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Jag-lovers - Early cats for Swallow and SS Cars

The fabulous SS100 posing near Park Lane on London traffic in 1937
The fabulous S100 posing near Park Lane in London's traffic in 1937

Part II - A Jaguar is born

1935/1936 was a watershed period and marked the first appearance of the word 'Jaguar' as a model name. Lyons is The gathering at the Mayfair Hotel reputed to have chosen the name from a list of animals whose names suggested power and elegance. His only problem was that the aircraft manufacturer Armstrong Siddeley were using the name for an aero engine but fortunately they readily agreed to Lyons' request to use the name. Lyons also dreamt up a clever marketing ploy when unveiling the new 2.6L saloon car to the trade at the Mayfair Hotel in London. He asked the guests how much they thought the car was going to cost and received around £600 as an average guess. He made his mark when he announced the price as £385. This saloon completely dominated the new cars publicity to the extent that the sports saloon was almost unmentioned in the press, a fact that may be difficult to understand today with the SS100 having almost cult status.

CKV250 - the first 3.5L S100 With the new range was based around the four-door saloon with the 2.6L Weslake overhead-valve converted engine, it now had a power output of 105bhp rather than 70bhp! A smaller saloon model borrowed the 1.6L unit from the S.S.II. With these came the SS100 sports two seater replacing the S.S.90 , its lighter weight allowing the 2.6L engine to push it to around 100mph. Later, the engine was increased to 3.5L and the SS100 became a force to be reckoned with.

As a result of the Mayfair Hotel ruse, experts estimated that the value of the cars was perceived at least twice what Lyons was charging. With a touring version of the saloons added, the range was a major success. The SS100 did well in events, with even William Lyons driving at times. One particular SS100, registered BWK 77 and driven by Tommy Wisdom and Sammy Newsome, did particularly well. With most of it's bodywork stripped for track use, it became known as Old Number Eight from its chassis number since it had no number plates. Picture left shows CRW 7 being mobbed at the Welsh Rally!

In recent years, SS100s have become worth a lot of money, sometimes over £100,000 in the UK. Any of the production chassis that were 'lost' and have recently been found can command large sums. A case in point is that of the 3.5L chassis No 39070, found in Europe a few years ago, originally exported just as a rolling chassis (so no true SS100 body). In a pitiful state (see photo!) and barely recognisable, it fetched £18,000 as shown, then the same lot reached £38,000 a couple of weeks later at another auction! This was originally sold as a spare chassis for CKV250, chassis No 39001 (see picture above right) that originally went to Prince Michael of Romania and was purchased for him by his regiment. The exporter of both the complete car and chassis was Mr Dawyl of Anglocar, Bucharest. It is worth mentioning that another 39070 chassis was reported in the USA some years ago with a Mk V engine in and that one observer of the engine in the recent auction thought the identification plate looked rather too new. And it was not that long ago that an SS100 was dragged from a barn in Kent, England having lain there unknown for many years.

2.5 Litre SS Tourer By 1937, the public demand for the new SS Jaguars was so enormous that Lyons was forced to drop the old ash frame and steel panel production methods in favour of all steel bodies. This decision caused enormous problems that nearly bankrupted the company but they eventually overcame them. A 3485cc engine option gave more power and with the tourer replaced by a drop head coupe and the small saloon now having a 1.8L OHV engine, performance was way improved. The SS100 now went even faster!

The 1935-37 models had a single wing mounted spare tyre while the 1938-40 models had the tyre kept under the boot in a compartment. The radiator shell has vertical chrome bars. The front sidelights on early cars are a separate chrome unit, but on later cars were done by welding a pod onto the wing and blending in with lead. Horns are generally visible, mounted on the bumper or under the headlights. Some cars have foglights. The door handles are below the chrome side trim on early cars, but in line with the trim on later cars. The tires are 18 inch rim diameter with wire spoke wheels, with the chromed knock-off hub having the SS logo. The optional Ace discs covered the spokes to give the appearance of disc wheels. There were a few special bodies done by various other coachbuilders including Graber, Saoutchik, Beuttler, Van den Plas, and a Mulliner divided limosine for Standard's director Sir John Black.

The SS100 Coupe

The SS Jaguar Stand at the 1938 Motor Show

For the 1938 Motor Show, Lyons commissioned a Coupe version of the SS100. The one and only prototype ever made had a two seater closed body, rounded wings and enclosed rear spatted wheels (like the early XK120s). The flowing tail had a luggage boot and also a spare wheel. It survives to this day, having been restored to its original state after a stay in the USA where it had deteriorated badly although the photo shows the interior as being original.

With production at record levels, the Second World War then intervened and SS Cars moved to wartime production. Walter Hassan had now joined the team and during fire watching duties, their thoughts turned to a new power unit - what was to become the famous XK engine was conceived during this period. After the war, production resumed but with the company now renamed Jaguar Cars Ltd since the old SS now had sinister associations for most people. A contemporary 1945 advert annnounced the change to the world at large. The SS100 was dropped and in fact never resumed production. A total of 24 S.S.90s, 198 2.7L SS100s and 116 3.5L SS100s were made (49 SS100s were exported). Between 1935 and 1940, SS Cars produced a total of 6227 vehicles.

Post war

The resumed production post-war models were all now 'Jaguars' but with a reduced range - two engine sizes and a single saloon body style. In 1947, a drop head coupe joined the range, available with 2.5 and 3.5L engines as was the saloon. These models are usually known as the 'Mark IVs' although this was never an official Browns Lane factory designation as far as is known. However, a USA brochure from 1964 for the Mark X does refer to this range as the Mark IV in its introductory history.


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