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.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1939 Jaguar SS 3 1/2 Liter
Number Produced:308
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$70
Chassis Number Location:Right side chassis rail, behind leaf spring mount, in line with starter motor
Engine Number Location:Top rear right side of block on raised boss
Club Info:U.K. Jaguar Drivers Club Ltd. Jaguar House, 18 Stuart Street, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 2S
Investment Grade:A

This 1939 Jaguar SS 100 3½-Liter Roadster sold for $279,285, including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams Rétromobile auction in Paris on February 7, 2009.

Two obvious factors kept the price down, apart from general market nervousness. First, like so many SSs, it does not have the original engine. Although it has always had a 3½-liter powerplant, at some point the original was swapped out for a unit from a Mk V, giving 125 horsepower like the original and, true to the SS’s name, over 100 mph.

This in itself wouldn’t be much of a problem if the car had glowing history, although it did have a brief, documented adventure with well-known Jaguar rallyist and dealer Ian Appleyard, who was later inextricably linked with the famous XK 120 NUB 120. Appleyard raced the car once at Brooklands before supplying it to its first owner.

Any patina has been lost in an over-shiny restoration

Though it has that desirable early history, any patina it might have had has been lost in a slightly over-shiny restoration and subsequent repaint. It does have a big history file, however, and is eligible for many prestige touring events. And this is the model that really laid the foundations of Jaguar’s sporty, slightly raffish image, with solid competition results and achingly perfect style.

With little use since refurbishment, it appeared in super order bodily, which is the expensive part to do. As far as we can tell, it’s the original tub, with the right fender profile and good paint that looked even more recent than the rest of the work. And if it’s not in the original color, it’s the next best shade for these handsome cars that epitomize the swoopy British roadster.

Inside, the leather is unwrinkled, the carpets are unmarked, and it is fitted with a rallying tripmeter on the transmission tunnel. The instruments are present and correct and the only criticism is the spangly engine-turned dash. There are no engine or transmission leaks, though the pancake air filters look slightly too recent and from a local accessory store. With correct twin SU fuel pumps feeding the gutsy big six, there’s no indication that it could not go right out on the Mille Miglia, Targa Florio, or the California Mille.

Switzerland isn’t in the European Union, and this Jaguar SS 100 Roadster is unlikely to stay there, so to bring the car into any other part of mainland Europe means paying duty. Though this would be at the reduced rate of 5%, you still need to factor in the best part of another $14k, taking the total to more than $293,000. Which, given that prices of original cars with the best history have been creeping over $350k, still doesn’t look a bad deal.

For all its splendid condition, this SS 100 Roadster isn’t a museum piece, and it needs nothing more than to be taken out and given a good spanking-preferably on some of the marvelous roads of Switzerland before it leaves.

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