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The first Jaguar model to attain considerable renown in the United States was the Jaguar XK 120. First shown at the 1948 London Motor Show. Interestingly, it was originally intended to be just a concept car to show off the new 160-horsepower XK engine. The sensuously curvaceous Jaguar inspired so much enthusiasm among show goers; the company quickly put it into production.

The model’s nomenclature was a function of the fact the Jaguar automobile had a top speed of 120 miles per hour. This gave it the distinction of being the fastest production car available at that time. As the engine steadily became more powerful, the XK 120 evolved into the XK 140, then the XK 150, and eventually into the most iconic model in the history of Jaguar, the 1961 Jaguar E-Type (also known as the Jaguar XK-E).

By 1965, things were looking really good at Jaguar. Its models were both well received and highly respected. However, the company’s founder, Sir William Lyons had a rather significant flaw in his business model. He’d contracted the production of Jaguar’s monocoque bodies to the Pressed Steel Company. When British Motor Corporation took over Pressed Steel, Jaguar was relegated to second tier status; giving Lyons production problems. When BMC offered to buy Lyons out altogether, he sold.

Jaguar’s new owner, experiencing management and financial difficulties, was subsequently pushed into a merger with the then prosperous Leyland Motor Corporation Limited, the manufacturer of Rover and Triumph cars, as well as Leyland buses and trucks. With the merger, the new company became known as British Leyland. Unfortunately, problems soon overtook Leyland as well.

This did not bode well for Jaguar, which needed to be on the cutting edge of research and development if it were to effectively compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. New product development pretty much stopped under British Leyland. In 1984, Jaguar was released to find private financial backing.

Ford purchased Jaguar in 1989, and proceeded to invest a great deal of money into fixing the problems plaguing the reliability of new Jaguar cars. Ford also expanded the range of new Jaguar models. But it didn’t work out. The return on investment just wasn’t there. Ford sold Jaguar to its current owner—Tata Motors—in 2008; having never made a profit on the brand.