Villa d'Este

21 May 2011

Lot 131

1938 Jaguar SS Coupé by Graber

To be auctioned on Saturday, May 21, 2011

High Bid of €210.000

  • Chassis no. 30182


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.

ITALIANTEXT

125 cv, motore 6 cilindri in linea a valvole in testa di 3.485 cc, due carburatori SU, cambio manuale Moss a quattro marce, assali anteriore e posteriore rigidi con balestre semi-ellittiche, freni a tamburo meccanici sulle quattro ruote. Passo: 3.050 mm

- Esemplare unico disegnato dal carrozziere svizzero Hermann Graber
- In passato nella nota collezione Jaguar di Jerry e Kathy Nell
- Accurato restauro eseguito negli anni Novanta ad un costo di 270.000 dollari
- Premiata a Pebble Beach, Meadow Brook e al Jaguar Club of North America

Quando la SS Cars di William Lyons presentò i modelli Jaguar per il 1938, migliorò ulteriormente la già alta qualità dei suoi prodotti. Sebbene le nuove berline mantenessero una certa aria di familiarità con i modelli precedenti, esse presentavano un nuovo e più robusto telaio scatolato, una carrozzeria completamente in acciaio rimpiazzava il vecchio sistema delle lamiere fissate ai sottostanti telai in legno, e un nuovo motore di 3.500cc a valvole in testa con 125 cv era offerto come optional a richiesta in aggiunta all'affidabile unità di 2.500cc.

Mentre fino allo scoppio della Seconda Guerra Mondiale furono costruite con il motore di 3,5 litri 1.065 berline, 241 cabriolet e 118 roadster, le versioni coupé sono molto più rare poiché furono costruite quasi esclusivamente da carrozzieri indipendenti su commessa, eccetto un coupé su telaio SS100 costruito all'interno della fabbrica.

Il telaio n. 30182

Questo è il caso dell'elegante coupé offerto, che fu spedito nel maggio 1938 in forma di autotelaio da berlina a Hermann Graber di Wichtrach (Berna), in Svizzera.

Graber carrozzò diverse Jaguar, ma il precedente proprietario Kathy Nell, la cui famiglia è di origini svizzere, visitò personalmente il garage di Graber e venne a conoscenza di ulteriori particolari sulla affascinante storia di questo particolare esemplare. Anche la RM Auctions ha ottenuto ulteriori informazioni su questa vettura da Terry Mc Grath, noto esperto della marca e autore del libro The A to Z of Coachbuilt Jaguars, prossimo alla pubblicazione.

Secondo le ricerche di McGrath, Graber dotò il telaio della SS berlina con una carrozzeria coupé due porte, due finestrini e cinque posti, per un certo Michel Dionisotti di Ginevra. Si ritiene che la vettura sia stata finita in nero e grigio con interni in pelle grigia, con radio incorporata. Dotata di due sedili di fortuna reclinabili nella parte posteriore, era anche dotata di passaggio per gli sci. Dionisotti pagò un anticipo di 2.000 franchi svizzeri il 10 giugno, e saldò il conto per ulteriori 4.200 franchi il 22 agosto 1938. La vettura fu quindi inviata al Grand Garage in Svizzera.

Il 31 marzo 1949, la vettura fu registrata in Svizzera come “Limousine Coupé” al nome della Enterprise de Grands Travaux S.A. di Losanna, come confermato dalla targa VD13203, dove “VD” sta per il Cantone Svizzero di Vaud, del quale Losanna è la capitale.

Nel 1953, fu registrata a nome di “Labhart Thelma Violet” di Ginevra ma si ritiene fosse stata acquistata da un militare canadese, che la portò con sé al suo rientro in patria. Nel Maggio 1956, era di proprietà di Brian Metcalfe, dell'Ontario, e fu quindi acquistata da Frederick Corp, che la utilizzò fino al 1963, quando la mise a riposo in un garage. La vettura ebbe almeno altri tre proprietari conosciuti in Nord America prima di venire acquistata nel 1987 da David Gill di Chicago, che ne commissionò il restauro. La vettura fu smontata, il restauro iniziato ma ben presto fermato.

Mantenendo la promessa fatta a sua moglie Kathy di regalarle una vettura svizzera, Jerry Nell la acquistò per la sua collezione nel 1990. Quando nel 1994 RM Auto Restoration eseguì il restauro della vettura, chiese ai coniugi Nell se volessero sistemare alcune delle saldature messe confusamente da Graber, quando aveva allungato posteriormente il telaio. I coniugi Nell chiesero di mantenere l'originalità della vettura, “e per quello fummo rimproverati a Pebble,” ha ricordato con un sorriso Kathy Nell. Per lavorare su questa vettura, Henri Ghesquiere, un dipendente della RM, decise di ritardare l'andata in pensione: avendo già lavorato su altre vetture carrozzate da Graber, voleva ultimare il lavoro in tempo per il debutto della vettura in un concorso.

I coniugi Nell avevano acquistato la vettura già smontata ma furono capaci di accumulare numerose informazioni e furono anche fortunati nel rintracciare il precedente proprietario, Fred Corp, che confermò loro che era stata sua. Con una spesa di 270.000 dollari la vettura ritornò come nuova, solo la verniciatura fu modificata da nera e grigia a blu scuro.

Una volta completato, questo coupé fu esibito al Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance del 1994, dove vinse il premio Designer’s Choice. Vinse la classe al concorso nazionale del Jaguar Club of North America (JCNA) del 1995 e partecipò a sette concorsi del JCNA fra il 1995 e il 1999, con valutazioni comprese fra i 99.96 e i 100 punti. Vinse anche un nastro a Pebble Beach e vinse alle manifestazioni Eyes on Classics and Masterpiece of Style and Speed.

In condizioni superbe, questo raro Coupé di Graber è un capolavoro unico per eleganza, poiché unisce lo stile sportivo del suo carrozziere ad adeguate prestazioni.

Addendum

Please note that this car is titled by the engine number. It is also eligible for import into the UK at 5% VAT.

Alain Squindo


Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Auctions in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in History. R... read more

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Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

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Max Girardo started his career in the vintage automobile industry in 1998, joining Brooks Auctioneers (now Bonhams) as a car specialis... read more

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As one of the three founding partners of RM Auctions, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Graduati... read more

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Peter Blond joined the RM Europe team in 2013 after being immersed in the collector car industry for more than 60 years. An... read more

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