As a young car guy growing up in rural Iowa, exotic cars were not common. A Corvette was exotic at that time! Real exotic cars existed only in magazines. However, one particular plastic model rocked my world. It was a Type-D Jaguar race car. I absolutely fell in love with that car. It left a lasting impression on me for decades even though I had never seen the real deal in person. Finally, in my “senior” years I stumbled onto the ultimate Jaguar XKSS street version of the Type-D at the Peterson Museum in LA. Not only was it authentic, it was once owned by Steve McQueen!
The XKSS was originally made by Jaguar as a road-going conversion of the Le Mans-winning D-type built from 1954-1956. In 1957, nine XKSS cars due to be exported to the US were destroyed in a fire at Jaguar’s factory at Browns Lane in Coventry, meaning that only 16 of the planned run of 25 examples were sold.
The car shown here is one of the original 16. It was first owned by James Edward Peterson the designer of the historic Riverside Raceway. It was then purchased by Bill Leyden a very well known TV celebrity and game show host of the day. The third owner, Steve McQueen, is by far the most famous and once even appeared on one of Leyden’s shows.
The XKSS had a top speed of 149 mph making it one of the fastest cars of its day. The engine was a 250 HP Jaguar. With an original price of $6,900 in 1957 dollars. That would be equal to approximately $58,000 in 2018 dollars. Considering the rareness and super car reality of the XKSS that would be a very reasonable price today.
Steve McQueen Modifications
The car as seen in these photos are as Steve McQueen modified it to meet his taste. He had the car repainted in the Type-D British Racing Green. The Dunlap wheels were polished and the interior redone in black.