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1938 Jaguar SS100 2½-litre

The SS100 is a British 2-seat sports car built between 1936 and 1940 by SS Cars Ltd of Coventry, England. The last one is thought to have been delivered in 1941.

The SS Cars Ltd Model 100 "Jaguar" was so named as the '100' reflected the capability of the 3.5-litre model to exceed 100mph - then a remarkable speed for a production vehicle. In common with many products of the thirties, the adoption of an animal name was deemed appropriate, and once approved by Bill Lyons the name "Jaguar" was given to a new saloon car in 1936, and from that point to all the cars. .

Following the Second World War, because of the connotations then attached to the initials "SS", the company was renamed Jaguar in 1945.

The chassis had a wheelbase of 8 feet 8 inches (2.64 m), and was essentially a shortened version of the one designed for the 2.5-litre saloon, a car produced in much greater numbers, and first been seen in the SS 90 of 1935. Suspension was on half-elliptical springs all round with rigid axles. The engine was a development of the old 2.5-litre Standard pushrod unit converted from side valve to overhead valve with a new cylinder head designed by William Heynes and Harry Weslake. The power output was increased from 70 bhp (52 kW) to 100 bhp (70 kW). Twin SU carburettors were bolted directly to the cylinder head. In 1938 the engine was further enlarged to 3.5 litres and the power increased to 125 bhp (93 kW). The four-speed gearbox had synchromesh on the top 3 ratios. Brakes were by Girling. The complete car weighed just over 23 cwt (2600 pounds, 1150 kg).

On test by the Autocar magazine in 1937 the 2.5-litre (20 RAC hp rating) car was found, with the windscreen lowered, to have a maximum speed of 95 mph (153 km/h) and a 0–60 mph (97 km/h) time of 13.5 seconds. With the 3.5-litre (25 RAC hp rating) the top speed reached the magic 100 mph (160 km/h) with a best of 101 mph (163 km/h) over the quarter mile and the 0–60 mph (97 km/h) coming down to 10.4 seconds.

In 1937 the 2.5-litre car cost £395 and in 1938 the 3.5-litre £445. The coupé, of which only one was made, was listed at £595. A few examples were supplied as chassis-only to external coachbuilders.

Widely considered to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing Jaguar cars it is also one of the rarest, with only 198 of the 2.5-litre and 116 of the 3.5-litre models being made. Most stayed on the home market but 49 were exported. Cars in good condition will fetch well in excess of £100,000; a near concours example was sold by auctioneers Bonhams at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2007 for £199,500. More recently a concours example 1938 S.S. Jaguar 100 3½ Litre Roadster - was sold for £263,200 (€305,312) at the RM Auctions 2011 event in London.

It was on an SS100 that the famous Jaguar 'leaper' was first prominently displayed, despite an inauspicious start. In mid 1936 the first version of the Jaguar vehicle mascot was apparently described by the founder of the company as "looking like a cat shot off a fence". A later publicity photograph of the new Model 100 "Jaguar" (registration mark CKV 250) parked outside the offices of SS Cars Ltd in early 1937 shows a revised Jaguar 'leaper' mascot mounted on he radiator cap. It is this more stylised 'leaper' that became the basis for subsequent mascots and the trade mark for Jaguar Cars Ltd that has been used to the present day.

A number of replica and re-creation cars have also been manufactured since the 1960's. Two notable British made examples are the aluminium bodied Steadman TS100 and the fibreglass bodied Suffolk Sportscars SS100 both of which use Jaguar XJ6 components.

The Suffolk Sportscars replicas/re-creations of the SS100 have been described as being the most visually and dimensionally accurate of the genre, with painstaking attention to detail. Acceptance of the Suffolk SS100 vehicles by both Jaguar clubs and specialist classic car registers gives some credence to the description.

The unnamed owner of the Belgravia vintage car dealer in James Leasor's 'Aristo Autos' novels, 'They Don't Make Them Like That Any More', 'Never Had a Spanner on Her' and 'Host of Extras' drives an SS100, and the car features prominently in the books.

The late Alan Clark MP owned a Jaguar SS100, and during his time in Margaret Thatcher's government was often to be seen piloting his SS100 away from the House of Commons after late Parliamentary sittings.

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