The first SS-Jaguar sedan set a high standard. It not only looked superb but was faster than most all rivals and sold for what seemed like a ridiculously low price. Heynes had only a few months to prepare its chassis, which was all-new but nothing special: beam axles and half-elliptic springs at each end, overhead-valve conversions of Standard's side-valve 1.5-liter four and 2.5-liter six, a modified Standard gearbox. But Lyons' body design was sleek and graceful, with the flowing lines, long hood, and slim, sausage-shaped rear window that would soon be recognized worldwide as Jaguar hallmarks.
Lyons established another Jaguar tradition with this car: astonishing value for money. At its first showing, he asked for guesses about the price; most in attendance thought it should cost at least £625. In fact, he'd priced it at a sensationally low £385. Jaguar's been raising eyebrows this way ever since.
In 1937, the sedan received front vent wings, mechanically driven windshield wipers, and a small cubbyhole at each end of a rearranged French-walnut dashboard. Armrests and pockets were added to the rear doors, and illumination was provided for the standard, comprehensive toolkit on the underside of the trunklid.
The following year brought a similar ohv conversion of the 3.5-liter Standard six as a new option, massaged by Westlake and Heynes up to 125 horsepower. At about the same time, the firm switched from coachbuilt bodies, with steel panels over a wooden framework, to all-steel construction. Though basic styling was unchanged, the previous sidemount spare tire was moved to the trunk, and wheelbase stretched an inch (from 119 to 120 inches) for a wider new X-member frame that afforded more interior room.
The 3.5-liter sedan was a very appealing car, priced at only £445 yet able to reach 95 miles per hour. Also arriving in 1938 was a somewhat shorter, two-door convertible coupe version of similar appearance, though it failed to generate significant demand. But SS-Jaguar sales as a whole had been rising at the expense of other Coventry-based companies like Riley, Triumph, and Alvis. In all, 1,065 of the 3.5-liter sedans were built before Britain was forced to abandon civilian production for the duration of World War II.
Continue to the next page to learn about the sedans Jaguar started building after the close of World War II.