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Lot 221: 1938 Jaguar SS100

Sports, Touring, Historic Road and Racing Cars, Coys (30 April 2006)

The early 1930s was not the best time to launch a new car company, famous makers were collapsing all around as the Depression took hold, but William Lyons was a shrewd judge of human nature: he knew he could succeed if he gave people what they wanted and he had a fair idea what that was. He also took the view that it was no more expensive to make a beautiful car than it was to make an ugly one and his company, Swallow Sidecars, already had an impressive record in making superb bodies on proprietary chassis.It was a short step to using proprietary components in a new range of cars. That way he kept costs down, and if the early cars were more show than go, they compensated by looking sensational. The SS1, for example, looked like a £1,000 car, but only cost £310. That's what people wanted. Within a short time, SS Cars was adding engineering sophistication to style, while still keeping the price down. The company was the automotive success story of the 1930s.In 1936, only five years after beginning production, SS startled the motoring public with the Jaguar 2½ litre 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 104bhp, 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 created excitement, it was as nothing compared to the SS Jaguar 100. No sports car better epitomises 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 huge headlights, the long louvred bonnet and large wire wheels were aggressive, yet the flowing lines were silkily feline. It had the grace of a prowling cat. It used the 2 ½ litre 104bhp engine developed for the Jaguar saloon the name refers to the horsepower. The chassis was a short wheelbase version of that on the saloon, underslung at the rear and with suspension by semi-elliptical springs all round.At Brooklands in 1936 a tuned and lightened version lapped at 104.1mph, but normally owners tended not to race them. Instead they appeared in the rallies, trials and sprints which formed the bulk of British motor sport and they were successful because of their superb power to weight ratio, gearbox, brakes and handling. They were great all-rounders.Only 198 2½ litre SS100's were made it would not be the last time that Jaguar built a sports car to create excitement around the rest of its model range.This 1938 SS100 is resplendant in bright red coachwork with tan leather interior. Recently imported from Switzerland, it features the correct engine, noted by the SS stamp on the side block. The car is recorded in the SS100 register and has recently taken part in the Nuvolari rally. Please note that all EU taxes have been paid.

Lot Details
Auction Sports, Touring, Historic Road and Racing Cars
Coys, Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit
Lot Number221
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£141450
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating0
Registration numberEU taxes paid
Chassis number49034
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors