Who says you can't change history? Jaguar has committed to doing just that. The company already went back and finished the six Lightweight E-type sports cars it never completed back in the '60s and now it's starting a new project. Jaguar Classic will draw on the experience it gained from the Lightweight E-type project in completing nine 1957 XKSS models that were planned but never finished. The continuation cars will be hand-built to the exact specifications of the originals, giving buyers the rare opportunity to buy a completely new classic car, an opportunity that will cost upwards of £1 million (US$1.4 million).
Jaguar has a whole lot to be excited about in 2016, what with all-new products like the F-Type SVR and F-Pace crossover. Still, the past seems to be tugging at it with a mix of nostalgia and regret. Two years ago, Jaguar got really into "heritage," launching an official Heritage division, firing up the Lightweight E-type continuation project and setting up the Heritage Driving Experience.
"Heritage" seemed to be an important buzzword around Jaguar, but that changed last week when the company announced that "heritage" is out and "classic" is in. The Jaguar Land Rover Heritage division has been officially renamed Jaguar Land Rover Classic. Jaguar Classic will work out of the same Browns Lane workshop as Heritage did, and it sounds like the main changes will be executives gaining a new division name in their titles and company press releases being worded with "Classic" instead of "Heritage."
So as not to let the freshly buffed "Classic" name go unnoticed, Jaguar has immediately tasked the division with the exciting XKSS project.
Before the D-type race car even completed its Le Mans hat trick (55, 56 and 57), Jaguar made the decision to withdraw from factory racing. Problem was, it ended up with 25 unsold D-types growing gray in its factory. It determined to clear those cars out by converting them to road-going sports cars for export to the US - the XKSS.
The conversion process involved the removal of the D-type's iconic fin and other alterations, such as a higher, wider windshield and a passenger side door. Like the D-type, the XKSS was powered by a 250-hp 3.4-liter six-cylinder engine. It didn't take long for Jaguar to fill its order book.
Unfortunately for Jaguar, some would-be owners and car lovers then and since, nine of the 25 planned models were lost to an early-1957 fire at Jaguar's Browns Lane facility, as was tooling used to make the XKSS.
Jaguar Classic's mission is to set history right by building those nine never-completed XKSS models. The Classic team will hand-build each new XKSS to the exact specifications of the original car at Jaguar's "Experimental Shop" in Warwick. Each newly built XKSS will be fully certified by Jaguar and sold to a lucky and established collector or customer willing to spend "in excess of £1 million."
Whether or not you want to call it the world's first supercar, as Jaguar does in its announcement, the XKSS was a street-legal roadster with the heart and soul of a legendary Le Mans-winning race car. With only 16 successfully built, it's now a rare and coveted classic. And it's coming back in all its original glory ... 59 years later. Awesome.
If you have that kind of money to spend on a car and the deep-seated Jaguar connections that will be needed to secure one of these rarities, we can think of few better ways to spend those dollars than on this badge-built "continuation." Jaguar plans to begin deliveries in early 2017.