Historic road-going race cars are a special breed, whether they were legalized within a millimeter of the winning track version or never all that legal to begin with. The 1956 Jaguar XKSS belongs to the first type—it’s basically a D-type racer minus the fin. And this one here is essentially perfect; it’s also entirely brand-new.
Jaguar Land Rover Classic, the factory’s restoration and parts-fabrication workshop, spent the past year and a half building this XKSS from scratch, because this was an old flame worth resurrecting. A total of 25 XKSS roadsters would have been built in 1957, the year after the legendary D-type retired from a successful three-season career, but a fire at the Browns Lane assembly plant destroyed nine.
For decades, that was the end of the story. But in March, Jaguar pulled the nine missing serial numbers and asked major Jaguar collectors if they’d pay more than 1 million pounds for each one. Considering that a LeMans-winning original 1955 D-type just sold for nearly $22 million at Pebble Beach this past summer, a ground-up re-creation for less than a tenth of that price is a steal. And then Brexit happened, so any non-UK depositors can now buy a restored E-type to go with it.
The XKSS is not a restomod, a replica, or the sort of thing small shops create with fresh, factory-supplied bodies (like the 1964 1/2-’66 Mustang steel body you can order from Ford). It’s Jaguar completing the originally intended production run, building the cars now as it did then.
First, though, the company had to reacquaint itself with that process. Jaguar had a few drawings but mostly forgot to how make the thing, so it borrowed four original cars and scanned their bodies and tube-frame chassis into CAD. English handiwork from the period meant no two cars were exactly alike or even symmetrical, but when the team decided on a final shape for the plywood buck, they refused to run the magnesium panels through a press. Instead, every piece gets hand-rolled—using wheeling machines, anvils, mallets, and other equipment we can imagine metal workers have used for centuries. Because that’s how it was done.
The tube frame is period-correct with bronze welds, everything measured without that dastardly metric system. More than 2000 rivets keep an XKSS together, with each rivet copied from its exact original size and type. A company that bought the remains of Smiths, which fashioned the wristwatch-worthy instrumentation, was commissioned to replicate the gauges from the original drawings. The interior uses brass switches, a wood steering wheel, and leather that’s matched to the original, down to the grain.
What about the 3.4-liter straight-six that pumped out 262 horsepower? Jaguar cast new iron engine blocks, cylinder heads, and fabricated the Weber DC-03 carburetors from scratch. Same with the transmission housing. The Dunlop disc brakes with the Plessey pump and skinny Dunlop tires are just as bad as they were back then.
Jaguar made a few concessions for the sake of safety. The XKSS now has a fuel tank that doesn’t leak, four-point seat belts, and panel gaps tightened just enough so the doors won’t scrape against the sills when slammed. After 10,000 man-hours of labor, good sir, you may have the keys.
This green beauty will technically be the 26th XKSS, a copy for the Jaguar Land Rover Classic center to retain, while the other nine are scheduled to be delivered next year. The XKSS may be the one 2017 Jaguar that its owners will happily accept without a five-year warranty or free scheduled maintenance. That, as the British say, is a bit of all right.