Jackie Shroff’s Post-Vintage Jaguar: The Star Of His Collection

Images: Makarand Baokar

The only SS100 Jaguar ever to make it to India

Veteran Bollywood actor Jackie Shroff is a well-known and genuine petrolhead and has owned several very rare vintage and classic cars such as the Mercedes-Benz 540K, a Citroen DS and a Lotus Esprit. His son Tiger Shroff, who is also making his mark in Bollywood, is as much a petrolhead as his dad. The two of them together have amassed an enviable collection of exotic and vintage cars. We’re taking a closer look at the SS 100 Jaguar, in Jackie Shroff’s car collection, the only one in India till date.

Jaguar's owner William Lyon must have been inspired by the Bugatti Type 55

Marking the first use of the Jaguar name, the SS 100 Jaguar was arguably the most famous and the most desirable of all the cars that William Lyons’ SS Cars had produced before the start of WWII. In production from 1936 to 1939, the ‘100’ of the SS 100 came from the car’s ability to get to a top speed close to (and later, more than) 100mph (160 km/h). A real flagship product from SS Cars, the SS 100’s 2.64 meters wheelbase was essentially a shortened version of the one designed for the use of the Jaguar model name which later became the brand for the marque after WWII.

An SS100 in competitive mood in front of Calcutta's Victoria Memorial (CMSC)

Looking a lot like the very desirable Bugatti Type 55 roadster (the car that must have been the inspiration for William Lyons’ design for the SS 100) the Jaguar was just a fraction of the price of that French exotic. And not only was the SS 100 considered one of the most beautiful cars ever built by Jaguar, it is also one of the rarer models as the numbers produced were rather limited: just 198 of the 2 ½ Litre were made (though some sources estimate that at most 191 may have been made) and between 116 and 118 of the 3 ½ Litre were produced before war interrupted production. Of these less than 50 cars were exported.

The SS100 in racing action at the Alipore track in Calcutta (CMSC)

Amongst the exports, the only one that is on record to have been exported to India is the car on this page. This car, a 2 ½ Litre SS 100, chassis # 49043, rolled out of the SS Cars factory on the 23rd of May 1939. Apparently, the car had been ordered by SS Cars’ India distributor, the French Motor Car Company of Calcutta. Initially used as a demonstrator, French Motor Car Company must have found a buyer for this car and at some point. It left the factory in a shade of gunmetal grey, with red leather interiors. The car must have arrived in Calcutta in 1939 itself, before war broke out.

The car’s early history though remains a mystery. But a black-and-white photo from about the late 1940s shows a SS 100 Jaguar in competitive action, right in the centre of Calcutta! Minus its front fenders, with the windscreen down, this photo shows an SS Jaguar 100 cornering hard, driven in anger by a man in a traditional leather racing helmet. In the background is Calcutta’s historical landmark, Victoria Memorial.

Current owner Jackie Shroff poses with his prized possession (Makarand Baokar)

The very first post-Independence motorsport action in India was at Calcutta’s Red Road, a few hundred meters from Victoria Memorial. It is possible that the SS Jaguar 100 was partaking in one of those early events, which could either be a race, or, most likely, a timed automotive obstacle course, at a gymkhana.

As there does not seem to be any record of any other SS Jaguar 100 finding its way to India, it is quite possible that the car in that photo is the car on this page. And the fact that the car in the photo was of a markedly dark shade probably confirms  that at that point of time the SS Jaguar 100 was still wearing its gunmetal grey/red leather interior livery. Into the 1950s, and later, that seems to have changed as photos of the SS Jaguar 100 being raced on the tracks of Alipore, Kanchrapara and Barrackpore (the many circuits used in and around Calcutta) show a car with a much lighter shade (and in a couple photos it seems to be in a light two-tone).

Beautiful detailing of the SS Jaguar emblem

An SS 100 did get raced extensively during the 1950s. The driver most associated with it was a certain Eddie Isaacs, who won the Calcutta Grand Prix in 1955 and 1957. In fact, these victories confirm that the SS 100 must have been a very competitive sports car given that an Allard J2 and an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza were two of several serious racers in the Calcutta scene.

The SS100 in racing action at Kanchrapara, near Calcutta (CMSC)

Sometime around 1963 or 1964, this SS100 came into the ownership of Calcuttan Bijoy Kumar Burman. When Bijoy Burman, who was working for automotive lubricant company Castrol, was transferred to Delhi in 1966, he took the SS 100 with him. His son Rohit remembers the car being entered for one of the early Statesman rallies in Delhi. And when the Burman family moved to Bombay, the SS 100 came with them. The SS 100 remained with the Burmans in Mumbai, a proud member of the family, until 2003, when the complications of maintaining a mechanical treasure, forced an aging Bijoy Burman to sell the car to Bollywood movie star – and true-blue enthusiast – Jackie Shroff.

The wood finished dashboard of the SS100

With Jackie Shroff the car starred at the inaugural 2008 edition of the Cartier concours d’elegance, in Mumbai, when it was still in its livery of white exterior and black interior. Since then, Jackie has had the car repainted a very dark green, as you can see from the images on these pages.

Gautam Sen

Serial concours judge, author, founder-editor of several Indian auto mags, as well as co-conspirator with design greats Marcello Gandini, Tom Tjaarda, and Gérard Godfroy on a few vehicle projects


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