The new owner paid the price times two for one of the finest XK 140 dropheads extant
The XK 140 was introduced in October 1954, retaining the classic XK lines but with major changes in engineering and appearance. A chrome strip ran down the length of the hood and another on the trunk lid drew attention to the medallion in the middle that proclaimed the marque's Le Mans wins. The car wore sturdier bumpers and a tougher grille and with the C-type head developed for the XKC Le Mans race cars, the motor made 210 hp at 5,750 rpm.
Inside, the front seat and dashboard remained the same, but with considerably more leg room than the XK 120 because the engine block was moved forward on the chassis. There was also space behind the front seat. The Special Equipment models were designated "MC" and, like the car represented here, were fitted with wire wheels and Lucas FT576 foglamps mounted above the front bumper. The dual exhaust system had two separate silencers and ran through holes in the chassis cross members, emerging below the rear overriders.
This fabulous XK 140 MC drophead special equipment model was originally supplied through Jaguar main agents Charles Hornburg Inc. of Los Angeles, having left the factory on December 7, 1955. It is a full matching-numbers car that was professionally restored to the highest of standards by marque experts in California. The body was removed and the chassis stripped, prepared and powder coated, with all suspension bushes and running gear refurbished or replaced. A completely new braking system was fitted, as well as a completely new electrical system. The engine was rebuilt and blueprinted with balanced crank and new pistons, before dyno testing. The driveshaft was reconditioned and the differential received new seals. The Jaguar is also fitted with a new stainless steel exhaust system. The car has been beautifully repainted in deep burgundy and retrimmed throughout in beige Connolly leather upholstery with new carpets and new beige Stayfast soft top.
On a test drive in August 2002, the car drove superbly, having an excellent gearbox with overdrive, a responsive engine and proper brakes. The coachwork is unmarked, and more recently this car won a JCNA Best of Class award at the Houston, Texas regional meeting.
This XK 140 MC Drophead Coupe sold for $128,500, including buyer’s premium, at the Christie’s Rockefeller Center auction held June 5, 2003.
For those of us approaching a certain age, the notion of owning and driving vintage sports cars with such amenities as roll-up windows, weathertight top and a posh leather, walnut and Wilton wool interior is quite appealing. Add to that a car whose mechanical specifications and race-proven credentials give you all the performance and bragging rights you need, and the proposition becomes even more so. That is what this Jaguar offered in abundance, and to two bidders at Rockefeller Center, it was attractive enough to climb to double the top end of the SCM Price Guide before selling.
In fact, there wasn’t much this Drophead Coupe didn’t have, including a Laycock-DeNormanville factory-option overdrive and a complete and correct factory tool roll. I could have done without the chrome wire wheels and whitewalls, but at least the wide whites were the proper size and appearance for the year of the car. The C-type engine spec didn’t harm things either.
The restoration was hard to fault inside or out, being on a level certainly equal to if not higher than when the car sat on Charles Hornburg’s showroom floor. The engine and engine compartment were immaculate, the workmanship and materials on the interior correct and flawless, and the paint had a lovely depth and luster.
While we can reasonably presume the car was restored from a sound example, that isn’t automatically the case. As XK 120s and 140s grew into used cars, with little value, back in the ’60s and ’70s, they were subjected to all the ravages of time, including road salt, careless owners and accidents. On top of that, these Jags earned an undeserved reputation as troublesome and temperamental machines, mainly because of a lack of understanding among the service-station Goodwrenches and shade-tree mechanics who tried to keep them running in tune without proper tools. But there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the design of an engine which won the Le Mans 24-hour grind and countless other important races. As a talented mechanic friend said when he was rebuilding his first 120 engine: “It’s really nothing but a Chevy stovebolt with an extra cam and carb.”
That’s where a careful inspection, on a lift, can come into play. A good body shop (you don’t need a mechanic to check for previous rust and collision repairs, you need a specialist in sheetmetal) can tell you if the car has ever been abused, and if it has, just how well its revival has been completed.
With this particular 140 MC, I am sure that Christie’s had the documentation necessary to answer whatever questions potential bidders might have had. And truly, it would be very odd for a car that is restored to this extraordinary level to have undealt-with sins lurking underneath.
Whatever care or lack thereof this Jag was treated to, surely its second incarnation is a glorious one, reflected in its stunning appearance, lavish interior, excellent running condition and award-winning credentials. The new owner paid the price times two for the car but should derive an enormous amount of psychic satisfaction and pride in owning one of the finest XK 140 dropheads extant. And that’s a pleasure beyond price.-Dave Brownell