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November 9, 2021

Steve McQueen With His Jaguar XKSS

“Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.” – Steve McQueen

When Jaguar pulled out of racing at the end of 1956, they were left with an excess of D-type chassis. Company founder, William Lyons, decided that, with a few light modifications, the now surplus-to-requirement D-types could be sold as the ultimate road cars of their day. Dubbed the XKSS, 16 were sold, but none became more famous then chassis 713.

Originally finished in cream with a red interior, XKSS 713 was constructed on D-type chassis XKD 569. Dispatched to the USA on April 19th 1957, it was delivered to Jaguar Cars North America and sold to James Peterson of Altadena, California.

Peterson did not keep the car for long. In early 1958, he sold 713 to Bill Leyden of Beverly Hills who, at the time, was host of the game show It Could Be You. Leyden frequently kept 713 in a parking lot on Sunset Boulevard where it was spotted by upcoming actor, Steve McQueen.

Later in 1958, McQueen managed to purchase 713 for $5000. However, he preferred darker colors for his cars and soon had famed customizer, Tony Nancy, redo the Jaguar in British racing green with a black interior and polished wheels. Kenny ‘Von Dutch’ Howard also fitted a cover to the glovebox to keep McQueen’s sunglasses safe. McQueen nicknamed 713 The Green Rat and reputedly picked up so many speeding tickets he feared for his license.

During the 1960s, McQueen became the highest paid actor in Hollywood. He had 713 repainted again (this time in red) before reverting back to his favored shade of green.

After eleven years of ownership, McQueen sold the Jaguar to gambling tycoon, William Harrah. The XKSS was to be displayed as part of the William Harrah Automobile Collection in Reno, Nevada, with the understanding it was not be sold or driven.

However, McQueen sorely missed the car and first tried to repurchase it in 1976. He was eventually successful and, in early 1978, took ownership of 713 for the second time. After a mechanical refresh, McQueen drove 713 until 1980, when he died from lung cancer at the age of just 50.

713 remained part of the McQueen estate until its liquidation in 1984. The Jaguar was sold for $148,000 to Richard Freshman, McQueen’s friend and neighbor. Freshman sent 713 to Lynx in England, where it was given a sympathetic restoration. He retained it until 1999, when it was sold to current custodians, Robert and Margie Petersen, for their Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles.


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