During the Second World War, William Lyons and his colleagues conceived a new car design that featured the world's first high volume twin-cam engine, called the XK series. A short wheelbase chassis and a two-seat sports roadster body were married to this new engine and the result was nothing less than sensational-sleek, beautiful, and strikingly modern. The XK 120 made its first appearance for public view at the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1948. What an introduction it was, as all of the onlookers, writers and depressed competition alike marveled at this new Jaguar as it stole the show. As one journalist commented at the time, "All preconceived notions as to what was a series-production sports car disappeared overnight." The XK 140 was introduced in late 1954, with a comprehensive list of improvements designed to overcome the 120's shortcomings. Notable were the rack-and-pinion steering, increased performance with the optional C-type cylinder head, improved cooling and stopping power, and much-improved cabin comfort and legroom gained from repositioning the engine and firewall. While the wheelbase remained the same, the bodywork was given subtle styling alterations; however, the classical look remained the same. Offered here is one of the desirable XK 140 MC models fitted with the competition C-type heads, competition carburetors, and dual exhaust. It has been part of the current owner's collection since 1979, an impressive three owners from new. Fitted with the attractive Brooklands racing screens, louvered bonnet with leather strap, and Borrani wire wheels, this race-inspired XK is a highly presentable example that shows quite well for a car that was restored over 25 years ago. While there is some blemishing in the paint, it is less than one would expect. Additionally, the owner reports that the Jaguar has seen rain no more than two times since he assumed ownership. This lovely Jaguar is finished in a sleek silver and is trimmed in a handsome maroon leather interior. The dash and gauges all appear very presentable, while the engine, engine bay and underbody are in tidy condition, though showing evidence of road use. This XK 140 has a great look to it, displaying both its stately British lines and the ferocious look of its racing heritage. It will undoubtedly prove itself on the road with ease and distinction.

SCM Analysis


Years Produced:1954-57
Number Produced:3,347 roadsters
Original List Price:$3,960
SCM Valuation:$50,000-$75,000
Tune Up Cost:$650
Distributor Caps:$45
Chassis Number Location:stamped on left-hand chassis side member above rear engine mounting bracket; also stamped on brass plate on firewall
Engine Number Location:stamped on right-hand side of cylinder block above oil filter and front end of cylinder head, adjacent to front spark plug; also stamped on brass plate on firewall
Club Info:Jaguar Clubs of North America, c/o Nelson Rath, 1000 Glenbrook, Anchorage, KY 40223
Alternatives:1956-63 AC Bristol, 1955-56 Austin-Healey 100M
Investment Grade:B

This 1956 Jaguar XK 140 sold for $72,600 at RM’s Amelia Island sale, held March 12, 2005.

Jaguar aficionados are a picky lot when it comes to nomenclature. For instance, there is no such thing as a Jaguar convertible. That’s right, one would correctly refer to an “OTS” or “DHC,” for “open two-seater” or “drophead coupe.” An OTS, also referred to as a “roadster,” has removable side curtains instead of windows, and the top folds behind the seats where it is neatly hidden by the rear shroud. A DHC has an attached top that sticks up above the body when folded, roll-up side windows in the doors, and a fancier wood interior, similar to that on the FHC, or fixed-head coupe.

On to the larger semantic point of today’s lesson. Regardless of what the New York motoring press decided to call the optional upgrade package for the XK 140 when it was introduced stateside at the New York Auto Show in 1955, the Jaguar factory literature has always referred to the XK 140 with the optional upgrades as an SE, for “Special Equipment,” and never “MC.” This is also the nomenclature recognized by the Jaguar clubs.

The confusion apparently arose because Jaguar had offered an “M” trim package for U.S.-market XK 120s that added wire wheels, a dual exhaust, and fog lamps. The 140 was available with those upgrades plus the C-type head, so the American press referred to the whole lot as an “MC” package.
Either way you refer to it, the cars had their XK engines upgraded at the factory with a cylinder head of the same design as used on the C-type works cars built for Le Mans. These were painted red, and soon after production began, small badges on the cam covers were added for further identification. The improved engine was good for 210 hp, 20 hp more than the standard XK 140.

The SEs were also equipped with Dayton wire wheels, generally painted in the body color, though chrome ones were also available. Sitting in the showroom, any XK 140 would also have had a set of substantial bumpers, and a proper windshield to provide protection to the driver and passenger, unlike the 1956 Jaguar XK 140 Roadster pictured here.

This particular example, however, has been modified to give it a racy look, bearing more than a passing resemblance to the XK 120 that Phil Hill drove to his first significant victory at the inaugural Pebble Beach road race in 1950.

It’s no surprise then that the seller never drove it in the rain; the aeroscreen modifications don’t provide any place to fasten the soft-top and side screens that should be neatly tucked under the rear cowl behind the seats. This is a limiting factor for this car, as on most of the luxury car tours that are a growing part of the old car hobby, the prospects of getting wet and cold would probably dissuade most from even venturing out on the route. With a proper setup, however, Jaguar roadsters do make ideal long-distance tourers.

Nevertheless, from the $72k sale price-right at the top of the SCM value range of $50k-$75k-we can see that perhaps those in attendance at RM’s Amelia Island sale had more of an affection for racing machinery than weekend tourers. This would be a classic case of finding the right venue in which to sell a particular car to fetch a good price. I would have expected such an older restoration with blemished paint (verified by SCM’s auction reporter) and visually heavy Borrani wheels to have sold closer to the bottom of the price range.

(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

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