Jaguar, MG, Morris and SS

Jaguar, MG, Morris and SS
Geoff Wheatley on Jaguar, MG, Morris and SS
Published by: All Car Central Publishing
Date published: 29/10/2015

This Review Will Be Of Special Interest To Readers Who Have A Soft Spot For British Cars And The History Of The Two Breeds!

MG is usually thought of as being a small swift sports car while the name Jaguar carries the image of the sleek, beautiful wealthy owners vehicle...There was of course the E Type and the post war XK Series but this story relates to the period before WWII when MG raced at Brooklands and Jaguar was viewed as a would be rich mans toy..

Jaguar SS2 Landau Coupe 1932
Image sumited by Rick Feibusch


The first Jaguar saw the light of day in 1934 when William Lyons, the owner and manufacturer of sidecars for motor cycles decided that he wanted to make an attractive vehicle that would look like it belonged on the French Riviera as part of a millionaires stable.

In reality the SS1 featured a side valve engine made by the Standard Motor company who supplied about sixty percent of all the auto engines that went into various British motor cars excluding of course Rolls, Ford and Morris who had their own manufacturing plants. The secret of the appeal of SS1 was that the looked both classic and expensive with the extended hood, large chrome headlights and a walnut finished interior. As for performance well that was another thing. The car was heavy and even with a two liter side valve engine it might hit seventy miles an hour with a good tail wind, a year later a even larger power unit was used that did push the top speed into the seventy five MPH range but it took a long time! Apart from the attractive expensive style of the car, it was not expensive selling for the average price of a middle range family vehicle.

MG SA saloon 1936
Image sumited by Rick Feibusch


At the same time as the launch of the SS Range (Short for Swallow Side Cars), MG decided to go into the Classic Car business with the launch of the famous SA and VA range of models. It is interesting to note that at this time the Morris company did not have a luxury vehicle to offer.. Why? Because William Morris viewed such cars as expensive to make and even more difficult to sell to his established market. They did have the Wolseley Motor Company that was purchased in the early nineteen twenties when, like many other car manufactures it went bankrupt.

The principle model was a respectable vehicle often referred to as a Bank Managers car conservative in design and looks etc. Lord Morris drove a Wolseley rather than the usual Rolls or Bentley that is associated with wealth and success. In reality he was one of the most wealthy people in the world but tended to buy inexpensive items, he once told an interviewer that he never paid more than ten shillings for a new shirt (About two dollars at the then rate of exchange) and expected it to last at least two years! On the other hand his wife Lady Morris built a large Country house where she entertained on a regular basis. Morris had an apartment built in the Morris HQ where he often spent working days staying overnight etc.(It is equally interesting to note that the couple did not have any children! )

MG VA 1937


It would not be over speculating that the Morris management decided to MG produce such a car and if it failed they would not be blamed by the BOSS. The SA and the VA were about twenty percent more expensive than the SS vehicles. Price is always a serious consideration no matter who is buying!

In 1936 virtually out of the blue SS Cars launched a stunning new model, the SS 90, GAURANTEED TO HAVE A TOP SPEED OF NINTY MILES AN HOUR. At first it was an open sports car design but within a few months a saloon version was offered.

Jaguar S.S. 90 1935

SS 90

This certainly hit the MG SA and VA as the price difference for the SS 90 remained the same, about twenty percent less. The projected sales of the MG product never reached the expected figure and even worse production has at best erratic which delayed delivery to prepaid purchasers who at best, were not impressed and canceled their order. On the other hand SS cars now renamed Jaguar Motors had problems keeping up with their orders.

The name Jaguar was chosen by William Lyons daughter on a visit to a local zoo, Lyons had been searching for a brand name representing both speed and style. The name CHEETA was considered as being the fastest animal on earth but regretfully the other interpretation was that the company was a cheetah. Not quite the image when you are about to launch a new product! It is reported that while visiting the zoo the daughter suggested Jaguar, sleek fast and beautiful to see. The following year the SS 90 became the Jaguar 100, a car that could hit the magic one hundred miles an hour. Obviously a new power unit was installed a 2.5 liter OHV . To try to counter MG introduced the WA a 2.6 liter luxury car but again about twenty five percent more expensive than the Jaguar 100 and not quite in the same performance scale.

For over three years this interesting battle between the small and the big guy continued with the small winning every round. The situation was resolved by the outbreak of WW II and the MG in company with most other production centers went over war work. Jaguar did the same thing on a smaller scale than the Morris empire. As predicted it was MG that took the blame for the disappointing sales but it was also recognized that the Morris management and design team was behind the whole situation, MG was simply the tool that they used to reach the top of the market.

Jaguar XK120 Alloy 1949
Image sumited by Rick Feibusch


When the war ended Jaguar once again gave the British Motor industry a shock with the introduction of the XK 120 in 1949. Followed a couple of years later with the XK 140 that won the Le Mans in 1951 and 53. Records show that at the close of the 1949 Motor Show a total of eighteen months production of the XK 120 had been confirmed by both US and European dealers.

Sad to say the British buyer had to wait a minimum of six months as the government of the day restricted home sales to ten percent of production in order to expand and control exports. A move to try and pay off Britain's war debts.

MG TD 1954


MG never again attempted to enter the high price market with any of their products however, one of the first post war MG cars, the famous MGTD, sold more cars in four years than the total production of MG vehicles since the company started back in 1929, to be followed by the MGA that exceeded 100,000 vehicles in a matter of five years. In 1952 Morris Motors in company with its principle rival Austin Motors joined forces to become the British Motor Corporation, set up by the government with a twenty percent government ownership.

The actual amount of money the British taxpayer contributed over the next twenty five years has never been published but like similar adventures it was not an outstanding success. Today apart from a couple of small independent manufactures there is no longer a British Motor Industry.. I think that speaks for itself.


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