1938 SS Cars SS 100


The origination of the SS letters designated by Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons has always been controversial. As his original firm was known as the 'Swallow Sidecar Company', that seems a logical explanation. The SS-100, was the first in a long line of high-performance production cars that looked as fast as they went. They were one of the first cars to bear the Jaguar name, although at the time it was just a nameplate; it wouldn't become the corporation's umbrella brand name until after World War II.

William Lyons was born in 1901 and became a keen motorcyclist in his teens. This lead to a friendship with William Walmsley, an individual who was building motorcycle sidecars in a garage on his property. Soon, Lyons was assisting Walmsley's business, and soon the Swallow Sidecar Co., was formed.

The company was formed on September 4, 1922, Lyons' 21st birthday. Production was small at first, but soon drew the attention of the motoring press. This led the company to broaden its horizons to motor cars.

The Swallow Sidecar company became the Swallow Sidecar and Coach Building Co., in 1926. It would continue to move towards full-scale car production. In 1931, the word sidecar disappeared from the company's name, became the Swallow Coachbuilding Co., Ltd. The acquired new facilities in Coventry, which was in close proximity to the Standard Motor Co., Ltd, which supplied engines, underpinnings, and other parts for the Swallow company. A short time later, the companies name was again changed, this time to S.S. Cars, Ltd. and became a publicly-held company.

The SS90 made its debut in 1935. It had a long, louvered hood and low slung coachwork. The 2.7-liter Standard side-valve six-cylinder engine was suitable but was not a performance powerhouse. It did, however, served as a transition step between the SS1 roadster and the SS100. In total, only 21 examples were produced.

The SS100 had a similar underslung chassis similar to the SS90. The wheelbase measured 104 inches. Under the hood was a Standard six-cylinder engine with a new overhead-valve design with aluminum pistons, augmented by a robust bottom end and seven main bears. With the help of two SU carburetors, the engine was capable of producing just over 100 horsepower at 4500RPM, compared to 68 horsepower.

The engine was fitted to a four-speed gearbox with synchromesh engagement in the top three gears. 15-inch Girling aluminum drum brakes were rod-actuated and brought the 18-inch center-lock Dunlop racing wheels to a stop. The suspension was typical for the period, with semi-elliptic leaf springs at all four corners.
The SS100 soon earned a reputation for its performance and handling characteristics. Along with performance, the car had rakish good looks. The '100' in its name was supposed to represent its top speed, but in testing the car did not achieve this figure. Its top speed was close, at 95 mph. Zero-to-sixty was achieved at about 12 to 14 seconds.

Further work was done on the engine, increasing the bore from 73mm to 82mm, and the stroke received similar treatment, being stretched from 106 to 110mm. This resulted in a displacement size increase from 2664cc to 3486cc. 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.

Horsepower rose from 102 to 125 horsepower. A new transmission, driveshaft, and differential were added. The result was a zero-to-sixty time in just over 10 seconds and finally capable of topping the 100 mph barrier.

There were 190 examples of the 2.5-liter SS 100s to leave the factory. There were 118 examples of 3.5-liter vehicles. A SS100 Coupe was created for the 1938 London Motor Show at Earls Court but never made it past the prototype status.

By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2009
In 1935 the 'Jaguar' name sprang upon the scene for the first time with a completely new saloon and sports car range. William Heynes had been working to produce a completely new box section cruciform braced chassis for a vastly improved new model range. Meanwhile Weslake had been turning his talents to the Standard engine and by adopting overhead valves he succeeded in increasing output from 75 hp of the previous 21/2 litre sidevalve engine to no less than 105 hp. For the new chassis and engine unit, Lyons designed a fresh body style, less flamboyant than previous models, yet still stylish. Indeed it was closer to contemporary Bentleys which cost nearly four times the price!

Sophistication was increasing, and now customers were offered four doors for the first time on an SS. Indeed so different were the new models that it was felt that a new model name was needed. The Company's advertising agency suggested 'Jaguar' and though 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 21/2 litre saloon was unveiled to much favourable comment and the assembled company were asked to guess the price. The average guess was £632. The actual price… just £395.

All the earlier SS designs had been superseded with the exception of the larger Tourer body which lived on with a revised radiator grille and the fitment of the new 21/2 litre engine. The superb new sports car design, which had been glimpsed just briefly as the SS 90, reappeared in similar form as the SS Jaguar 100. With a revised treatment around the fuel tank area at the rear, and more importantly, the adoption of the new chassis and engine, the company now produced a sports car to be proud of. For many, the SS 100 is a pre-war classic amongst sports cars. The price, incidentally, was just £395. This new model was to be used to considerable effect in competitions, both national and international.

In 1936 the motoring journalist Tom Wisdom, driving with his wife Elsie, won the International Alpine Trials in an SS 100. This car, which came to be known as 'Old Number 8' was run very successfully at the Brooklands circuit by Wisdom and in the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb by Coventry garage and theatre owner, Sammy Newsome. A year later a team of three cars was entered by the factory in the RAC Rally, the premier rally event in Britain. The team, which included the Hon. Brian Lewis (later Lord Essendon) took the Manufacturer's Team Prize but outright success eluded them. Instead the event was won by a privately entered SS 100! A new, enlarged 31/2 litre engine had been developed and tested in 'Old Number 8'. In September 1937, this engine, together with a new 11/2 litre unit, joined the 21/2 litre version in a completely revised model range. The new models were not very different in appearance, distinguished from their predecessors by the lack of the side mounted spare wheel, but the range now employed 'all steel' construction. Additionally the old Tourer was replaced by Drophead versions of the saloon in each engine size.

Heynes had designed a further stronger chassis for the new body construction resulting in more interior space and bigger doors. Prices ranged from £298 for the 11/2 litre saloon to £465 for the 31/2 litre Drophead Coupe. The new 31/2 litre engine was fitted to the '100' model and this gave genuine sports car performance with sixty miles per hour reached from a standstill in 10.5 seconds and a top speed of over 100 mph. At £445 the bigger-engined SS 100 was in a class of its own. Meanwhile the experimental 31/2 litre unit fitted to 'Old Number 8' was being increasingly modified. Responsible for this work was a man who had accepted the position of Chief Experimental Engineer with SS in 1938. His name was Walter Hassan, a man destined to become a legend in the motor racing world and one who would play an important role in the Jaguar story. For the Motor Show of that year Lyons had designed a stylish closed body for the SS 100. Reminiscent of the Bugattis of the period, just one was made before the outbreak of World War Two decreed an end to car production.

Source - Jaguar

1938 Vehicle Profiles

1938 SS Cars SS 100 vehicle information


Chassis Num: 39048
Engine Num: M 549 E

A name can foster all kinds of emotions. In the days immediately following the conclusion of the Second World War, 'SS' certainly didn't conjure up many happy memories for many Europeans including the British. Instead, 'Jaguar' was born.....[continue reading]

1938 SS Cars SS 100 vehicle information


Chassis Num: 39010
Engine Num: M1398E

William Lyons and William Wamsley set up the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922 in Blackpool, England. The six-man shop made motorcycle sidecars and by 1927 they began offering special sporting bodies on popular chassis for Austin, Fiat, Standard, and o....[continue reading]

1938 SS Cars SS 100 vehicle information


Chassis Num: 39032

This SS 100 was delivered though the Parker's Bolton agency in Manchester, England, in 1938. It would spend the first 24 years of its life in the United Kingdom, before coming into the car of Eugene Faust, who brought it to New York in 1962. It remai....[continue reading]

1938 SS Cars SS 100 vehicle information


Chassis Num: 39016
Engine Num: M529E

William Lyons and William Wamsley setup with Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922 in Blackpool, England. Their first car debuted to the public at the Olympia Motor Show in London that year.....[continue reading]

1938 SS Cars SS 100 vehicle information


Chassis Num: 39039
Engine Num: M536E

This SS 100 is chassis number 39039. It was delivered new to Harold C. Goozee, of London, on March 11th of 1938. it was given registration HMX 87, a Middlesex issue that began that month. It is the only SS 100 to be painted Snow Shadow Blue. The car ....[continue reading]

1938 SS Cars SS 100 vehicle information


The Jaguar SS100 is a two-seat sports car built between 1936 and 1940 by SS Cars Ltd. of Coventry, England. The Model 100 name reflected the 3.5 liter Model's ability to exceed 100 mph, an unheard of speed for a production vehicle at that time. Becau....[continue reading]

1938 SS Cars SS 100 vehicle information

Designer: Graber

Launched in 1936, the SS 100 was the first high-performance model produced by SS Cars Limited and used a new Harry Weslake-developed overhead-valve engine in a shortened SS1 chassis. The SS 100 was capable of over 100 mph, and many of these open spor....[continue reading]

1938 SS Cars SS 100 vehicle information


The majority of cars built by the Swallow Sidecar Company in the 1930s were SS saloons but the SS 100 sports cars are better remembered today. The SS 100, which evolved from the SS 90, was introduced in 1936 with a 105 horsepower, 2.5-liter engine, w....[continue reading]

1938 SS Cars SS 100 vehicle information


Chassis Num: 49049
Engine Num: T 9528

This SS 100 was sold new by Henley's Distributors, west of London, to E.A. Day on 27 July 1938, registered as EYU 868. It is not known when it came to the United States, but by the 1960s it was in the care of John Freeman of Baldwin, New York, on Lon....[continue reading]

Chassis #: 39048 
Chassis #: 39010 
Chassis #: 39032 
Chassis #: 39016 
Chassis #: 39039 
Chassis #: 49049 

Concepts by SS Cars

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SS Cars Monthly Sales Volume

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Performance and Specification Comparison

Price Comparison

1938 SS 100
1938 SS Cars SS 100 Base Price : $1,925

Model Year Production

#1#2#3SS Cars
1942Chevrolet (254,885)Ford (160,432)Plymouth (152,427)
1941Chevrolet (1,008,976)Ford (691,455)Plymouth (522,080)
1940Chevrolet (764,616)Ford (541,896)Plymouth (430,208)
1939Chevrolet (577,278)Ford (487,031)Plymouth (423,850)
1938Chevrolet (465,158)Ford (410,263)Plymouth (285,704)
1937Ford (942,005)Chevrolet (815,375)Plymouth (566,128)
1936Ford (930,778)Chevrolet (918,278)Plymouth (520,025)
1935Ford (820,253)Chevrolet (548,215)Plymouth (350,884)
1934Ford (563,921)Chevrolet (551,191)Plymouth (321,171)
1933Chevrolet (486,261)Ford (334,969)Plymouth (298,557)

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