Which Kit Magazine
Ian Stent July 2002
Before we start there are a few things you need to know about the Suffolk SS100 Jaguar replica. The body moulds were taken directly off an original car and most of the brightwork, such as the fold-down screen and radiator surround, can be used (and is used) as direct replacements on originals. Indeed, Suffolk has been responsible for several items being remanufactured where they were either nolonger available or the original tooling was no longer serviceable. Even where the car does not match original specification (the standard headlights are smaller, the bodywork is fibreglass and items such as exposed rear fuel tank are dummies), original SS100 items can be fitted if the owners budget allows. If you needed any further convincing that here is something which is rather more authentic than your average Cobra replica, the SS100 is all Jaguar based and warmly welcomed within the Jaguar Drivers’ Club.
So it’s fair to say that the SS100 takes the replication game to a rather higher plain than your average kit car lookalike and, while chassis and running gear aren’t to original designs, Suffolk’s MD, Roger Williams, refers to his cars as a visual photocopy - externally identical. The various cars in the workshop when we visited certainly make for a dramatic impact. In the spotless assembly area (where around four cars are built each year and a further eight or so go out as kits) they look quite stunning with their sweeping wings, louvred bonnets and huge 18" wire wheels and period profile rubber. But check out the specifications sheet and you’re in for a surprise - while the SS100 looks a large and imposing machine, the bare statistics tell a different story. At just 12"8 long and a measly 5"2 wide, the Jaguar is a positive minnow against more grand counterparts from Rolls etc. Powered by a hulking straight six engine, you’re reminded that the original Jaguar was never intended as a stately carriage but rather a sports car. It’s a feature not lost on Roger Williams or his customers - most head for a 4.2-litre Jag engine pumping out anything from 210bhp to 265bhp. Not surprisingly, this is one reason why the Suffolk’s underpinnings don’t replicate the originals since in 1938 the chassis didn’t have to cope with much more than 120bhp from its largest 3-litre engine option.
So today a substantial ladderframe chassis plays host to Jaguar XJ6 suspension (shortened to E-type track at the back), bespoke adjustable coil-over dampers front and back and the big cat’s vented front and solid rear disc brakes. Even those gorgeous wire wheels are beefed up to a 72-spoke design instead of the originals 60-spoke set-up in order to cope with the additional power and torque. The Suffolk SS100, as with it’s forebear, is designed for performance rather than simply making a grand entrance. As you might have guessed by now, much of the car’s underpinnings are made to measure rather than pilfered from the nearest handy donor car - pedals, fuel tank, radiator are all bespoke items while production fitments such as the Jaguar steering rack are modified prior to installation (in this case the power steering pump and its associated bracketry is removed). As we’ve already mentioned, apart from the wonderfully louvred aluminium bonnet, the bodywork on the car is supplied in a primed fibreglass. Roger Williams is adamant that the GRP body makes far more sense in terms of strength and resistance to wear and tear (as witnessed by him jumping up and down on the running boards and putting his whole body weight on the front wings). As well as building up customer cars, the workshop is often servicing existing machines and fettling others that have been bought back by the company and are being prepared for resale. Suffolk has a highly active policy of buying up any of its customer's cars that come onto the market. Such is the company’s confidence in the resale value of the SS100 that existing customers rarely suffer any depreciation at all. Indeed, the market is so lucrative at the moment that many will make a welcome profit at the end of any transaction. Of those machines currently residing at the works, two were available for our closer inspection. The Old English white car was a 2.8-litre machine currently residing with the factory while the owner recovers from a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, the light blue car is a more purposeful 4.2-litre beast with a few interesting additions such as a £2000 stereo carefully tucked out of sight, an engine-turned dashboard and original specification headlights. Both are immaculately finished. Rear hinged doors are a real novelty these days and, so long as they are fitted with a double-latch, they are completely road legal. With a good weight to them, they swing open wide and close with a satisfyingly substantial ‘thunk’. Suffolk’s own seats (exact replicas of the originals - but you’d probably guessed that already) are adjustable both in terms of seat runners and also the rake of the back. Initially comfortable, we found the lack of side support slightly disconcerting when on the move. But while the company can supply seats with additional padding it’s apparently not an option taken up by many owners.
A 16" steering wheel dominates proceedings in the interior, with the four spokes set in the correct ‘X’ layout rather than the more conventional gun sights one might expect. The engine-turned dash arrangement on the blue car certainly looked the part, while Suffolk’s specially commissioned dial faces have the correct SS logos and layout. Down in the footwell, the floor-mounted pedals are adequately spaced while in operation they are all well-weighted and full of feel.
The comparatively short gear level sits relatively far forward on the transmission tunnel, requiring some thought on behalf of the new driver before you get used to its location. The view from the drivers seat was always going to be dramatic and, with the full screen folded flat and just the aero screens for protection, there are surely only a handful of other cars that can match the sheer drama. Encouragingly, the high wings with there torpedo side lights perched on top give the driver a superb visual reference for the extremities of the car, making it encouragingly easy to place the SS100 accurately round the bends. Combined with the car’s narrow track, it means the Suffolk can be steered with real confidence.
On the move, the steering remains impressively light despite the weight of the large straight six lump under the bonnet, but it is also the steering of this classic carriage that will dominate proceedings for those uninitiated in period perambulation. Combine a large steering wheel with 18" wire wheels and high profile radial rubber and, regardless of the sophistication of the double wishbone suspension and adjustable dampers, you must return to pre-war driving techniques. It’s important here that you do not get the impression that the steering is vague, because the jaguar rack does not have a typical slop one might associate with more archaic systems. Instead it is simply the relationship between the limited grip of the radius of the tyres and steering inputs from a seemingly huge 16" steering wheel.
What you need to do is use the limited grip to your advantage and be more positive with the wheel - get that right and the SS100 comes into it’s own - drifting through corners with complete control and, we suspect, an impressive turn of speed. Gaining the confidence to fully exploit the car in this way isn’t easily achieved in a brief first outing, but it’s something that the five SS100 entrants in last year’s Liege Corse rally will tell you is wholly addictive and extremely effective. Indeed, as this issue goes to press, three more enthusiasts are joining members of the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club for a four-week rally in South Africa. This comparatively limited adhesion is something you also need to bear in mind when it comes to braking and while the cars are supplied as standard with a brake servo, several customers have preferred to do without - both for period authenticity and increased feel. If the steering is one of the big features of the SS100, then the power from the straight six Jaguar lump is another defining attribute. While the 2.8- litre example felt perfect for a relaxed cruise through the country lanes, the 4.2-litre example offered something altogether more substantial. Gargantuan levels of torque make light work of the Suffolk’s comparatively svelte 1193kg kerb weight. You can pull away in almost any gear and drive the SS100 like an automatic if the feeling takes you - just sit back and listen to the deep rumble of the engine and whistling suck of the carbs as you tour the British countryside. Alternatively, bury the throttle in the Wilton and you can almost visualise those six cylinders greedily gulping down the fuel rather then sipping it delicately - the exhaust note changes and you can feel the power of the engine taking a hold of the car before throwing it up the road with almost thuggish brutality. On twisting back lanes such antics aren’t for the fainthearted but on decent A-roads it’s easy to see that the SS100 would take transcontinental blasts in it’s stride.
As we stand back and take the photographs, the SS100’s sublime styling and overall balance are a real joy. From whatever angle the car looks sensational. The huge wire wheels give a ground-hugging and purposeful stance, accentuated by the fold-down screen. There’s minimal body over-hang front or back and everything tells you that this is most definitely a pre-war tearaway. As expected prior to our visit, the standard of the build and quality of the components are second to none and these are features that not only help to sell the package but also justify the price - the Suffolk SS100 isn’t exactly cheap. Roger Williams is straight when it comes to giving an indication of what it costs to build one of his cars - £35,000 should see a nicely completed example hit the road after 500 hours of assembly work by the home enthusiast. By all accounts this is not a complicated build, the quality of components ensuring things fit accurately first time around. Approximately 50% of customers head for a complete kit of bits, with every last nut and bolt supplied by Suffolk, while the rest are happy to source their own donor components. Are there any shortcuts to building the car more cheaply? Not really, and Roger Williams has yet to come across a customer who’s prepared to build anything less than a concours standard example. But if you can build a superb Jaguar based Cobra replica for perhaps £10,000 less, what makes the SS100 so expensive in the first place? As we said at the beginning of the piece, this simply isn’t like many other so-called replicas. The car uses many components that aren’t just close to the original, they’re identical - and that level of reproduction doesn’t come cheap. The folding windscreen is a cool £1200, the radiator shell a further £1000 while the wheel and tyre combination will typically set you back £2000. And that’s before we’ve talked about the interior etc. So, if you’re going for this level of authenticity, it comes with a price to match.
But with originals changing hands at around £150,000, it puts the quality of the Suffolk into a sense of perspective. And while it’s fair to say that this replica is not cheap, neither is it expensive. This is a quality package - a feature not lost on the customer for one of the cars currently being assembled in the workshop. Having sold his original Jaguar SS100, he realised he couldn’t live without one in the garage - a Suffolk recreation was deemed a more than adequate replacement. In terms of recommendations, they don’t get much better than that. Article reprinted from Which Kit Magazine, July 2002. Editorial and Photographers by Ian Stent. Copies of the magazine available from, 1 Howard Road, Reigate Surrey RH2 7SE.