The Staff of Motorsport Marketing
The Staff of Motorsport Marketing Writer
5/31/17 11:11 a.m.

Story by Howard Walker

Before you ask, they’re all sold. Nine perfectly recreated Jaguar XKSS roadsters, just like the one Steve McQueen thrashed along Mullholland back in the ’60s, will be delivered in 2017 for a non-trivial $1.7 million apiece. What’s worse, the reserve list stretches a mile long.

Back in March, Jaguar Land Rover’s newly renamed Jaguar Classic division announced it would build the nine new XKSS’s to replace the nine that were flambéed in the famous Browns Lane factory fire back in February 1957.

It’s the latest continuation series from Jaguar. Remember May 2014, when they announced a run of six “missing” Lightweight E-Type racers? Like the XKSS, these were also snapped up within weeks. Sticker price: $1.5 mill.

Selling the reproductions, it seems, has been the easy part. Actually building them will be a whole different story, as Jaguar Classic aims to create obsessively accurate copies of this legendary D-Type-based roadster. The man given the task of replicating these staggeringly gorgeous race cars for the road is the 37-year-old director of Jaguar Land Rover Classic, passionate Jaguar enthusiast Tim Hannig.

But first, a little history lesson. Back in 1956, Jaguar had been popping the Champagne corks over its second 24 Hours of Le Mans victory with its D-Type race car. New regulations, however, were poised to make the car obsolete, so Jaguar decided to pull out of racing. The problem for the company was that it had 25 ready-to-race D-Types gathering dust at Browns Lane, with little chance of finding buyers.

That’s when Jaguar boss William Lyons came up with the inspired idea to convert the 25 race cars into road cars and target them at rich U.S. buyers. To keep costs down, the conversion would be limited to installing a taller windshield, putting a door on the passenger side, and removing the strip of bodywork separating the seats along with that trademark fairing behind the driver.

Of the 25 cars being converted, 16 had been completed and moved out of the Browns Lane service department where the cars were being built. But on the night of February 12, 1 957, fire raged through the production area, destroying the nine remaining cars along with another 300 Jags nearby.

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