1938 SS100 Jaguar 3½-Litre Roadster  Chassis no. 39030

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Lot 287
1938 SS100 Jaguar 3½-Litre Roadster
Registration no. JSJ 245 Chassis no. 39030

£ 200,000 - 250,000
US$ 260,000 - 330,000
1938 SS100 Jaguar 3½-Litre Roadster
Registration no. JSJ 245
Chassis no. 39030


  • 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 '39030' was supplied new via Glovers, SS Jaguar dealers in Ripon, North Yorkshire on 13th January 1938. The accompanying JDHT Heritage Certificate records that it was delivered finished in lavender with blue trim. Purchased at a UK auction in 1975, the Jaguar subsequently spent 20 years in France, where it was owned by Michel Seydoux, before returning home in the late 1990s. While in France the car underwent a comprehensive restoration by specialists Le Coq.
    Back in the UK the SS100 was owned by a husband and wife couple, both keen historic rallyists, and prepared accordingly complete with a competition-specification engine (from a Jaguar 3½-Litre saloon) and a modern five-speed gearbox. Assembled in the previous owner's own workshops, the engine incorporates a gas-flowed cylinder head, bronze valve guides and hardened valve seats permitting the use unleaded fuel. Further work was subsequently carried out on the suspension, shock absorbers and gearbox by SS Jaguar specialists TRAC of Colchester, Essex. Careful attention to detail is reflected in the use of discrete rubber mounts for the body tub and fuel tank, insulating them from potentially damaging vibration.
    While in the previous ownership the SS100 contested such popular and competitive international historic events such as the acclaimed Liège-Rome-Liège road rally. The car was purchased by the current vendor in 2000. Finished in traditional British Racing Green with contrasting black leather interior, it is described by him as in generally excellent condition and offered with FIVA identity card and Swansea V5 registration document.
    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, '39030' is eligible for a wide variety of the most prestigious historic motor sport events.
1938 SS100 Jaguar 3½-Litre Roadster  Chassis no. 39030
1938 SS100 Jaguar 3½-Litre Roadster  Chassis no. 39030
1938 SS100 Jaguar 3½-Litre Roadster  Chassis no. 39030
1938 SS100 Jaguar 3½-Litre Roadster  Chassis no. 39030
1938 SS100 Jaguar 3½-Litre Roadster  Chassis no. 39030
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