1957 Jaguar XKSSXKSS
Year of manufacture1957
To Be OFFERED AT AUCTION at RM Sothebys' Monterey event, 17 - 19 August 2023.
- One of the absolute most original and best-preserved of the fabled XKSS examples
- Sold new to California, where it was a regular sight on West Coast tracks in the 1960s
- Formerly owned by Anthony Bamford and Campbell McLaren
- Retains its numbers-matching engine block and head, gearbox, rear axle, and bodywork
- Very well-maintained; driven on the 2022 Colorado Grand
- The most sought-after of all roadgoing Jaguars; literally a D-type for the street
THE XKSS: AMERICAN DREAM
Reflecting on the era, it is utterly remarkable how many of the greatest post-war European sports cars came to be because of the United States. Post-war America through the late 1950s saw a new crop of enthusiastic young drivers, flush with money from a booming economy, who wanted the latest and greatest machinery with the sexiest lines and the most powerful engines. Europe’s war-torn automakers, meanwhile, were all too eager to supply whatever American dollars wanted. The resulting alchemy produced automotive magic, the likes of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, the Ferrari 250 GT California Spider, and the Porsche 356 Speedster.
The epitome of this era was the Jaguar XKSS. Jaguar had withdrawn from racing following the 1956 season and was left with a number of D-types remaining unsold in their factory stock. An idea was had that the cars could be converted to roadgoing specification and sold into the American market. The conversion, as it were, involved removing the large headrest fairing and tailfin and the center cockpit divider, and installing the niceties of a passenger door, full windshield, side screens, chromed bumperettes, and a rudimentary folding top.
With an initial planned production run of only 25 examples, scarcity became an even bigger factor when nine of the 25 cars were destroyed by a fire in the Browns Lane factory. Thus, effective total production of the XKSS was a mere 16 cars. As so frequently happens in automotive history, their legend long outlived the brief flourish of their construction, as they became recognized over time for what they are—a D-Type, only a year removed from the model’s last victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with a door and weather protection, sold for the street. It was a lunatic idea, born of economy, and everyone who has had the thrill of driving one since has had their lives made richer for it.
XKSS 707: JAG 1
Among the original XKSS production was XKD 564, transformed into XKSS 707. Finished in cream over red leather, it was, of course, sent to the United States. Talented racer Lou Brero, Sr., who successfully raced several important Ferrari sports racers in the US and Mexico during the mid-1950s, paid for XKSS 707, but like many of the boldest drivers of this era, his life was lost in a racing accident in another car prior to actual delivery. XKSS 707 was instead sold to pugnacious sports car dealer and driver, Sammy Weiss, whose Oxford Motors of Sacramento, California sold it in 1960 to Sidney Colberg of San Francisco.
Mr. Colberg was a happy home for the car, as one of the first XKSS owners to retain his car for many years, recognizing its excellence; he would keep it until 1973, and through the 1960s would occasionally be seen driving it at race tracks up and down the West Coast. Mr. Colberg’s care throughout this period was extremely important in preserving the car’s current originality, as it was during the late 1960s and early 1970s that quite a few other cars fell into less caring homes, losing many of their original components as they became simply “used cars.”
After 15 years of enjoyment, Mr. Colberg sold his prized Jaguar to the renowned British connoisseur of performance cars, Anthony Bamford, later created Lord Bamford. In his ownership the car, now black, proudly sat among one of the most impressive car collections ever assembled, sharing garage space with multiple Ferrari 250 GTOs, Alfa Romeo 8Cs, and other examples of the best-of-the-best. It was sold from the Bamford collection in 1975 to Geoffrey E. Marsh of Hampshire, whose in-house shop removed the body from the chassis, replaced the bulkhead behind the seats to eliminate holes once cut for roll bars, and applied new paint and upholstery. Following this work, it passed to Chris Stewart of Essex and then in 1976 to noted enthusiast I.G. Campbell McLaren of Glasgow, Scotland.
Mr. McLaren registered the car with what must surely be one of the most cherished Scottish registration plates, “JAG 1.” As part of a thorough further cosmetic freshening following a minor historic racing shunt, the bonnet, still showing some dents from the car’s early racing days, was replaced using a new unit ordered from RS Panels. Further, Mr. McLaren had the car refinished from its previous black repaint to the spectacular metallic blue familiar to any fan of the Ecurie Ecosse C- and D-Type racers.
XKSS 707 was enjoyed in the McLaren stable for years, continuing to compete in historic events and becoming one of the very best-known examples of the model, especially in Europe. It completed the first historic race held at Le Mans—today the Le Mans Classic—in June 1978, and was pictured in articles in several British enthusiast magazines.
In 1992, the XKSS was sold to Allen Lloyd of Staffordshire. Its new owner undertook servicing with the respected competition Jaguar authority, Chris Keith-Lucas, who discovered that while the car retained its original cylinder head, the block itself had been replaced, probably during its early years of track time in the United States. Fortuitously, the numbers-matching engine block was later located and reinstalled in the car, and it remains present to this day. Invoices on file indicate that CLK Developments installed a new radiator and aluminum header tank, both made from patterns taken from original pieces, as well as a new fuel tank; the cylinder head was overhauled and new valves and springs fitted.
Mr. Lloyd would maintain the car for 19 years, continuing to drive it in historic events such as the 2004 Mille Miglia, and occasionally supplying it to the Jaguar Heritage Museum for exhibition at Browns Lane, as well as for a brief cameo in the Jaguar edition of Victory by Design. It then passed to the present owner, an enthusiastic collector of the finest performance cars with a focus on those that exhibited the most groundbreaking technology in their era. As a particular connoisseur of competition Jaguars, he was especially drawn to the XKSS.
A report compiled for the owner by Chris Keith-Lucas indicates that the present 25,535 miles are likely authentic and that the car has been used relatively sparingly by its owners, and further verifies that it retains its original serial number plate, its original chassis number stamping, and the original gearbox with a replacement center casing as is common, as well as the aforementioned original block and head and the original rear axle. Further, two of the three correct carburetors are the originals, with the front only having been replaced, the latter a change that Keith-Lucas ascribes as possibly having been done before the car left the factory. All four brake calipers remain original as well, as do the master cylinder and Plessey pump. The original steel tubular chassis frame, major front and rear suspension components, and monocoque remain original, as does the bodywork save the aforementioned bulkhead behind the seatbacks and the bonnet.
This report remains on file along with invoices for preparation by CKL Developments for the present owner, including removing and cleaning the cylinder head, rebuilding the carburetors, complete reconditioning of the brakes, new rivets to the wheels, fabrication and fitment of new wiring looms, fitment of Lucas Le Mans headlights and adjustments to correct the shape of the headlight bezels, and repairs to the upholstery and paintwork as necessary. Following completion of this work, at a documented cost exceeding ₤57,000, the XKSS was driven last year on the Colorado Grand.
Still in beautiful condition with the patina only of enthusiastic use, the car is accompanied by a history file, including numerous magazine articles, photographs from throughout the XKSS’s life, and a collection of invoices and partial registrations from the McLaren and Lloyd ownerships, as well as an original D-type service handbook and original XKSS maintenance instructions.
Rarity and fame have both ensured that the XKSS remains, simply, the most sought-after roadgoing Jaguar, with most of the examples now claimed by owners who have held them for decades with no intention of parting in the near future. Thus, the offering of XKSS 707 represents a scarce opportunity to acquire an ultra-original example which, as Jaguar intended, knew the West Coast well—and stands ready to introduce a new owner to the thrill of a D-type for the street.To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/mo23.