Lyon's Tales                                                                         Page 4 of 9
      VJC HOME Page                                                                                                             November 2007 Volume 8 No. 05                         <-Back    |    Next ->

Page 1 -
The Lyons Roar

Page 2 -
November Tech
Session In RIC
Saturday 11/10

Page 3 -
Jaguar XF
Debuts in DC

Page 4 -
A Swallow Story:
Oldest Jaguar in America
Comes to Life (Again)
with VJC Member!

Page 5 -
A Visit to the
Imperial Hotel &
Casino Auto
Las Vegas Baby!

Page 6 -
Jaguar Announces
X-Type Enhancements

Page 7 -
One Trip Across
America in a
Jaguar Vanden Plas
(Part 1 of 3)

Page 8
Jaguar Humor
(No Joke This Month!!)
Picture of the Month

VJC 2007 Officers

David Harrison
Vice President
Dr. Bill Massey
North Reg. VP
Bruce Murff
East Reg. VP
Don Jackson
West Region VP
Maurice Maxwell

Bruce Murff
Treasurer & Secretary
Marian Murff

Concours Chairman
Steve Kelley

Newsletter, Webmaster,
Chief Concours Judge

Wayne Estrada

A Swallow Saga

How a the Oldest Jaguar on this side of the Pond came to Be
By David Harrison, VJC President

Shakespeare said "One Swallow doth not a summer make". He was wrong, my summer was definitely made when I acquired a 1929 Austin Swallow two seat roadster from a fellow VJC member. The Swallow register shows only four other Swallows in the US, none on the east coast, and none with earlier chassis numbers, so this could be the earliest "Jaguar" in the USA.

The Austin Swallow was created when Bill Lyons decided to produce a car to complement his Swallow sidecar line, and chose the humble but popular Austin Seven chassis and mechanicals as a basis. The plain Austin was transformed with a pretty two seater body, with luxurious (by contemporary standards) interior and attractive two tone paint.schemes. Bill Lyons started to produce a few a week and was staggered to receive an order for 500 from Henleys in London. After moving from Blackpool to Coventry in 1927 he accelerated production of the two seater roadster and saloon Austin Swallows. The success, publicity and income generated by the 3500 Swallows sold between 1927 to 1931 enabled him to produce his next breakthrough car, the 1931 SS1. The Austin Swallow is thus the ancestor of the illustrious Jaguar line. There are 147 Austin Swallow survivors worldwide, of which 58 are two seaters.

Records provided by Gil Mond, the Austin Swallow historian, show my Swallow, Chassis C88424, Engine M88740 left the factory on Aug 7, 1929, it was issued with a London license plate UV 4851, and was very likely a Henley car. No other prewar records have turned up, and the car predates British Heritage records. During WW2 the car would have been stored, then in 1968 the car is entered into the Swallow register as "existing", with Mr A.E. Sims of Bath listed as the owner. The file says the owner made "significant modifications" in 1970, no doubt to restore and update the car after many years hibernation. One modification I certainly appreciate was a conversion to coupled four wheel cable brakes, originally the car had an open cable system with front brakes operated by the brake pedal and the rear brakes applied by the hand brake.

The next register entry of December 1987 shows that the car had somehow crossed the pond, now owned by Bob and Peg Grant of Strasburg, Va, who operated an antique car restoration shop and museum. After the shop went into bankruptcy, the Swallow was acquired by VJC founding members David and Hazel Laughton. David is a renowned Jaguar restorer, he got the car running, drove it in the Urbanna Oyster Festival parade, and showed it at several Virginia British Car events, before other priorities led to him storing the car. VJC members who attended club events at the Laughtons may have seen the Swallow in his garage. When David decided to get back into deep ocean sailing, the Swallow then passed to John Hastings in 2004, and again went into storage in a warehouse until July 2007, when friend Hugh Burruss and I picked it up.

The Swallow was very presentable in appearance when I acquired the car, and had been carefully stored for many years by these two genuine enthusiasts, but as we all know, storing is not restoring. An immediate problem was the total lack of engine compression when tested with the starting handle. JCNA rules require that any car entered in a JCNA Concours should be driven onto the field under its own power, so getting the engine to run was a priority. This also involved the fuel tank, and the archaic updraft carburation system, and meant getting acquainted with 1920s Austin Seven technology, a very arcane area.

(In the next thrilling episode: "Getting the Swallow to Fly Again.")