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Sir William Lyons enjoyed a seemingly unstoppable rise to fame and fortune in the motor industry, and the Jaguar brand which he introduced became world-famous. Yet it did not happen overnight. In the 1920s he was in Blackpool, styling motorcycle sidecars, in the 1930s he was in Coventry developing the SS motor car, and the stand-alone Jaguar company did not appear until 1945. Until 1972, when he retired from business, Sir William was the mainstream, the chairman, the chief stylist, and the inspiration of all things Jaguar.

Helped along by the amazing new XK engine of 1948, by motor racing success at Le Mans, and by the stunning style of cars like the XK120, the Mk 2 saloons and the extraordinary E-Type, Jaguar soon became world-famous. Along the way the company absorbed Daimler and Coventry-Climax, then merged voluntarily with BMC in 1966, and returned to Le Mans racing with great success in the 1980s.

Although the company was later commercially buffeted by its involvement with British Leyland, with Ford and latterly with Land Rover, and finally the Indian conglomerate Tata which now controls the business, the company's products have always been stunning. Sports coupes which reach well beyond 150mph, sleek executive saloons with unbeatable styling, and the promise of much innovation in the next few years make this a story whose climax is yet to come.

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