Back in 2005 having stumbled on a classic car hill climb in Jersey, semi-retired builder and developer Robin Green had seen a couple of SS100s bedecked in that regal elegance the marque carries so distinctively and was smitten. From then on, he wanted his own SS two-seater sports tourer to run around in.
Robin knew a thing or two about cars. In a former life he ran a Formula Ford 2000 works team that won the European Championships three times. He also owned a XK150 3.8 litre S we’d built for him.
But seeing as only 116 3.5 litre SS100s were ever made, it soon became clear that owning one to drive wasn’t really a practical possibility, although his frustrated enquiries didn’t really dent Robin’s enthusiasm for the marque.
So when we spotted a 3.5 litre SS100 at a Bonhams auction in 2006, Robin saw an opportunity. Chassis #1 was reportedly destroyed not once but twice – once in the Blitz and again by fire. So chassis #2 – as this proved to be – looked to be it; the world’s oldest surviving 3.5 litre SS100.
Having checked with the Jaguar Heritage Trust, registration CKV 666, chassis number 39002 and engine number M501E was dated 25 November 1937. All mechanical numbers matched. But just as exciting as its authenticity was its integrity – the car still had its original wings, engine, gearbox and tub. This really was a fantastic find.
Although the car was now bright red, it was in reasonable condition – and the price was right, too. So when the hammer came down, we were there to ensure the car was his.
It looked as if Robin’s dream was finally about to come true.
Very soon, a plan had emerged: restore this historically important car to concours standard in time for the Jaguar Driver’s Club (JDC) event for the XK and SS register at Highclere Castle near Newbury, on Sunday 6 July to begin with, and eventually on to the ultimate stage – the exacting standards of the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, California.
With not much time to lose, work got underway in early winter 2006, spearheaded by our highly experienced engineer, Adrian Brown. Much of Adrian’s working week has been spent toiling away on this momentous restoration.
“Restoring the world’s oldest, most authentic Jaguar SS100 3.5 litre to concours standard has been an amazing privilege,” said Adrian.
“It’s also been a long and testing labour of love. For example, having brought it back to our workshop with the restoration under way, it became obvious that the chassis was twisted, probably after a shunt. But not only that, the bodywork had been twisted to fit in ‘repairing’ the damage!
“But it’s all been hugely enjoyable and extremely rewarding as you see the car slowly but surely springing back to life before your eyes.”
Concours restorations like this one demand extensive research to get everything just as it should be (although with the latest techniques and craftsmanship JD Classics can bring to a project like this, we’re able to produce restorations to a much higher standard of finish than could ever have been produced when the vehicles were originally conceived).
However, in consulting SS experts, it’s difficult to get a consensus on detail – attention to detail being critical in creating the ultimate show car.
So, combined with the inevitable unforeseen problems to resolve along the way, it’s easy to see why July 2008 arrived sooner than we’d have preferred. Which is why we had seven people working on the SS100 right up until 10.30pm on Saturday, the night before our deadline.
But we made it and kept our promise to Robin. Now back to its original black with navy leather upholstery, the car was ready to put on a good show and left our workshop here in Essex at 5am on the Sunday morning, headed for Berkshire.
High Drama at Highclere
However, when we got there, it was raining incessantly! Having committed so much to getting his car looking immaculate for so long, Robin was reluctant to ruin its famous good looks with rain and mud! So we kept it in the trailer whilst Mother Nature did her best to spoil the day.
No one was in any mood to accept defeat, but it was beginning to look as if all our hard work was going to be thwarted by the weather.
Then it stopped. By 12 noon the sun had come out – and just in time for the judging. In the magnificent, stately setting of Highclere Castle, the SS sat resplendent as if to the manor born.
Robin agreed to park the car at the bottom of the ramp behind the trailer. But as soon as the adjudicators had left, the heavens opened again! So the car was swiftly withdrawn under cover.
Then the news came: Robin’s SS had won SS100 Car of the Day!
But there was a problem.
The day’s ultimate prize, Car of the Day was still up for grabs. Robin’s SS was clearly in with more than a shout, but the adjudicators hadn’t seen the car running and needed to see it on the road if Robin was going to win the award.
Which was a setback as it was still chucking it down with rain. And now Robin was even more reluctant to get his now prize-winning pride and joy dirty. So, despite a great chance of even more glory, Robin reluctantly refused.
So that, we thought, was that. We hadn’t got what we felt we had a good chance of getting at the start of the day, but we could be satisfied we’d managed to come away with confirmation that we were bang on track with our restoration.
Except JDCs adjudicators weren’t finished with us yet.
If Robin’s SS car was awarded Car of the Day, it could represent the JDC at the NEC in Birmingham, in effect, the major marque clubs' grand finale where seven of the best show cars of the UK national concours scene compete against each other in a showcase to find the Champion of Champions.
The JDC realised that this would be a great car to represent the club. It would also be a real privilege for Robin, too.
So they asked him again; was he really sure he didn’t want to take his SS for a quick spin?
By now the rain had eased. And as deliberations continued, it stopped altogether! So out she came; the judges saw Robin’s classic sports car running perfectly, and Robin scooped the JDC’s definitive prize, Car of the Day – the perfect end to a day that kept threatening to be a complete washout!
So now it’s on to the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club event in August with Pebble Beach 2009 still in Robin’s sights. We’ll be sure to let you know how this legendary vehicle does on the show circuit over the coming months.