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Jag-lovers - Early cats for Swallow and SS Cars

The Austin Swallow 2 seaterThe coachbuilding side of Lyon's business first started production under the name of the Swallow Sidecar and Coachbuilding Company. Its initial model was the Austin Swallow 2-seater in late 1926 from a company now with 30 employees. The rather plain Austin Seven original was transformed with a long tail, restyled front wings and a magnificent radiator with chrome surround. The instruments were encased in a mahogany panel and the occupants similarly in leather - the wood and leather tradition had started! Priced at at £175, or £185 with a hinged hardtop, it proved very popular.

Swallow Coachbuilding also produced the 'SS' range from 1931 until 1933 when the company changed its name to SS Cars Ltd - however all material for models carrying the SS designation is in one place here in the SS Cars Section.


Within three months, a Morris Cowley two-seater was introduced with (like the Austin) aluminium panels over a wooden frame. By 1928, production was well underway and a four-seater saloon was the latest addition. With chassis arriving at the Cocker Street works in batches of 50 at a time, the big problem was lack of storage space. Lyons had no option but to move and the whole facility was transported to a new factory at Foleshill, Coventry - an undertaking made using no outside help, just the staff, one pantechnicon and a van.

The factory in 1928

In 1928 Constance Teather joined the Company. She remarks "The ground floor of the factory had a large enclosed paint shop opposite the office. It was painted white and I was told later that it had a special floor to make it dust-free for the painting of the Swallow car bodies. The sidecars were painted in a different part of the building upstairs. There was a big door at the back of the paint shop where the chassis were received. There was also a very large lift, I think the largest in the North of England."

Olympia 1929

Fiat Swallow Swift Swallow The Austin saw a Type 509A Fiat join it on the Swallow stand at Olympia together with a Standard Big Nine and a Swift Ten. Each had coachbuilt bodes similar to that of the Austin's but longer and sleeker. A notable feature of the Swallow range were the gay colour schemes compared with the originals.


Some 1928-29 Swallow Adverts

A 1929 Photo Album

In 1929, Swallow produced a limited-edition photo album entitled 'Swallow, Coachwork for the Connoisseur' Views of Works 1929. This leather bound and gold tooled piece is now rare and collectible in its own right. It contains 14 B/W photographs of the whole production process and all the departments in the factory at that time. A fascinating insight into how these cars were made - including a picture of the Sidecar Department. We have the whole album available here! Notice the rail lines down the centre of the left picture - a relic of when the site was a WWI munitions factory.

The old-established Wolseley company had introduced overhead camshaft engines to popular cars and in 1930 brought the first small six cylinder engine to the UK market. This attracted a number of coachbuilders and the Wolseley Hornet-Swallow appeared in 1931 and continued production into 1933. At the same time the 'Sidecar' part of the name was dropped (they were still in production though and would continue for some years until Lyons finally sold the venture off after the war). Shortly after, the first SS was announced based on the Standard Sixteen chassis.


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