Cloning a Legendary Supercar

Supercars are statement cars that spare no expense in the name of performance and style. Just about every manufacturer has made them with the goal of winning important races and getting great press coverage.

The Plymouth 426 Baracuda is a good example. According to Akins Chrysler of Winder, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Winder, GA, the Plymouth 426 Baracuda is considered to be one of the supercars or “muscle cars” ever made. As a result, an original 426 Baracuda is a very valuable automobile.

Another performance car is dear to the hearts of British car enthusiasts. The XKSS is a wonderful car and never has demand ever been stronger to own one. This probably has something to do with the fact that just a few of them were built back in the 1950s.

Jaguar Motors, of course, knows quite well about the mystique of the XKSS and in 2016 did something unprecedented. They cloned the originals down to rubber in the tires. Here’s the story:

Introducing The XKSS:

The dominant European car race in the 1950s was 24 Heures du Mans. To win at “LeMans” was the highest honor that could be bestowed on a car company and the president of Jaguar, Sir William Lyons, wanted that honor. To accomplish this, Jaguar built a special race car called the “D-Type” just to compete at LeMans. It took several attempts but in 1954 they won the race. And in 1955. And in 1956. Needless to say, with three consecutive wins at Lemans under their belt, Jaguar had now earned its position as a World class racecar manufacturer.

After its last LeMans race in 1956, Jaguar decided to retire from racing. Unfortunately, this left some very expensive D-Type racing chassis laying around at the Jaguar factory. After some thought, Sir William Lyons decided to do something interesting; he decided to transform these leftover chassis into elite sports cars. They would be similar to the racing D-types but would have some creature comforts for day-to-day use. They name of this new model was the XKSS. The company planned to produce 100, but on February 12, 1957, a fire ravaged Jaguar’s factory and destroyed nine of the 25 XKSS builds in progress—along with all of the production equipment involved in their production.

Enter The Clones:

Fast forward 60 years and Jaguar is celebrating its 60th birthday. For this milestone, the brass at Jaguar embarked on something quite unusual; they decided to build just 10 copies of the 1957 XKSS bolt for bolt without using a single original or restored part. This entire car would be built to 1956 specs. Here are the remarkable details:

The Engine:

The original XKSS had a highly modified version of the dual cam, straight-six engine that was used in the production Jaguars. Along with the five-speed gearbox and torsion bar suspension, the engine for the clone XKSS cars was all made from scratch. This in itself was a major undertaking.

The Bodywork:

The metal used for the body (minus the hood and tailgate) of the original XKSS was a magnesium alloy. Unfortunately, this alloy is no longer available. According to Kev Riches, head of Jaguar Heritage Engineering, the team turned to “the closest substitute.”

The metal bodywork of the clone XKSS run was shaped by hand just like the 1957 version. And it was done by several direct descendants of the same Warwickshire men who shaped out the originals. Because it was assembled by hand, the 1957 XKSS had irregularities and panel gaps that no modern automaker would allow today but they were designed into the clone XKSS cars to maximize authenticity.

The Tires:

Even the tires were replicated as closely as possible to the originals. Dunlop, which made the original tires for the XKSS, dove into their archives to recreate the exact rubber material of that era. This was not an easy task but with original tire molds, they fashioned tires which are exactly like the originals.

The Leather:

Jaguars are famous for their beautiful Connelly leather interiors. However, modern improvements in tanning techniques create leathers that are quite different from the leathers of the 1950s. In order to create absolute authenticity, Jaguar had the leather upholstery made the exact way it was in the 1950s. This included the tanning and dyeing process.

Want One?

Sorry, all nine XKSS clones were spoken for. They were purchased sight unseen days after Jaguar announced the project in April 2016. Considering the effort that was put into manufacturing these uber-replicas, they weren’t cheap. Jaguar never actually announced the price of the XKSS clones but the cars are believed to have been purchased for close to $2 million each.

Featured Image by Pixabay