The inside story of how jaguar built the 'new' xkss
Deliberate imperfection. That’s how Jaguar Classic director Tim Hannig describes the run of nine ‘new’ XKSS sports cars. ‘New’ instead of actually new because the XKSS was originally a car built in 1957 to use up leftover parts from Jaguar’s Le Mans-winning D-Type race car.
Jaguar had planned to build 25 examples of the XKSS for the US market (Steve McQueen famously owned one), but on the night of 12 February 1957 a fire broke out at the company’s Browns Lane factory, destroying nine of the cars and all the parts needed to complete them.
Now, almost 60 years later, Jaguar is to build those nine lost XKSSs. Having taken 3D scans of four original versions (and finding they, being hand-built, are all slightly different), then worked with the original blueprints, Jaguar Classic has produced a new XKSS prototype, on which the new nine will be based.
The Drive Forward might mostly be about hybrids, electric power and clever turbos, but we appreciate this new/old Jags just as much. They prove that, in a world bracing itself for an autonomous future, our fellow petrolheads are still as passionate as ever about old school motoring.
To say the car is the same as the originals is an understatement. Apart from a more durable fuel tank and brake lines, the car is absolutely identical to its predecessors.
But to say the new car is a perfect copy is also wrong. Hannig said at the car’s launch in Los Angeles: “A lot of character comes from the marks and the imperfections in these hand-built panels. So we decided not to go for perfection...that gets the character back into the car; each will be slightly different. We are putting imperfections in. Deliberate imperfections.”
The car is powered by a newly built 3.4-litre straight-six engine producing 262 horsepower; it is exactly the same as the XKSS’ original engine, which in turn came from the D-Type. Jaguar boasted at the car’s launch that it is “just as difficult to drive” as the original, and each will take 10,000 man-hours to complete.
Picking the nine lucky buyers was no simple task, and despite the £1m asking price the new XKSS sold out less than 24 hours after the project was announced earlier in 2016. Each buyer was selected because of their passion and loyalty towards the Jaguar brand, but their location and desire to show the cars in public were also taken into account.
Hannig explained: “The beautiful thing about such a car is that it’s not just a pleasure for the owner, but people are happy just to see them. And then we look at the geographical split; six will be in the US, two will be UK-based and one will be in New Zealand.”
The car is not technically road-legal, although Jaguar admits this is more of a guidance statement. If owners believe the car is road-legal (or can be made so in their country) then they can explore that option. If a McLaren P1 GTR can be made to pass an MOT here in the UK, surely a simply, beautiful ‘old’ Jag can too? Just don’t give it a big set of 2016 number plates...