1938 SS 100 Jaguar Roadster
- One of only 308 SS 100 roadsters built from 1936–1940
- Desirably upgraded with a 3½-Litre` engine
- Single North American ownership for 43 years
- Fewer than 100 miles since a complete frame-off restoration
- Superbly finished in original colors of Gunmetal Gray over red leather
The mighty Jaguar had its start as a simple Swallow—such are the ironic annals of motoring history.
William Lyons and William Walmsley began manufacturing motorcycle sidecars in Blackpool, Lancashire, in 1922. By 1927, their Swallow Coachbuilding Company was turning out attractive little bodies on Austin, Morris, Fiat, and Standard chassis. After a move to Coventry, they came out with the first of several generations of “SS” cars (for Swallow Sidecar), the SS1 of 1931. Based on the 16-horsepower Standard, it had an underslung chassis, a long bonnet, and streamlined coachwork.
A companion model, the SS2, was based on the Standard 9. Saloons, dropheads, and tourers were offered by 1934, and a particularly attractive “Airline” fastback coupe developed a devoted following. That year, the company was re-named S.S. Cars Ltd.
The Jaguar name, the choice of Lyons himself, who split with Walmsley in 1934, was first used on a handsome sports saloon introduced at the autumn 1935 Olympia Motor Show. This car had a 2,663-cubic centimeter overhead-valve version of the Standard engine, somewhat redesigned by Harry Weslake and William Heynes. Good for 90 mph, it was christened SS90 and was a relative bargain at £385. The greater fame, however, was accrued by the short-chassis SS 100 Jaguar Roadster. The wheelbase was shortened to 104 inches, and as the name implies, 100 mph was on its horizon, particularly after the engine was enlarged to 3,485 cubic centimeters. With twin SU carburetors, it made 125 brake horsepower, and the four-speed gearbox had synchromesh on the top three gears. At 2,600 pounds, it had plenty of energy, and many owners chose to compete in them.
One of the most aesthetically pleasing cars of its time, the SS 100 is also among the rarest, with 198 of the 2½-Litre examples built and just 116 of the 3½-Litre model. From the beginning, they were exclusive, a characteristic that has only increased with age. Among the prominent personalities who have owned them are the late Alan Clark, British Member of Parliament, and Dave Garroway, founding host and anchor of NBC television’s long-running The Today Show.
CHASSIS NUMBER 49049
The SS 100 offered here, chassis number 49049, was sold new by Henley’s Distributors, west of London, to E.A. Day on 27 July 1938, registered as EYU 868. While the date that the car made its way to the United States is not known, it is recorded as having belonged in the 1960s to John Freeman of Baldwin, New York, on Long Island. Mr. Freeman reportedly wrote a story about competing in the car at Bridgehampton for a Vintage Sports Car Club magazine in 1968.
In August 1971, Geoffrey Howard bought the SS from Freeman and would own it for the next 43 years until his death in 2014. At that point it was refinished in red and partially prepared for restoration.
In its current ownership, the car was consigned to noted marque specialists Classic Showcase for a concours-quality restoration in the original colors of Gunmetal Gray with a red leather interior and black canvas top. The body was stripped to bare metal, with the panels finished, fitted, and leaded as necessary, and afterward primed, sealed, repainted, color-sanded, and buffed to a spectacular finish. The car was fully rebuilt mechanically, with all systems gone through, and every component rebuilt or replaced as necessary. All seals and rubber trim were replaced, the brightwork re-plated as required, and the interior expertly reupholstered. Mindful of the car’s originality, every detail of the restoration has been carefully documented and photographed; this documentation accompanies the car on DVD, along with the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust Certificate.
Only 308 SS 100 Jaguar roadsters were built from 1937–1940, and they remain the essential 1930s British sports car. As the first model to carry the Jaguar name, the OTS (Open Two Seater) combined dashing good looks, genuine 100 mph performance, and an unbeatable price. The remarkable roadster on offer is an exceptional example, freshly restored in spectacular colors. Such attention to detail is sure to reward the new owner, whether driving or showing this classic Jaguar roadster, whose true home is the open road.