Why Jaguar's latest car took 60 years to complete
Jaguar is celebrating its past and its future in equal measure at this year's LA Auto Show by revealing a perfect recreation of its iconic 1957 XKSS roadster alongside its cutting-edge plug-in SUV concept the I-Pace and committing to the electrification of half its current line up by 2020.
With all of the hype around autonomous cars and the latest innovations in automotive design, it could come as a surprise that one of the stars of this year's LA Auto Show is potentially an open-top Jaguar sportscar from the mid-1960s.
But the XKSS isn't any old sportscar and the model on show -- a perfect recreation of the 1957 original, down to the position and composition of each of its 2000-plus rivets -- is something nine US car collectors have been waiting 60 years to see.
In 1957, nine XKSS models destined for the US were destroyed when a fire broke out at the Jaguar factory. The blaze also wiped out the machinery needed to build replacements.
Jaguar is now completing the order, but doing so has meant creating new bucks for hand-shaping the aluminum shell, sourcing original brakes, working in imperial rather than metric dimensions, making new cast iron elements and even employing bronze braising techniques to build the chassis.
"We are committed to making the ‘new original' version absolutely faithful to the period car in every way," said Kev Riches, Jaguar Classic Engineering Manager of the new car. "Everything is the same as the original cars, because that is the way it should be."
Still all of this could raise the question: "why go to so much trouble?"
The answer is that the original XKSS vies with the Mercedes 300SL for the title of the world's first supercar. It was derived as a road-going version of the 1955 Le Mans winning D-Type (a car that just sold for $21 million at auction). Just 25 examples were planned and only 16 were completed.
This new car is the first of nine planned replacement models that will be painstakingly built over the next 18 months (each will require 10,000 man hours to complete). Each model is already spoken for despite its £1 million (US$1.24 million) price tag.
The XKSS reveal -- hosted at the Petersen Museum -- is hugely different from the Virtual Reality show the company staged to launch its first electric SUV, the I-Pace, but both convey the same message according to Jaguar Land Rover.
"We are shaping the future, developing our own approach to autonomy, connectivity and electrification," said Dr Ralf Speth, Jaguar Land Rover CEO.
During his presentation Speth pledged to offer half of all new Land Rover and Jaguar models with an electrified drivetrain (i.e., hybrid or electric) by 2020. "Design leadership, technical innovation and engineering excellence lie at the heart of this responsible business," he said.