1953 Jaguar XK 120


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1953 Jaguar XK120 Drophead Coupé
Registration no. JBK 75
Chassis no. 667092

'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 294 were right-hand drive dropheads like that offered here. Introduced in 1953, late in the XK120 production run, the drophead coupé is considered by many enthusiasts to be best of the breed, retaining the original open roadster's lines while boasting much greater practicality and refinement courtesy of its wind-up windows, opening quarter lights, heater, improved ventilation and a permanently attached lined Mohair hood, all of which had been first appeared on the fixed head coupé in 1951.

Finished in Battleship Grey with red interior, this XK120 was supplied in November 1953 via Henlys, London to its first owner, a Mr Leonard Reginald Snook of Portsmouth, and is considered to be one of the most original dropheads in the UK. From 1958 until the present day the car has had only two registered owners, the last change being in 2003, and it has not been offered for public sale during this entire period of time.

After a long period of inactivity, the XK has been painstaking conserved over the last few years with every effort being made to retain its originality. Mechanically, the car has been maintained with all new parts as required including a new stainless steel exhaust system, alloy fuel tank, new hubs, drums and brake components, and most importantly a full rebuild of its original engine by the renowned XK specialists Sigma Engineering. The vendor states it is in superb mechanical order (one small change being a single 12-volt battery) and appears to have never had a single panel replaced or welded repair.

The 'time warp' interior is totally original down to the smallest detail. The rear window, exclusive to the XK120 DHC, is intact and while the outer hood fabric was replaced, probably some 40 years ago, the interior lining is untouched. The original leather seats are wonderfully preserved, and while the woodwork is darkened with age and the original carpets are showing signs of wear, the car is a 'time capsule' and must surely be enjoyed as is and kept in its present condition. A remarkable XK120 showing a mere 50,000 miles on the odometer, 'JBK 75' comes with its original buff logbook and current V5 registration document.