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  1. XKSS: RISING FROM THE ASHES

    How Jaguar Classic is bringing the world’s first supercar back to life.

    • Published: 23/01/17

      XKSS is one of the rarest and most beautiful Jaguars to ever exist. Sixty years after it first took the world by storm, Jaguar Classic is bringing it back to life. Read on to relive the whole story, from its origins through to the Browns Lane fire and how XKSS is rising from the ashes to live again.

      Left
      XKSS was the world's first supercar, based on D-type.
      Right
      XKSS is being reinvigorated by Jaguar Classic.

      The original

      The story started in the 1950s. D-type was nearing the end of its racing life, and XKSS was the solution. Inspired by a request from the North American market for a class C production racer, the 25 remaining D-type monocoques were planned for conversion, closely based on the multiple Le Mans winner. XKSS was a true super car, with all of D-type’s power but it added essentials like a full-width windscreen, bumpers, and a redesigned rear section. The result was stunning.

      One of the most iconic XKSS owners was Steve McQueen. Though his original XKSS was white with red interior, he requested it be re-finished in a much subtler green - nicknaming it the ‘Green Rat’. McQueen loved the car so much that although he sold it in 1969, he ended up rebuying it in 1977 and it then remained with him until his untimely death. It now resides at the Los Angeles Petersen Museum.

      The fire

      This was a tragic chapter in the XKSS story. In 1957, a fire ripped through the Browns Lane factory with catastrophic results. Early in the evening of 12th February 1957, when all but a few staff had gone home, fire broke out in one of the main assembly halls and rapidly consumed a third of the whole factory. Scores of newly built cars were destroyed or damaged, but thankfully no one was seriously hurt.

      Of the 25 D-types planned for conversion, 9 were destroyed. Although new assembly lines were opened within days, just 16 XKSS cars were ultimately completed.

      Left
      Every detail is exactly how it was in the originals.
      Right
      XKSS has a 262hp 3.4-litre straight six D-type engine.

      The new originals

      XKSS created a legend. But shrouded in the smoke from the Browns Lane fire, its story was never completed. Now, following Jaguar Classic’s successful production of the ‘Missing Six’ Lightweight E-types, the final chapter of XKSS is being written.

      Jaguar Classic is building the final nine XKSS cars, keeping every detail precisely as it was in 1956, from the wood of the steering wheel to the grain of the leather seats. In order to ensure absolute authenticity, the Classic team scanned four different original XKSS cars. They used these scans as a basis for every decision, crafting many parts from scratch.

      This scanning revealed the true subtleties of the cars; as you might expect, the original hand-built XKSS cars were not symmetrical, and the mouth of the car was not a perfect ellipse. Instead of correcting this using modern precision, we’re keeping exactly the same character in the final nine cars.

      The combination of Computer Aided Design (CAD), traditional handcrafting techniques, and unique access to original technical drawings has resulted in a vehicle that is more than a continuation – it’s a true ‘new original’. Take a look above to see XKSS in its full glory – out on the road.