William Lyons

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sir William Lyons (born September 4, 1901 in Blackpool , † February 8, 1985 in Warwickshire ) was a British entrepreneur and founder of the Jaguar automobile brand .

He was born in Blackpool, the second child of William and Minnie Lyons, and attended Arnold School with average grades until he was 17. His father got him an apprenticeship at Crossley Motors Ltd and the young William Lyons studied mechanical engineering at the Manchester Technical College in the evenings . However, Lyons did not feel at home in the large company, helped out for some time in his parents' music and piano business and started as a car salesman at the Blackpool-based company Brown & Mallalieu. He was also successful in motorcycle racing and won a few hill climbs with his Harley-Davidson Daytona Special.

In 1922, at the age of 21, William Lyons and William Walmsley, eight years his senior, founded the Swallow Sidecar Company, which manufactured elegant motorcycle sidecars. On November 6, 1926 - following the move to a larger workshop - the Swallow Sidecar & Coach Building Co. was advertised in the Blackpool Gazette. The first car body planned for series production was intended for the Austin- Wallow - a two-seater that was registered in the spring of 1927. In mid-August the Morris- Wallow was announced on the chassis of the Cowley. While the Austin-Swallow was a great success thanks to the hard work of the London car dealership Henlys, only a few examples of the Morris-Swallow were built - probably because of competition from MG.

In 1928 the closed four-seater Austin-Swallow Saloon came out, and the following year, other very similar saloons on the chassis of the Fiat 509, Swift Ten and Standard Nine. With the petite Wolseley Hornet, Lyons ventured into six-cylinder terrain for the first time in 1930, where at the end of 1930 he launched the standard Swallow 16 HP with the chassis of the Standard Ensign, which was only completely redesigned in 1928.

As an automobile enthusiast, Lyons was enthusiastic about the low, elegant lines that were just becoming popular in the USA. The chassis available from large-scale manufacturers did not allow such dimensions. Lyons did everything in its power to persuade one of the major manufacturers to produce particularly flat chassis with a long wheelbase - exclusively for his company. He finally succeeded in doing this at Standard , with which he already had business relationships. This was the hour of birth of the SS 1 , which was presented in October 1931 at the Motor Show in the London Olympic Hall , with the machine already known from the standard Swallow, but now optionally also in a larger 20 HP version. At the same time, the formally quite similar, but based on the serial chassis of the standard Little Nine, SS 2 was presented.

On October 26, 1933, William Lyons founded SS Cars Ltd with a capital of £ 10,000. The SS 1, which was completely renewed in 1932 and now really elegant, was now also available as a tourer and saloon with rear side windows instead of the storm bars. For the 1934 model year, the SS 2 also received a new body in the style of its bigger brother, just like this one, available as a coupé, open tourer and saloon. For 1935 there was also the SS 1 Airline, a particularly luxurious limousine with a kind of hatchback. Finally, at the beginning of 1935, the Drophead Coupé - very similar to the previous coupé - with a really folding top and the two-seater SS 90 racing car with a significantly shorter wheelbase were added.

Despite all efforts, the engines were not able to even come close to guaranteeing the performance suggested by the body lines. Lyons looked at the Studebaker inline eight cylinder and the Zoller compressor, but these options were eventually discarded. With the help of engine expert Harry Weslake , Lyons had the standard six-cylinder engine redesigned with overhead valves, and again Standard was ready to manufacture this over 100 bhp unit exclusively for SS.

In the autumn of 1935, William Lyons presented the SS Jaguar 2½ liter at the Mayfair Hotel in London, which received this engine - Jaguar's first four-door class sedan. The same engine made the racing car the SS 100, with the number indicating the maximum speed in miles per hour (160 km / h). From the end of 1937, in addition to the 2 ½ liter, 3 ½ liter saloons and SS 100 were also offered, which were also successful in international motorsport.

In March 1945 Lyons' company was renamed from SS Cars Ltd to Jaguar Cars Ltd. On September 30, 1948, William Lyons presented the Mark V as a sedan and drophead coupé. However, the XK 120 sports car was eye- catching . This created the basis for the brand's reputation with its sensationally powerful XK engine (in-line six-cylinder with 3.4 liter displacement) with two overhead camshafts and hemispherical combustion chambers. The XK 120 was the fastest sports car of its time with a top speed of 120 mph (193 km / h). The XK 120 C or C-Type developed from this brought Jaguar the breakthrough to the internationally recognized sports car brand with victories in 1951 and 1953 at Le Mans.

The mysterious accidental death of his only son John Michael on the way to the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1955, which incidentally won a Jaguar, was a major blow . 1956 William Lyons was honored with the title Knight Bachelor for his services, in particular for the development of the company and the export business .

In 1961 Sir William Lyons presented the E-Type at the Geneva Motor Show ; a test specimen that stood particularly well in the feed was able to achieve the magical 150 mph (241 km / h) of the 3.8 liter XK engine known from the XK 150 S. From 1964 the E-Type was sold with the XK engine bored out to 4.2 liters and from 1966 also as a 2 + 2-seat coupé.

In the sixties, Lyons took over other companies, including Daimler , Guy and Coventry Climax. On July 11, 1966, Sir William Lyons and Sir George Harriman announced the merger of Jaguar Cars Ltd and the British Motor Corporation (BMC). Only two years later, however, this BMH went into the British Leyland Motor Corporation .

While the sports cars created the basis for the myth of the Jaguar company, the company primarily sold the luxurious and sporty sedans (sports saloon). All Sir William Lyons cars offered, at least on the domestic British market, a very good price-performance ratio, excellent driving performance and properties as well as a sporty and elegant styling of their own.

Sir William Lyons remained chairman and executive director until 1972. He was succeeded by "Lofty" England, but Sir William retained an influential role in the field of styling as honorary president.

Despite health problems, Lyons was very interested in the company he had built even after retiring. His real passion, however, was the large farm to which he had meanwhile expanded the Wappenbury Hall estate, which he had lived in since 1937. He died there on February 8, 1985. His wife Greta, née Brown, whom he married in 1924, only survived him by about a year. In addition to the son John Michael, the marriage had the two daughters Patricia Quinn and Mary Rimell.


  • Skilleter, Paul / Porter, Philip, Sir William Lyons, (2001)
  • Stertkamp, ​​Heiner: Jaguar - The complete chronicle from 1922 to today, 2nd edition, Heel-Verlag (2006), ISBN 3-89880-337-6
  • Whyte, Andrew: Jaguar - The History of a Great British Car, 2nd Edition, Stephens, Wellingborough (1985), ISBN 0-85059-746-3

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Barnaby J. Feder: Sir William Lyons, 83 Dies; Founded The Jaguar Concern , The New York Times, February 9, 1985