If you want to virtually guarantee demand for car, make it in a limited edition. The scarcity of just about any product seems to make it irresistible to some consumers. Not to over analyze this but it’s probably because ownership of a rare object is a sort of reflection of one’s identity; you know, “being different and unique.” In any regard, here is an interesting story about a very rare Jaguar that was made in the 1950s. Over the years, the mystique of this ultra-rare car has grown to such a level that for its 60th birthday, Jaguar decided to build more – just 10 more – and they were all sold before they were even made. The car is the Jaguar XKSS.
First, let’s paint a picture of the times. The dominant European car race in the 1940s and 1950s was 24 Heures du Mans or just “LeMans.” To win at LeMans was about the highest honor that could be bestowed on a car manufacturer, and most of the car makers went after it with all they had. It was a “must win” race.
At the time, Sir William Lyons was the president of Jaguar. He was no different than the other manufacturers and wanted a win at LeMans too. In 1953, Jaguar began the design of a LeMans killer. It was simply called the “D-Type” and it won the race in 1955, 1956 and 1957 -three consecutive years!
After its last LeMans race Jaguar decided to retire from the racing circuits but this left several D-Type racing chassis unused. Not wanting to leave valuable assets unused, Sir William Lyons decided to transform these leftover chassis into elite sports cars that would be available to the general public. They would be similar to the racing D-types but would have some creature comforts for day-to-day use. They name of this new model was the XKSS. The company planned to produce 100 of them, but on February 12, 1957, a fire ravaged Jaguar’s factory and destroyed nine of the 25 XKSS builds in progress—along with all of the production equipment involved.
Fast forward 60 years and Jaguar is celebrating its 60th birthday. For this milestone, the brass at Jaguar embarked on something quite unusual; they decided to create just 10 copies of the original 1957 XKSS bolt-for-bolt “without a single original part.” Once again, without a single original part. Here are some of the details:
The metal used for the body of the original XKSS was a magnesium alloy which is no longer available. The engineers decided to use the closest substitute: a 5,000 spec series aluminum material. Like the original, it was shaped by hand -no molds involved. And it was done by several direct descendants of the same Warwickshire men who shaped out the originals!
The original XKSS had a highly modified version of Jaguar’s standard production dual cam, straight-six engine. Along with a five speed gearbox and torsion bar suspension, the engine was custom made from scratch for the ten clone XKSS cars.
Dunlop, which made the original tires for the XKSS, dove into their archives to recreate the exact rubber material of the 1950s. This was not an easy task but with original tire molds, they fashioned tires which are exactly like the originals.
Jaguars are famous for their beautiful Connelly leather interiors. In order to create absolute authenticity, Jaguar had the leather upholstery made the exact way it was in the 1950s. This included the tanning and dyeing process.
Our local Jaguar dealer, Jaguar of Naperville, a full-service Jaguar dealer in Naperville, IL, said the XKSS clones are not available. In fact, they were all purchased sight unseen days after Jaguar announced the project in April 2016. Considering the effort that was put into manufacturing these cars they weren’t cheap. Jaguar never announced the price of the XKSS clones but the cars are believed to have be purchased for close to $2 million each.