1938 Jaguar SS100 Roadster

In the early ’30s, William Lyons’ design influence began to take its full effect. The Swallow Sidecar Company evolved into Swallow Coachworks with a highly successful line of Lyons-designed bodies, mostly for the Austin Seven and 6-cylinder Wolseley-Hornet. Swallow’s first complete car, the SS-I, based on the Standard (later to become Standard-Triumph) Sixteen (2-liter) and Twenty (2.5-liter) chassis, was introduced in 1931, followed by the SS-II on the Standard Little Nine (1-liter).

SS cars offered value, performance and, most important of all, Lyons’ signature long and low look which developed on these cars and became particularly recognized in the SS I Tourer and the later 1935 SS-90. By then the company was SS Cars, Ltd. and motorcycle sidecars were fast becoming a footnote to its history.

In 1936 the first SS-100 was produced, and for the first time the name Jaguar was used. (Tradition suggests that the “SS” name wasn’t very marketable in mid-’30s England.) The SS-100 was the first true 100-mph sports car available to the public and was beautifully proportioned, epitomizing power when viewed from any angle. In four years of production, the SS-100 earned an exceptional reputation with winning performances in road races, endurance contests and rallies throughout England and Europe.

The first 126 cars built in the 1936-37 period were equipped with a 2.5-liter engine based on the side-valve Standard engine used in the SS-90, but carrying an overhead-valve cylinder head designed by the legendary Harry Weslake (who would still be developing good breathing engines three decades later for Dan Gurney’s Formula One Eagles). Starting in 1938, a 3.5-liter version was adopted. Today these 3.5-liter roadsters are among the most prized of all prewar sports cars.

The 3.5-liter SS-100 pictured here is fully restored and features the bronze competition head. It is fully sorted and ready for vintage competition or touring.