A speed demon on screen and off, Steve McQueen collected so many tickets that he twice had his license suspended. Who blames him, scooting around L.A. in this Jaguar XKSS.
I first saw McQueens’ XKSS in the Petersen Museum, then at the L.A. Auto Show. Very few cars so easily project sensuality and seriousness.
When Jaguar left sports car racing at the end of 1956, there remained 25 Jaguar D-Types in various states of completion. In an attempt to cash in on a now obsolete racing machine, Sir Thomas Lyons decided to convert the pure track machines into street-able road missiles capable of being road legal.
Modifying the LeMans winning Jag D-Type to an acceptable road standard was cursory, at best.
Chop off the large top fin behind the driver, add a passenger side door, along with full windshield and side shields, very basic canvas top, and tiny chrome bumpers were about all it took. Stick on a coupe of rear brakes lights from an XK-140, and voila, you have a road car,… sort-of.
The couple of bits added couldn’t take away from a fully tuned 3.4 Liter 6 Cyl engine producing 262 HP, and weighing just 2,000 LB, this car is seriously fast even now, and must have been a terror in the late 1950’s, with 0-60 of 5.2 seconds and 150 MPH top end.
9 of the 25 XKSS Jags were destroyed in a fire, leaving the remaining 16 extraordinarily collectible, and almost all were sold into the US, with its seemingly bottomless appetite for European sports cars.
McQueen bought this XKSS in 1959, sold it 10 years later, but missed it enough to repurchase it again in 1977, remaining with him at his home until his death in 1980.
In typical Steve McQueen fashion, he was driving quickly enough to get pulled over, once with his 6 month pregnant wife in the car,. McQueen told the cop his wife was in labor and was given a hasty escort to the hospital. When the cop left, he told the nurse it must be false labor. His wife was pissed, but Steve dodged another ticket that may have resulted in another suspension. In my mind, very well played.
Now worth about $25 Million, just the stories of McQueen in his Jaguar XKSS are the stuff of legend.