Jaguar SS100 3,5 litre

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SS100 3,5 litre





William Lyons and William Walmsley’s Swallow Sidecars started building motorcycle sidecars in 1922, and then it soon expanded into custom bodies for affordable cars, such as the Standard 9, the Austin Seven, and later other marques. Their offerings of stylish, high-quality, low-priced bodies for inexpensive cars were naturally very successful during a depression, and in 1931, they were able to introduce a car in their own name, the SS1. Close ties with the Standard Motor Company provided Standard engines and running gear for years to come.

By 1934, Lyons and Walmsley parted ways and Lyons took full control. The 1935 SS Jaguars were SS’s first model developed fully in-house, and with Nazi Germany on the rise, they adopted the Jaguar name. Through incremental development, first of bodies and then their own chassis and suspensions for 1935, William Lyons was well on his way to his dream of a car that was completely his own.

As an enormous investment was required, engines remained the one factor outside of Jaguar’s abilities, but Standard wanted theirs custom, so they constructed not only engines but also famed engineer Harry Westlake’s new pushrod OHV heads for the Standard-based 2½-liter SS 100. These yielded 105 horsepower, which was an incredible improvement over the 68 horsepower from the side-valve straight-six in an SS90. With performance finally backing up the SS Roadster’s Le Mans body, the SS 100 2½-Litre was launched in September 1935.

As they were now selling cars in earnest (over 14,000 SS Jaguars between 1935 and 1940), Jaguar’s old-world, ash-framed construction was becoming too time consuming, and all-steel bodies were adopted for the volume-selling saloon cars for 1938. These heavier bodies required more power, so Westlake chief engineer William Heynes worked on an enlarged and improved version of the 2½-liter engine, which featured the Westlake OHV head, improved oiling and durability, twin SU carburetion, and low-restriction exhaust manifolds.

The first true performance car from SS, the SS 100 “Jaguar,” breathed new life into the gorgeous design of its predecessor, the SS 90, as it had a revised radiator, new headlamps, and a sporty Le Mans-type fuel tank. Under the hood was markedly improved performance, as it featured a new 102-horsepower, overhead-valve, six-cylinder engine with a new cylinder head and dual SU carburetors. The model was named for the top speed that it could reach, 100 mph, and it quickly became popular with enthusiasts. That enthusiasm has never waned.

SS 100 marketing literature described it as having been “designed primarily for competition work, (but) equally suitable for ordinary road use, for despite the virility of its performance, it is sufficiently tractable for use as a fast touring car without modification.” Many owners took this to heart and used their cars both as primary transportation and in many forms of motorsport, including on hill climbs, rallies, and road races. As a result, an SS 100 was a common sight at such circuits as Donington Park and on RAC rallies.

Again the engine was sourced from Standard but had the cylinder head reworked by SS to give 105 bhp. Unlike the 1½ Litre there were some drophead models made post-war.

The chassis was originally of 119 in (3,020 mm) but grew by an inch (25 mm) in 1938 to 120 in (3,050 mm). The extra length over the 1½ Litre was used for the six-cylinder engine and the passenger accommodation was the same size.

The 3½ Litre, introduced in 1938, was essentially the same body and chassis as the 2½ Litre but the larger 125 bhp engine gave better performance but at the expense of economy. The rear axle ratio was 4.25:1 as opposed to the 4.5:1 on the 2½ Litre.

This 125-horsepower, 3½-liter saloon engine was offered as an option in the SS 100 as well, and this classic muscle car combination of a sedan engine in a convertible that was 1,000 pounds less, not to mention one costing only £445, made it an instant sensation.

As it could hit 60 mph in just over 10 seconds and was capable of 100 mph, literally nothing else compared. Nevertheless, this was still a sports car during impoverished pre-war Britain, and from 1938 to 1940, SS 100 3½-Litre production saw only 118 sold. It goes without saying that buyers were primarily members of the sporting elite, many of whom were interested in the sporting potential. While not designed as a rally car, 2,610 pounds and 125 horsepower were an irresistible formula, and privateer owners campaigned their SS 100s extensively, visibly and successfully, much to Lyons’ delight.

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