1937 Jaguar SS 100
Year of manufacture1937
Number of seats2
1937 Jaguar SS100 3½-Litre Roadster
Registration no. CAK 253
Chassis no. 39007
Launched for 1936, the SS100 was the first real high-performance model produced by SS Cars Limited and used a new Weslake-developed overhead-valve engine in a shortened SS1 chassis. The introduction of the OHV unit was considered to justify the adoption of a new name for the series, SS Cars boss William Lyons later recalling 'I immediately pounced on Jaguar as it had an exciting sound to me.' ('Jaguar' would be adopted as the marque name in 1943, 'SS' having by then acquired a somewhat tarnished reputation).
'SS' originally stood for the Swallow Sidecar & Coachbuilding Company, which had been founded in Blackpool, England by William Walmsley. The company branched out into motor manufacture in 1926, its first major success being an attractive sports saloon on the Austin Seven chassis, the design being the work of Walmsley's partner, one William Lyons. Relocation to Coventry followed and the Swallow range expanded to include models on Morris Cowley, Wolseley Hornet and Standard Sixteen chassis. Marque status arrived in October 1931 with the launch of the SS1, the chassis of which was supplied exclusively to Swallow by Standard, who also provided the six-cylinder sidevalve engine and four-speed gearbox. Although unspectacular in performance, the SS1 went some way towards establishing the pattern for future Jaguars, combining sporting good looks with a better-than-average specification and all at a bargain price.
By the time the SS90 sports car arrived in 1935, William Heynes had joined as Chief Engineer. Based on a shortened SS1 chassis, re-engineered by Heynes, the SS90 again demonstrated Lyons' consummate skill as a stylist, its long bonnet, smoothly flowing wings, cut-away doors and truncated tail making it every inch the epitome of the 1930s sports car. Although good for 90mph, the SS90 was handicapped by the limitations of its sidevalve engine, a deficiency that would soon be rectified by another of Lyons' new recruits, gas-flow consultant Harry Weslake. Launched in 1936 alongside the 2½-Litre saloon, the SS100 Jaguar sports car marked the company's first use of the 'Jaguar' name. Beautifully styled in the manner of its SS90 predecessor, the newcomer employed a shorter, 102"-wheelbase chassis and a revised version of the 2,663cc Standard six which, equipped with Weslake's overhead-valve cylinder head and breathing through twin SU carburettors, now produced 104bhp.
Although a fine touring car, the SS 100 was marketed as primarily for competition work. Its first major success came early, if somewhat unexpectedly, when Tommy Wisdom, crewed by his wife, won the arduous International Alpine Trial in 1936, beating Bugatti and bringing the fledgling marque to the attention of the Continental public. This would be the first of many successful rallying forays, including class wins in the RAC events of 1937 and 1938, and the Alpine (outright) again in 1948. Around 198 2½-Litre and 116 of the later 3½-Litre cars had been made by the time SS 100 production was prematurely ended by the outbreak of war.
One of the earliest of the 3½-Litre cars, chassis number '39007' was supplied new on 1st December 1937 via Appleyards of Leeds. A change of engine, from '514E' to 'M536E', is recorded on an accompanying registration application dated 1st December 1937, so presumably was carried out at the factory. The first owner was Keith Wilkins Raspin of Valley Mill, Bradford. Mentioned in Andrew Whyte's book 'Jaguar, this SS100 competed at the SS Car Club's Donington Meeting in 1938 (William Lyons was one of the competitors) lapping at 66.25mph. Also on file is a photograph of 'CAK 253' competing in the Scottish Rally.
The Jaguar was later owned by a Bill Fraser of Glasgow and then from 1959 to 1963 by an Andrew Couper, another Glasgow resident. It was then passed, briefly, to an unnamed owner in Bawtry, South Yorkshire and in July 1965 was sold in 'barn find' condition to Mike Rouse, who kept the car until his death in November 2007. The SS100 then passed to his brother, the current vendor. The latter then proceeded to have the car professionally restored, entrusting the task to renowned marque specialists Davenport's of Biggleswade. The restoration took some four years to complete (2008-2012) and cost around £130,000 (bills on file). Only some 1,000 miles have been covered since the rebuild's completion and the car remains in excellent condition having been serviced annually. The only notified deviations from factory specification are flashing indicators, an electric radiator fan, and a five-speed gearbox conversion (the original gearbox was unusable).
The SS100 was one of the fastest and best-handling sports cars of its day, as its competition record both before and after the war bears witness to. Representing a rare opportunity to acquire an example of the model that can be said to have started the Jaguar legend, '39007' is eligible for a wide variety of the most prestigious historic motor sports events.