Since Jaguar released the F-Type coupe in 2013, the brand has been gaining wider attention in the US. We felt the time was right to provide Petersen visitors with a glimpse into one of Britain’s most beloved brands and highlight the performance history behind Jaguar. The exhibit features three of the most significant models in Jaguar history: the 1937 SS-100, the Steve McQueen 1956 XKSS, and the 1992 XJ220.
The 1937 SS-100 is historic because it is the first Jaguar-branded car. Prior to this model, the cars were under the S.S. marque because production was done by Standard Motors and Swallow Coachbuilders. The SS-100 was also the first car to bear the iconic leaping Jaguar emblem on the radiator cap. The “100” in the name designated the top speed, but track tests proved it could hit 111 mph- making it one of the fastest cars of the interwar era.
One of the highlights of the entire Petersen collection is a 1956 XKSS owned by “The King of Cool,” Steve McQueen. The XKSS was based on the D-Type Jaguar that won several times at Le Mans. McQueen had the car repainted in traditional British racing green and retrimmed with black leather. The XKSS was one of Steve’s favorite cars, and he reportedly received so many speeding tickets in it that his license was almost revoked twice in the first year of ownership.
Like the SS-100, the “220” in the 1992 XJ220 was the claimed top speed for the car. Jaguar engineers developed the car in their spare time, and the executives decided to build the car on the condition that deposits from buyers were taken before production. Multiple coinciding issues made the XJ220 a commercial failure despite its holding a 10-year record at Nürburgring and its status as the fastest car in the world for in 1992 and 1993. The car cost well over half a million dollars, and most buyers backed out when Jaguar failed to deliver the V12 engine buyers were promised. Only 350 were ever produced.
These cars will be on display until August 2018 before returning to their place in the Vault.