8 Fascinating Facts You Never Knew About Jaguar

The company that became Jaguar was founded in 1922, originally a producer of sidecars for motorcycles before a different iteration of the company made a car with Jaguar in the name in 1935. That company was SS Cars, which became Jaguar Cars in 1945, which eventually became a part of British Leyland, which was partly nationalized in 1975. Jaguar became its own company again in 1984, before it was bought by Ford in 1990. Ford bought Land Rover in 2000, and Tata Motors, the Indian manufacturer, bought Jaguar and Land Rover in 2008, and has owned Jaguar Land Rover ever since, now known mainly as JLR.

Jaguar made quite a lot of cars in that time, too, the most prominent of those being the E-Type. built from 1961 to 1974, one of the most famous cars ever made by any manufacturer, period. One of them was recently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The XJ220, the concept of which was first unveiled in 1988, became a supercar icon of the early 1990s. The Jaguar F-Type, launched in 2013, was a modern grand tourer that did its best to restore some of the marque’s faded glory.

Today, Jaguar is defined by its SUVs, including Jag’s first SUV, the F-Pace, and the E-Pace and I-Pace crossovers. The F-Type is also still around, and so is the Jaguar XF, the brand’s luxury midsize sedan whose current generation was first introduced in 2015. Jaguar Land Rover is in the midst of a great transition to electric vehicles, like virtually every other automaker in the world, with some stops and starts along the way. Perhaps none of the current models will even exist when Jaguar finally does go all electric; expected first is a new all-electric grand tourer in 2025, followed by an all-electric SUV and all-electric sedan in 2026.

Jaguar is hoping to write new chapters in its already fascinating history. Let’s look at eight things you need to know about this storied automaker.

Jaguar Made a Sports Car Before It Was Jaguar

Jaguar Cars wasn’t known as such until 1945, and before that it was known as SS Cars, so named for the Swallow Sidecar Company. SS Cars made the first version of the SS Jaguar in 1935 and the SS Jaguar 100 in 1936, the 100 intending to represent its top speed, which was actually 101 mph. The styling, then and now, is as classic as it gets, though the SS Jaguar 100 was later succeeded and eclipsed by the XK120 in 1948, whose owners included Clark Gable.

The Jaguar C-Type Was the First Car to Average 100 MPH at Le Mans

That was in the 1953 edition of the endurance race, when it finished first, two years after winning in 1951, when it averaged 93 mph in the 24-hour race. Jaguar built 53 C-Types originally, with just 43 of those going to private customers and the other 10 meant for racing.

The Jaguar D-Type Was No Slouch Either

The D-Type, like the C-Type, was made for racing, and, like the C-Type, was highly successful, winning Le Mans in consecutive years from 1955 to 1957. The car’s aerodynamics were inspired by aviation, and they were built on a monocoque chassis and with disc brakes, pushing along other competitors like Aston Martin, Maserati, and Ferrari to innovate. Jaguar wouldn’t win Le Mans again until 1988 with the XJR-9.

The Jaguar MK II Was a Volume Sports Sedan That Set the Tone

Jaguar built around 91,000 Mark 2s from 1959 to 1967, cars that were fancy enough to be luxury, powerful enough to compete in vintage racing series today, and common enough to not be too precious. The mantra behind the Mark 2 was “grace, space, pace,” and it delivered all three in some style, and set the tone for the brand’s future beyond its racing exploits. These days, a Mark 2 can be had for the low five-figures, making them one gateway for the beginner vintage collector.

The E-Type Remains Jaguar’s Acme

The Jaguar E-Type entered the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection in 1996, becoming only the second road-going car to do so. The first was the Pininfarina Cisitalia 202 GT in 1972, a car which will take almost anyone’s breath away. For years at MoMA, the E-Type was its only peer. A curator said of the E-Type in 1996: “We developed a wish-list of ten to twelve cars, with the E-type at the top. When we approached Jaguar to acquire one for the collection, the company was very enthusiastic. From a private collector they secured a car that we considered to be in pristine condition and they donated it to the Museum. Because of the E-type’s beauty and sculptural quality, its functionality, and its seminal impact on overall car design, it perfectly suits the criteria of a landmark design object.”

The Jaguar XJ220 Was Briefly the World’s Fastest Production Car

Its top speed of 218 mph — it was originally planned for 220 mph, hence the name XJ220 — and it set a lap record at the Nürburgring, also going quicker than a Ferrari F40 from zero to 60 mph. Just 282 XJ220s were ultimately produced, which was fewer than envisioned, in part because the economy at the time wasn’t great. Today, XJ220s regularly sell for prices around half a million dollars, though that doesn’t include the subsequent service receipts. Consider ownership a public service to everyone else.

Car Journalists Were a Little Miffed By the XK

Jaguar made the XK from 1996 to 2014 in two generations, the second debuting in 2005 with production starting in 2006. The reaction to the latter especially was not all positive, with contemporary reviewers calling it too derivative of past Jaguars and, perhaps most insultingly, even taking after some parts of the Ford Taurus. It hasn’t aged much better, and examples can be had these days for low five-figure amounts of money. The XK very much represented an era of Jaguar when the company was in between what Jaguar was and what it would become.

The F-Pace Was Jaguar’s First SUV

Jaguar’s F-Pace, debuting in 2015, was a pivot to that future, and was an opportunity for some synergy with Land Rover. It almost immediately became the best-selling Jaguar worldwide, part of a wave of luxury SUVs that hasn’t stopped from manufacturers with deep racing roots that, these days, includes the likes of Aston Martin, Lamborghini, and Ferrari. The F-Pace is getting a little long in the tooth, but will probably be remembered as a car that likely saved Jaguar’s future.


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