'We claimed 120 mph (for the XK 120), a speed unheard of for a production car in those days' - William Heynes, Chief Engineer, Jaguar Cars.
Conceived and constructed in but a few months, the XK120 debuted at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show where the stunning-looking roadster caused a sensation, the resulting demand for what was then the world's fastest production car taking Jaguar by surprise. With orders rolling in apace, Jaguar had no choice but to think again about the XK120's method of construction. The work of Jaguar boss William Lyons himself and one of the most beautiful shapes ever to grace a motor car, the body had been conceived as a coachbuilt, aluminium panelled structure for the simple reason that Jaguar expected to sell no more than 200 XK120s in the first year! In conjunction with the Pressed Steel Fisher Company a new all-steel panelled body was developed, which retained the fabulous looks of the coachbuilt original while differing in minor external details. Beneath the skin the steel car was entirely different and it would take some 20 months of development before manufacture could begin.
The XK120's heart was, of course, the fabulous XK engine, which had been developed during the war and was intended for Jaguar's forthcoming Mark VII saloon. A 3.4-litre 'six' embodying the best of modern design, it boasted twin overhead camshafts running in an aluminium-alloy cylinder head, seven main bearings and a maximum output of 160bhp. It went into a chassis that was essentially a shortened version of the simultaneously announced Mark V saloon's, featuring William Heynes' torsion bar independent front suspension. Jaguar lost no time in demonstrating that the XK120's claimed top speed was no idle boast. In May 1949, on the Jabbeke to Aeltre autoroute, an example with its hood and side screens in place recorded a speed of 126mph and 132mph with the hood and windscreen detached and an under-tray fitted.
The XK120 set new standards of comfort, roadholding and performance for British sports cars and, in keeping with the Jaguar tradition, there was nothing to touch it at the price. Coupé and drophead coupé versions followed, and for customers who found the standard car too slow, there was the Special Equipment (SE) package which boosted power to 180bhp. With either engine and regardless of the type of bodywork, the XK120 was a genuine 120mph car capable of sustained high-speed cruising.
The XK120 was produced until 1954 and would prove to be the most popular of the XK series, with 12,078 examples built, of which only 1,175 were right-hand drive roadsters like that offered here. This particular car, chassis number '660498', was manufactured on 24th December 1950 and originally was finished in Birch Grey with Biscuit and Red interior trim and Gunmetal convertible top. It was first registered as 'LXO 122' on 12th March 1951 by Henly's, London to a Mr John Graeme Dutton-Forshaw. He sold the car on 5th April 1955 to a Mr Roy Bygrave Voller, who in turn sold it to The Right Honourable, The Lord Doune on 12th July 1967 with only 17,082 miles on the odometer. The XK remained in Lord Doune's classic car collection in his Perthshire museum until the present owner purchased it in 1999 (see correspondence on file). In 1999 the car entered the Jabbeke speed trials 50th anniversary meeting, and because of its relatively dormant life in the Doune museum over the previous 32 years, was not driven hard, finishing in 48th place out of the 50 invited entries. To date it has been driven only 30,350 miles.
While in the vendor's care the XK has benefited from extensive maintenance work as well as regular servicing by the highly respected marque specialists Twyford Moors Classic Cars. Works carried out include an engine rebuild in June 1999 (by Sigma Engineering) and a re-spray in 2006. In addition, the car has been upgraded with Jaguar disc brakes, re-bushed steering and suspension, adjustable shock absorbers and a Kenlowe electric cooling fan. All bills, records and MoT certificates are contained within the comprehensive history file together with a JDHT certificate, original old-style buff logbook, current MoT certificate and a V5C registration document.