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The SS Jaguar

By today's standards the SS Jaguars are neither particularly fast nor particularly comfortable but back in the 1930s they were some of the fastest saloon cars on the road and compared very favourably with cars selling at considerably higher prices.

Click on the above photo to see the article from The Automobile Engineer October 1937.

SS Jaguar & Bentley Compared

 SS Jaguar 2½ litre & 3½ litre  Derby Bentley with Park Ward coachwork


The impressive achievement of SS company founder, William Lyons, can be better understood when you make comparisons with the rather similar looking Derby Bentley of the period. "The Motor" generally tended to extract slightly higher performance figures than "The Autocar" but with a factor of three price difference you have to be impressed by the Jaguar. (The Jaguar was also available with a 3½ litre engine for a further £50.)

The Jaguars were slightly smaller in outside dimensions when compared to the Derby Bentleys but their interior was larger in most respects. The level of internal appointment was remarkably similar although the Bentley was probably more relaxed due to its slightly higher gear ratios.

Top speeds were very similar but the Jaguars appear to give some advantage in acceleration from rest whereas the Bentley wins in the mid range for overtaking.

A number of different body styles were offered for the Bentley from various coachbuilders but those from Park Ward were popular and fairly typical. Comparing the Bentley's appearance to the Jaguar it would be difficult to argue that the Bentley was the more elegant. The various elements, wings, bonnet and body shell of the Jaguar all form a more unified whole and the proportions and shut lines also look to be better thought out.

RR/Bentley purchased a coachbuilt 2½ litre SS Jaguar saloon for test in 1937 and later a  3½ litre for a detailed study of its performance and construction.  They were impressed by the smoothness of the engine and surprised at the good performance of the chassis given its relatively low cost. Exhaust noise was commented on adversely in the coachbuilt car but they were impressed by the twin pipe system in the all steel cars.

 SS Jaguar 2½litre  Derby Bentley SS Jaguar 3½ litre
Price £395 £1510 £445
Length 15' 6" 16' 0" 15' 6"
Width 5' 6" 5' 8" 5' 6"
Weight 32 cwt 34 cwt 32 cwt
Max Speed 87 mph 88 mph 91 mph
0 -60 mph 17.0 sec 17.1 sec 13.8 sec
0 -50 mph 10.6 sec 12.7 sec 9.5 sec
0-30 mph 4.7 sec 4.9 sec 4.4 sec
30-50 in top 9.4 sec 8.0 sec 7.6 sec
30-50 in third 8.1 sec 6.6 sec 7.7 sec
mph/1000rpm 20.16 mph 22.12 mph 21.34 mph
Test mpg 19 mpg 17.5 mpg 17 mpg
 SS Jaguar 2½ litre & 3½ litre interior  Derby Bentley interior


















Click on the tests below to see the full reports






Other Comparisons

A further comparison is made between the Jaguar Mk V and Bentley Mk VI.  Click on the thumbnail.


For the pre-war cars a more equivalent comparison is with the MG SA and WA which are probably the closest in price. Unfortunately no independent road test data exists for the MGs but click on the thumbnail  for an attempt at comparison.


The SS Jaguar Mascot 

"Designed Expressly for SS Cars Ltd manufacturers of the

 Jaguar car by the eminent artist F. Gordon Crosby.

Price Two Guineas"                                                                

Shown here is the car purchased by Prince Michael of Romania standing outside the SS works in late 1937. This car had chassis number 30005, the 5th 3½ litre off the production line and was shipped to Romania on the 12th December 1937. (The 4th off the line was a demonstrator for the agents Henlys and participated in the Monte Carlo Rally .)  It is not known who designed the mascot fitted to the Prince's car but if it wasn't F Gordon Crosby then it certainly must have influenced his famous design that became an optional accessory for SS Cars costing 2 guineas.

Below, F Gordon Crosby is pictured beside his 1937 SS Jaguar fitted with his iconic mascot. Apparently William Lyons had seen a Jaguar  car with a Desmo "Jaguar" mascot mounted on its radiator cap.  He took an instant dislike to the Desmo design  describing it as "like a cat shot off a fence." Needless to say, the Desmo design was never sanctioned by the factory and it was the sight of it that caused him to commission Gordon Crosby to design an item more befitting of his elegant cars.


Artist's Licence

A Jaguar advert showing an SS 2½ litre car, somewhat stretched in the middle.   Right: The actual car.    More Artist's Licence Here

Restoring SS Jaguar 2½litre JVS 620  

Below are some photos from the restoration. These include:

Grinding in the gearbox synchro cones.
Making trim panels and a pleated  leather door skin.
Cylinder head overhaul.
Modifying steel con-rods from 1½ litre cars for use in the 2½ litre including making new small end bushes and reaming them to size.
Setting up the rear axle gear tooth meshing of the crown wheel and pinion and adjusting the backlash thereafter.
Installing new bushes and oil seals in the steering box.
Replacing steering king pins.
Creating a replica of the (broken) boot lock using  brass sheet and  tube.
Installing new headlining cloth.

Creating replica wooden arm rests for the rear seats to replace rotted out originals.

Making My Own Parts

Restoration of JVS 620



Some articles written for the SS Register of the Jaguar Drivers Club in years past

     Engine Overhaul  January 2010

     Gearbox Overhaul  25th  March '96

      Rear Axle Overhaul  10th August '94

      Eliminating Vibration

   Toe-in Adjustment   1st Oct '95

     Rebuilding a Wire Wheel    

     Lotus Spreadsheet Graphs of Power and Speed  4th Dec 1995

      Valve Timing

     And one published in the Jaguar Driver for April 1995   Startling Discovery

     Who was the First Owner of JVS 620?

     Sterner Stuff

     A Nice Model in the London Science Museum

     Jaguar and the Gas Meter

     LED lighting

     Fitting a Heater and Radio

     Reversing Camera


According to an article in The Automobile Engineer October 1937 the SU automatic

starting carburetter was pioneered by SS Cars.  The SU Starting Carburetter


Jaguar Videos

Below is a short video of a 1947 Jaguar. You can watch small size with good resolution

or click the full screen button for a more real experience but a bit fuzzy.

If it tends to stopping and starting just slide the slider back a bit so that the data download

stays ahead of the video playing.

And  another taken from my 1939 car on the Jaguar Drivers Club SS Register tour of Yorkshire

Following my gearbox rebuild I took the car around the block to test the synchromesh on both upward and downward changes.

The HMV Radiomobile with its under wing aerial is also tested later in the video.


Jaguar Brochures

A post war advert showing a 2½ litre car. (The 3½ litre has a slightly more pronounced beak to the radiator surround.)

Click on the photo to see the superb collection of brochures held on the JagLovers site

The Heritage

Whilst body and chassis design of the Jaguars was all "in house" the engines and transmissions show quite a few genetic

similarities to cars of the Standard Motor Company.   Meet the Cousins

The Legacy

So does anything of these pre-war Jaguars live on into the era of the XK Jaguars?

Yes! High performance, good looks and value for money are all virtues that were true in their day but one or two physical features

also lived on from the SS era.

A comparison of the SS engine to the XK

The dashboard layout from 1937 continued largely unchanged through the XK120 and XK140 even if the recorded speeds were a little different

and a look at the gearbox design shows little change also ...


and last but by no means least, the F. Gordon Crosby mascot seen here

24th March 1939 .



What Difference Does 65 Years Make?

A performance comparison