Historic Jaguar Reunion

Readers of this blog might recall that when I wrote about the growing momentum of Jaguar’s 75th Anniversary celebration a few months back, I mentioned the possibility that the manufacturer would stage a reunion of the surviving XKSS examples at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.  Anyone in attendance ten days ago surely noticed that this story did indeed come to fruition, with twelve of the iconic cars beautifully situated at the field’s southern tip.

Those readers wondering exactly why this constitutes a special occurrence should note that the XKSS was the roadgoing version of the D-Type racecar, an archetype of 1950s British design that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three consecutive times between 1955 and 1957.  As if that wouldn’t be enough to guarantee an elevated degree of provenance, the XKSS legend was compounded when a fire at Jaguar’s Coventry factory destroyed the model’s unique tooling after only sixteen examples had been constructed.  Much like a rock star dying in his prime, the XKSS’s appeal in part lies in the notion of greatness cut short, and what might have been.  Remaining examples of the model are rarely seen today, occasionally exhibited at major concours and even less occasionally crossing an auction block.  Supposedly, this assemblage was the largest ever gathering of XKSS survivors.

In addition to the unique lawn display, the Pebble Concours committee also staged an XKSS rally that included a stop at Carmel’s historic Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, as well as a lap at the Laguna Seca racetrack.  And to cap it all off, a special presentation on Sunday afternoon featured Ratan Tata (pictured below with Concours Chairman Sandra Button), namesake of the Indian conglomerate that purchased Jaguar from Ford in 2008, who crossed the awards platform in one of the twelve XKSS’s on display.

One hidden wrinkle of this final presentation went largely unnoticed, however.  Though it received no specialized fanfare, the particular 1956 XKSS in which Ratan appeared bore the unusual claim of once being owned by legendary actor and automotive enthusiast Steve McQueen.  Now owned by the Petersen Automotive Museum, this specific XKSS (pictured below) won Best in Show at the 2006 Quail Motorsports Gathering and is a true embodiment of the term “cream of the crop.”

First and last photos by Mike Daly.  All other images copyright © 2010 by Kimball Studios/Courtesy of Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.