One of the planet’s most precious cars, the 1957 Jaguar XKSS is a rare gem. Jaguar produced only 16 of them, and experts believe about a dozen still exist. The XKSS is one of the world’s most prized automobiles. So, who has owned these unique road-going cars now worth millions? Here’s the story.
The 1957 Jaguar XKSS debuts
At the height of the D-Type’s fame in international sports car racing in 1956, Jaguar pulled out of motorsports and redirected its attention to designing road-going cars. The British automaker decided that, with a few modifications, it could convert the D-Type into what became the XKSS. It was road-and-track-ready, intended for U.S. buyers, Hemmings reports.
Jaguar produced 16 units before a fire took out the rest of the inventory. But the XKSS debuted on January 21, 1957. This two-seat sports-racing car could speed around the track and cruise on public roads. It took inspiration from the famous Le Mans Jaguars.
The D-Type’s conversion into the XKSS called for knocking off its fin and adding a traditional windshield, a passenger-side door, complete instrumentation, and a folding hood. It also needed more comfortable seating, a luggage rack, directional signals, bumpers, and other safety equipment to make it street-legal.
The XKSS packed a 3.4-liter inline-six engine with a double-overhead camshaft and harnessing 250 hp. It also had three Weber 45DC03 carburetors and a four-speed fully synchronized manual transmission.
For its day, the XKSS delivered off-the-charts performance. According to an August 1957 Road & Track issue, it could roar from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and reach a maximum speed of 149 mph. The rare Jag could also reach 100 mph in 13.6 seconds and finish the quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds.
Steve McQueen owned an original Jaguar XKSS
After the fire destroyed nine models at the Browns Lane factory, the remaining XKSS models became highly sought-after. Famed actor Steve McQueen bought one in the 1950s for $5,000. It sported a British Racing Green paint job.
Originally, the XKSS retailed for $6,900. That was a hefty price tag considering a Porsche Carrera convertible cost $5,915 and a new Chevy Corvette ran $3,465. Because the XKSS 716 got its start as a D-Type, its original chassis tag of XKD 575 was counted as part of Jaguar’s November 1956 inventory.
Early in 1957, at the Browns Lane factory, Jaguar converted the car into the XKSS. It was one of two examples that shipped to Canada new. Twelve of the remaining 14 cars went to the United States, one stayed in England, and one went to Hong Kong.
The car’s current worth
According to Gizmodo, one of these rare original XKSS models is worth an estimated $30 million.
But that isn’t the end of the story. Jaguar re-created the 1957 Jaguar XKSS in 2016, Car and Driver reported. Jaguar’s restoration and parts-fabrication workshops at Jaguar Land Rover Classic spent a year and a half building an XKSS from scratch.
The automaker pulled the serial numbers from the nine models lost in the fire and contacted major collectors to see if they’d be willing to pay over $1 million for each. When you consider the original’s estimated worth, a well-crafted re-creation is a steal.