Courtesy of Bonhams
Although it had one of the best sports-car chassis available, and unquestionably one of the best engines, the XK 140 was already looking somewhat dated by the time it arrived in 1954. The XK 140 had inherited its body essentially unchanged in overall appearance from that the preceding XK 120, which had been designed by Jaguar’s boss, Sir William Lyons, in 1948. Eclectic by nature, Lyons was well aware of the best European designs, and their influence is clear enough in the XK 120. But that was six years old by the time of the XK 140’s introduction and the world had moved on. Jaguar was happy to sell the XK 140 in rolling-chassis form for bodying by independent coachbuilders, and a number of its more wealthy clients went down that route in order to avail themselves of the very latest in modern automotive styling. Jaguar supplied 11 XK 140s in rolling-chassis form for bodying by independents, among the most celebrated being the four bodied by Carrozzeria Ghia of Turin, which had already completed three XK 120s, these being the famous “Supersonic” cars designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi. All four of Ghia’s XK 140s were closed coupés of broadly similar design. They were completed on chassis numbers S810827DN, S814937DN, 814942 and S815404. These four XK 140 bodies were constructed entirely of aluminum, as was common practice with hand-built “one-offs.” The first to be built was the car offered here, 810827DN, which had been purchased second-hand by Mr. Hans Altweg, a wealthy Lyonnaise industrialist, with the express purpose of having a bespoke body constructed for it. Mr. Altweg had bought the car from Royal Elysées (Charles Delacroix) on December 12, 1955. The XK was immediately dispatched to Ghia in Turin, from whence it returned in time to be displayed at the Paris Salon in October 1956. Before then, in August 1956, Mr. and Mrs. Altweg had displayed the Ghia-bodied XK 140 at the concours d’elegance in Cannes. Photographs on file show differences in the shape of the front grille, which is believed to have been altered by Ghia between the two events. In his definitive work on the marque, Jaguar XK140/150 in Detail, Anders Ditlev Clausager writes: “After it had been in an accident in 1959, the front end was ‘modernised,’ supposedly by Ghia, and air vents were added to the front wings, but it still kept the air intake on the bonnet.” It is believed that the modifications were carried at the behest of Jean-Louis Berthelot-Mariat of Lyons, who is listed as owner on the accompanying French carte grise issued on July 17, 1969. Eventually the XK 140 passed into the private collection belonging to the noted French Jaguar historian, and founder and former President of the Jaguar Drivers Club of France, the late Roland Urban. Mr. Urban bought the car in 1969 and installed a 3.8-liter Jaguar XK engine fitted with triple twin-choke Weber carburetors. For the next decade he participated in many historic rallies and races driving the Jaguar. He used the Jaguar almost daily for many years before storing it in his garage, where it has remained since 1979. Offered in need of total restoration, with a 3.8-liter Mk IX engine block currently fitted, this unique Ghia-bodied XK 140 has a fascinating history and represents a wonderful opportunity for the dedicated Jaguar enthusiast to enhance their collection.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1955 Jaguar XK 140 Coupe by Ghia
Years Produced:1955–56
Number Produced:4 (Ghia-bodied)
Tune Up Cost:$900
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on chassis frame left-hand side member above rear engine-mounting bracket
Engine Number Location:Stamped on back of head and above oil filter
Club Info:Jaguar Clubs of North America
Alternatives:1952 Jaguar XK 120 Supersonic by Ghia 1954 Jaguar XK 140 Zagato coupe 1954–55 Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS coupe by Ghia

This car, Lot 48, sold for $332,609 (€287,500), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ The Zoute Sale in Knokke-Heist, BEL, on October 10, 2021.

Without a doubt, the XK-series Jaguar is one of the most iconic cars ever manufactured, full of appeal, beauty and with a wonderful driving attitude. Models of this classic series are still much loved today, whether they are 120s, 140s or 150s.

The oldest, the 120, is the most aesthetically beautiful, but it is hard to fit behind its steering wheel. The youngest, the 150, is most powerful but is the least beautiful. The “in between” 140 is the most balanced, still attractive to the eye and with a better driving position.

The biggest limitations of the XKs in period were their brakes (an issue shared with every other competitor), engine cooling, and, of course, weight. The steel body was heavy enough to hamper performance, affecting acceleration and road handling and exacerbating the braking issue.

One solution was simply asking independent carrozzerie to dress the cars with aluminum alloy bodies made of hand-hammered panels. This not only made the cars lighter, but usually much more beautiful as well. In practice, an aluminum body for the XK could shed some 100 kilos (220 pounds) compared to a standard steel car, so it is easy to see why Sir William Lyons decided to have some of his cars dressed in Italy.


The most famous (and valuable) of these is the Jaguar XK 120 Supersonic by Ghia, shown for the first time at the October 1954 Paris Motor Show. Although our subject car was also shown at Paris, two years later, it was not such a stunning creation. Its design borrowed less from the XK 120 Supersonic and more from Savonuzzi’s Alfa Romeo 1900 C SS, which had been shown earlier in 1954.

Ghia’s XK 140 was a decent interpretation of mid-1950s Jet Age themes but far from the aesthetic tastes of the traditional British Jaguar customer. A few racers, however, saw the potential of the Ghia-bodied car and were happy to prove the benefit of its lightweight and aerodynamic body. More than one of our subject car’s early owners entered it in competition.

It’s not a quilt

As often happens with competition cars, s/n 810827DN has been quite heavily transformed during its lifespan. The car was changed in-period around 1959, which altered the look of the bodywork, mostly in the front. A decision will need to be made prior to restoration about when to “freeze” it and how best to preserve as much as possible of its period componentry.

Eventually this car had a 3.8-liter engine from a later XK installed, in 1969. While this must have been just the ticket for historic races, it now must be replaced with an original unit. The engine block now fitted (from a Jaguar Mk IX) is completely wrong anyway, and it is unlikely that this car will be rebuilt for competition.

Restoring a modified or incomplete car can be difficult, even more so when it is one of very few examples with little to go on for reference. The buyer here is a brave collector who brought home a challenging project. Considerable research will need to be performed if the car is to be brought back to life as it was supposed to be. Careful consideration must go into the restoration or the final result will be a patchwork, undoubtedly then penalized at concours and in the market.


Whether any of this makes financial sense remains to be seen. The analysis is not so easy, as is always the case with such low-production models where there are few (or no) identical comparables.

Today, the lower starting point for buying a good Jaguar XK 140 coupe of similar vintage is around $60k–$70k. One of the three Ghia-built Jaguar XK 120 Supersonics, in perfect condition, sold in 2015 for around $2m; this could be considered an optimistic flipside to the value equation. More likely it would be correct to compare our subject car to an Alfa 1900 bodied by Ghia, of which 12 were built. These might be valued around $400k. If that’s the case, the new owner here has little margin to restore the car without finding himself underwater.

But if we go deeper in our analysis, we might try to compare the value relationship of this XK 140 Ghia to its XK 120 Supersonic sibling in the same way that the Fiat 8V Supersonic is valued above other less-refined Fiat 8Vs (about $1.9m for the former and $1.1m for the latter). This would certainly make the amount spent here for a car that needs everything seem reasonable.

Or perhaps the extra value allowed to the one-off 1956 Aston Martin DB2/4 Supersonic Ghia compared to standard-bodied cars — a factor of about 10 — might serve as something of a middle ground. Our subject car, perfectly restored, might be worth in the area of $700k. In this scenario, a decent profit margin might still be possible, even after a time-consuming and expensive restoration. But you still have to find somebody willing to buy it. Until I see that happen, I’m going to call this one well sold. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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