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Jaguar


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(established 1945)

The origins of this world famous British automobile manufacturer lay in the Swallow Sidecar Company, established in 1922. Following the production of its first car, the SS1, in 1931 the company became SS Cars in 1933 with William Lyons as managing director. In the years leading up to the Second World War it emerged as a significant manufacturer, using the Jaguar name for the first time in 1935. Three years later it produced the SS100 Jaguar Coupé, its fastest and most famous pre‐war model that could reach 100 mph (160 kmph) and won a number of international races. It set the tone for one of the most celebrated British automobile brand names in the decades following the Second World War and associations of speed and power with the word ‘jaguar’ became embodiments of those qualities linked to the Jaguar company itself. Founded in 1945 by William Lyons, Jaguar Cars Ltd. soon established a reputation for high‐performance sports cars, especially the XK120 Roadster of 1948, further bolstered by a series of Jaguar victories at the Le Mans 24‐hour races, commencing in 1951. In 1955, seeking to widen its market appeal and underpin its economic future, the company produced the Mark 1 Jaguar, a saloon model that embodied ingredients of its commercial success, elegance, sophistication, and desirability. This was replaced in 1959 with the elegant Mark II, which, with its sensuous tapered forms, comfortable leather seats, and polished wooden dashboard, proved highly successful. In 1961 the company launched its E‐Type sports car, one of its most widely known and sought‐after models with its elongated bonnet and top speed of 152 mph (243 km/hr). Closely associated with notions of ‘Swinging London’ and the fashionable world of Pop, models were owned by many celebrities including playboy Manchester United footballer George Best, Beatle George Harrison, musician David Bowie, and film star Britt Eckland. The archetypal ‘classic’ Jaguar, 74,000 were produced between 1961 and 1975. Its iconic status was further underlined when, in 1996, an early E‐Type Roadster was taken into the Permanent Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, only the third car to have achieved such recognition. More recently it featured prominently in the Austin Powers International Man of Mystery spy spoof films set in the 1960s, in which Powers drove a Union‐Jack painted model. Mike Myers, the star who played Austin Powers, also promoted the new Jaguar XK8 seen in a specially painted Union‐Jack version at the 2002 New York International Auto Show. Although a number of Jaguar models, such as the E‐Type's replacement the XJ‐S, proved successful on both sides of the Atlantic the company's fortunes in the later decades of the 20th century were volatile, with a series of takeovers and amalgamations, the most significant of which were its takeover of Daimler in 1960, its merger with the British Motor Corporation in 1966, its privatization in 1984, and subsequent takeover by Ford Motors of Detroit in 1988. Its international standing in the early 21st century was enhanced by its return to high profile Formula 1 motor racing in 2000, although it has not recaptured its racing successes of 50 years earlier.

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Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.


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