Is the “new original” Jaguar XKSS bound for glory?
The first genuine Jaguar XKSS to be built in almost 60 years has made its world debut at the Petersen Museum, Los Angeles.
The XKSS, finished in Sherwood Green paint, has been created by the Jaguar Classic engineering team, and only nine examples are destined to roll off the production line.
Often referred to as the world’s first supercar, the XKSS was originally made by Jaguar as a road-going conversion of the Le Mans-winning D-type, which was built from 1954-1956.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; meaning just 16 examples of XKSS were built.
Earlier this year, Jaguar announced that its Classic division would build the nine “lost” XKSS sports cars for a select group of established collectors and customers. The new one-off model is the summation of 18 months of research and will be used as a blueprint from which the nine continuation cars are built.
The nine cars will be completely new, with period chassis numbers from the XKSS chassis log, and will be sold at a price in excess of £1m each.
Kev Riches, Jaguar Classic engineering manager, said: “The XKSS is one of the most important cars in Jaguar’s history, and we are committed to making the ‘new original’ version absolutely faithful to the period car in every way.
“From the number, type and position of all the rivets used – there are more than 2,000 in total – to the Smiths gauges on the dashboard, everything is the same as the original cars, because that is the way it should be.”
The XKSS is the second continuation car to be created by Jaguar, following on from the six Lightweight E-types that were built in 2014. This project helped the team learn to engineer cars that are faithful to the specifications to which they were built in period, and this knowledge has been enhanced in creating the “new original” XKSS.
The modern XKSS is a period correct continuation, built using a combination of original drawings from Jaguar’s archive and modern technology. The Jaguar Classic engineering team scanned several versions of the 1957 XKSS to help build a complete digital image of the car, from the body to chassis, and including all parts required.
The body of the XKSS is made from magnesium alloy, as it was in 1957, and because the original styling bucks do not exist, Jaguar Classic produced a new, bespoke styling buck based on the original bodies from the 1950s. The bodies of the nine new cars will be formed on this buck, using a traditional process called hand-wheeling.
Jaguar Classic’s engineers worked with the original frames and produced CAD to support build of the chassis. In partnership with the Classic team, frame maker Reynolds – famous for their 531 tubing – was briefed to craft bespoke new parts using imperial measurements, rather than metric. The frames are bronze welded in the same way as 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, the XKSS is powered by a 262hp 3.4-litre straight six-cylinder Jaguar D-type engine. The unit features completely new cast iron blocks, new cast cylinder heads and three Weber DC03 carburetors.
Inside, the “new original” XKSS features perfect recreations of the original Smiths gauges. Everything from the wood of the steering wheel, to the grain of the leather seats, through to the brass knobs on the XKSS dashboard, is precisely as it would have been in 1957.
Minor specification changes have been made only to improve driver and passenger safety. The fuel cell, for example, uses robust, modern materials to support throughput of modern fuels.
Tim Hannig, director of Jaguar Land Rover Classic, added: “The XKSS continuation programme underlines the world-class expertise we have at Jaguar Land Rover Classic. We are committed to nurturing the passion and enthusiasm for Jaguar’s illustrious past by offering exceptional cars, services, parts and experiences.
“Jaguar Land Rover Classic is perfectly positioned to cater for this growing love for classics, with a new £7.5m global headquarters set to open in Coventry in 2017. We are looking forward to growing this business, supporting our existing customers and engaging with a whole new generation of global enthusiasts.”
Customer vehicles will be hand-built beginning this year with deliveries expected in 2017. It is estimated that more than 10,000 man hours will go into building each of the new XKSS cars.