Rare Breed: McQueen’s Jag For RL Magazine


My latest piece for Ralph Lauren Magazine is on the Jaguar XKSS, a rare ’50s sports car whose distinguished owners include Steve McQueen as well as Ralph Lauren himself. Ralph’s personal car will be featured in an upcoming fall Purple Label ad campaign.

Here’s an excerpt:

The XKSS’ combination of gorgeous curves and raw power caught the eye of Steve McQueen, who acquired chassis number XKSS 713—the fifth car built—in late 1958. Five years later McQueen and his car, which he regrettably dubbed the Green Rat, were featured prominently in Life magazine. The photos continue to circulate today on style and automotive websites, inspiring fascination and envy as deep as the British Racing Green paint job.

McQueen eventually sold the car—to casino owner William F. Harrah to add to his 1,450-plus car collection in Reno, Nevada—with the stipulation that it could not be resold. McQueen later regretted the sale, and in 1977 paid double what he had paid nearly 20 years earlier to buy it back. He drove the car for three years until his death in 1980. (In 1984 it was sold to McQueen’s friend Richard Freshamn for $148,000, who later sold it to Margie and Robert Petersen of Hot Rod magazine and Petersen Automotive Museum fame.) Four years later it was auctioned off to a private collector and was finally purchased by the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles in 2000. Today, the Green Rat is reportedly insured for $40 million.

Head over to RL Mag for the full story. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD



9 Comments on "Rare Breed: McQueen’s Jag For RL Magazine"

  1. Bill Canfield | August 17, 2015 at 7:01 pm |

    Believe it or not, one of the less than one dozen Jag XKSS roadsters that were built actually sits inside Clyde’s Restaurant in Chevy Chase, MD. It hasn’t moved in two decades and I doubt that the engine has ever been turned-over in all those years. Cars should be driven not put on static display. I wonder what it would cost to make it drivable today.

  2. Bags' Groove | August 18, 2015 at 4:42 am |

    @ Bill Canfield
    By way of contrast I’ve a pal who owns one of the rarest vintage cars yet drives it several times the combined mileages of all the other owners. As for Steve’s XKSS, I wouldn’t want to own it. Every time I drove it I’d feel like I was defiling his memory. A common or garden XK120 would satisfy my Jaguar lust….if I could again be bothered with the faff involved with old classics.

  3. Very good Ivy Era car story. Thanks, C.C.

    What chukkas is McQueen wearing in the bottom photo? Look to me like Bates Floaters, a domestic rival to Clark’s Desert Boots back in the day.

  4. I heard that Swanson’s TV dinners had quite a spike as a result of the scene in Bullit where he grabs two then stacks them on two more, then two more, indiscriminately. Talk about “I don’t give a sh__ what they are” cool and casual. Anyone ever re-enacted that little trick when no one was watching? I did once. Felt cool.

  5. The other George | August 19, 2015 at 8:14 am |

    @Mazama, There’s a lot of stuff online about McQueens boots. Some say they’re Sanders Playboys, but I believe they are actually Hutton Original Playboy boots.

  6. “The 12 XKSS cars shipped to the United States at that time carried an MSRP of $6,900; in 2013, Sports Car Digest valued the car at roughly $6.9 million, for an appreciation of precisely a hundredfold.”

    Someone writes better than he calculates. An order of magnitude better, it would seem.

  7. My favorite actor of all time, “king of cool” himself!!! And a classic dresser as well.

  8. That is a good looking car.

  9. Just now I serendipitously discovered the identity of the mystery chukkas that McQueen wore in Bullit: “The Joel hi-top chukka boots from Sanders & Sanders were originally made famous by Steve McQueen in the iconic film Bullitt.”

    And everything old is new again as the new James Bond is “set to reignite our passion for these crepe soled boots in the forthcoming… movie Spectre…”

    McQueen/Bond wannabes can buy them from the UK here: http://www.robertold.co.uk/sanders-joel-hi-top-suede-chukka-boots.html

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