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 side-valve 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 side-valve 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. In 1938 a 3½-litre version producing 125bhp was added to the range, the larger engine's extra power making the SS100 a genuine 100mph car.
Although a fine touring car, the SS100 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 SS100 production was prematurely ended by the outbreak of war.
This particular 3½-Litre model was acquired by the Patrick Collection from one Ben John Martin of Coventry in 1981. In 1988 the car was photographed in the grounds of the Patrick Collection's museum to illustrate an article in Old Car magazine (January 1989 edition, copy article available) written by Sidney Lattimer about his experiences as an SS100 owner. The car also comes with sundry invoices, current road fund licence, Swansea V5 document and 15 expired MoTs showing the recorded mileage increasing from 23,101 in 1989 to 25,793 in July 2011, a total of only 2,692 miles in 22 years. Also on file is the Collection's record of work carried out and events attended over the years, the latter including the NEC Motor Show, Bristol-Bournemouth Run and various other road runs.
Benefiting from the recent partial replacement of the exhaust system, 'FGC 674' is finished in light green metallic with red leather interior, the latter boasting original seats and new door cards and carpets. It is also offered for sale with a fresh MoT, expiring October 2013.
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 a well documented example of the model in its ultimate guise that can be said to have started the Jaguar legend, 'FGC 674' would make an excellent tour/rally car and is eligible for a wide variety of the most prestigious historic motor sport events, including the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, Le Mans Retro, Colorado Grand, Great America, California Mille and many more.
A Jaguar Heritage certificate is offered with this lot, confirming matching numbers.