By on March 25, 2016

Jaguar XK-SS (recreation)

When fire destroyed Jaguar’s Browns Lane plant on Feb. 12, 1957, nine of the 25 existing XKSS models were consumed by flames. The spartan roadster — a road going version of the famous D-type race car — went on to become a legend and the remaining 16 examples are among the most valuable collector cars on the market.

Now, the lost nine are going to rise from the ashes, as Jaguar plans to use their serial numbers on a limited run of exact replicas, mirroring last year’s E-type Lightweight.

For most of us, the XKSS is connected with the image of Steve McQueen tearing up the back roads around Los Angles, as immortalized in famous series of black-and-white photographs. But even without the celebrity connection, the XKSS was a very special and important car, even though it was born of a business failure. When Jaguar’s works team withdrew from competition at the end of 1956 season, the company still had some D-type racing cars in stock.

Jaguar XK-SS

The interest among privateer teams wasn’t sufficient to unload them all, and so a clever plan was devised. Remaining D-types will be fitted with some luxury items – like second seat and door, windows, windscreen with wipers or even a folding roof and bumpers – and sold as roadgoing sports cars, perfect for “weekend racers” in America.

The new car, called the XKSS, was eligible for the production sport car class, and represented a perfect choice for wealthy Americans who wanted to drive their own cars to the track, race them, and then drive them back home again.

The fascinating story and great racing pedigree of the XKSS guaranteed it a place in the Pantheon of automotive legends. And with the recent surge in price and popularity of classic sports cars, the value of the legendary racing Jag for the street shot upwards as well. According to data from Hagerty Insurance, you could buy a concours condition XKSS for a measly $2 million in 2006. Now, the same car would cost you a whopping fifteen million dollars.

Jaguar XK-SS (recreation)

Such demand, which may or may not be result of an investment bubble, makes for a perfect time to recreate the nine cars that were lost. And Jaguar, encouraged with the success of last year’s series of E-type Lightweight continuation cars, decided to do just that. All nine cars will be “constructed to the exact specifications as those 16 first made in 1957,” states the company’s website, and will be offered to select customers at a reasonable (compared with what the original would fetch) price of “over Ł1 million” (more than $1.5 million).

It is expected that even these “continuation cars” will make for a sound investment, even though, if the prices of DB4 GT Zagato Sanction II cars (finished from the existing parts in 1988, a quarter century after the originals were built) are anything to go by, their prices will never reach the astonishing heights of the original 16 cars.

[Images: Jaguar Land Rover]

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29 Comments on “Jaguar XKSS to Rise From the Ashes...”


  • avatar
    doublechili

    It’s incredible how perfect that thing is. I’m no designer, but the symmetry and beauty of it just jumps out at me. Breathtaking. Every little detail, and the whole, it all works. Even the wheels are the perfect choice.

    On a list of the most beautiful cars ever, I wonder how many would come from the past 30 years? I’m thinking not many.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Agreed.

      And what a clean, beautiful, proper car, that’s so much better than 98% of the overwrought crap designs in modern cars.

      Irv Gordon’s 3,000,000 mile 1967 Volvo P1800 is another GORGEOUS, CLEAN, PROPER BEAUTY:

      Seriously, look at that:

      http://volvo1800pictures.com/0_car_photos/S/1966/noc/3257/Volvo_1800S_66_noc_3257_10.jpg

      Whoever designed that deserves the Nobel Prize Forever for design.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I suspect that 30 years from now, people will find current cars attractive and say just about the same thing. And 30 years ago, people probably looked at cars from the ’30s and said, “Now there’s real design – not this pathetic crap we have now!”

      Part of it is that the intervening years have filtered out the crud. There was plenty of garbage designed in the ’50s and ’60s, but we don’t remember it; similarly, we won’t remember current garbage 40 years from now.

      Even in Roman times everyone said, “Man, this modern crap sucks; things were better in the good old days”. Except eventually, their crap became our good old days. I see no reason to believe the future is going to hold a different fate for us.

      • 0 avatar
        doublechili

        I hear what you’re saying, but I just don’t know. If you filter out all the crap from now and 30 (or better yet 50 or 60) years ago and look at just the best, I think the best of then will demolish the best of now. When I see a new Ferrari I want to drive it. When I see an old Ferrari I want to have sex with it (okay, maybe not literally, I guess, probably not anyway).

        Or to put it another way, cars then were Europe, cars now are EPCOT.

        Or yet another way, cars then were Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, cars now are Daniel Craig and Scarlett Johansson (no offense to the latter two).

        I guess I’m saying… we’re doomed. :)

        • 0 avatar
          PeriSoft

          You might be right, but 40 years from now people will look differently on current cars. They’ll see them with different eyes. If you look at contemporary reports on cars that are now considered classics, you get the same kind of diluted praise that you reserve for a modern Ferrari.

          I guess I’m saying… we’re not doomed. :D

          • 0 avatar
            doublechili

            Nice to hear!

            Actually, 30 years from now we might be passengers in bland transportation pods and will look back fondly on the Pontiac Aztek. :)

      • 0 avatar
        TheDoctorIsOut

        There will always be more good old stuff than good new stuff, all it takes is time times art.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        Do you really think that cars with vinyl end-caps and polymer interiors will ever receive the adoration of the metallic masterpieces?

        I think the reverence for sinuously formed and pristinely maintained sheet metal is also a tacit admission that like grandeur will never again be seen in anything approaching mass production.

        Modern cars are better in every practical way as transportation devices but they’re not beautiful sculptures to be cherished long past their duty lives.

        • 0 avatar
          Vojta Dobeš

          Really? Take a look at Pagani Huayra (today’s price equivalent of the XK-SS). Or even the Jaguar F-type.

          And as far as the “normal” cars go – yes, in 1960s you had some pretty family sedans. You had Chevy Malibu or something like that – but most “normal” cars were just boxes, as much as today’s are jellybeans. And today, you still have cars like Mazda6, which is, especiially in red color, strikingly beatiful by any standard.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            The Howareya is a malevolent abomination to me. I don’t think we’re on the same wavelength.

        • 0 avatar
          Erikstrawn

          “Do you really think that cars with vinyl end-caps and polymer interiors will ever receive the adoration of the metallic masterpieces?”

          No, that’s why I don’t buy GM.

          “Modern cars are better in every practical way as transportation devices but they’re not beautiful sculptures to be cherished long past their duty lives.”

          3rd gen RX-7, Mustang, Miata, and many others. All have had beautiful styling, you’re just so used to it you don’t see it.

          And I dare say the Dodge Chargers will be revered when they begin to disappear, much as the old Chargers were maligned when they were just ending production.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            You cite toy cars of limited production. I’m referring to the admiration even the most ordinary mass-produced family sedan or pickup from the ’40s or ’50s today receives if well restored.

          • 0 avatar
            PeriSoft

            “I’m referring to the admiration even the most ordinary mass-produced family sedan or pickup from the ’40s or ’50s today receives if well restored.”

            I think there are two things at play – nostalgia, in that people think, “This is like the one my old man used to drive; things were so much better then!” and two, fascination, in that you usually see old cars as beaters rather than seeing them as they were seen by contemporary people.

            When I see some normal car from the ’40s I’m not necessarily thinking it’s a masterpiece of form and fluidity; frankly, most of them are hideous. But I’m entranced because seeing a restored car is like going back in time, just a little bit. So I like looking.

            I look at the gauges and knobs which, then, were cutting edge, and think, man, what must it have been like to live like that. And I have little doubt that 60 years from now people will look at the 8″ Android touch screen in my Sonata and say, man, what must it have been like to live like that! That touch screen will, to eyes 75 years from now, look as bizarre and otherworldly as bakelite knobs do to us. It’s just very hard for us to conceive of that idea, since we live *now*, not *then*.

          • 0 avatar
            Erikstrawn

            Toy cars of limited production? You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting a Mustang and two Chargers. Miatas and RX-7s are admittedly rare, but they were mass-produced and are still around in decent numbers. You don’t have to look up a picture on google images to remember what they look like.

            Styling does still exist, you just don’t notice it because you see it every day.

            As PeriSoft said, “When I see some normal car from the ’40s I’m not necessarily thinking it’s a masterpiece of form and fluidity; frankly, most of them are hideous. But I’m entranced because seeing a restored car is like going back in time, just a little bit. So I like looking.”

            My family had a ’51 Chevy business coupe that was passed down through the years. It had nice styling, but it wasn’t exceptionally pretty. None of us wanted to part with it because it was a link to the past, but it wasn’t beautiful enough for us to restore it. It went to some inlaws in Montana instead.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “Styling does still exist, you just don’t notice it because you see it every day.”

            Oh, I notice it; it’s just the Brideshead Revisited “blow upon a bruise”.

            Coming from an industrial youth I know that one can acclimatize to pervasive odors, but Ugly takes its daily, deadening toll.

            And people in trailer parks and military housing need to be more careful with their rat poison. Poor kitties!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I love the rear arch on the XKSS. It’s like the designer was struggling to pull down a skirt that was just a bit too short.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “struggling to pull down a skirt that was just a bit too short”

            Mmmm.. miniskirts creeping up a goddess’ thighs… I did my puberty during those years!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Piano teacher!

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    You gotta love the idea that people are willing to spend 7 figures on a car with hubcaps and that has about the same horsepower as a Hyundai Sonata. I’m not complaining mind you. I think this car is wonderful. I wish we could have more cars like it. I wish a lightweight car with a big normally aspirated 250 hp straight six, stick shift, purposeful hubcaps, and an incredibly sexy curvy body body is all that you needed to succeed in today’s marketplace. Just based on the specs this sounds like pretty much like my ideal sports car.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      Its more to do with demand > supply. Notice how those 36 (or 39?) Ferrari 250GTOs keep going up? The 100 or so McLaren F1? There are heaps of cars that are in the sub $10 mil. class like the various Porsche Ferrari Lamborghinis that are limited production.

      I question how Jaguar can sell straight copies of the XK and still make it road legal? And would they even bother to make it emissions legal? Or are they ‘offroad use only’.

      • 0 avatar
        Vojta Dobeš

        I think they use a “Theseus’ ship” approach. Since these cars use the production numbers of the nine that perished in the fire in 1957, they’re not, from the legal standpoint, new cars. There’s no such thing as ’16 XK-SS. They are ’56 cars. With replacement body. And replacement engine. And, like, all the other cars. If you’re manufacturer, you can do a VIN swap, legally.

        • 0 avatar
          tjh8402

          Several sources have said this won’t be road legal, as the continuation E types also were not.

          • 0 avatar
            TonyJZX

            Pebble Beach, Goodwood garage queens in other words.

            Also $9 mil. doesnt seem like its worth the bother to Jaguar?

          • 0 avatar
            PeriSoft

            “Also $9 mil. doesnt seem like its worth the bother to Jaguar?”

            If they break even it’ll have been worth it in spades from a PR point of view. They could probably *give* the things away and have it make sense, with the publicity this is going to get – and all the best kind, too, reminding everyone of your rich heritage.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Good PR is more expensive to manufacture than metal.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    I doubt any of them would come to the US. They are not “new” cars anyway, they were originally built in 1956. Granted, recreated now but the title would date from 1957.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    England has heaps of niche cars that dont come to the US. There’s heaps of cottage industries that make half a million pound sterling works of art and they will sell out before they are even put out a press release.

    There’s more than nine rich English billionairies who would want a million dollar bauble to put in their living room of their 50 bedroom mansion.


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