Timeless style: Inside a gorgeous 1939 Jaguar SS
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This beautiful SS Jaguar stands out for its low-slung elegance, so redolent of 1930s style.
The SS was part of the Jaguar brand’s name from 1935 to 1945. A legacy of the company’s start as Swallow Sidecars, the SS was dropped to avoid foreign (read German SS troops) connotations.
Murray Taylor’s SS 1.5 Jaguar was one of 3748 built-in 1939 but it didn’t look like this when he bought it. His brother-in-law, who had acquired it as a basket case, restored motorcycles and started this, but got rheumatoid arthritis and couldn’t manage it. So he sent it, in pieces, to Murray in Kerikeri. That was about 15 years ago.
Murray had built a steel launch in his spare time, so used its building frame to mount the car’s chassis on, square it up and work on rust.
“I had to make a few bits and pieces but I had one-and-a-half cars, including two engines.”
Finally, he was ready to fit the body together, to see how it all went and what else he’d need.
“Most of it was there, though it needed new door panels, and places like the holes where the radiator mounted needed repair, and the mudguards.”
Murray did most things, including the paint, in his workshop.
He also did the hood lining and upholstery. That takes skill, but a previous hospital job in Wellington was in the splint department.
“We had a polio epidemic and they needed leg irons and braces. That’s where I learned to sew.”
The result is impressive. Even though the door trim had rotted at the bottom, there was enough to show how it should look. He got clues for the headlining from a similar car.
The wooden dash couldn’t be saved, so he used a piece of mahogany tabletop and copied it, making tools to ensure holes for instruments and switches were correct, with a few additions. He did get experts on to the chrome.
It took 10 years to finish, and by 2014 the SS was ready for its VIN.
This Jaguar is better suited to cruising, its 1776cc four-cylinder engine and four-speed gearbox happy to take it to 113km/h when new, and now easily cruising at 80. The 12in drum brakes are more than adequate, though there’s no power steering and, despite the steering wheel’s 45cm diameter it takes some heft to manoeuvre.
Murray and his wife Pauline haven’t travelled far in the Jaguar — up to Taipa on scenic roads.
Sadly, given he’s spent more time rebuilding the car than driving it, it’s for sale due to his declining eyesight. “You have to keep them running. There’s no point leaving it sitting in the garage,” surmises Murray.