1954 Schwinn Jaguar
37 year mystery solved



Schwinn built the Jaguar from 1953 to 1955. It was the first attempt to combine baloon-tire bike durability with higher performance closer to the lightweights. It featured caliper brakes and a
3-speed hub. The bike is noticeably lighter and more responsive than a Phantom. It turned into an interim model, as Schwinn refined it in 1954 by adding 26" X 1 3/4" tires, a front rack, and called it the Corvette. Sales of the Corvette really took off, and eclipsed the Jaguar, which was dropped at the end of the 1955 model year. For 1957, the Jaguar was redesigned as a middleweight, and called the Jaguar Mark II. This became the top of the Schwinn line, which my father gave me for Christmas in 1959.

In 1961, I learned about Roman Numerals, and gradually became aware that if my Jaguar was a Mark II, there must have been a Mark I. I began to wonder what it looked like, and would look for one whenever there was a bunch of bikes around. I never found one, and the thought faded.

With the advent of the Internet, LOTS of information about bikes and other things became available. In 1997, I finally saw a first model Jaguar on ebay. At last the mystery was solved! By this time, I had also discovered Memory Lane Classics, and began restoring other bikes. I asked Larry Busch if he had ever seen a first model Jaguar. He said that in 20 years of bike collecting, he had seen about 5. This inidicated that they were rarer than Phantoms, which I had seen 1 of while growing up.

Having restored a few bikes over the next 3 years, I saw a Jaguar listed on ebay in November, 2000. It was missing the chainguard, and the seller didn't know which model it was. The description matched a picture in the Schwinn book, so I bid on it and bought it for $308. Only a few other bidders also knew it was a Jaguar.

Restoring the bike was easier than some of the others. The Delta Rocket Ray headlight is reproduced, and the chrome fenders used on the current Cruiser are close enough. They have more flair to the tails, so look a bit more 1950's than the originals. Pfeiffer Pframes painted, decalled, and pinstriped this bike. Persons was making new leather saddles with the chrome rail, so I got a new one. The bearings in the hubs, crank, and headset only required cleaning and fresh grease. The 1954 Sturmey-Archer hub shifts perfectly.

So now I have 2 models of the 5 different Jaguars that Schwinn made. They are enough for me, since the space allocated for bikes is full.