The XKSS is a road-going version of the very successful Jaguar D-Type. First purchased by Riverside Raceway designer James E. Peterson, it was sold to TV personality Bill Leyden, and then to actor/racer Steve McQueen. One of just 16, it was originally finished in white with a red interior. McQueen had it repainted in his favorite shade of green, polished the Dunlop wheels and had Tony Nancy recover the interior in black. The car's performance led to several speeding tickets, and ultimately McQueen's license being suspended twice during his first year of ownership.
Although he enjoyed both working on and driving the car, McQueen recognized that it was both rare and valuable. He sold it to Bill Harrah. McQueen later reacquired the car and owned it until his untimely death in 1980. It was purchased and refurbished by a local collector in 1984, who carefully preserved its unique features such as the glove box door fitted by hot rod artist Von Dutch.
Twenty-five of the 68 Jaguar D-Type race cars were left unsold when Jaguar decided to cease its participation in the International Sports Car Racing program. Jaguar decided to convert the 25 remaining vehicles into road-worthy sports cars.
The rear fin was removed, bumpers were added, and the single seater was left topless with a canvas hood available to protect the driver from the elements. A windscreen was designed and a second door was added to accommodate passengers. With a Dual-Overhead Cam straight-six cylinder engine with 3442 cc capacity, the vehicle could race from zero to sixty in 7.3 seconds. The 250 horsepower output was capable of propelling the car to a top speed of nearly 150 miles-per-hour. Excellent stopping power was provided by the 4-wheel disc brakes.
In 1957, the XKSS was introduced at the New York Auto Show.
Sixteen private buyers purchased the XK-SS with the majority going to the United States. Two went to Canada, one to Hong Kong, one in the UK, and the rest to America. There were over 300 examples being built when a fire destroyed the machinery, assembly line, and most of the XKSS models. Steve McQueen, a film star and motor racing fan purchased one. McQueen is famous for his documentary of the 24 Hours of LeMans.By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006