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Jaguar set to build born-again XKSS roadsters

Cat with nine lives: Original Jaguar XKSS roadsters were converted D-Type racers, but the 2017 version will be hand-built from scratch.

59 years on, Jaguar plans to replace XKSS ‘supercars’ that went up in factory fire


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24 Mar 2016

JAGUAR’S in-house classic car experts in England are planning to hand-craft nine spanking new XKSS sportscars to the original 1950s race-bred recipe, for collectors with at least £1 million ($1.4m) to spare.

While it might seem like a lot of loot for a 1950s-based vehicle, the price is cheap compared with the asking price for one of the originals which command up to $6 million on the world classic car market.

The company expects to have no trouble unloading all nine of the vehicles that will effectively replace nine examples destroyed in a fire at Jaguar’s Browns Lane factory in in Coventry in 1957, thus effectively completing the set 59 years on.

The project follows in the wheel-tracks of a similar Jaguar project to build six Lightweight E-Types in 2014, thus belatedly completing the run of 18 planned cars, 50 years after the originals.

Jaguar Australia senior public relations executive James Scrimshaw said that so far, no Australian orders had been received for the new XKSSs, but it was early days.

“Now that the project has been announced, we will see if the publicity brings anyone out of the woodwork in the next few days,” he said.

The cars will be built by Jaguar Classic – a special division of the British company that specialises in restoring class cars and building replicas to original specifications – at the company’s new Experimental workshop at Warwick in the West Midlands of England.

The original XKSS was a road-going version of the six-cylinder, twin-cam D-Type racer that won three successive Le Mans victories in 1955, 1956 and 1957.

According to Jaguar, company boss Sir William Lyons decided in 1957 to convert the remaining 25 D-Types into road-going cars with several external modifications, creating what it describes as the world's first supercar.

A higher windscreen and passenger-side door were added, while the famous fin behind the driver’s seat and the divider between driver and passenger were removed.

Famously, one of the cars was owned by American actor and race driver Steve McQueen who bought it for $5000 in 1958. That car is in the Petersen Auto Museum in California, and depending on who you believe, could be worth up to $US30 million ($A40m).

According to Jaguar Magazine editor Les Hughes, one XKSS made it to Australia, first to Sydney and then Melbourne before it was returned to England in the mid-1970s.

He said three original D-Type race cars were sold new in Australia, but at least two – and possibly all three- have now left the country.

“The most expensive D-Type sold to date is another ex-Australian car which was sold in 2014, also in Paris for over $6 million, I believe,” he said.

The car was originally raced by Melbourne’s Bib Stillwell, owned by radio superstar Jack Davey, then raced by Frank Gardner, Frank Matich and Doug Chivas, Mr Hughes said.

Jaguar Land Rover Classic director Tim Hannig said the XKSS occupied a unique place in Jaguar's history and was a car coveted by collectors the world over, for its exclusivity and unmistakable design.

"Jaguar Classic's highly skilled team of engineers and technicians will draw on decades of knowledge to ensure each of the nine cars is completely authentic and crafted to the highest quality.

"Our continuation of XKSS reaffirms our commitment to nurture the passion and enthusiasm for Jaguar's illustrious past by offering exceptional cars, services, parts and experiences."According to Jaguar records, the nine “lost” XKSS sportscars of the original run of 25 were destined for the United States.

Apart from born-again Jaguars, Jaguar Land Rover Classic also turns out classic Series 1 Land Rovers, for a price.

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