Like many Coventry motorcar makers Swift had a background in the cycle trade. Motor tricycles appeared in 1898 and quadricycles followed two years later, along with some experimental voiturettes. In 1902 the Swift Motor Company was formed and car production was moved to a new factory at Cheylesmore, south of the city centre. A light car with a single-cylinder engine and two-speed bevel-gear transmission was initially made, with conventional single and two-cylinder cars on sale by 1904. Swift used a variety of proprietary engines including Aster, De Dion–Bouton, and Fafnir, whilst a White & Poppe unit powered a 3-cylinder model introduced in 1905.
A range of conventional cars was built and some of these were gold medal winners in pre-Great War reliability trials. This prompted advertising copy that stated: "Swift all British cars – their past guarantees their future"; which it did for about twenty more years.