A-Z Of Marques: No.27 Jaguar

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The marque: Clubby but racy choice of cads and tweedy car-lovers

The history: Flamboyance has ruled Jaguar's life. It began in 1922, when William Lyons joined with William Walmsley in Blackpool to build streamlined sidecars. Their company, Swallow, soon moved on to special bodies for Austin Sevens, then it relocated to Coventry and started to reclothe Standards, which became 1932's SS1.

The pinnacle of the SS years was the SS100 sports car, by which time (from 1935) the Jaguar name had also slipped in. Post-war, SS was dropped for its now-unwelcome connotations and, in 1948, a new Jaguar era began. Central to this was the new XK engine, an exotic creation with six cylinders and twin, overhead camshafts, which carried on to 1986. The sleek XK120 sports car was the cheapest way to reach 120mph, while the big saloons had a pace to belie their space and grace (to paraphrase Jaguar's best-known slogan).

Always cheap for what they offered, and basking in multiple Le Mans racing successes, Jaguars gained a nouveau-riche tag they never quite lost, while the smaller Mk2 saloons became the stereotypical getaway car. Then came the most flamboyant Jaguar: the E-type of 1961, which it was claimed could do 150mph.

The next milestone was the fabulously refined XJ6 of 1968, the last Jaguar truly to be styled by Lyons, by then knighted. Then it turned sour. Jaguar and BMC had already joined forces, and merged with Leyland, owner of Rover and Triumph, to form British Leyland. In 1984, the company escaped the quagmire and re-asserted its identity, only to be taken over by Ford in 1989.

Ford invested heavily, improved the quality, while keeping the soul and the expertise UK-based. Nowadays, Jaguar has four model ranges, albeit with red ink, once again, on the balance-sheet. The smaller two owe much to Ford- descended components, but the current XJ saloon still shows the style of Lyons' original. No wonder the buyers' age profile is so elderly. Time to move on, chaps - as today's Jaguar designers well know.

Defining model: E-type - seldom has sexual imagery been more obvious, even though it was unintended.

They say: Grace, space, pace

We say: Lovely cars for your dad to drive

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