Jaguar history - William Lyons

Born September 1901 Blackpool, England
The beginning William Lyons was born to a Blackpool family in September 1901. His father, an Irish musician, had visited Blackpool and met a local girl. William senior opened a music store in Blackpool which did well. William junior seems, in his early years, to developed a great enthusiam for motorcycles. In those days, there were no cheap mass produced cars, and motorcycles with attached sidecars were popular transportation. In 1921, at  the age of 20, he met a man called William Walmesley, who was making sidecars for motorcycles in his parents garage. The Walmesleys had just moved to Blackpool from Stockport, and they met when Lyons purchased a sidecar for his Harley-Davidson

William Lyons was younger than Walmesley, but seems to have been able to persuade him to put the sidecar business on a proper businesslike footing, with himself as a partner. Both families were persuaded to back the new venture financially.

The Swallow Sidecar Company The new company formed by Lyons and Walmesley was called the Swallow Sidecar Company, and started operations in September 1922 on Lyons 21st birthday out of small premises in Blackpool. (No longer from Walmesley's family garage).. Several different types of sidecar were built, and could be attached to a number of different makes of motorcycle. Sales were brisk, and extra space had to be found. At first additional nearby premises were found, but by 1926 the still new company moved to brand new premises in Cocker Street, in Blackpool. This gave the company extra space to expand the business to another , but related venture -  building specialist car bodies, which could be fitted to the chassis of other manufacturers.

The English equivalent to the Model T was the Austin 7, which had first appeared in 1922,  It was a simple car, and Lyons realized that he could build custom bodies to fit its chassis, and create something a little more unique and upmarket.  Lyons and Walmesly purchased their first Austin 7 chassis in 1927 and designed a very stylish 2 seater sports body, to fit its chassis. This was launched in 1927, as the Austin Swallow, and was available in two body styles - a Drop Head Coupe, and a Fixed Head Coupe. At the time the company moved into the Cocker Street premises, the name was changed to The Swallow Sidecar & Coach Building Company to reflect the new business lines.

People liked the Swallow bodied cars, and sales were brisk. The following year, in 1928, another variant appeared,  a saloon version. Just two years after the Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Company (as it was known by then) moved into the Cocker Street facility, they realized that to maintain the expansion of the company, they needed to move again, this time to the Midlands of England, where the bulk of the Motor Manufacturing industry was located. The name of the company was changed yet again to the Swallow Coach Building Company, and although the company still built sidecars, and would until the second world war, the name change indicated the increasing importance of the caoch building side of the business.

The move In 1928, the company was therefore moved from its birthplace, Blackpool, to Foleshill, Coventry  into a 40000 sq ft factory which had been an artillery shell-filling factory. Coventry was the hub of the car-building industry. In the couple of years following the move, chassis from other manufacturers were used, including MG, Standard & Fiat.
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