Colorado Summers Are Perfect for the Family Jaguar Roadster
Owner and photographer: Alexander Gerson
Year, Make, and Model: 1953 Jaguar XK120 OTS (Open Top Sports)
Location: Snowmass, Colorado
My father actually bought the car just before I was born. It was made in his birth year, and I think it was a mid-life crisis kind of purchase (although it wasn’t in the best shape when he bought it). My mother only let him buy it under the condition that it would become mine when I turned 18 and then would be sold to pay for my college tuition. Thankfully, we didn’t have to sell it by the time I got old enough to attend college.
Growing up around the Jag got me hooked from a young age. Some of my earliest memories involve taking it to the local deli to get bagels with my dad on the weekends. It taught me that cars can be so much more than getting from point A to point B. I like to think of them–some at least–as functional pieces of art. I daily-drive, and occasionally autocross, an 06′ Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX GSR. The Jag gave me the bug, and the Evo got me addicted.
The XK120 is meant to be driven. It has over 60k miles and we decided long ago to focus on making it as much fun as possible, as opposed to a concours-queen. What’s the point of owning a car like this if you can’t drive it as much as you want? As such, we recently began to modify it for drivability and looks. The plan was to paint it black, hence the wheels, but we’ve stuck with a new coat of white for now and I really like the contrast. Typically I despise white cars with black wheels, but this just seems to flow. We also added sport-buckets, a radiator fan, front disc-brakes, a Bell exhaust, a new steering wheel, a chopped windscreen, a LeMans fuel filler cap, and removed the front and rear bumpers along with the side-view mirrors. This winter we had the guys at Jaguar Denver fix a few leaks and switch her over to a single 12v battery. There are also a lot of little mods that have been done here and there, but these are the ones that stand out. My favorite detail has got to be the chopped windscreen, which, as far as I can tell, is the only one of its kind. A lot of guys go with the Brooklands-style racing screens, but I think that disrupts the lines too much. After seeing an MG that they did, I gave the talented guys at Ragtops & Roadsters in PA a call and they sorted us out. I think they did an amazing job.
While I live in New York, we moved it out to Colorado because the weather in the summertime is virtually perfect and the roads around Aspen and Snowmass are sensational: the perfect combination of twisties and stunning mountain scenery. It became impossible not to take it out at least once a day once we got the carbs dialed in for the high altitude (some of the drives go fromabout seven thousand feet to over ten thousand feet). My two favorite roads would have to be the drive from McLain Flats to the end of Castle Creek and from downtown Aspen to the little town of Twin Lakes, up and over Independence Pass (the Continental Divide).
It hasn’t all been easy though, when we first moved it out to Colorado, we were desperate to find a good mechanic (any owner of an old British car can relate) since sending it four hours away to Denver for service was a massive inconvenience, especially for the many small things that tend to go wrong on these cars. We thought that we struck gold when we found a local guy who really knew his stuff and got it running better than ever. We trusted him with all of the new modifications (installations and major bodywork) but quickly discovered that he was a bit of a space cadet. Calls and emails would go unanswered for weeks or months at a time and he always had excuses for why things weren’t done on time. What was meant to take a single winter ended up taking two years, and it wasn’t until we finally threatened getting the authorities involved that we were able to recover the car. We learned our lesson and have thankfully found an amazing, and even more local, mechanic who does great work.
I love that a ride in the passenger seat can make anyone smile. I love the fact that you can touch the ground with your hand from the cockpit. I love that slight smell of oil and gas that gets into your clothes after a long drive. I love the adventure involved in even the shortest trip, and I love the sensation of driving the Jaguar at night when roads are empty. I also love the bond that it represents between my father and me. I look forward to passing it down to my son one day and, fingers crossed, turning him into a gearhead like me in the process.
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