Saturday, May 21, 2011
|1938 Jaguar SS Coupé by Graber|
125 hp, 3,485 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine, dual SU carburettors, Moss four-speed manual gearbox, solid front and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,050 mm (120")
- One-off coupé by Swiss coachbuilder Hermann Graber
- Formerly part of the noted Jaguar collection of Jerry and Kathy Nell
- Painstaking $270,000 body-off restoration in 1990s
- Awards at Pebble Beach, Meadow Brook and Jaguar Club of North America
When William Lyons’ SS Cars introduced the 1938 Jaguar models, the company significantly raised even its own high standards. Although the new sedans maintained a clear familial resemblance to their predecessors, they featured a new and stiffer boxed chassis, an all-steel body replaced the former wood frame/steel outer panel combination, and a new 125-hp, 3.5-litre overhead-valve engine was introduced as an option to supplement the trusty 2.5-litre unit.
While there were 1,065 3.5-litre saloons, 241 drophead coupés and 118 open two-seaters built before World War II, closed coupés are much rarer, and except for one SS 100 built by Jaguar itself, they were almost exclusively custom-coachbuilt to special order.
Chassis no. 30182
Such is the case with the elegant coupé offered here, which was shipped as a bare saloon chassis to Hermann Graber at Wichtrach, near Berne, Switzerland, in May 1938.
Graber bodied several Jaguars, but prior owner Kathy Nell, who is of Swiss descent, visited Graber’s garage in person and learned more of the fascinating story of this particular example. RM Auctions has also obtained additional information about this car from noted marque authority Terry McGrath, the author of the forthcoming book, The A to Z of Coachbuilt Jaguars.
According to McGrath’s research, Graber fitted the SS saloon chassis with a two-door, two-window, five-seat coupé body for one Monsieur Michel Dionisotti of Geneva. It is believed to have been finished in black over grey with a grey leather interior and a built-in radio. Fitted with two pull-down occasional seats at the rear, it was also equipped with a door for skis. Dionisotti paid 2,000 CHF on 10 June and was invoiced the balance of 4,200 CHF on 22 August, 1938. The car was ultimately dispatched to Grand Garage in Switzerland.
On 31 March, 1949, the car was registered in Switzerland as a “Limousine Coupé” to Enterprise de Grands Travaux S.A. of Lausanne, as supported by the license plate number VD13203, where “VD” signifies the Swiss Canton of Vaud, of which Lausanne is the capital.
In 1953, the car was registered to “Labhart Thelma Violet” of Geneva but was eventually believed to have been purchased by a Canadian serviceman who returned to Canada with it. By May 1956, Brian Metcalfe of Ontario owned it before it was eventually purchased by Frederick Corp, who drove it until 1963, when he placed it into storage. The car then passed through at least three known North American owners before David Gill of Chicago purchased the car in 1987 and commissioned its restoration. The car was dismantled, and the restoration began but was halted.
Keeping a promise that he made to his wife Kathy to buy her a Swiss car, Jerry Nell acquired this car for their collection in 1990. When RM Auto Restoration restored the car in 1994, they asked the Nells if they wished to have some messy welds cleaned up, where Graber had extended the frame at the rear. The Nells asked the car be kept original, “and we got dinged for that at Pebble,” Kathy Nell recalled with a laugh. In fact, one of RM’s employees, Henri Ghesquiere, cancelled his retirement plans to work on this car. Having had previous experience in restoring Graber-bodied cars, he stayed on to finish the project in time for its show debut.
The Nells bought the car in pieces but were able to amass substantial records, and they were lucky to find previous owner Fred Corp, who confirmed that it had been his car. Corp was instrumental in ensuring the correctness of the restoration. The car was returned to as-new condition at a cost of $270,000, with the exception of being painted Royal Blue instead of the original black and grey.
Once completed, this coupé was shown at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance in 1994, where it won the Designer’s Choice Award. It was named the Jaguar Club of North America (JCNA) National Class winner in 1995 and competed in seven JCNA shows from 1995-99, scoring between 99.96 and 100 points. It also won a ribbon at Pebble Beach and won at the Eyes on Classics and Masterpiece of Style and Speed events.
Presented in superb condition, this rare Graber Coupé is a unique masterpiece of elegance, embodying the sporting design of its coachbuilder with the performance to match.
Please note that this car is titled by the engine number. It is also eligible for import into the UK at 5% VAT.