The new cars were assembled from parts from many suppliers, and they might have looked more hand-finished than this piece of perfection.

This absolutely stunning SS100 stands today as what must be the finest example anywhere in the world. The quality and detail of its restoration rivals the finest ever performed on any motorcar. With the aim of presenting the car at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the ultimate goal of the restoration was to set a new standard of detail and finish when restoring the highly original, matching-numbers example. The work was undertaken by respected marque authority JD Classics, located outside London. Handsomely presented in its original black livery with navy blue leather, the car still retains its original U.K. registration number CKV 666.

The car was originally ordered by Captain John P. Black, the managing director of the Standard Motor Company, Ltd., a company that manufactured the engine and other major components for SS Cars Ltd. Captain Black specified the black paint and the non-standard blue leather interior which was an extra-cost option. For reasons unknown, the Captain never took delivery of the SS100 and it was subsequently sold to a Mr. Bellhouse of New York, who is considered to be the first owner. Research has uncovered a few additional owners from the car’s early history: T Hecht and G Daigh, both from Georgia, then reportedly SS Roberts. Later the car came to be in the collection of Don Williams of Blackhawk. In 1988, it was acquired by the Rosso Bianco Collection in Germany before finally coming to the present owner in 2006.

The exceptional restoration, which included documenting correct parts and components down to the smallest detail, was performed with months of collective research. As an example of the efforts that were taken, the wiring loom, while barely visible, was carefully researched for correctness and it was discovered that the original wire used in these cars had a chevron pattern in the braid for the trace color. This wire has not been produced for decades, so rather than use concours-acceptable cloth-insulated wire, 20 meters of each color combination necessary to complete the wiring loom was custom braided and made into the wiring harness. Most of this wire is under wrapping or is housed within conduit, but on close inspection, it presents just as when the car left the factory.

The windshield wiper motor is extremely rare and is correct for the car. The armature was rewound and the intricate linkage needed to make the wipers function from a pivot point at the bottom of the windshield, as is proper, had to be made and painstakingly adjusted to work without fault.

The black paint on this superb automobile borders on perfection. The scores of louvers in the bonnet have been perfectly prepared, painted, sanded and polished, representing the truly stunning standard of restoration and hundreds of hours spent on the bonnet alone. It is, without a doubt, one of the greatest restoration efforts ever lavished on an automobile.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1937 Jaguar SS100
Years Produced:1936-40
Number Produced:116
Original List Price:$1,793 in 1939
SCM Valuation:$250,000-$370,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Chassis Number Location:Right side chassis rail, behind leaf spring mount and in line with starter motor
Engine Number Location:Top rear right side of block on raised boss
Alternatives:1934 Triumph Dolomite, 1936-40 BMW 328 roadster, 1948-49 Jaguar XK120 aluminum roadster

This car, Lot 24, sold for $1,045,000 at Gooding & Co’s auction at Pebble Beach on May 16, against an estimate of $750,000 to $950,000.

As the catalog asserts, the SS100 has taken its place among the greatest automotive designs. The long hood, low stance, sweeping fenders, large headlights, cut-down doors, folding windshield and wire wheels blend intoxicatingly to create the quintessential British roadster.

And the SS had the go to match its spot-on looks. With its low weight and 125 horsepower from the 3,485-cc, dual-carburetor, straight-6 engine, a 100-mph top speed was achieved, which was breathtaking for the time—and led to the car’s SS100 name. 

This is the model that really laid the foundations of Jaguar’s sporty, slightly raffish image. The car also had solid competition results (in rallying) and achingly perfect style. Astonishingly, proving the SS100 was no flash in the style pan, designer William Lyons pulled off the same trick twice more, with the XK120 and the E-type. Both of those cars captivated enthusiasts with their glamour and go in the same way their elder sister—the SS100—did more than 70 years ago.

The best of the best

This SS100 is considered one of the best, if not the best, example in the world. The going rate for good condition SS100s has held steady at around $300,000 in the past couple of years, with Bonhams shifting a very tidy example in Paris in February 2009 for $279,285 and then selling another tidy—but not quite perfect—car twice in England later in 2009 for $289,275, and then for $325,185, once its new owners realized there was a little more work needed than they were willing to tackle.

The sterling prices were identical at both sales, by the way, and the difference is down to exchange rates. A decade before, the going rate for a nice SS was half that, and three years ago top cars were fetching up to $400k.

So what made this car worth almost three times the norm? A combination of things:

First, it’s probably the best SS in the world, due to a perfect restoration that, if it can be faulted, is maybe a little too immaculate. As SCM’s John Stein, who viewed the car, said: “It appeared truly faultless. The enduring memory is of dozens, if not hundreds, of perfectly chromed components offset by perfect black paint.” In reality, when the cars were new, they were assembled from parts from many different suppliers, and might well have looked a bit more hand-finished than this homogenized piece of perfection.

As a pointer to this restoration’s almost ludicrous attention to detail, consider this. The stone-protecting mesh screen over the radiator and lights has a half-inch pitch, which is 12.7 mm per square. Although mesh of both 12 mm and 13 mm were available, special material was woven at 12.7 mm just for this car. Some might say life is too short, but that’s the level of perfection the owner and restorer were aiming for, and they hit the bull’s-eye.

Next, it is the oldest surviving 3 1/2-Liter SS of the 116 3 1/2-Liter cars built, which adds substantial cachet. And it was in its original color. Apart from that further adding value to any collector car, it just so happens to be the perfect hue for an SS, as black suits these roadsters better than too-flashy red, although Ivory/Old English White runs a close second.

A glittering concours career

All of this car’s glamour has been pumped hard, publically. This SS100 had a high-profile recent history since the painstaking restoration, and if you were aiming to sell the oldest and best in the world, showing it at the globe’s top car events isn’t a bad way to market it.

Its concours career started at the 2008 Jaguar Drivers’ Club meet at Highclere Castle, England, which started a run of numerous best of show awards. It made its American debut with a class win in the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance—just after completing the Tour d’Elegance. In 2010, it was chosen to appear on the Jaguar stand at the Geneva Motor Show, where it was encased in a mirrored glass vestibule, under theatrical lighting, to celebrate Jaguar’s 75th anniversary.

So this is perfection. But back in the real world, even with all the above taken into consideration, this car was extremely well sold at more than twice the price of a near-perfect example. The car was even better sold when you consider there was still 2.5% import duty to pay if it were to remain in the U.S., which took the total price nearer to $1.1m. Hats off to Gooding.

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