A perfect 'rags to riches' story started when Bill Lyons, a British motorcycle enthusiast met William Walmsley in Blackpool, England. Jaguar, one of the world's greatest automotive names, renowned for style, tradition, performance and quality, started its journey from Swallow Sidecar Company, a small factory manufacturing stylish sidecars for motor cycles. The factory started in September 1922 with a bank overdraft of pound 1,000.
The Rover Company started off in the mid-1800s selling sewing machines and then 'safety' tricycles and bicycles. By the 1930s, it had evolved into a car company but was hit badly by the The Great Depression. In common with many British industrial companies during World War II, its factories were turned over to the war effort and produced engines for tanks and aircraft.
By 1945 and the end of WW II, Rover found itself with two excellent factories and a highly skilled workforce. It was looking at restarting car production and nurtured plans to produce 20,000 cars per year. But its plans were dashed as the government refused to allocate steel for more than 1,100 cars per year.
The Series II Land Rovers were manufactured between 1958 and 1962
The company's first car, the SS1, was based on a Standard six-cylinder engine and a modified Standard chassis. It was introduced to the public at a London exhibition in 1931.
In 1933 the name of the company was changed to SS Cars Ltd with Lyons becoming managing director. He bought his partner out in 1936.
In 1934, Harry Weslake, regarded as one of the industry's top engine experts, joined the company. The name Jaguar was used for the first time in 1935. The same year, William Heynes joined the company as chief engineer.
The firm's production included limousines, convertibles, and sports cars fitted with 1.5-litre, 2.5-litre, and 3.5-litre engines. The most notable vehicle of the period was the 3.5-litre SS 100 model. This was the fastest and most famous pre-war Jaguar, with speeds of 100 mph and acceleration from rest to 60 mph in about 10.5 seconds. The engine had a compression ratio of 17.5:1. Racing successes in the Marne Grand Prix of Reims, the Villa Real International event, the Alpine Rally, The Monte Carlo Rally, and the RAC Rally made this one of the most famous Jaguar cars.
After the World War II, the company's name was changed to Jaguar Cars Ltd. The first Jaguars were produced with the option of left-side driving controls!
Although similar to the Jeep, it was designed to be more useful to the farmer. The severe shortage of steel, meant the body panels had to be made of aluminium - a distinctive feature that would be repeated in many later Land Rover products.
Early prototypes used the 1.4l Rover 10 engine, but this quickly demonstrated a lack of power; and a new high torque 1.6 litre engine was fitted. In the first full year of sales, 8000 Land Rovers were sold compared to a target of 5000. By 1951, Land Rovers were out-selling Rover road cars by a factor of two to one.
Although a very popular and useful vehicle, the early Land Rovers were criticised for having a small load space. This was addressed in 1954, when the 80" Land Rover was replaced with an 86" wheelbase version. A "long wheelbase" 107" Land Rover was also introduced.
The Land Rover had a very successful first ten years, but by the late 1950s it was clear that changes were necessary. Land Rover was re-launched as the Series II in 1958.
In 1972 William Lyons retired, 50 years after forming Swallow Sidecar Company on his 21st birthday. His retirement was followed by a period of confusion, as there was no single headman at Jaguar till the winter of 1979.
In April 1980, 40-year old John Egan became Jaguar�s new full time chief executive officer. He brought an air of optimism and new life to Jaguar and by 1985 it was clear that Jaguar was stable once more.
In 1984, Jaguar was floated off as a separate company on the stock market. In September 1989, the Ford Motor Company made an offer to purchase the company, which was accepted at an extraordinary general meeting in January 1990 and Jaguar was removed from the London Stock Exchange listings on February 28, 1990. In 1999 it became part of Ford's new Premier Automotive Group along with Aston Martin, Volvo Cars, and from 2000 Land Rover. Aston Martin was subsequently sold off in 2007.
A report carried by Hindustan Times said that the deal will also bring super car tecjhnology to the Tata Stable. The report also said that both Land Rover and Jaguar hold a number of technology patents, including one for a new engine that complies with Euro IV emission norms.
While both the companies did not comment on the possible valuation of the sales, sources in the know of the development said Tatas offered over $2 billion to acquire the two brands.
Land Rover may soon join the Tata Motors stable. Ratan Tata (inset).
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