmed that Eddie Irvine would join the team for the 2000 season partnered by Johnny Herbert.
At a ceremony in London in January 2000, Jaguar Racing held a launch for the new racing car, the Jaguar R1
Fact 86: In January 2000, Jaguar’s F-type concept roadster was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Design work had commenced under the direction of Geoff Lawson, Jaguar’s Director of Styling, but when he sadly passed away in June 1999, the project was completed by the new Director of Design, Ian Callum, who viewed the F-type concept as a tribute to Lawson
Fact 87: The Halewood plant on Merseyside was built in 1962 and built its last Ford in June 2000.
Jaguar had assumed management responsibility for the plant in October 1999 and the plant underwent a massive transformation with the installation of new manufacturing facilities to support X400 production
Fact 89: At Monaco in May 2001, the Jaguar Racing F1 Team scored their first points of the season and the Jaguar marque’s first ever podium finish in Grand Prix racing – third place with Eddie Irvine’s Jaguar R2
Fact 90: In 2001 Jaguar marked the centenary of Sir William Lyons’ birth with limited editions of its performance saloon and sports car models – the XJR 100 and XKR 100 respectively.
Just 500 examples of each (coupe and convertible models combined) were sold worldwide
Fact 92: The new XJ X350 range was launched in 2003 to replace the X308 series.
It was the most “radical Jaguar of modern times”. While preserving the traditional styling of the XJ line it was completely re-engineered with an all-aluminium monocoque chassis, reducing the model’s weight by 40% and increasing its stiffness by 60%. This improved the vehicle’s economy, ride and handling
Fact 94: There was little return of value from the large amount of money invested in sport involvement internationally, so Ford chose to sell the F1 operation near the end of 2004.
This became Red Bull Racing Team
Fact 95: During 2004, the devaluation of the US dollar against the pound resulted in a weak economy and with manufacturing plants at Browns Lane, Castle Bromwich and Halewood, there was an over capacity in manufacturing for the production of only 120,000 cars a year.
The decision to close the historic Browns Lane site was made. After nearly 55 years of production at Browns Lane the last cars rolled off its production lines in 2005.
1447677 cars were produced at Browns Lane between 1952 and 2005, including some of the most famous cars in the world – the XK120, C-types, D- types, Mark II, E-type, XJ and XJS. For many it was and will always be the spiritual home of Jaguar
Fact 96: The Project C-X75 was created to celebrate 75 years of Jaguar. It was revealed as a concept at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, where it received AutoWeek’s coveted “Best in Show” award and the 2010 Louis Vuitton Classic Concept award.
It was also reviewed by Richard Hammond and James May on the BBC Top Gear programme
Fact 97: On 14 September 2015, a Jaguar F-pace driven by stunt driver Terry Grant defied gravity at the Niederrad Racecourse in Frankfurt, Germany, by performing a record-breaking 360 degree loop.
The loop itself measured 19.08 m (62½ ft) in diameter, breaking a previous record of 18.29 m (60 ft).
This event was organised not only to unveil the F-pace, but to also celebrate the 80th birthday of the Jaguar brand
Fact 98: On 13 July 2017 at the Excel Centre in London, a Jaguar E-PACE driven by stunt driver Terry Grant was launched off a metal ramp on one side and did a barrel roll, setting an official Guinness World Record
Fact 99: The I-pace is Jaguars’ first all-electric vehicle, powered by Lithium-ion batteries with electric motors front and rear providing all-wheel drive and 50:50 weight distribution.
Since its launch in March 2018, it won over 60 industry awards including: UK Car of the Year, German and Swiss Car of the Year, European Car of the Year, World Green Car, World Car Design of the Year and World Car of the Year
Fact 100: Tomorrow is the day – come celebrate the centenary of the formation of the Swallow Sidecar Company, which ultimately evolved into Jaguar Cars, at ‘Jaguars at Gaydon’
One of the cars on display will be our 1935 SS1 Airline