Is This Jaguar XK120 The Vintage Race Car Of Your Dreams?
Photography Courtesy of The Finest
Today, Jaguar makes the F Type—one of the most beautiful vehicles currently in production. But it wasn’t too long ago Jaguar was void of a real sports car, nor was it the only stint in their history where they didn’t offer a driver’s car in their lineup. Much like the long awaited F Type, the English Cat failed to follow up its SS 100 for nearly a decade. Finally, in 1948, Jaguar unveiled a proper SS successor at the London Motor Show: the XK120. The wait, for those who were around, was worth it.
The XK120 prototype was initially a chariot mocked up to display the brand’s newest powertrain, the 3.4-liter XK inline six-cylinder—one of the all-time great sixes. Thankfully, the concept was such a hit at the show, Jaguar realized they had a real winning combination and put the car into production shortly after. Most modern vehicles drastically change from pen to production, but the XK120 road going cars looked nearly identical to the prototype with performance on par with its beautiful, streamlined-looking design.
Initially, XK120 bodies were made from aluminum, but due to such high demand, Jaguar switched to steel with the exception of the opening panels—the bonnet, boot lid, and doors remained aluminum. In stock trim, the lightweight roadsters were capable of 120 mph, which is what the model’s digits refer to. With a few alterations, including removing the air-brake-like windscreen, the XK120 was declared the world’s fastest production car in 1949 after clocking 132.596 mph!
Offered in both drop head (convertible) and fixed roof (coupe), the XK120 became the go-to sports car for speed fanatics and celebrities alike—the very first production XK120 roadster was delivered to Clark Gable! Because the slick Jag was so good out-of-the-box, many privateer racers and enthusiasts modified their XK models for even greater performance—such as the trick 1954 Jaguar XK120M you see here.
Like the speed record setter, the large factory windscreen was removed in favor of a small adjustable half-moon wind deflector and the passenger cabin section features a removable aero-cover panel. The bumpers and rear wheel arch covers were also ditched for a less-luxury, more sporty character, while the assigned “19” livery and leather strap across the louvered bonnet complete the racer look. The silver finish resembles more aircraft paneling than paint and the Union Jacks on the wings inform the unknowing where this car proudly hails from.
The alluring photos provided, while beautiful, are somewhat teasing—styled to pique interest for the upcoming auction Elegance at Hershey on Saturday, June 11. What we can see in the photos shows a well-used race inspired XK120M, far from some 100-point Concours award chasing restoration—we love the worn look. The warmth from the discolored wood rimmed wheel, the distressed red leather upholstery, and the torn seat invite the enthusiast who’d rather drive… This is a car not meant to be parked on a perfectly-manicured lawn to be judged by “all-knowing” arbitrators.
If you buy this, make us proud by driving it appropriately: tastefully…and damn hard.
– Modified into a “typical” period racing spec
~180 horsepower, DOHC 3,442 cc straight-six, four-speed manual transmission, independent torsion bar front and semi-elliptical leaf spring rear suspension, front and rear 12 inch drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,591 mm (102 in).