After cutting his engineering teeth on motorcycle sidecars and customized Austin Sevens, William Lyons moved on to his true life’s work – the design and manufacture of Jaguar cars. But first the Swallow Sidecar company built a few SS cars, registering the SS Cars name in 1934.
By combining beautiful styling with affordable prices, the company rode the Depression well. SS cars were available as coupes, tourers and saloons and the 1935 SS Mk II looked uncannily like a postwar MG.
In 1935 came the SS90 sportscar, so called because it boasted a top speed of 90 mph (140 km/h), but this pioneering model only lasted one year (with only 23 manufactured) before it was replaced by the SS Jaguar 100, the first use of this iconic name. One of the most attractive cars ever sculpted, this long, low flying machine was impressive to drive and stunning to look at. Two engine sizes were offered – the 2.5 litre and 3.5 litre – and as the name boldly suggested these streamlined beauties could top the magical ‘ton’ with the windscreen folded flat. Most SS 100s were factory-bodied roadsters, but a single coupe was made and a few chassis were supplied to external coachbuilders.
SS continued to produce a bread-and-butter line of saloon cars, and after the pause in production caused by World War II the company returned as a maker of saloon cars, but the SS 100 was not revived and Jaguar would not resume production of sports cars until the splendid XK120 appeared in 1948 to adopt the mantle of its fabled cousin. Collectors of classic cars adore the SS 100, but few get the opportunity to drive one – only 198 2.5 litre models and 116 of the 3.5 litre version were made, ranking these amongst the rarest and most desirable of prewar sportcars.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1935 (until 1940)
ENGINE: 2,563 cc or 3,485 cc OHV Straight Six
Top speed of 101 mph (163 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in under 11 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Although the SS 100 bore the model name Jaguar, it was only in 1945 that SS Cars officially became Jaguar Cars as the company was renamed after its popular pre-war model – a move dictated by the negative connotation of ‘SS’, which had become indelibly associated with Nazi horror.