Designer: Malcolm Sayer
Chassis #: XKSS 716
Engine #: E 2080-9
In the post World War II era, when companies were rebuilding and furiously working to build competitive vehicles for both the road and the track, Jaguar was seemingly ahead of the pack. Their Jaguar XK120
was a sensational and popular vehicle even though it was originally intended as a limited-edition stopgap model. Cars were in short supply and William Lyons assumed that the fortune of his company, the recently re-named Jaguar Cars Ltd., would be made on saloon cars, especially in the U.S. market. The new roadster, dubbed the XK120, made its debut at the 1948 Earl's Court Motor Show.
In 1951, Jaguar launched an assault on LeMans with the XK120C or C-Type.
The 'C' was for competition and Jaguar wasn't kidding. It was a pure race car designed with a space-frame chassis made of steel tubing along with an independent rear suspension. The aerodynamic body was designed by Malcolm Sayer and built of aluminum. Jaguar won the 1951 24 Hours of LeMans with a C-Type driven by Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead. When the 1952 LeMans cars retired due to overheating, the C-Type was redesigned slightly for the 1953 race and also made 150 pounds lighter due to the use of lightweight electrical equipment and aircraft-style fuel tanks. C-Types finished first, second, fourth, and ninth at LeMans in 1953.
Under the direction of company founder Sir William Lyons and chief engineer William Heynes, the development of a state-of-the-art sports racing car began to take shape. It made its official competition debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June 1954.
The Jaguar D-Type, an evolution of the previous cars and inspired by the latest advances in aircraft technology, was given a high-strength alloy monocoque chassis, with load-bearing external panels and tubular subframes fore and aft. Four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes were placed at all four corners, dry-sump lubrication was added, and a deformable fuel bladder installed.
Another individual who helped create the shape of the D-Type was Malcolm Sayer, an expert aerodynamicist who had left the Bristol Aeroplane Company to work for Jaguar. His input led to the car's highly effective bodywork, created from aluminum, and perfected in the wind tunnel. The result was a lightweight design that featured compound curves, ideal proportions, and was undeniably beautiful.
Under the elegantly crafted bonnet was a development of the proven XK twin-cam, straight-six engine that debuted in 1948. Equipped with three Weber 45 DCO3 carburetors, high-compression pistons, high-lift camshafts, and an asymmetrical wide-angle cylinder head, the D-Type's engine produced at least 250 BHP. The top speed was in excess of 170 mph.
The D-Type was campaigned by the Jaguar factory team and privateers, including Ecurie Ecosse and Briggs Cunningham, during its racing career. Notable highlights include three overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1955, 1956, and 1957), two wins at the 12 Hours of Reims (1954 and 1956), and outright victories at the 1955 12 Hours of Sebring and the 1956 Grand Prix of Spa.
At the height of the D-Type's career, in October of 1956, Jaguar made the decision to temporarily retire from motor racing to focus on production cars. At this point in history, nearly all of the D-Types had been created and delivered to customers. Just 25 cars remained unsold. Sir William Lyons decided to have the 25 remaining D-Types modified and presented for sale to the public as a limited-production, road-going version of his Le Mans-winning race car.
A statement was issued by Jaguar Cars Ltd. on January 21st, 1957, stating: 'Jaguar are to produce a new 2-seater sports-racing car as a result of the increasing demand from America for a type of vehicle equally suitable for normal road use and sports car racing. The new model which, initially, will be for export only, will be based on the already famous Le Mans type Jaguars and will be known as the Jaguar XK 'SS' type.'
'The new model will depart from the somewhat Spartan simplicity of the 'D' type by the incorporation of a full-width orthodox windscreen, folding hood, completely equipped touring type instrument panel, well-upholstered seating, luggage grid, bumpers, and other refinements appropriate to a car intended for fast touring as well as for sports car racing. The car will be fitted with Dunlop disc brakes and the general construction and mechanical specification will follow closely that of the outstandingly successful 'D' type. The new model will be an addition to the Jaguar range and will not supplant any existing models. First deliveries to America are planned to commence in February. The Price in the United States was $6,900.'
By early February of 1957, Jaguar had constructed 16 examples of the XKSS. On February 12th, a fire broke out at the Browns Lane Plane, destroying nine unfinished chassis.
The United States had been the largest market for the XKSS, with 12 of the 16 examples being delivered stateside. Two examples were delivered to Canada, one example remained in Britain, and one was sold to Hong Kong.
Most of the XKSS models were immediately entered into competition. With their racing heritage, they could sprint from zero-to-sixty mph in just 5.2 seconds. The top speed was nearly 150 mph.
A few XKSS examples were used as daily transportation, including the example owned by famed actor and racing driver Steve McQueen, who purchased his car secondhand in 1958 and retained it for nearly a decade.
This particular example is chassis number XKSS 716
, which was one of Jaguar's unsold D-Types - having chassis number XKD 575. In early 1957, Jaguar converted the D-Type into an XKSS and finished it in the color scheme of British Racing Green with tan leather upholstery. In May 1957, the completed car was dispatched to Jaguar of Eastern Canada, an official distributor based in Montreal. On June 12, it was sold to its first private owner, Stanley C. McRobert.
Mr. McRobert entered the Jaguar in various races and hill climbs through 1957 and 1958, winning all but one race at Harewood Acres, where he finished second.
Don Stewart purchased the car in mid-1958. Mr. McRobert had sold the XKSS after he purchased the other Canadian-delivered XKSS (chassis 760), which had been converted back to D-Type specification by Briggs Cunningham's team manager, Alfred Momo.
Mr. Stewart continued to race XKSS 716 in Canada, participating in races at Green Acres and Harewood Acres. In 1958, Mr. Stewart sold the Jaguar to Ray Carter. In May of 1959, Ray Carter and his co-driver Craig hill drove the XKSS to an overall win at Harewood Acres. This 500-kilometer enduro was the first professional race organized by the Canadian Racing Drivers Association (CRDA), and it had attracted an estimated 10,000 spectators.
As 1960 was coming to a close, the car was sold to Nat Adams, who repainted the car red and entered it in several races at Mosport, including the Canadian Grand Prix, where he finished 12th overall.
In January 1962, Nat Adams sold XKSS 716 to an individual in Ohio, and the car relocated to the United States. Peter Kalikow purchased the car in 1968 and sold it in the early 1970s. Around 1980, it was sold to John Harper of the UK. While in his care, he had Lynx convert the car into D-Type specification while retaining all the original XKSS components. After the work was completed, he raced the car in vintage events throughout 1981 and 1982.
The next owner was John Pearson, founder of Pearsons Engineering, who continued to race the Jaguar in historic events during 1983 and 1984. In 1993, it was sold through Brian Redman, to Don Marsh of Columbus, Ohio. It remained in Mr. Marsh's collection until 2000 when it was sold to the current caretaker, who has enjoyed the car on road and track. In the mid-2000s, the car was returned to its original XKSS specification using the original XKSS components.
This Jaguar retains its original data tag, body, chassis, engine block, and cylinder head. It is finished in a dark green exterior. It made its concours debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August of 2010, where it was joined by 12 of the 16 original XKSS cars. Since then, the car has been shown at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este and driven on several exclusive tours in Europe and North America.By Daniel Vaughan | May 2017