Jaguar XK-SS – exclusive road-going car

After Jaguar withdrew from racing, a number of partially completed Jaguars D-Type remained unsold in Brown Lane factory. D-type was no longer a sought after model – in 1956 only thirteen cars were sold and twenty nine were left in stock. Engine and bodywork were no longer modern so Sir William Lions decided to turn D-type into a road-going car in order to recoup some of the investment made in these cars. Probably the fist converted Jaguar was D-type XKD402 with registration mark OKV1. This conversion was made by Ducan Hamilton – an adjusted full-width windshield form Austin-Healey 100 was installed, the large fin behind the driver’s seat was removed and a folding roof was added for weather protection. The main reason behind this conversion was lucrative American customers who asked for a high-performance car which could also take part in racing. The new road-going sports model was called Jaguar XKSS (“SS” for Super Sport). The conversion was easy and quick – the first prototype XKD555 was taken to development department on 14th January 1957 and a few days later was the first Jaguar XKSS model transported to New York for promotional purposes. This dark green Jaguar XKSS was first officially presented to public on 21st January 1957 and its price was $6900 (£2164). The Jaguar XKSS model was exclusively offered for North American market and it was not officially sold in Great Britain.

All 29 remaining Jaguars D-type were intended to be converted into XKSS. A month later was decided that four cars would be disassembled for spare parts and only 25 cars would be converted.

Four Jaguars XKSS were converted a month later and they were ready to be sent to USA. Unlike the promotional piece, these converted Jaguars required further adjustment as they were intended to be sold.

Only minor changes were made to the basic D-type model. There were no changes to the engine, gear box or differential. Brakes, wheels and racing tires were retained and exhaust cover was installed.

The cockpit was converted for two passengers. A bigger windscreen was added – most probably from an unknown American car. A folding roof and more comfortable seats were used. Nevertheless, the space for passengers was very confined as there was not enough room for legs because of exhaust system and oil tank. A headrest behind the driver was replaced, but tank filling and the tank itself remained the same. The bodywork was reinforced and passenger doors were added. Jaguar XKSS did not have a boot thus a chrome holder was added to the back of the car.

Though the interior was upholstered, it was not noise-proof. No further equipment was installed in the cockpit – only a small open indentation as a swap space. The actor Steve McQueen had this area converted into a small lockable box. The interior lacked radio, lighter or ashtray. A small rear-view mirror was attached to the windscreen.

Chrome bumpers, only a stylistic feature, were added front and rear – only under headlights in the front and full width ones in the rear.

Due to its engine power, no heating was installed in the car.

Although all 25 remaining Jaguars D-type were planned to be converted to XKSS, the whole series was not finished. A fire broke out at the Jaguar plant on 12th February 1957, which destroyed 300 cars, including five unfinished Jaguars XKSS. Due to the fact that five cars had been sold earlier, four more D-types were used for spare parts and five cars were destroyed in fire, only 16 cars could be finished. The first one was the already mentioned prototype and 15 more were finished until summer 1957. Strangely enough, some XKSS were later converted back to Jaguar D-type.

Jaguar XKSS 1957
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