1939 Jaguar SS 100 3½-Liter Roadster

Any patina has been lost in a slightly over-shiny restoration and repaint, though it does have a big history file and is eligible for many prestige events


Launched for 1936, the SS 100 was the first real high-performance model produced by SS Cars Limited, and used a new Weslake-developed overhead-valve engine in a shortened SS 1 chassis.

The Swallow Sidecar & Coachbuilding Company had been founded in Blackpool, England, by William Walmsley. The company branched out into motor manufacture in 1926, its first major success being an attractive sports saloon on the Austin Seven chassis, designed by Walmsley’s partner, William Lyons.

Relocation to Coventry followed, and the Swallow range expanded to include models on Morris Cowley, Wolseley Hornet, and Standard Sixteen chassis. Marque status arrived in October 1931 with the launch of the SS 1, the chassis of which was supplied exclusively to Swallow by Standard, who also provided the 6-cylinder side-valve engine and 4-speed gearbox.

Although unspectacular in performance, the SS 1 went some way toward establishing the pattern for future Jaguars, combining sporting good looks with a better-than-average specification, at a bargain price.

By the time the SS 90 sports car arrived in 1935, William Heynes had joined as chief engineer. Based on a shortened SS 1 chassis and re-engineered by Heynes, the SS 90 again demonstrated Lyons’s consummate skill as a stylist, its long bonnet, smoothly flowing wings, cut-away doors, and truncated tail making it every inch the epitome of the 1930s sports car.

Although good for 90 mph, the SS 90 was handicapped by the limitations of its side-valve engine, a deficiency that would soon be rectified by another of Lyons’s new recruits, gas-flow consultant Harry Weslake. The SS 100 Jaguar sports car marked the company’s first use of the “Jaguar” name. The newcomer employed a shorter 102-inch-wheelbase chassis and a revised version of the 2,663-cc Standard six, which, equipped with Weslake’s overhead-valve cylinder head and breathing through twin SU carburetors, produced 104 hp.

Its first major success came when Tommy Wisdom, crewed by his wife, won the arduous International Alpine Trial in 1936, 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. Around 198 2½-liter and 116 of the later [from 1938] 3½-liter cars had been made by the time SS 100 production was prematurely ended by the outbreak of war.

The Jaguar SS 100 offered here was dispatched from the Works on March 22, 1939, and sold new via the Appleyard Motor dealership in Leeds, finished in Gunmetal with contrasting red leather trim. According to Jaguar authority Terry Larson, before delivery to first owner D.E. Cockcroft, the car was raced at Brooklands by the supplying dealer himself, well-known privateer Ian Appleyard, and later received a Mk V-type engine (almost indistinguishable save for the “Jaguar” script on its side where “SS” had previously been applied).

Post-war, the SS 100 Roadster was exported to Switzerland, where it was owned by architect Artur Peter of Luzern and then Serge Chabbey of Zurich, who commissioned a comprehensive restoration by HR Hofmann & Co., also of Zurich. Acquired by the present owner in 2006, it has since been fastidiously maintained within his private collection, including a repainting by Carrosserie Binggeli of Nyon, but has otherwise seen just sparing summertime use. Chassis 49057 is offered with a substantial leather embossed history file, including Swiss registration, copious restoration bills, and its old U.K. license plate, DAK 141.

Paul Hardiman

Paul Hardiman - SCM Senior Auction Analyst - %%page%%

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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