SS 100 SPORTS CAR
January 5, 2024 – Published in Design & Decor Autumn-Winter 2023 issue
Profile and background of an SS 100 Sports Car
The SS 100 Sports Car is a classic automobile that was produced by the British manufacturer SS Cars Ltd (Swallow Sidecar) Coventry England, from 1936 to 1940. A two-seater sports car, it gained popularity for its sleek design and impressive performance.
‘Swallow Sidecar Company’ was founded in 1922 by William Walmsley and William Lyons, initially to build motorcycle sidecars.
In common with many products of the Thirties, the adoption of an animal name was deemed appropriate; accordingly, the new SS saloon model launched in 1935 was called “Jaguar”. The moniker was then extended to all new SS models. The ‘100’ referred to the theoretical 100mph maximum speed of the vehicle.
Widely considered one of the most aesthetically pleasing sporting cars of the 1930s, the SS 100 is also very rare, with only 198 2½-litre and 116 3½-litre models made. While most stayed in the home market, 49 were exported. All cars were produced in right-hand-drive format.
The SS 100 was powered by a six-cylinder engine, initially with a 2.5-litre capacity, later increased to 3.5 litres. It became known for its smooth and powerful acceleration, making it a favourite among sports car enthusiasts of the time.
The design of the SS 100 was influenced by the elegant and aerodynamic styling preference of the era. It featured flowing lines, a long bonnet, and a distinctive radiator grille. The interior was designed with comfort in mind, offering a luxurious driving experience.
In March 1945, the shareholders of SS Cars agreed to change the name to Jaguar Cars Ltd.
Production was halted in 1940 due to the outbreak of World War II, and the focus shifted towards military production.
Today, the SS 100 Sports Car is considered a highly sought-after classic car, admired for its timeless design and historical significance. It holds a special place in automotive history as one of the iconic sports cars of its time.
The SS 100 Sports Car
In 1935, SS Cars had built 24 short-chassis SS 90 open two-seaters, based on the SS1 chassis and powered by the 2664cc side valve engine, but this was only a short run near the end of the production of the SS1 cars.
The SS 90, as it was known, was allegedly capable of 90mph (145km/h) top speed, but it was never road tested by the magazines. Its replacement in October 1935 (with production starting in April 1936), by the similar looking but overhead-valve SS Jaguar 100, was tested to reach 95mph (153km/h).
Initially, the model was powered by the 2 1/2-litre engine, but in late 1937 it was joined by the 3 1/2-litre version that raised the bar to over 100mph (161km/h); both models then continued production until June 1939. The range did not make a comeback after the war.
The 1936 and 1937 models
The SS 100, as it became known, was powered by the 2664cc overhead valve engine developed by Harry Westlake for the SS Company, and had a new specially-designed chassis, which incorporated the main improvements introduced for the SS Jaguar saloon, though its overall shape remained similar to that of the SS 90, and it was the same length.
In the new SS 100 chassis, the outboard rear springs were retained, since the narrow two-seater body did not need the extra width that had been gained by the saloon by moving the rear springs inboard of the chassis frame.
The SS 100 chassis did, however, incorporate the new Girling rod brakes all round and the sliding trunnions for the rear mounts of the front springs. The transmission was similar to the Jaguar saloon and tourer, with four speeds, standard gearbox and remote gear lever.
Ash frame with aluminium panels, wings and bonnet, as well as the compact dimensions of the two-seater body, considerably reduced the weight to 1119kg, a significant contribution to the greater performance of a sports car over a saloon.
The instruments were the same as fitted to the 1936 saloon with clockwise rev counter and speedo on silver backing.
The interior of the car had few luxuries; it even sported a single chain on a fob instead of an interior door handle to operate the door lock; there were, however, proper external door handles.
The two seats were upholstered in unpleated leather, and their backrests folded forward to give access to a small, fully-carpeted storage space in the tonneau for luggage.
Overall, the SS 100 was a genuinely fast, stable and exciting car to drive, and it is no wonder that so many were successfully raced and rallied. A surprisingly high number of them have survived, with many having had major repairs and rebuilds. It is one of the most desirable cars Jaguar has ever built and of the 309 cars made, around 90 per cent are known still to exist.
Owned by the current lady owner/driver for the past three decades or so, this is the 4th from last car produced out of 118 total examples ever made.
A well-known car in Swiss Rally circles, it is now being sold due to the owner growing older, and her husband suffering from a bad back, which makes using the car difficult.
It shares garage space with a Gullwing Mercedes and a 300 Roadster.
The car comes with a massive history file showing a full restoration to concours condition at the time of purchase.
Since then, the car has been regularly used with money spent upon it as required to keep it in tip-top condition.
The owner even went as far as re-tempering the springs back to factory spec to ensure the correct ride height and handling characteristics.
A great deal of maintenance invoices come with the car, attesting to the level of care it has received.
It starts instantly and drives exactly as one of these should.
The exterior paint is mid-metallic blue, in fine order, complemented by lightly-patinated grey leather seats along with grey carpets.
The hood is in reportedly good order although we did not put it up when photographing the car. The owner informed us that it had not been used during her tenure.
The car is showing 87,000 miles from new and is a matching numbers example with original engine number 1076 in situ.
All instruments and details are likewise correct as when new.
It has a current FIVA Passport in category A3 in the name of the current lady owner.
There are also pictures of the car in bare aluminum at the time of its restoration.
These are rare cars that seldom come to market in 3.5-litre form and even more rarely from such long-term careful ownership.
It is a very collectable car of museum quality which benefits from having been regularly and carefully used, and a thing of great beauty.