Jaguar SS 100

William Lyons loved publicity. In fact, he could even have been described as a shrewd publicist. “Wait! The ‘SS’ is Coming” was one of the first advertisements for his newly formed motor car manufacturing company back in mid-1931. The advertisement continued: “SS is the name of a new car that’s going to thrill the hearts of the motoring public and the trade alike.” And Lyons was right.

At the 1931 London Motor Show, it was his creations that caused a sensation. The SSI and SSII coupés featured a sleek bonnet that extended for what seemed like miles. They were an instant success and were met with rave reviews by the press.

In 1935, Lyons again created a stir first with the debut of his ‘Jaguar’ name and then, not long after, with the introduction of the SS 100 sports two-seater. The car’s light weight meant the 2½-litre engine could propel it up to 100 mph quite rapidly. The company’s marketing literature declared the following: “Designed primarily for competition work, this model is equally suitable for ordinary road use, for despite the virility of its performance it is sufficiently tractable for use as a fast touring car without modification.” Enthusiasts quickly recognised the car’s performance capabilities, driving them successfully in hill climbs, rallies and road races all across England and Europe. The factory did the same and campaigned the SS 100 extensively in 1937 and 1938 at Goodwood, Brooklands, Donington Park and Crystal Palace tracks and in hill climbs, especially Shelsley Wash and La Turbie in France.

In all, only about 190 2½ Litre SS 100s left the Coventry works and 3½ Litre production reached just 118 cars before the Coventry works was changed over to military work, making aircraft components. Considering how few Jaguar SS 100s were built, their influence is remarkable. The basic OTS (open two-seater) remains the quintessential 1930s British sports car. Behind a couple of Lucas P100 headlights, the hood is so long the driver is virtually sitting between the back wheels. The windshield folds down, the doors are cut so low you can tap your pipe out on the ground, and the car rides firmly on 18-inch, knock-off wire wheels.

With a top speed of 101.12 mph and 0-60 time of 10.9 seconds, the SS 100 is less than a second slower to 60 mph than the 1949 XK120 and only two seconds slower in the ¼ mile – a remarkable achievement in the late 1930s!

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August of 2010 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California and in June of 2011 at the Syon House, London.

2,663 cc overhead valve six-cylinder engine with four-speed manual transmission, beam front axle, live rear axle and four-wheel finned drum brakes. Wheelbase: 98".

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

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