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Buying and running a 1939 SS Jaguar.

Peter contacted me about various unidentified cars in the Mystery Photos section late in 2007, and mentioned that he owns a 1930s Standard Swallow (SS) 2.5 litre saloon .... here is a photo of the car in question, and a write-up, both provided by Peter:
SS Jaguar saloon car

Background information on the pre- and post-war Jaguars.

"The Jaguar model was first introduced in 1936, and looked very similar to the car in the photo. The most obvious difference was the location of the spare wheel in the front wing. After the war the company changed its name from SS Cars Ltd to Jaguar Cars Ltd and continued production of the 2.5 litre saloon. This model was succeeded by the Jaguar Mark V which resulted in the previous post war car being refered to as the Mark IV.

The most obvious visual difference between the SS Jaguars and the Jaguar Mark IVs is in the width of the waistline chrome strip. The earlier cars being noticably wider.

A smaller 1.5 litre saloon was also offered throughout the period from 1936 through to 1948 and a 3.5 litre saloon was introduced in 1938. The 3.5 litre used the same body and chassis as the 2.5 but was fitted with a wider radiator. The early 1.5 litres used a scaled down, but similarly proportioned version of the 2.5 litre body but when coachbuilt bodies gave way to all steel construction in 1938 the 1.5 changed to use the same body as the larger cars but mounted on a shorter chassis. The most obvious visual difference between 1.5 litres and the larger cars is in the length of the bonnet."

Peter's SS Jaguar 2.5 from 1939.

"I remember that when I was a kid in the early '50s I always thought these cars had rather nice lines. However, by the time I was able to afford one most of them had disappeared from the roads and by this time I'd forgotten they existed. Jump forward to 1992 and I came across Paul Skilleter's excellent book "Jaguar Saloon Cars" in a secondhand bookshop and that purchase decided me to start looking for one.

I bought this car in early 1993 from a guy who had owned it for about 12 years but had never driven it. He had had the body resprayed and had done work on reconditioning the engine but the interior was bare, there were no exhaust systems, no wiring and all the running gear was in poor state.

Previous to that the car had had several owners after it had been rescued from a scrap yard in 1964. From what I can tell it wasn't ruinous when it went into the scrap yard but I believe it had gone in because of frost damage to the engine.

After about 600 hours of work and three months into my ownership I managed to get her back on the road. This was a magic moment but the rear axle was really noisy and the gearbox had completely lost all synchromesh so I set to and pulled out the diff. Fortunately, it only required its gear meshing re-set-up and the play on the bearings removed and it turned into a very sweet running and quiet axle.

The gearbox proved slightly more troublesome as synchro springs were unobtainable so I got some made but had to do a few experiments in order to get the spring strengths correct. Driving it after that was another magic moment having the new luxury of reasonably quick upward changes and noiseless downward ones without double declutching.

Needless to say the car required quite a lot of work to the basics of steering brakes and wheels but after getting through the first MOT I set about restoring the interior. The seats were in reasonable order but all the leather door trims required restitching and I had to make a complete one from scratch to replace a missing one. Working out how the headlining was fitted was good fun too and in contrast to the dozens of broken needles that I generated doing the leatherwork, this time my wife's sewing machine emerged unscathed.

To date I've covered about 20,000 miles in the car. In its day it was one the fastest saloons on the road, and whilst you certainly couldn't say that of it today, she doesn't hold up the traffic. The steering is very heavy at parking speeds but is quite pleasant on the open road and road holding is excellent for a car on narrow crossplies. She doesn't roll and has quite neutral cornering. The 14" drum brakes are very good. Mechanically the car is quiet and smooth running but the opening front windscreen and less than efficient door sealing make for more wind noise than we are used to in modern cars. Fuel consumption generally works out about 18 or 19 mpg and with a 14 gallon tank that clearly gives you more petrol stops than we expect today.

All in all she's a nice car to drive and much much easier to work on than any modern vehicle."

Thanks for sending the info over Peter! much appreciated. To see more pictures of the SS Jaguars, and some period material, have a look at Peter's SS website.

More stories about cars belonging to visitors of this site, can be found in the Your Classic Car section here at oldclassiccar.
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