Actually, they’re 60 years late. If you remember the story we told you when Jaguar said it’d be building these things, there were originally to be 25 cars in total. 16 were built, and the other nine were destroyed in a fire at the Browns Lane factory. Thus, nine original XKSS cars have been missing, and the nine XKSSs that Jaguar will build for a cool £1 million each will round out the initial production run.
If you’re not familiar with the XKSS, here’s a little background. Jaguar won Le Mans three times in a row in a factory racer known as the D-Type. After withdrawing factory support in 1956, some privateers continued on with the car, but Jaguar didn’t. That left several D-Types sitting about Browns Lane in various degrees of completion. Sir William Lyons had them converted to road spec, which involved adding such niceties as a windshield and passenger door, but otherwise they were not far removed from the Le Man-winning cars they were based on. That meant that they were, to put it mildly, a lot of car for the street.
The kind of person an XKSS appealed to was stylish and adventurous, and someone who craved speed. Someone like Steve McQueen, perhaps. His old XKSS is sitting in the Petersen Museum in LA, which not-coincidentally is where Jaguar assembled us to see the wraps pulled off the new one.
The “new” XKSSs are generally faithful to the original design, with the bodies hand-formed off bucks that were themselves created off an original XKSS. The body is made out of exotic magnesium, an extremely lightweight metal which is often misunderstood to be extremely flammable. It is, but much more so when it’s in little pieces, like shavings; formed into a car body, it’s not quite the incendiary device you might think it’d be. Even the processes to form the chassis is the same, such as the bronze welding technique used to bond its tubing.
A few concessions to modern safety are fitted, however. There’s a fuel cell, partly due to the additional safety it provides but also to better resist the harrowing effects of modern ethanol blend fuel. But the engine, down to the triple Weber DC03 carburetors, is as originally fitted. The engine isn’t a reconditioned vintage unit, either; the block and head are new castings. The whole shebang is good for 262 horsepower, and there’s not much to push around. It’ll be quick.
The interior is positively lovely, with the sort of high-quality materials and classic design the XKSS benefited from back in 1957, its only year of production. Smiths gauges stud the dash, the steering wheel is crafted from the same sort of wood, and the leather is of the same grain. Jaguar says it’ll take 10,000 man-hours to build each one.
It’s stunning, and a little overwhelming. Jaguar’s probably not making any money on these at $1.25 million (at the exchange rate at the time of this reveal) apiece, but at least they don’t have to worry about any sitting around at the Heritage facility waiting for a buyer. They’re all sold out, and have been for months.