LESS THAN 12,000 MILES FROM NEW
1957 JAGUAR XKSS SPORTS TWO-SEATER
Chassis No. XKSS 728
Engine No. E2015-9
British Racing Green with tan leather upholstery
Engine: six cylinders, twin overhead camshaft, 3,442cc, 275bhp at 6,000 rpm; Gearbox: 4-speed manual; Suspension: independent front by unequal length wishbones, live rear axle with trailing links, torsion bars all round; Brakes: four wheel disc. Right hand drive.
During the 1950s, it was toward the Le Mans GP d'Endurance 24-hours race that high performance automobile manufacturers eager for reputation directed the attention of their most gifted engineers. Well-organized, often richly-endowed factory teams battled for supremacy in a series of epic races. The Jaguar D-Type, built very much with the demands of that circuit in mind, created an enduring legend and consolidated its maker's reputation in a manner that few other sports-racing models have ever done. Jaguar's first Le Mans victories, in 1951 and 1953, had been gained with the aerodynamic C-Type. That competent projectile was superseded for 1954 by the yet more efficient D-Type. At Le Mans that year, the leading Jaguar factory team car of Rolt and Hamilton ran a gallant second behind the mighty 4.9 liter Ferrari V12 of Gonzales and Trintignant, but the factory returned to claim first and third in 1955. There was victory again in the 1956 race and a remarkable clean sweep in 1957 by Ecurie Ecosse and private entrants, when D-Types took the first four places. Campaigned by the factory team and by private owners, the D-Type also had many other victories around the world.
It was a brilliant era in the history of the high performance automobile and it produced some of the most appealing classic sports-racing cars ever built with sleek lines honed by long hours in the wind-tunnel, the D-Type was the most handsome sports-racer of its time and also proved to be a tractable and exhilerating road car. Directed by the great William Heynes, backed up by aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer, Jaguar's dedicated engineering team had evolved a 'second generation' design from the Lightweight C-Type which won at Le Mans in 1953. The strong and reliable straight-six XK engine was carried over into the new model complete with Weber twin choke carburettors. There were modifications; valve timing was more extreme and with a revised cylinder head and other changes, output went up by 30bhp. To ensure reliability, there was a racing-style dry-sump lubrication system and engine coolant flow was improved. A Borg and Beck triple plate clutch was mated with Jaguar's first all-synchromesh and very tough gearbox, fitted to cope with the abundance of power. Steering and suspension too were updated.
The car broke new ground in its use of an aircraft-style central monocoque of light alloy with a stressed skin stiffened by riveted and welded bulkheads. There was a removable rear section which carried the fuel tanks. At the front was a triangulated frame which supported the engine, suspension and other components. With minimal frontal area and scientifically determined contours, the D-Type was one of the most aerodynamically pure large-engined designs ever to race at Le Mans and was timed at 172.97mph through the speed traps on the Mulsanne straight.
A brilliant endurance racer, the D-Type was also a deeply satisfying road car. Tucked down behind that moulded plastic wrap-around screen behind the adjustable steering column in a relaxed and comfortable driving position, a driver was in command of a wonderfully well-balanced, responsive machine. Between 1954 and 1956, when they pulled out of racing, Jaguar had sold 42 D-Types from the production line, leaving 25 unused monococques from the original batch of 67. Arguing that there would be little demand for an aging sports-racing design, they decided instead to make an exciting super sports version, the XKSS, which would be eligible for SCCA C Production class racing in the USA. Little needed to be changed, and some existing D-Types were converted. The twin cockpits were made into a single larger one and a second door was provided. A curved windscreen mounted on an extra body panel was complemented by framed, fixed side glasses. Quarter bumpers front and rear were offered as token protection for the lovely but so vulnerable nose and rear contours. The interior was given luxurious leather trim and was carpeted. There was a hood, but apart from a slightly bigger cubby hole in the dash before the passenger, there was room to pack no more than a toothbrush; they therefore fitted a luggage rack on the tail. In its manner of going, the XKSS was pure D-Type. With the extra frontal area brought by the new windscreen, top speed could not compare, but Road and Track found 0-100 mph took 13.6 secs against the spartan racer's 12.1 secs. When a mere 16 had been built the famous Jaguar factory was ravaged by fire, destroying the jigs and tools used to build them and bringing production to a halt. Jaguar's next supercat, directly descended from the XKSS, from which many styling cues would be taken, resulted in the immortal E-type, built for mass production.
This 'time warp' XKSS has been owned by the vendor for the past 37 years. It has covered less than 12,000 miles from delivery and is fantastically original and unrestored. It has not been seen in public or driven since 1967. This spectacular XKSS started life as a standard Jaguar D-Type, Chassis No. XKD 547 and was displayed at the Barcelona Fair in 1957. Realizing that it had greater marketability in its XKSS form, the factory shipped the chassis back to its Browns Lane headquarters and prepared it for sale as an XKSS. Its new chassis number was XKSS 728 and it was dispatched to the USA on July 16, 1957, to be sold through Jaguar Cars of North America.
Shortly thereafter, it was displayed on the Jaguar stand at the Chicago Motor Show and it caught the eye of a Mr. John Norsym. Mr. Norsym was a sports and racing car enthusiast with sophisticated tastes. With formal training and professional experience in the fields of sculpture and mechanical engineering, Mr. Norsym's passion for thoroughbred motor cars was strong indeed, he had owned Bugatti Type 57s and a 35C, various Maseratis, as well as a Works Ferrari 375 Mexico Coupe. Despite his exposure to these spectacular cars, Mr. Norsym was smitten by the XKSS, for it was the perfect combination of sculptural beauty and engineering mastery. While Mr. Norsym recalls closely examining the XKSS on the show stand it was sold to its first owner, an enthusiast from Winnetka, Illinois. The vehicle was used very sparingly during this ownership before it was traded with a Ferrari 410 in September 1961 into the eager hands of the current owner, Mr. Norsym.
The Jaguar was again used very infrequently and only driven on fair weather days and indeed only a few memorable long distance journeys were ever made. In 1967 the car was carefully laid up on blocks, the owner having to devote all his time to his growing family and sculpture work. This Jaguar remained carefully stored until 1998!
While all the D-Types and XKSS Jaguars are well documented in various authoritative books such as JAGUAR Sports Racing & Works Competition Cars by Andrew Whyte and JAGUAR Sports Racing Cars by Philip Porter, this particular car remained a well kept secret and its hiding place was never revealed because the historians/Jaguar records had been given the wrong owners name. Unable to trace the owner, or even if the car still existed, 'car gurus' including Christie's were unable to unearth this lost XKSS.
Indeed we did not discover the true owner's identity until we received a telephone call late last year. The owner had been prompted to call having read about the tremendous success Christie's achieved last year at Pebble Beach with the highly original 'barn discovery' D-Type Jaguar, XKD 537. When we visited the owner, we were truly amazed at the degree of originality this XKSS has: original chassis, engine, transmission, bodywork, paint, upholstery, carpets, hood, top boot, jack, tool roll, hose clamps, etc. The authenticity of this vehicle is unquestionable and one could almost genuinely apply the term original factory air in tires! While the car had been laid up for over thirty years, it was beautifully preserved and must surely rank as the most original D-Type/XKSS in the world. The only damage appears to be some tiny dents in the nose area (caused by the first owner carelessly opening the bonnet near a small step) and a very minor repair (again during the first ownership) in the front off side wing. The paint, being original, has an original patina with a few stone chips and minor imperfections here and there. The only evidence of long term storage is some slight cracking on the top edge of the leather seat upholstery and some flaking of the steering wheel varnish! The car also comes with its original handbook and XKSS supplement.
In the past two months, the owner has very carefully recommissioned the engine, taking immense care to ensure no damage occured, and it is now in full running condition. The owner has not attempted to drive the vehicle and we would reommend that the new owner carefully check/overhaul the braking system before use.
This XKSS is a dream discovery for any discerning collector of originality and sports-racing cars from the 1950s. As it was designed, this rare Jaguar (one of just 16 built) is truly one of the greatest road going sports-racing cars ever built. The model is extremely user friendly and maintenance friendly and is highly eligible for all manners of historic road/track racing events.