He was born as the second child of William and Minnie Lyons in Blackpool and attended the Arnold School with average grades up to the age of 17. His father got him an apprenticeship at Crossley Motors Ltd., and the young William Lyons studied evenings at the Technical School Manchester engineering. Lyons felt in the large enterprise, however, not well, helped some time in their parents' music and piano business and started as a car salesman at the local Blackpool company Brown & Mallalieu. He was also successful in motorcycle racing and won his Harley -Davidson Daytona Special some mountain races.
In 1922, William Lyons, aged 21 years, together with the eight years older William Walmsley, the Swallow Sidecar Company, the elegant motorcycle sidecar produced. Was on November 6, 1926 - advertised in the Blackpool Gazette for the Swallow Sidecar & Coach Building Co - on the move to a larger workshop in port. The first planned for series production car body was designed for the Austin Swallow - a two -seater, which was approved in the spring of 1927. In mid-August the Morris Swallow was announced on the chassis of Cowley. While the Austin Swallow thanks to diligent participation of the London car trading house Henlys was a great success, originated from Morris Swallow - probably because of the competition from MG - Only a few copies.
1928 came out the closed four-seat sedan Austin Swallow Saloon, and a year later another very similar saloons on the chassis of the Fiat 509, the Swift Ten and the standard nine. With the delicate Wolseley Hornet Lyons ventured first time in 1930 in the six-cylinder Terrain, where he standard Swallow 16 HP launched end of 1930 with the chassis of the newly constructed until 1928 Standard Ensign.
As an automotive enthusiast Lyons enthusiastic about low, elegant lines, as they were popular especially in the United States. The available of the large-volume producers chassis such dimensions could not. So Lyons did everything he could to persuade one of the major manufacturers for the production of extremely flat chassis with long wheelbase - exclusively for his company. He finally succeeded in at the company standard, with whom he already entertained business relationships. This was the birth of the presented at the Motor Show at London's Olympia Hall in October 1931 SS 1, with the already known from the standard Swallow machine by the way, but now optionally also in larger 20 HP version. In parallel, the formally quite similar, but built on the standard chassis of the Standard Little Nine SS 2 presented.
On October 26, 1933 William Lyons founded the SS Cars Ltd. with a capital of 10,000 pounds. The 1932 completely renewed, now truly elegant SS 1 was now available instead of the storm poles as a tourer and a saloon with rear side windows. For model year 1934, also the S. S. 2, a new body in the style of the big brother, and that as these as a coupé, open tourer and saloon- available. For 1935, there were in addition to S. S. 1 airline, a particularly luxurious sedan with a hatchback type. Finally, early in 1935 were still the - the previous coupe very similar - Drophead Coupé with really hinged top and the two-seater, the wheelbase significantly shortened race cars SS 90 added.
Despite all efforts, the engines were not in a position which suggested with the body lines performance even close to sure. Lyons was concerned with the number of eight-cylinder Studebaker and the Zoller compressor, but these options were finally rejected. With the help of Harry Weslake engine experts Lyons had the standard six- cylinder redesign on overhead valves, and again was standard that this over 100 bhp strong unit exclusively for SS manufacture.
In the fall of 1935, William Lyons put at the Mayfair Hotel in London the SS Jaguar 2 ½ Litre ago who got this engine - Jaguars first four-door sedan. The same engine made the racing car to SS 100, where the digit, the maximum speed in miles per hour (160 km / h) stated. From the end of 1937 in addition to the 2 ½ Litre were also 3 ½ Litre saloons and SS 100 offered, which were also successful in international motorsport.
In March 1945, Lyons ' company of SS Cars Ltd was renamed Jaguar Cars Ltd.. On September 30, 1948 William Lyons introduced the Mark V in front of the saloon and Drophead Coupé. However, eye-catching was the sports car XK 120 This has created with his sensational performance XK- engine ( in-line six -cylinder with 3.4 liters displacement ) with two overhead camshafts and hemispherical combustion chambers, the basis for the reputation of the brand. The XK 120 was equipped with a top speed of 120 mph ( 193 km / h ) is the fastest sports car of its time. Developed from the XK 120 C or C-Type Jaguar brought with victories in 1951 and 1953 in Le Mans, the breakthrough to internationally recognized sports car brand.
A major blow was the mysterious accidental death of his only son John Michael on the way to the 24 - hour race at Le Mans in 1955, which incidentally won a Jaguar. 1956 William Lyons was honored for his services, in particular for the development of the company and the export business, with the title of Knight Bachelor.
In 1961 Sir William Lyons in front of the E-Type at the Geneva Motor Show; a very good standing in the food test specimen was known from the XK 150 S 3.8 liter XK engine reach the magic 150 mph (241 km / h). As of 1964, the E-Type was sold with the reamed to 4.2 liter XK engine, and from 1966 as 2 2 seater coupe.
In the sixties took over Lyons more companies, including Daimler, Guy and Coventry Climax. On July 11, 1966 gave Sir William Lyons and Sir George Harriman, the merger of Jaguar Cars Ltd. and the British Motor Corporation (BMC ) is known. However, only two years later this BMH went on in the British Leyland Motor Corporation.
While the sports car created the basis for the myth of the Jaguar company, sold the company in the first place, the luxury sedans and sports ( sports saloon ). All cars by Sir William Lyons offered at least in the domestic UK market is very good value for money, excellent performance and features as well as a sporty - elegant styling quite a different character.
Sir William Lyons remained Chairman and CEO until 1972. Was succeeded by " Lofty " England, but Sir William remained as honorary president still an influential role in the field of styling.
Despite health problems Lyons was interested even after retirement for the very company that he had built. However, his real passion was then the large agricultural operation to which he had inhabited by him since 1937 Good Wappenbury Hall now expanded. There he also died on 8 February 1985. His wife Greta survived him only about a year, his two daughters, Patricia Quinn and Mary Rimell still alive.