Leopard Automobile AB
Dalaslingan 1, SE-231 32 Trelleborg, Sweden
Phone +46 410 145 40
Fax +46 410 145 49
History of Leopard Automobile
Back in the thirties Warsaw was one of the foremost industrial and cultural capitals in Europe.
Here we meet Franciszek Szwaj, a respected entrepreneur, who had started a coach company that soon became a leading establishment in Warsaw.
His son Zbyslaw grew up in that dynamic environment, where he could closely examine some of the most advanced cars that were brought to the country.
At that time Poland had no car industry but had a high world ranking in aviation technique and an established aircraft industry. Young boys had dreams of being pilots, but Zbyslaw was more interested in the development and construction of airplanes and of cars. He studied at Aviation Engine Secondary School and then went to the Technical University of Warsaw, where he a few years later graduated in mechanical construction.
Zbyslaw then started a career in nuclear technology. Soon he got an international reputation for his discoveries and inventions.
However, his deep interest in cars and especially in sports cars had a strong influence on his life. One day he got the opportunity to acquire the car of his dreams, an SS 100 Jaguar. It had been sent from Coventry to an exhibition in Berlin, but only days before the Germans invaded Poland. With them it came to Warsaw. It was in a bad shape, but Zbyslaw decided to bring it back to its original condition, which was an unbelievable task if you know about the situation in Poland those days.
Now another guy comes into the picture. Alf Näslund, a well-known Swedish sports car enthusiast, who had heard about the mysterious SS100. He decided to trace it. After years he unexpectedly got in touch with Zbyslaw Szwaj.
The car was under severe conditions brought through the "Iron Curtain" to Sweden.
This was back in the sixtieth and it was the start of a productive friendship between the two keen enthusiasts. The first sketches of a new sports car were created on the kitchen table at V.Vemmerlöv in Sweden.
But communication between the two countries was not only complicated. All telephone calls were tapped and the letters were censored. It took time.
Alf had managed a sports car club and arranged meetings on a nationwide level. He very much knew what keen enthusiasts were looking for.
Zbyslaw knew how to transform sophisticated production methods from the aircraft industry into advanced automotive technology. He also knew the very skilled people who could be employed and follow his visions.
Then at the end of the eighties Soviet Union lost control over Poland and the Russians stopped producing their air fighters F 15 in the Polish town Mielec. During the war the Germans had built their Junkers bombers there. That place had a strong aviation heritage. But now, only 7.000 of the 22.000 aircraft workers had still a job. MacDonell-Douglas started a collaboration for producing body parts for their new airplanes, but most of the area remained empty.
Not until the government declared Mielec as a Special Economic Zone - with very strong business privileges for foreign companies - that area became attractive again.
But before that Zbyslaw and Alf were invited to Mielec to show an early prototype and present their plans. The doors were opened. 32 skilled engineers and aircraft workers were employed. Six cars were soon made. Two of them were brought to MIRA in England,one for crash impact test and the other for advanced tests on the proving ground.
Leopard Roadster Series 1 at Knutstorp Raceway in Sweden (1994)
That car, let us call it Series 1, was very well built. It showed outstanding performance figures. The retro-design in combination with the modern automotive technology attracted individualists and sports car enthusiasts. However, new and fascinating ideas came up during the development - ideas that could not be transferred to the existing design. Therefore, in 1995 it was decided to start from scratch. A renamed company, new buildings, new machinery and a completely new design!
Another reason for changing was the support from Maxel, Zbyslaw's son. He had studied abroad, at the University of Dublin,where he was graduated in both Mechanical Engineering and in Automotive Design. After that he was offered a job at the Concept Department at Rover in Coventry. Once there he took a keen part in the shape of the MGF. He also held seminars at the Royal Academy of Art in London, in automobile design.
Team Leopard at a race meeting in Sweden
However, during nights and weekends he and his team developed the body and chassis for the new Leopard.
Maxel was later offered a job at the Porsche Design Studios in California,where he became responsible for the new icon of the automobile world - the Porsche Carrera GT.
But let us go back to 1995 when the new company, Leopard Automobile AB, was established. Two of Alf's old friends - Rolf Skog and Karsten Werntoft - had since the idea took shape followed the progress. They now joined the company.
In 2002 the very modern production facilities in Mielec were ready. A year later, in November 2003, the first car was completed and shown in Sweden to a limited group of sports car enthusiasts. Very private and hidden from the media. A number of orders were taken.
Finally, in April 2005 the new Leopard 6 Litre Roadster was ready for the roads and had an international launch in Paris.