From their iconic 60s sports cars to their seemingly constant financial issues, Jaguar is an automotive brand that’s often in the news. An icon of British motoring, Jaguar’s stylish cars have defined luxury for well over 90 years.
Originally founded as the Swallow Sidecar Company in the early 1920s, Jaguar has created some of the most iconic cars of the 20th and 21st centuries. Read on to learn 10 interesting things you probably didn’t know about this innovative carmaker.
Jaguar was almost called Hawk or Gazelle Motorcars
Until 1945, Jaguar was known as the Swallow Sidecar Company, using the initials SS in many of its vehicle names. Concerned that customers could mistake the company for the German SS, the company’s shareholders decided to change its name.
Several interesting suggestions were thrown around, including Hawk and Gazelle. In the end, shareholders decided on Jaguar, as it “is distinctive and cannot be connected or confused with any similar foreign name.”
Steve McQueen owned an ultra-rare Jaguar XK-SS
Steve McQueen, known as “The King of Cool” during his period of Hollywood fame in the 1960s and 70s, was a huge racing fan, owning a sizeable collection of motorcycles and sports cars.
One of his favourites – and a vehicle that was largely despised by the LAPD thanks to McQueen’s habit of speeding around the city – was an ultra-rare Jaguar XK-SS sports car, nicknamed the Green Rat and designed with racing in mind.
Jaguar’s famous hood ornament was phased out due to safety issues
One of the most iconic symbols of Jaguar is the brand’s hood ornament – a chrome-plated Jaguar that sits on the hood of most Jaguar vehicles. Although older Jaguars still sport the ornament – known as “The Leaper” – newer vehicles don’t.
The hood ornament was originally dropped from European models due to safety concerns for pedestrians. It’s since been removed from all Jaguar models, with a badge on the front of the car replacing it.
In the 1990s (and in the 1940s) Jaguar made the world’s fastest car
Jaguar might be best known for their sports and luxury cars today, but in the 1940s – and again in the 1990s – Jaguar was famous for producing some of the fastest cars in the world.
The XK120, introduced shortly after World War II, was the fastest production car in the world at the time of its release with a 126mph top speed. Designed for race and road use, the car was manufactured from 1948 before being discontinued in 1954.
Almost 40 years later, Jaguar once again produced the world’s fastest road car. The XJ220, introduced in 1992, was the fastest production car in the world until it was defeated by the even faster McLaren F1, which was launched the following year.
Since 2008, Jaguar has been owned by the India-based Tata Motors
Although Jaguar is closely associated with Britain and has been an icon of British sports cars since the 1950s, the company is currently owned by Tata Motors – an industrial corporation based in Mumbai, India.
Tata, which also owns automotive companies such as Land Rover and Daewoo, is viewed as a fairly hands-off owner, allowing Jaguar to operate largely from the UK with significant investment from its parent company.
In the 1960s, Jaguar produced “the most beautiful car ever made”
The Jaguar E-Type, along with Beatlemania and James Bond, was one of several UK cultural exports that defined the British Cultural Invasion of the 1960s. Stylish and cool, it’s viewed by many as the most beautiful car to have ever been built.
Enzo Ferrari, the founder of Ferrari S.p.A., was one of several automotive industry leaders to love the E-Type. After spotting the new E-Type, then called the XKE, at a motor show, Enzo Ferrari called it “the most beautiful car ever made.”
The Jaguar XJ exclusively uses the world’s finest bull leather
Jaguar is known for its outstandingly beautiful car exteriors, but just as much work goes into the interior of the company’s cars. The Jaguar XJ is upholstered using only Scottish Angus bull leather to produce the finest look and feel possible.
Why not cow leather? Jaguar’s interior team believes that cow leather, which often features stretch marks that develop during pregnancy, simply isn’t good enough for the ultra-luxury vehicle.
Jaguar tests their cars at simulated speeds of 700+ miles per hour
Jaguar has built some fast cars over the years, but none that reach anything close to 700 miles per hour. Despite this, the company’s engineers test their cars at a speed, albeit simulated, of 766 miles per hour to measure vibration and noise.
The purpose of the high-speed testing is to identify noises, vibrations and problems that could affect ride quality at a lower speed. The high-speed testing, as well as low-temperature testing, is an important part of Jaguar’s quality testing process.
Before Jaguar built cars, the company developed motorcycle sidecars
Before Jaguar started producing sports and luxury cars, the company was known for its motorcycle sidecars. Founded as the Swallow Sidecar Company, Jaguar produced high quality sidecars for motorcycles for the first five years of its existence.
In 1927, the company changed its focus, building a two-seater coupe. Over time, the company branched out into sports and luxury cars, becoming the high-end motoring brand customers are familiar with today.
The XK120 was a favourite of stars during the Hollywood Golden Age
As well as being the world’s fastest production car of its era, the Jaguar XK120 was a prestigious vehicle that was popular with many of Hollywood’s top stars during the 1940s and 1950s Golden Era of Hollywood.
Clark Gable, at the time known as “The King of Hollywood”, was one of several fans of the car. One of his customised XK120s, which he wanted at the time “like a child wants candy”, is currently being restored to his original specs in Switzerland.