When I think of British sports cars that were brought over after World War II, the one that brings majesty and beauty to my mind is Jaguar. The company has contributed some of the most gorgeous cars ever, but how did it all start? The recent Arizona Concours d’Elegance gave spectators a peek of what could be considered the first Jaguar: the SS 90 prototype.
If you’re not familiar with Jaguar history, then you may be surprised to learn the company has its origins as the Swallow Sidecar Company. The Jaguar name actually first appeared as a model name for the 1935 SS 2½-litre sports saloon in 1935. The sports-car version was called the SS Jaguar 90 because that was its top speed from its Standard-derived 2663cc side-valve six.
Only twenty-three were built until the 1936 SS Jaguar 100 continued where the SS Jaguar 90 left off, initially offered with the 2.7 (though now with a new OHV cylinder head) but in 1938 a 3.5L OHV six was added. It was during this time that SS adopted the leaping jaguar hood ornament. The company officially became Jaguar in 1945.
This particular prototype, which features a rear deck design that was not shared with production SS Jaguar 90s, served as the company’s first competition car. The SS prototype was then purchased in 1937 from the factory by a Royal Air Force Wing Commander Hugh Kennard. He sold the car in 1944, upon which it was traded several times through the 1950s until it was purchased by an enthusiast in 1962, though it sat in a Norfolk garage for over 30 years.
It then was snapped up by a Swiss collector in 1996, who commissioned Mesa, Arizona-based Terry Larson to restore it. The prototype came full circle in 2019 when Larson became the new owner.
This SS 90 prototype competed in the Aerodynamic Pre-War Sports and Race Cars class of the Arizona Concours d’Elegance, where it won Best in Class. The whole event was centered around the Art of Aerodynamics theme that demonstrated the evolution of the effect of aerodynamics on automobile design, from the Brass Era (pre-1916) through exotic sports cars from 1975-2000.
Wish I had one instead of my Jaguar
That’s so beautiful compared to my Jaguar