Online Auto Museum
One man's passionate quest to survey finest motorcars in the world

SS 100 Jaguar 3 1/2 Litre Roadster, #39002, 1937

  • Of the few SS 100 cars produced, chassis #39002 is the second built. According to J.D. Classics, who performed the restoration, "chassis #1 was reportedly destroyed by fire not once but twice—once in the Blitz and again by fire." So this car proves to be the oldest surviving SS 100. Not only that, but Jaguar Heritage Trust confirmed that the car as presented—with registration CKV 666, chassis #39002, and motor #M501E—is exactly as completed by the factory on the 25th of November in 1937. The body, running gear, motor, transmission, and interior tub are all original to the car, meaning that no major components have been replaced in its lifetime. With this knowledge in hand, the SS was given a cost-no-object restoration with the intent to preserve what then became known as the finest example of its kind.
  • 1937 is the earliest year for the new 3 ½ litre model, and the factory likely applied for the registration plate in order to test chassis #39002 prior to sale. The car itself was ordered by Captain John P. Black, the managing director of the Standard Motor Company, Ltd., a mechanical parts supplier for SS Cars. The black paint and navy blue hides are original to the car, the latter an extra-cost option. Captain Black did not take delivery of his car, however, and the SS 100 was sold on to a Mr. Bellhouse of New York, a turn of fate that would spare the car from the hardships of war and the unsurprising end of chassis number one. A string of owners in the United States kept the car in remarkable condition until it reached the hands of serious collectors both stateside and in Germany. Then in 2006, #39002 was acquired by Robin Green, who returned it to the United Kingdom where it received the tender care that few historic vehicles—even those of concours calibre—have ever seen.
  • Anecdotes that illustrate the obsessive quality of the restoration begin with the car's wiring loom. During research, the restoration team discovered that the SS 100 used a chevron pattern for the tracer color in the wire. Of course the base color, tracer color, and the pattern of electrical wire is something specific to many different manufacturers throughout history, and today even the most scrutineering wonks don't expect to see wire that's identical to the original. Nevertheless, the team commissioned 20 meters of each wire color combination needed to remake the loom. Most of this custom-braided wire is tucked away out of sight, wrapped up, or hidden inside conduits, but it's all period correct.
  • Similarly diligent (nuts) in terms of the attention given to the car, the restoration team found that the original mesh screens covering the headlamps and grille were woven according to an imperial measurement with cross-hatches spaced at 12.7mm. Instead of using the 12 or 13mm square mesh available today, the team wove correct 12.7mm mesh. The team also spent hundreds of hours perfecting the louvres on the bonnet, and an excessive amount of time rebuilding the windshield wiper motor, armature, and linkage to ensure that it works faultlessly.
  • And would anyone drive this SS Jaguar in the rain after such a painstaking restoration? Well, no and yes. No in the sense that on its first event, a Jaguar Driver's Club meeting at Highclere Castle, owner Robin Green was understandably reluctant to drench the car in the day's thunderstorms, and only brought it out to drive once the rain cleared. But also yes in the sense that between events in England and Monterey, California, the car has seen a few grey days and wet roads, and has still performed flawlessly and received top honors.
  • The story of 39002's restoration, underscored in no small part by its remarkable state of completeness from birth, hefts a lot of temporal weight onto the car. This is the tipping point between being able to enjoy a wonderful vintage car, versus striving to preserve a piece of history. And we should note that it is not the car's tremendous monetary value that drives this distinction. Plenty of multi-million dollar cars are enjoyed heartily by those who own them because they are, at the heart, great cars. But leave cost aside and there's the question of period-correctness, as-new presentation, and originality. When a car has these qualities, managing the risk of damage is part of the owner's responsibility. That's simply the burden that comes with owning any artifact considered to be the very best of its kind, independent of however valuable those things may be.

 

Last Updated: Nov 6, 2017