D-type to XKSS


The times they are a’changin’

words and pictures by Tony Brown

Jaguar D-type Replica

The beginning of a love affair

It’s ten years now since I finally got to own one of the cars of my dreams, the Lynx D-type short nose, which at the time I hummed and hahed about, wondering if I was doing the right thing paying a rather considerable sum for what, after all, is just a replica, and nowhere near a real copy at that.

The Lynx is based on an E-type, has the front A-frames of such, a Jaguar gearbox, and the rear cage and independent suspension that marked the enormous leap forward in technology for Jaguar and which formed the basis of their cars for over twenty years.

The origin of my car was a LHD 2+2 1967 American car. I have to say that I haven’t ever regretted the decision since, having done many a track day and rally with the car, I have enjoyed virtually every minute of the ownership of a car which has become very collectable in its own right.

Jaguar D-type Replica

Continuing the love affair – Alps 2005

Yet, over all that time I have always yearned to go one step further and to own that rarest of road going racers, the mythical XKSS, the car most notably owned and loved by Steve McQueen.

Not having won the lottery this was always likely to remain just that, a dream, but then in 2006 came the opportunity to own another Lynx D-type, this time the far more common, if that is the right word, long nose.

The idea was to have my cake and eat it, to convert the short nose into an XKSS and have both an out and out racer and a more civilised touring car. Somehow it just never happened, and in the end I sold the long nose, going off at a tangent to recreate the 1952 Le Mans “Kettle” C-type, a journey that had already commenced some years before in researching this strange car and seeking out all photos that I could find just to enhance my knowledge of the Jaguar marque.

Jaguar D-types - long and short nosed

Long and short noses together

I never regretted this move, though the journey was long and tortuous, but then the financial crisis meant the car had to be sold and I was left back at square one with the short nose D-type.

Getting older, I found that lack of luggage space, rain wind and – on occasions – hail and even snow in the face were becoming more than tiresome, so after negotiations the car was sent to CKL to transform the car into an XKSS, so that such luxuries as a windscreen, wipers and a vestigial hood plus a luggage rack could turn her into a practical tourer while at the same time leaving the dynamic chassis and trackability intact.

Jaguar D-type at Goodwood

Goodwood 2004

So the decision was made, notwithstanding much hesitation in view of my love of the car as she was, and off she was despatched to CKL in Sussex in October 2011. Many people have expressed their surprise at just how much difference there is between a short nose D-type and an XKSS, thinking, and perhaps logically so, that all that really needed to be done was to rip off the head rest and fin, put on a hood and vestigial bumpers, and that was that. I guess that before I started down this road I too was of the same opinion, but boy, it ain’t so!

Firstly we had to source the extremely rare parts or have them made, and it is usually better to buy ready-made than to have them made especially for the project, and here we were more than lucky in that we “found” the original spare set of bumpers from the McQueen XKSS, but when offered up you can see just how out of shape the rear of the Lynx was when made. It took a lot of hammering before they fitted perfectly.

Jaguar D-type - fitting rear bumper

Fitting up of rear bumper

Then there was the Le Mans spotlight (short nose only – the long nose didn’t have one) to remove and weld in some alloy – so many myriad things that all add up.

The windscreen frame; now this also is made out of alloy, and is a rather special piece, so I was more than glad to find the very item sitting on the shelves of RS Panels, they who have rebuilt several of the original cars.

The problem might not be applicable where you live, my reader, but here in the UK the new controls for chrome plating are draconian, and a substantial number of companies have disappeared, meaning that the few that are left have long waiting lists and you really have to be careful which one you choose because giving a minimum wage apprentice the job of linishing the screen surround before plating may well lead to it being ground through and destroyed.

Removing Jaguar D-type fin

Off with her head!

I researched the originals and the ten Lynx XKSS cars made, and personally saw one Lynx that had neither the bumpers nor the screen chrome plated, and it would seem (I am open to correction here) that it may well have been the same back in 1957.

Whatever, I took the decision not to have the screen surround chromed because I would have to take the risk myself and furthermore the time needed to make a replacement would have really delayed the project, besides which I was told by one restorer that this actually happened to one of the original 16 XKSS’s he was restoring. I won’t go into the cost of having a new screen frame made – it would only give you nightmares!

Jaguar D-type becomes XKSS Replica

Screen surround, hood frame and side screens offered up

Interestingly, we also needed a screen itself and surprise, surprise, Pilkington’s in the UK still make them to order. Now that, given the rarity of the car, deserves an accolade and a very deserved one for it was available at a reasonable price.

So, the screen is offered up and the hood frame – also acquired from RS Panels along with the brass side-screen frames. The doors are not the original D-type ones reworked but subtly different due to the dimensions of the B pillar changing. I didn’t know this at all, since “an XKSS is a D with a hood” was still ringing in my ears, but the more you go into the matter the removal of the central strengthening bar from the cockpit must lead to strengthening elsewhere, and the legs of the screen form part of this as does the reworking of the seating area.

Jaguar D-type Re-modelled Inteior

New dashboard and tunnel arrangements

At the same time of course the dashboard comes in for some remodelling, and while the instrument panel remains the same the passenger side loses its accessible fuses (and Halda in my case) to be replaced with a vestigial glove box.

I did consider following the Steve McQueen route and having a lid fitted but decided against it in the end. I mean, it might be a detail but if you look at the token size there’s not a lot you can put in it!

We were now approaching the final phase of the rebuild, and the car was sent off for repainting. I thought long and hard about the colours, and decided to keep her BRD since virtually every other Lynx XKSS I have seen has been black with red upholstery, and anyway BRG with suede trim is far more in period I feel. It’s strange how some colours suit some cars, and some definitely do not, and I must admit that in seeing an original D-type or XKSS in red just doesn’t seem right somehow. Well, not to me at any rate!

Jaguar D-type Interior Trim

Finished interior

We followed the same principle as with the C-type, matting down the paint to give it a somewhat aged patina and not full gloss; again, there are those who like it and those who would have preferred a full gloss finish, but then I paid the piper so I called the tune.

At the same time the bright work – including the boot rack hand made by RS Panels) all went off for chroming. All went well, the parts were fitted, and then we were into the home stretch of Connolizing the seats to change from dark green to suede green, and interior trimming.

A D-type has only the seats, but the XKSS has the sills, top roll of the dashboard, plus hood and hood bag to do, and if you ever get the chance to examine an XKSS hood you’ll see that it is at best an afterthought.

Getting in and out of the car with the hood up requires a series of limbo dance classes! Oh, and if you ever have a quiz night it’s one of my favourites; which is the only Jaguar that has the fuel filler cap inside? The XKSS of course, although you have to drop the hood to fill up.

Jaguar XKSS Replica

At last …..the end result!

But, the real question is “Do I like her?” Snuggling down in for the first time it was like putting on an old glove since nothing had changed much, but we set off and hit heavy rain within a few miles.

It was then that we blessed the twin luxuries of a real screen and, wonder of wonders, windscreen wipers. We carried on, increasing speed to let the rain pass over the top, and arrived warm and dry. I haven’t tried the car with the hood up, but have tried the system and frankly it’ll take two to do it properly and it’ll be very claustrophobic inside.

Jaguar D-type fin

Better than a Picasso !!

Nonetheless, I now have a car which I can take on the track and with which I can tour with more than just a change of underwear.

But the left-over bits we didn’t waste; the doors are on the walls of the garage, the Perspex screen hanging from the roof, and the head rest and fin have found a temporary home in the dining room, but eventually will hang from the beams over the table when I get around to it.

 

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All information correct at time of publishing.