1938 Jaguar SS 100 2½-Liter Roadster

Courtesy of Bonhams

Launched in 1936 alongside the 2½-liter saloon, the SS 100 Jaguar sports car marked the company’s first use of the Jaguar name. Beautifully styled in the manner of its SS 90 predecessor, the newcomer employed a shorter, 102-inch wheelbase chassis and a revised version of the 2,663-cc Standard Six which produced 104 bhp. In 1938, a 3½-liter version producing 125 bhp was added to the range, making the SS 100 a genuine 100-mph car.

Although a fine touring car, the SS 100 was marketed primarily for competition work. Its first major success came 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.

49049 would have been one of the later 2½-liter SS 100s to be delivered, and was supplied through Henley’s in London on July 27, 1938, in Gunmetal Gray with red leather interior.

The car has been in the United States for at least 50 years, as its previous custodian, John Freeman of Baldwin, NY, is known to have had it in the 1960s. Indeed, Freeman wrote a report in the Vintage Sports Car Club of America publication in the late 1960s of how he’d used the car at an event at Bridgehampton.

In August 1971, Geoffrey Howard was able to pry the car away from Mr. Freeman. He would keep the car until his passing last year. As with other cars in the collection, first it went up to Montreal, but latterly in his retirement Mr. Howard brought the car back to his Vermont house.

At some juncture a restoration was begun and, to judge from its condition today, this appears to have included repair and refurbishment of the wood frame of the body and some paintwork preparation — although not much else. It is not known when the car received the replacement engine it carries today, which is a post-war 3½-liter unit.

As offered today, the car appears to represent the basis for a straightforward reassembly returning it to a driver-quality example, or perhaps a concours restoration. Either way, it will be sure to reward its new owner with an eminently usable pre-war sports car from this legendary era of Jaguar production.

Paul Hardiman

Paul Hardiman - SCM Senior Auction Analyst

Paul is descended from engineers and horse thieves, so he naturally gravitated toward the old-car marketplace and still finds fascination in the simpler things in life: looking for spot-weld dimples under an E-type tail, or counting the head-studs on a supposed Mini-Cooper engine. His motoring heroes are Roger Clark, Burt Levy, Henry Royce and Smokey Yunick — and all he wants for next Christmas is an Alvis Stalwart complete with picnic table in the back and a lake big enough to play in.

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