In 1936, only five years after beginning production, SS Cars startled the motoring public with the Jaguar 2.5-liter saloon, the company’s first car to feature overhead valves. The engine was the robust seven-bearing, six-cylinder unit built by Standard, but with a new cylinder head designed by Harry Weslake and Bill Heynes. With 104 bhp, smoothly delivered, flowing lines, a gearbox which made the best of the power, and a new chassis, it was the model which made the company’s reputation. Jaguar was then only a model name, but it was adopted as the company’s name after “SS” had acquired unfortunate connotations during the war.

If the Jaguar saloon epitomized excitement, it was as nothing compared to the Jaguar SS 100. No sports car better epitomizes the late 1930s, which is why it has been the model for so many modern “nostalgia” cars. It looked right from every angle and age has not withered its beauty.

Every aspect was in harmony. Stone guards over the large headlights, the long louvered bonnet and large wire wheels were aggressive, yet the flowing lines were silkily feline. It has the grace of a prowling cat. At Brooklands in 1936 a tuned and lightened version lapped at 104.1 mph, but normally owners tended not to race them. Instead they appeared in the rallies, trials and sprints which formed the bulk of British motorsport and they were successful because of their superb power-to-weight ratio, gearbox, brakes and handling. They were great all-rounders.

Chassis number 39030 was originally dispatched to Glovers, the early SS Jaguar dealers for Ripon on January 13, 1938. The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, who have issued a Heritage Certificate for the car, record that it was originally delivered finished in lavender with blue trim. Purchased from Coys of Kensington in 1975, this beautiful example subsequently spent twenty years with a French enthusiast, before returning to home shores in the late 1990s. During its spell in France it underwent a comprehensive restoration by specialists Le Coq, in which the chassis and fittings were meticulously overhauled. The car comes with its original 3.5-liter engine and gearbox, although it is currently fitted with a competition power unit and uprated gearbox. These items were assembled in the vendor’s own workshops, specifically for competitive motoring and detail work included gas flowing of the cylinder head, the fitment of bronze liners to guides and conversion to use unleaded fuel. Further work was subsequently carried out to the suspension and shock absorbers as well as the gearbox by SS Jaguar specialists TRAC at a cost of over $6,400. Much attention was paid to detail, so that components such as the body tub and petrol tank were carefully and discreetly flexibly mounted to avoid damage on the arduous road rallies in which 39030 has become a competitor.

The car, now immaculately finished in traditional British Racing Green, with contrasting black hide, has recently contested such popular and competitive international rallies as the acclaimed Liege-Rome-Liege road rally. Despite this it remains in the most magnificent condition throughout and complete with FIVA identity card, UK registration and MO26T certificate is ready to be entered for any similar international events to be held in this season’s calendar of historic motorsports.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1938 Jaguar SS 100 3.5 Liter
Years Produced:1935-39
Number Produced:118
Original List Price:$1,795
SCM Valuation:$160,000-$185,000
Tune Up Cost:$400-$500
Distributor Caps:$60-$75
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on right frame rail 9" behind front spring shackle; may be obscured by paint or wear"
Engine Number Location:Stamped on raised boss on right rear of block just below head
Club Info:Club Classic Jaguar Association, 1754 Hillcrest Ave, Glendale, CA 92669
Alternatives:Bentley 4.5-Litre DHC, LaSalle Series 50 convertible coupe, Mercedes-Benz 500K cabriolet

This car sold at Barrett-Jackson/Coys of Kensington’s Monaco sale on May 27, 2000 for $183,381.

By any usage, the SS 100 must be considered a true classic. It is rare, lovely, iconic, and best of all, enjoyable. Only 118 of these cars were ever built and yet so many still survive that it is a rare classic car gathering that doesn’t have at least one out for the day. Above all, they are cars that are used and enjoyed by their owners rather than being kept in hermetically-sealed display cases. And they are practical. Even with the original four-speed gearbox, the seven-bearing engine can stand long distances at modern highway speeds without undue risk. Speeds over 80 mph are not excessive, though one must bear in mind that the car will be brought to a stop with rod-operated drum brakes slowing narrow tires.

This example is not particularly original in its detailing. One specialist noted incorrect chroming used on many pieces and substitutions of modern parts for some components. However, this car was restored to stand up to challenging secondary roads rather than straw-hatted concours scrutineers. The substitution of a competition-built engine (probably from a 3.5-liter Jaguar saloon) and a modern five-speed gearbox are in keeping with this intention, though the original drivetrain was included. If the new owner had the same intention of driving this car hard and enjoying its rugged power, then the price for this attractive, event-proven car was reasonable. It can easily be enjoyed for a season or two of vintage rallying and then cleaned up and sold, with very little net cost to the owner.—Gary Anderson, Editor and Publisher, British Car Magazine; [email protected]

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