During the Second World War, Sir William Lyons and his colleagues envisioned a new car that would feature the world's first high-volume twin-cam engine. Called the XK series, it would be a short-wheelbase chassis mated to a two-seat sports roadster body. When combined with the new engine, the result would be nothing less than sensational-a sleek, beautiful, and strikingly modern automobile.

At the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1948, this XK made its first public appearance, and what an introduction it was. Spectators marveled at the new Jaguar. One journalist commented at the time that "all preconceived notions as to what was a series-production sports car disappeared overnight." It was a show stopper.

The XK Jaguar was given the body-type number 120 to represent its top speed. This proved to be an understatement of the car's capabilities when factory test driver Ron Sutton was clocked in a prototype at over 132 mph. Race versions of the XK 120 were potent in the hands of drivers like Stirling Moss and Phil Hill, both of whom scored important victories in 1949. With its 160 hp, inline six engine with twin overhead cams in original tune, the production XK 120 not only looked and sounded magnificent, but had the performance to match.

Finished in red with tan Connolly leather, the example pictured here has benefited from a professional frame-off restoration to concours standards. It's fully equipped, including a factory tool set and side curtains.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1952 Jaguar XK 120
Years Produced:1949-1954
Number Produced:7,631
Original List Price:$3,345
SCM Valuation:$38,500-$47,500
Tune Up Cost:$300
Distributor Caps:$20
Chassis Number Location:On VIN plate on firewall and on frame near foot pedal pivot
Engine Number Location:On VIN plate and stamped on block above oil filter and on head just behind timing chain cover
Club Info:Jaguar Clubs of North America, 888/258-2524; 8am-6pm PST
Alternatives:Aston Martin DB2/4 Drophead, Austin-Healey 100 Le Mans, AC Bristol roadster

This car sold for $44,000 including commission at the RM Auction in Phoenix, Arizona, January 20-21, 2000. RM Classic Cars has found a fitting architectural backdrop for its newest vintage car auction in the Frank Lloyd Wright-style Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix. Unfortunately, invitations and announcements about the auction didn’t circulate until less than a month before the sale. While the bidders in the audience clearly had money in their pockets, there weren’t quite enough of them to make a quorum on many cars. The result was that relative bargains like this traditional Jaguar-similar to the ones driven by people like Clark Gable and, yes, Wright himself-could be found. XK 120s in this condition aren’t difficult to find, but someone spent more on the restoration than this car fetched on Friday afternoon.

This “open two-seater” (or OTS, Jaguar’s term for a roadster) had been recently restored and appears to be as accurate as claimed. The chrome side lights and lack of footwell vents on the front fenders, and the body-colored vinyl piping on the rear fenders place it as pre-1953, while the bolts on the domed timing chain covers place it as post-1951, all matching a chassis number that indicated the car was produced in June of 1952.

With the standard body-colored steel wheels and hub caps, and the “spats” (fender skirts) on the rear (wire wheels were optional and their knock-offs won’t fit under the spats), it offered all the stunning good looks that first electrified the crowds when the XK 120 was introduced at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show. The appropriate wide white sidewalls and bright crimson paint job against the carefully groomed green of the Biltmore’s grass similarly drew the attention of the crowd at the RM reception the night before the auction.

Only a few small details detracted from its overall appeal. For example, a half-inch gap between the driver’s door top pad and the matching pad on the scuttle suggested that final assembly may have been hurried to get the car to this sale. However, the panel fit was otherwise excellent and the paint was impeccable. For the medium-stature person who can fit under and behind the big black steering wheel, this should make a fine car for vintage tours as well as Jaguar meets. It will be able to keep up with the Ferraris on the road and probably outdraw them in the parking lots. At this price, the new owner will still have five grand left to make sure that all the details are properly sorted before this car faces a thousand miles of Copperstate highway or a thousand points on a JCNA judge’s clipboard.-Gary Anderson, Editor, British Car Magazine

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