1937 Jaguar SS 100 2 1/2-Liter Roadster

Once favored by impecunious young Spitfire pilots and cads about town, the SS 100 is now a blue chip collectible with price to match

Founded in Blackpool by William Walmsley, the Swallow Sidecar & Coachbuilding Company branched out into motor manufacture in 1926, its first major success being an attractive sports saloon on the Austin Seven chassis. The design was the work of Walmsley’s partner, William Lyons.

Ten years later, in 1936, the SS 100 Jaguar sports car was launched and marked the company’s first use of the “Jaguar” name. Around 190 2 1/2-Liter and 118 of the 3 1/2-Liter cars had been made by the time SS 100 production ceased at the outbreak of war.

A superb and fully restored 1937 2 1/2-Liter Roadster, chassis number 18054 is listed in the SS 100 Registry and known to the Classic Jaguar Association. Its history file is truly extensive and includes period pictures, correspondence between various owners, renovation photographs, original buff logbook, numerous bills, expired MoT safety inspections, etc.

The original owner was Colonel Gray-Cheape in the U.K. The car acquired its special bronze-coated cylinder head early in its life. Factory records indicate that only eleven cars had these special heads and were primarily for competition use.

The car contested many rallies in 1938-39, driven by Mr. John Barlass, before being stored during the war years. Purchased by a Mr. R. Swarbrick in 1946, it was taken on numerous continental holidays during his ownership, including a trip to Le Mans, where it was timed at 98 mph on the Mulsanne Straight.

The history file contains some splendid photographs of these various trips including pictures taken on Alpine passes in Switzerland. The SS 100 was next sold in 1951 to Performance Cars (a dealer) and subsequently appeared in 1955 in Motorsport magazine (a copy of the advertisement is enclosed with the history file). The car then passed to a Mr. A. Lawrence in Portsmouth. He sold the car in 1960 to a Mr. M. Beard in Buckinghamshire.

In 1961, the car passed to Capt. Hunter Moore Alverston, stationed at the U.S. air base in Denham, who exported it from Dover to Ostend (the original ferry invoice is with the history). The Jaguar was driven to Marseilles and then two years later taken to Turkey, where it was temporarily impounded by the Turkish Government. It went to the U.S. via San Francisco in June 1968.

The 2 1/2-Liter Roadster spent the next 17 years in the U.S. in Captain Alverston’s ownership (there are many bills dating from this period) and in 1988 was bought from U.S. dealer Terry Larson by Bob Heppel, who brought it back to the U.K. Its new owner then commissioned a meticulous restoration (Jack Buckley/Fullbridge Restoration Company), changing the color back to the original metallic grey.
Accompanying photographs clearly show every detail both before and after restoration. The quality of the work is quite superb and the car has recently been serviced by Davenports. Representing a rare opportunity to acquire a fine example of the model that can be said to have started the Jaguar legend, the SS 100 presented here possesses one of the most comprehensive history files imaginable as well as undisputed provenance.

Simon Kidston

Simon Kidston - SCM Editor at Large

Simon is from an old British motor-racing family. He started his career at Coys, leaving to co-found Bonhams Europe in Geneva. Over the next decade, he staged high-profile auctions around the world, branching out on his own in 2006 to found Kidston SA, a consultancy responsible for some of the larger deals you rarely hear about. Simon also judges at Pebble Beach and is “the voice” of the Villa d’Este Concours and the Mille Miglia.

Posted in English