|Vehicle:||1955 Jaguar XK 140 SE Michelotti coupe|
|Original List Price:||N/A|
|SCM Valuation:||$425,447 (this car)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$400|
|Distributor Caps:||$18 (£11.95 on eBay)|
|Chassis Number Location:||On plate riveted to firewall or inner wing|
|Engine Number Location:||Right side of block above oil-filter mount, and in vee of head in rear face of cam-sprocket housing|
|Club Info:||JDC XK Register|
|Alternatives:||1952 Jaguar XK 120 Supersonic by Ghia, 1954 XK 120 coupe by Pininfarina, 1957–60 XK 140/150 coupe by Zagato|
This car, Lot 132, sold for $425,447, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Grande Marques à Monaco sale on May 11, 2018.
The most surprising aspect of this sale wasn’t the car’s unusual styling, but the price it made.
A unique body does not instantly make a car worth a million dollars — although the Ghia-bodied Jaguar XK 120 Supersonic coupe did make $2m with RM Sotheby’s in Monterey in 2015. That was a slightly different case, as it was a super-elegant design by Savonuzzi that was a known quantity, appearing on three other platforms, including an Aston DB2/4.
Our subject car sold for roughly 10 times the pre-sale estimate, meaning there was more than one bidder who really wanted it. A stock XK 140 SE coupe might fetch $150k in really nice condition. An XK 140 restoration project would be nearer $50k.
The people who know why this car fetched so much and what’s going to happen to it weren’t prepared to share that information, so what follows is a certain amount of speculation.
It’s not pretty
First, the actual hardware.
This car is not rotten, but it still requires an almost complete restoration. It was blue when last pictured by a magazine, in 1999, and someone, presumably Mr. Schepens, rubbed most of it off in the course of starting the job — perhaps to establish the state of the metal underneath.
The seats have been reupholstered, and at the sale there was evidence that work had commenced to refit and reconnect the headlights, which looked as though they came from a Kenworth truck.
Bonhams believes that this unique Jaguar is 100% complete, with original badges, gauges, windows and front grille.
This is not, however, a particularly desirable or attractive car. It will require much more money to finish. Once that is done, the car might finally be worth perhaps as much as two XK 140 SE coupes — or $250k–$300k, tops.
Bonhams did not have high hopes for it, as it was displayed in the car park at the bottom of Villa La Vigie’s driveway, a long way from the top lots, with a “No Reserve” sign propped on the windscreen.
The engine may be the key
Logic dictates that the extreme price was all about the engine. It certainly does appear to have the block from the Jaguar C-type chassis XKC016. That ties up with XKC016, a 1952 car, being crashed heavily on the 1953 Mille Miglia and then stripped of all useful parts.
Later, in the 1980s, the C-type was rebuilt from a twisted chassis (keeping some of the original tubes) by John Harper, and finished with a replacement engine and gearbox.
Bonhams offered but did not sell the resurrected XKC016 at Goodwood in 2010 with an estimate of £800k–£1m, which wasn’t a lot for a real C-type then.
One has to wonder how XKC016’s original engine found its way into this car. The only realistic explanation is that both sets of wreckage were in the same place at the same time, possibly at the French distributor, Charles Delecroix, while the XK 140 was being rebuilt and in need of an engine — and the C-type unit was going spare.
This scenario requires a pretty big leap of faith because of the four-year time lag, and you have to ask what the engine was doing during this time. Still, this engine is not exotic hardware: XK engines are largely all the same, with the differences mostly in head porting and carburetion.
The engine now in our subject XK 140 Michelotti coupe has a different cylinder head than when it was in the C-type. The photograph of the crashed XKC016 shows the carbs were smashed off, so the original head may have been damaged.
Jaguar cylinder heads in the 1950s came in a variety of configurations with slightly different porting, A-, B- and C-type (plus the straight-port version used on the S and later the E-type), and a Type C badge on the head does not mean it came off a C-type.
A period shot of the crashed XKC016 shows the original engine had no badges on its cam covers at all. The replacement head is KF8518-8, a B-type which traces to a 1957–59 3.4 Saloon, the 8 denoting the compression ratio. If the same applies to the block marking, that would be 8:1 too, and I’m surprised that a motor built for competition would not have had the highest compression ratio available from the factory, which was then 9:1.
Someone wanted that C-type block
The most obvious explanation for the car making so much more money than expected is that someone really wanted that C-type block.
The logical reason for that would be to reunite it with the C-type chassis XKC016, although so little of that car remains original that reuniting the original block with the C-type would be an ineffective exercise in attempting to significantly boost its value.
Gregory Tuytens, who consigned the car for Bonhams, agrees with me on this one.
So why bother? It might increase the C-type’s salability, as a higher percentage of the car becomes original.
Back at Jaguar?
Restoration of this one-off coupe would have been right up the street of a couple of Jaguar specialists in the U.K.: CMC in Bridgnorth, which restored the Pininfarina XK 120, or JD Classics of Essex, which previously ran Jaguar Heritage’s cars.
However, Bonhams confirmed that it has not gone to JD Classics, which recently underwent a change of management. One rumor suggested it had gone to Jaguar Heritage itself, which to me adds weight to the suggestion that the ultimate plan might indeed be to make the engine available for XKC016. That’s pure speculation. All we can do is wait and watch.
For now, Dierenasiel Gent, the animal rescue center, must be very pleased with the outcome, as the car fetched so much more than expected, which will assist in building its new shelter at the Watersportbaan.
The rest of Mr. Schepens’ collection — including a Ferrari 308 GT4, Series 1 Jaguar E-type and a Wolseley — will be sold off at Bonhams’ Beaulieu sale in September. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)