4th September 1901. ‘Lyons’ and Jaguars.

(Sir)William Lyons the founder of Jaguar Cars born Today in 1901 was with fellow motorcycle enthusiast William Walmsley the co-founder of the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922.

The 30 years old Walmsley was the son of a Stockport coal merchant who had moved on retirement to Blackpool where he lived at King Edward Avenue.

William had started making sidecars which he bolted onto reconditioned motor-cycles and providentially found he was living near the 20 years old Lyons, an apprentice at Maudsley Motors, later salesman at a Sunbeam dealer.

Walmsley and Lyons found premises in Bloomfield Road Blackpool after securing an overdraft of £1,000 (over £100k today) assisted by their fathers.




William Walmsley and his Swallow side-car.

Now named the Swallow Coach-Builders the pair moved into cars as SS Cars Ltd in 1933 and by the end of next year were producing 1800 cars using their own body on an Austin 7 chassis (with the permission of Austen) the A 7 swallow, as well as sidecars. 

At the 1929 London Motor Show three new Swallows were on show on Standard, Swift and Fiat Chassis. At the 1931 Show their Standard Swallow Class car was exhibited costing under £350 (£20,000 today).

2-door saloon on 1930 Standard Big Nine chassis.

2-door saloon on 1930 Standard Big Nine chassis.

In 1934 Walmsley as Chairman and Managing Director of SS Cars Ltd had a two-seater, aluminium bodied car  designed and built  for himself, the SS1 W Roadster, in olive green with matching leather interior.

However the older Walmsley was content to rest on his laurels, whilst the ambitious Lyons wanted to convert to become a public company and bought Walmsley out, becoming sole owner after the Company’s move to Coventry.

In 1935 the company became SS Jaguar the same year as The Swallow Coachbuilding Company (SCB) went into voluntary liquidation to be revived as SCB (1935) Ltd which continued in sidecars.

SS cars became just Jaguar in 1945 under Lyons as ‘SS’ had became to closely associated with the Nazis.

Post-war SCB (1935) Ltd was bought by aircraft components Helliwell Group based at Walsall Airport. Then in 1946 Tube Investments bought Helliwells.

By 1956 SCB (1935) Ltd still in existence was acquired by the old established (1912) Watsonian Company who after an abortive move into motor-cycles returned to side-cars only to merge in 1984 with the Squire Company. Squire-Watsonian still flourish in the English Cotswolds. (1)




Original photo of Walmsley’s SS1  1930.s sports car.

Jaguar thrived post-war until decline and in 1968 Prime Minister Wilson and Tony Benn pushed the ailing British Motor Holdings (itself a merger between BMC (Austin, Morris) and Jaguar), which was close to collapse, into a merger with Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC) along with Rover and Standard-Triumph, creating British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC).

This compression of two unsustainable conglomerates into one giant combine was to see the end of mass car production in Britain, comparable to the future banking collapse.

Jaguar was bought by Ford in 1986 who ploughed enormous sums into the company but was eventually to be acquired along with Land Rover, by Ta-Ta of India in 2007.


(1) Mr Watson had started making some of the first side-cars on the market.


wikipedia.org/swallow-side_cars/Pic of 2 door saloon.

interactivejaguar.com/Pic of car.

jaguarcarowners.co.uk/Pic of motor bike.

gracesguides/swallow-coachbuilders-co and watsonian.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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