Journal: This Jaguar XK120 Is All About The Challenge Of Driving Well

This Jaguar XK120 Is All About The Challenge Of Driving Well

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
March 21, 2016
10 comments

Story by Jordan Harris, photography by Emerson Harris

I’ve had a car in my hand from my earliest memories; my father took me to road races when I was a kid, also. (He taught he me to drive in a 1969 Alfa.)

Anyway, having always loved the elegant simple lines of the Jaguar XK120, I found a project car that was being prepared for the Pan-American race across Mexico. Two things: first, I just loved how the car looked and second, having driven modern Formula racing cars for some time, I was excited about the challenge of driving a more primitive vehicle well. I had a long career racing Formula Atlantic as well as FIA F2 series in Europe. Although I have several other special cars, this one has a special place in my heart as my wife and I fell in love in this car on our first California Mille when we had barely known each other a month.

It is a 1953 Jaguar XK120 SE in British Racing Green with a light green interior. “SE” stands for “Special Equipment” and represents the higher performance version of the car. Under the hood is a 3.4-litre 6 cylinder engine with a 4 speed gearbox; the car was in pieces when I bought it, and I had it built to my specifications.

My wife and I have done several California Mille’s, and the Copperstate Classic. Here in Marin County, we have some of the most amazing roads with stunning views that you can really experience while driving in the low open cockpit of the Jag. Between Highway 1 and the great roads over Mt. Tamalpais we have it all right here in our backyard. (We’ll join you sometime!–Ed.)

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JohnJim LevittJoshuaDrew LarkShayan Bokaie Recent comment authors
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John
John

Jim
Compared to newer cars it does drive like a truck. But compared to the vast majority of the other production sports cars available in 1949 it was superior. Since you race I’m sure you know the xk120 holds its own on the track when compared to its contemporaries in vintage racing.

The 1950’s were a time of rapid innovation in the technology of automobiles, as you well know, and by 1954 the XK chassis was out of date. Compared to my ’66 Alfa, 356’s drive like trucks too 😉

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt

Nice 120. I had a 140MC and disliked every second I was in it (sorry).

Joshua Payne
Joshua Payne

C’mon- care to elaborate on that a little more? What was wrong with the 140? Interested to know..

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt

I don’t know. By the mid 70s I had already owned a number of personal cars, (and race cars) maybe 20-30 of them, mostly Porsches and Ferraris, but was starting to buy 50s cars and I just found it to be a truck in every sense of the word. Clumsy, slow, ill handling, double clutching on every up and downshift, plus I didn’t care for the Old English White with Red leather. Look, you buy what’s available and the price was right but it just didn’t ring my bell… anywhere!

Drew Lark
Drew Lark

My 1954 Jaguar Mark Seven:

Drew Lark
Drew Lark

Fantastic photographs. I love the XK120 – the baby brother to my Jaguar Mark Seven sports saloon, Grace, Pace and Space.

Shayan Bokaie
Shayan Bokaie

This car is the epitome of Drive Tastefully

John Davenport
John Davenport

My father always loved Jaguars because of his first encounter with one when serving in the Navy during the Korean War. He was based in San Diego, and had hitchhiked up to San Francisco on leave, and was hitching back to San Diego when a guy gave him a ride in new XK-120 down the PCH. Dad said he had never had a ride like that in his life, and couldn’t believe how fast the car could go and how it could handle the curves, unlike anything else on the road back then. By the time he was let out… Read more »

Frank Anigbo
Frank Anigbo

Envy. For your lovely car but especially for the beauty of where you live. I drove the PCH from LA to San Jose a month ago — heaven!

Terry Burke
Terry Burke

Beautiful car and very nice story. Back in the early seventies my mate and I would walk to the university and we would discuss cars . Marv always maintained the XK120 was the most beautiful car of all time. I know now he was right. I had a chance to drive a fine example a few years ago around the roads near Limerock on a fine fall day. The thrill is indelible. Enjoy your ride. TEB