classic cars, goodwood festival, Motoring News, sports cars

Jaguar XKSS lives again – 60 years down the road

  • Re-born classic shown in Los Angeles museum
  • First of nine perfect replicas of original
  • Nine originals lost in Browns Lane fire

RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: Images: Jaguar Land RoverRE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: Images: Jaguar Land Rover

LOS ANGELES California – The first genuine Jaguar XKSS to be built in almost 60 years has had its world debut presentation at the Petersen Museum, a shrine to the history of the auto industry in Los Angeles.

Jaguar Classic showed the car, finished in Sherwood Green paint and created by the Jaguar Classic engineering team ahead of the production of nine cars for delivery to customers across the globe in 2017.

*It can’t replace the original ‘British Racing Green’, The Corner says, because though early British racing cars were indeed green, no specific shade was used. Later cars raced in red livery.

RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: Images: Jaguar Land Rover
RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS:  Hard at work on the 196kW, straight-six, 3.4-litre engine. Images: Jaguar Land Rover

Often referred to as the world’s first supercar, the XKSS was originally assembled by Jaguar as a road-going conversion of the Le Mans-winning D-type built from 1954-1956.

In 1957 nine cars earmarked for export to North America were lost in a fire at Jaguar’s Browns Lane factory in the British Midlands; that left only only 16 examples of the XKSS were built. The new replicas will, in effect, replace them.

Earlier in 2016 Jaguar announced that its Classic division would build the nine ‘lost’ XKSS sports cars for a select group of established collectors and customers. Earlier reports suggested they had all sold for the equivalent of about R17-million each.

RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: Images: Jaguar Land Rover
RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: The Smith’s dials are exactly the same as the originals. Images: Jaguar Land Rover

The new one-off XKSS presented in Los Angeles is the summation of 18 months of research and will be used as a blueprint from which the nine continuation cars are built. They will be completely new but with period chassis numbers from the XKSS chassis log.

The XKSS is the second continuation car to be created by Jaguar: the others were six Lightweight E-types assembled in 2014. That project helped the team to learn to engineer cars faithful to the specifications to which they were originally built and this knowledge has been enhanced in creating the ‘new original’ XKSS.

The unit unveiled in Los Angeles is a period-correct continuation assembled using a combination of original drawings from Jaguar’s archive and modern technology.

The Jaguar Classic team scanned several versions of the 1957 XKSS to help build a complete digital image of the car, from body to chassis, and including all required parts.

RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: Images: Jaguar Land Rover
RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: Even the brass knobs on the facia are copied from the 1857 originals, as is the steering-wheel. Images: Jaguar Land Rover

The shell of the XKSS is magnesium alloy, as it was in 1957, and because the original styling bucks (shapers for their hand fabrication) do not exist, Jaguar Classic produced a new one based on the original bodies from the 1950’s. The process is called  hand-wheeling.

Jaguar Classic’s expert engineers worked with the original frames and from there produced a computer design to support the build of the chassis. In partnership with the Classic team, frame-maker Reynolds – famous for its 531 tubing also used on upmarket racing pedal cycles – was briefed to craft bespoke new parts using Imperial measurements, rather than metric.

RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: Images: Jaguar Land Rover
RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: Working on the gearbox assembly. Images: Jaguar Land Rover

The frames are bronze-welded, as were the period XKSS’ chassis tubing.

The continuation cars feature period specification four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes with a Plessey pump and Dunlop tyres with riveted two-piece magnesium-alloy wheels.

Under the bonnet each XKSS has a 196kW, 3.4-litre, straight-six Jaguar D-type engine – the original XKSS was based on that car – with new cast-iron blocks, cast cylinder-heads and three Weber DC03 carburettors.

The cockpit is a perfect recreation with original Smiths gauges. Everything from the wood of the steering-wheel, to the grain of the leather seats and the brass knobs on facia are precisely as they were in 1957.

Minor specification changes have been made but only to improve the occupants’. The fuel tank, for example, uses robust modern materials.

Customer vehicles will be hand-built from the start. It’s estimated that 10 000 man hours will go into each XKSS.

RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: Images: Jaguar Land Rover
RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: The completed cockpit – everything exactly the same as the cars assembled 60 years earlier except for the installation of modern crash-protection. Images: Jaguar Land Rover

Kev Riches, Jaguar Classic’s engineering manager, told The Corner in a media release handed out at the presentation: “The XKSS is one of the most important cars in Jaguar’s history. We’re committed to making the ‘new original’ absolutely faithful to the period car.

“From the number, type and position of all the rivets used – more than 2000 – to the Smiths gauges, everything is as on the original cars – that’s the way it should be.”


Tim Hannig, JLR Classic’s director, said at the event: “The XKSS programme underlines the world-class expertise at JLR Classic. We’re committed to nurturing the passion and enthusiasm for Jaguar’s illustrious past by offering exceptional cars, service, parts and experience.

“JLR Classic is perfectly positioned to cater to this growing love of classics with a new £7.5-million (about R130-million) global HQ in Jaguar’s home town, Coventry, in 2017.

“We’re looking forward to growing this business, supporting existing customers and engaging with a whole new generation of global enthusiasts.”

RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: Images: Jaguar Land Rover
RE-BORN JAGUAR XK SS: The cars were irigbnally based on the earlier D-Class whose huge rear fin and other fittings were removed back then. Images: Jaguar Land Rover

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