A rare and highly sought after pre-war classic, the SS 100 is a British 2-seater sports car built between 1936–1940 by SS Cars Ltd of Coventry, England. The SS 100 was the first true 100 mph sports car available to the public and was the first in a long line of high performance production cars that looked as fast as they went. In four years of production, the SS 100 earned an exceptional reputation, sweeping the field in many road races, endurance events and rallies at home and abroad.
In the 1930s market sophistication was increasing, and for the first time customers were offered four doors on a new SS model. The new cars were such a design departure that a new model name was needed. The company’s advertising agency suggested ‘Jaguar’ and though SS boss William Lyons took some persuading, it was finally adopted. Thus the new cars would be known as SS Jaguars. The ‘Jaguar’ name was an ideal choice—feline grace and elegance, combining docility with remarkable power and agility. The cars have matured and developed to justify the analogy in every way. With typical showmanship, Lyons had arranged a lunch at the Mayfair Hotel in London to launch the new model to the press a few days before the 1935 Motor Show. The SS Jaguar 2.5 litre saloon was unveiled to much favourable comment. Following World War II, because coincidentally the initials SS were used by Hitler’s Nazi special police force, both the company and their cars were renamed Jaguar.
The SS 100 chassis, with a wheelbase of 8 feet 8 inches, was a shortened version of the one designed for the 2.5-litre saloon, and the earlier model SS 90. Suspension was half elliptical springs all-round with rigid axles.
The engine was a developed from the old 2.5-litre Standard unit. The valve train was converted from side-valve to overhead valve, and a new cylinder head was designed by William Heynes. Conventional aspiration was provided by twin SU carburetors bolted directly to the cylinder head. These design improvements saw power output increased from 70 to 100 horsepower in 2.5-litre form.
Considered to be one of the most stylish and aesthetically pleasing Jaguar cars, the SS 100 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 of the cars stayed in Great Britain, just 49 were exported.
One automotive commentator once quipped “If the Jaguar SS 100 cannot stir your blood, you may not be alive.”