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.
Chassis number '18083' was supplied new in 1937 via Appleyards (probably the well known Yorkshire motor dealer of that name). Its early history is not recorded but the car is known to have been in the USA during the early/mid-1980s in the ownership of Gerry Wright of San Diego, California, who treated it to a full 'body off' restoration. Accompanying photographs show the car carrying US registration plates and painted red. Correspondence on file states that the Jaguar had been purchased from a Mr Eric Hook in the UK, passing in 1988 to Kensington-based motor dealer Gerry Porter, who re-imported it. Porter sold the car to Peter Allmand-Smith of Chelford, Cheshire, who appears to have been the proprietor of a Macclesfield-based company called Stormguard (see correspondence on file). The car was allocated the age-related registration 'NSU 698'.
Invoices on file record various works carried out since the Jaguar's return to the UK, including the purchase of a new radiator and a replacement original 2½-litre SS engine (the car had been fitted with a 3½-litre unit). Issued by Davenport Cars Ltd of Tetworth Bedfordshire, the bill for the latter is dated December 2009 and made out to SAS (Stormguard) indicating that they were still its owners at that time. More recently, in April/June 2013, the car benefited from the installation of a new hood, tonneau cover and hood bag (all in mohair), hood frame, transmission cover, interior mirror, wing mirrors, windscreen wipers/arms and new Dunlop C41 tyres, in addition to a host of more minor repairs (see bills from marque specialists Suffolk Jaguar on file). Fully serviced, 'on the button' and ready to be enjoyed, it comes with history file containing Jaguar Cars dating letter, some old MoTs (most recent expired November 2012), assorted DVLC correspondence, some marque-related literature, JDC membership details and old-style Swansea V5 documents.
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, '18083' is eligible for a wide variety of the most prestigious historic motor sports events.