As told by Lawrence Baxter

Photos by Lawrence Baxter

Race cars have fascinated me ever since I was a kid. When I was about 10 years old, Dad built a Scalextric slot-car track for me. The neighborhood kids and I were absorbed for hours racing on that track. My two favorite cars were the silver Porsche 904 and the BRG Jaguar D-type. Imagining myself roaring down some Le Mans or Sebring straights, I was entranced by the sheer aerodynamic beauty of these exotic creations. 

I knew that Jaguar had created a street version, though I was unaware that many had already been destroyed in the 1957 Browns Lane fire. That Steve McQueen had an XKSS was exactly what a preadolescent expected of such immortals (Editor’s note: see accompanying feature on Steve McQueen).

Fast-forward 50 years. The original 16 XKSSs remain utterly unattainable by all but the superrich. But good fortune in careers made it possible for me to achieve the dream of owning a reproduction of this Jaguar object of desire: the Lynx XKSS featured here. It’s a work of functional art, machinery that remains powerful even by modern standards, with utterly gorgeous, flowing lines.

The Lynx XKSS is one of four aluminum models still built by hand by a diminishing breed of craftsmen (the others being the lightweight E-type, C-type and D-type). L13, pictured here, was built over approximately 10 months in various staged locations in the Czech Republic, Germany and England.  

Unlike the 3.4-liter originals (and later 3.8-liter engine introduced in 1959), and instead of a dry sump (not practical for general street use), the current production uses the 4.2-liter Jaguar XK engine, achieving about 300 bhp in the case of L13, and relying on an E-type donor. The transmission is a taut and highly responsive Getrag transmission. Performance is simply extraordinary, a sheer joy to experience.

But it is the visuals and history that are to me the most commanding aspects of owning one of these vehicles. Malcolm Sayer’s flowing lines evoke a visceral response like no other. And like a conch shell that brings the sound of the ocean to life, the roar of the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans seems almost within earshot. There is an urge to clutch the steering wheel and imagine oneself rushing into a first corner.  

So no surprise that when I have parked somewhere or stopped to fill up with gas, people of all ages come over just to take in the extraordinary impact provoked by the vehicle. On different occasions two elderly women, who by their own accounts had never had the slightest interest in sports cars, both gasped, “I have never seen such a beautiful car!”  

Just as everyone knows about the McQueen XKSS, this car is instantly recognized as a creation of exception, rarity and distinction, even with the engine turned off. The XKSS somehow has a French sense of style even though it’s a magnificent British beauty.

When I get too old to get in and out of my XKSS, no longer able myself to unleash the beast, I know I will continue to derive almost as much pleasure merely looking at such a beautiful objet d’art and listening to the growl of a cat recreated to the very highest levels of craftsmanship, an adoring tribute by Lynx to the legacy Jaguar has made in the world of motorsports.