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1938 Jaguar SS100 Auctioned

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1938 Jaguar  SS100 Auctioned No Reserve

In August 2009, their family’s beloved 1938 Jaguar SS 100 Roadster 3 1/2 litre took center stage as it was without reserve at the highly anticipated Sports & Classics of Monterey auction in California
This 2009 auction offered over 200 collector cars, with something to appeal to all automotive tastes.
Other notable consignments include:
  • 1952 Jaguar C Type sports racer,  x  Phil Hill
  • 1931 Miller V16,  the only one ever made
  • 1968 Corvette L88 Le Mans racer
  • 1935 Duesenberg SJMurphy Convertible Coupe
  • 26 assorted Ferrari’s
  • Pre and Post War Ford and Mercury Woodie Wagons, from a private collection
  • 2005 Ford GT, factory original supercar.

What a great auction with a line up like this, if I can find out more I will publish the details.

More About This 1938 Jaguar SS 100 , Chassis no. 39032
What’s Inside:

125 bhp, 3,486 cc overhead valve inline six-cylinder engine, twin SU carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox, front suspension with semi-elliptic leaf springs and friction shocks absorbers, live axle rear suspension with semi-elliptic leaf springs and friction shock absorbers, four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,642 mm (104″)

Here are links to more videos and reviews I have  on Jaguars: A high class replica Coupe

Development of the SS 100

The company went public, and Lyons, who lacked any formal training in either design or engineering, supervised all the firm’s designs—all its operations, in fact. The emphasis was on sporty elegance, and the SS1 sedan, with its long hood, high beltline, and low roofline suggested high performance in evening clothes. The drophead touring version that followed, for its part, provided a preview of the SS 100.

An even more accurate preview—the SS 90—came first, making its debut in 1935. It had the look, with its long, louvered hood and low slung coachwork.
But the performance delivered by its 2.7-liter Standard side-valve six-cylinder engine didn’t measure up to the expectations of either Lyons or W.M. Heynes, who Lyons had poached from Humber in 1934 to be his chief engineer. Accordingly, the SS 90 served as a transition step between the SS 1 roadster and the SS 100; only 21 found their way to private owners.

The SS90’s underslung chassis made the transition more or less intact, with a 104-inch wheelbase, but there was a major change under the hood. Retaining the Standard six-cylinder block and displacement, Lyons and Heynes engaged the services of Harry Weslake, England’s reigning cylinder head guru, to redesign the engine’s top end. The result was a new overhead valve design with aluminum pistons, augmented by a robust bottom end to handle substantially improved torque and horsepower—the crankshaft was supported by seven main bearings.
Fed by a pair of SU carburetors, the revised engine exceeded design goals, generating 102 horsepower at 4,500 rpm, compared to 68 horsepower by its flathead predecessor.

The SS100’s rakish good looks and sports car responses made for instant popularity, and orders began piling up in the Coventry works.
Although the car’s performance credentials were impressive, there were those—Lyons and Heynes prominent among them—who thought a little more power would make the SS 100’s pace measure up to its looks.

As was true of Jaguar’s great post-WWII sports cars—the XK 120, 140, and 150—the numerical portion of the alphanumeric name was to indicate the car’s top speed potential. Thus, the SS 100 should have been capable of 100 mph or more. But it wasn’t—95 mph was tops, and its 0-to-60 mph times were merely adequate at about 12 to 14 seconds.

Lyons, Heynes, and Weslake went back to work on the engine. When completed very little remained of the old Standard six. The cylinder bore was increased from 73 mm to 82 mm, and stroke was stretched from 106 mm to 110 mm expanding displacement from 2,664 cc to 3,486. Valve diameters expanded, connecting rods were a high-strength steel alloy, and the crankshaft turned in sturdier main bearings. The compression ratio was reduced from 7.6:1 to 7.2:1, and the engine’s peak output rpm diminished slightly, thanks to the longer stroke—from 4,600 rpm to 4,250.

But the gain in output was dramatic—125 horsepower versus the 102 of the earlier engine (referred to a 2.5-litre,) And of course, more power meant more speed.

Jaguar SS100 Cockpit


Photo Source;  Youtube

Allied with a new transmission, driveshaft, and differential, the 3.5-litre six was capable of propelling the SS 100 to 60 mph    in just 10.4 seconds—as tested by Autocar magazine, very brisk for the day, and the car was finally capable of topping 100  mph.

 Unveiled at the 1937 London Auto Show, the 3.5-liter SS 100 quickly demonstrated its upgraded performance in a variety of  competitive venues, including Brooklands,  the Alpine Trials, and the Welsh, RAC, and Monte Carlo Rallies.

Special thanks to the source:  Old Cars Weekly News  for photos and story details.
Photos also from Youtube.


Brief Jaguar History

The Jaguar SS100 was one of the first cars to bear the Jaguar name,[previously known as SS, the abreviation for Swallow Sidecar], and it was this car that elevated the parent company from relative obscurity—just one of many small volume British carmakers struggling in near anonymity—to a purveyor of some of the most stirring sports cars of the pre-WW II era.

SS100 Production

Records show that 190 2.5litre SS 100s were produced; and 3.5litre production reached 118 cars before the works changed to manufacturing aircraft componentsfor the RAF

Jaguar SS100 Coupe

Photo Source: Youtube

A handsome SS 100 Coupe was created for the 1938 London Motor Show where it was one of the show’s stars, but never went beyond prototype status.

The Leno Family Jaguar History

The history of this Jaguar is well documented by several publications, and it is good to see a classic cars history preserved, especially for future owners as mostly once history is lost it is gone forever.

The chassis No is 39032, manufactured in 1938.  It stayed in the UK for 24 years and in that time the 3.5litre engine had been replaced.

In 1962 it was sold to Eugene Faust and shipped to New York.
During the 7 years Faust owned the car he restored it as I expect it would have been looking a bit on the sad side by then.
The restoration included new fenders and wisely Faust kept the originals probably as spares,  although I would like to think he had the wise policy of never throw anything like this away.
I understand these fenders are still with the car as they were mentioned in the auction details under spares.

Eugene Faust sold the Jaguar to Ron Leno in 1969.
Leno was an art teacher and antique dealer in Mohawk New York, who became well known with his TV series “Antiques Road Show”,  and owned the car for the next 40 years and it was the family car.
The Leno family travelled far and wide in the SS100, in 1998 even did the 1000mile  Louis Vuitton China Run.
New York does have harsh winters so the SS100 was used only during summer and autumn months.  Heaters were a rarity in cars back then, and I can imagine just how draughty the soft top would be.

Upholstery and Paint

Prior to the auction the car was repainted dark blue – original colour being gunmetal gray – new red leather upholstery was included along with a complete makeover of the remainder of all interior components.
Obviously the Leno family maintained the car to a high standard as the motor was just fine and left as is.  It had been overhauled  in 1988 in preparation for the China Run.

The Auction

At auction the Leno SS100 top bid was US$852,000, a far cry from the pre auction estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
The original purchase price new was  GBP445 .

Still an Impressive Car

Today the Jaguar SS100 is still an impressive car which represents the dream Bill Lyons had to produce a high performing quality car at an affordable price.
It set the stage for Jaguar cars and the respect it commanded for many years that followed.

The Leno car is a real treasure and very few like this will ever come available.

My Personal Jaguar Experiences

I would like to add some personal comments here as I have experience having owned several Jaguars, including a 1948 MkV Saloon 3.5litre, painted two-tone blue.
This car had the same engine as the SS100 and while the MkV was quite a heavy car it was a delight to drive, comfortable, certainly not underpowered like many at this time, and would cruise all day at 60mph. 

The MkV was manufactured from 1948 to 1951  being a modern version of the “MKIV as it became known as”, enabling Jaguar to have a saloon car in its range pending the release of the legendary MkVll.

The MkV gearbox was 4 speed, syncromesh on the top 3. the floorshift gear change was positive but on the slow side, fast snappy gearchanges were not in its agenda but was fine once you remembered this.

Front suspension was independent using torsion bars [as did the MkVII],  ahd hydraulic dampers all round and hydraulic brakes that actually stopped the car.  I didn’t do any spirited driving in it, it was after all an old lady for a car at 52 years so deserved to be treated with respect.  I sold it to a guy setting up a Jaguar museum with the cars also available to hire for weddings.

My next door neighbour had a MKIV saloon that he had fitted a XK1120 motor and gearbox to,  but eventually the diff screwed up, as it would with all that extra power.  The car was parked in his shed shed and it stayed there, eventually sold after he died.  would have been a great buy at right price.

I have driven quite a few miles in a 1953 MKVII and inspite of its size it was a lovely car to drive and handled very very well.  I could never understand why the English were so anti the MKVII when it was released.  Comments such as it was too expensive,  a car that size should’nt perform this well, performance is too brisk for a car this size, and so on.
However America loved it and after the 1951 motor show orders totalling US$20million had been taken, and the car went on to prove its worth winning many races and rallies.

Norman Dewis a well known Jaguar test driver,  was asked at a Jaguar club meeting in NZ which Jaguar would he rate as the best he had driven.
His answer wasn’t the one people expected when he said “Without a doubt it would have to be the MKVII,  a wonderfull car all round”



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