Courtesy of Bonhams
The final glorious incarnation of Jaguar’s fabulous XK series of sports cars arrived in 1957. The XK 150 was a progressive development of the XK 120 and XK 140, retaining the same basic chassis, 3.4-liter engine and 4-speed Moss transmission of its predecessors while benefiting from a new, wider body that provided increased interior space and improved visibility — courtesy of a single-piece wrap-around windscreen that replaced the XK 140’s divided screen. Cleverly, the new body used many XK 120/140 pressings, the increased width being achieved by means of a four-inch-wide central fillet. A higher front wing line and broader radiator grille were other obvious differences, but the new model’s main talking point was its Dunlop disc brakes. Fade following repeated stops from high speed had been a problem of the earlier, drum-braked cars, but now the XK had stopping power to match its prodigious straight-line speed. Introduced in the spring of 1957, the XK 150 was available at first only in fixed and drophead coupe forms, the open roadster version not appearing until the following year. At 190 brake horsepower, the engine’s maximum power output was identical to that of the XK 140, so performance was little changed. Special Equipment and S versions came with 210 and 250 brake horsepower respectively. Overdrive and a Borg-Warner automatic gearbox were the transmission options, while a Thornton Powr-Lok limited-slip differential was available for the XK 150S. Steel wheels remained the standard fitting, although XK 150s so equipped are a great rarity, as most were sold in SE (Special Equipment) specification with center-lock wire wheels. The much-admired chromed Jaguar mascot was made available as an optional extra on an XK for the first time. “The Jaguar XK 150 is undeniably one of the world’s fastest and safest cars. It is quiet and exceptionally refined mechanically, docile and comfortable... we do not know of any more outstanding example of value for money,” declared The Autocar. A much-sought-after S model, this XK 150 roadster comes with a Jaguar Heritage Certificate confirming that it left the factory in March 1959 equipped with the 3.4-liter engine and desirable manual/overdrive transmission. The car was delivered via Mann Egerton and finished in Carmen Red with matching leather interior and black soft top — its present color scheme. Retaining matching chassis/engine numbers and its original Norfolk registration, 7228AH has been in single-family ownership from new and comes with its original old-style buff logbook, the latter erroneously recording the engine capacity as 3,781 cc. We are advised the XK has been driven mostly in the dry, is not corroded in the usual places and is generally sound; last taxed in 2004 and garage stored since then, it will have been recommissioned prior to sale. The car is offered with the aforementioned logbook and Jaguar Heritage Certificate, sundry service invoices, V5 registration document and its original toolkit, PDI form, price list and owner’s handbook. An electric windscreen washer and twin 12-volt batteries are the only notified deviations from factory specification.

SCM Analysis


Years Produced:1958–60
Number Produced:888 (all 3.4S OTS)
Original List Price:$5,120
SCM Valuation:$150,000–$200,000
Tune Up Cost:$650
Chassis Number Location:Plate on firewall
Engine Number Location:On block above oil filter
Club Info:The International XK Club
Alternatives:1951–54 Nash Healey, 1956–59 BMW 507, 1961–65 Jaguar S1 3.8 Open Two Seater
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot 56, sold for $334,940, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ first sale at the 73rd Members Meeting at Goodwood on March 21, 2015.

This was a nice old XK: It looked very original, with decent door gaps, a nicely preserved interior and original toolkit — and the early, original transmission tunnel overdrive lever, which is a curiosity today, especially as so many old Jags have received modern 5-speed transmissions. The paint had slightly dulled in places, so some of it might not be as old as the rest of the car, and the leather was well creased and patinated with one small tear — but there are such things in this world as T-Cut, Hide Food and what used to be called elbow grease.

A one-family original

Originality has an increasingly important place in today’s collector car world, and the market currently prizes it above all else. But what made this car really special is that it had been in one-family ownership from new. This means that, even if it hadn’t been loved and cherished all of its life and been dormant for the past decade, it hadn’t been through the motor trade, hadn’t been dolled up or blown over for sale or generally messed about with.

That the door fit was so good (they’re usually not on XKs at auction) was probably down to the fact that it had never been apart in its life, and all the better for it. Even if the new owner plans to obliterate all that lovely patina with a restoration, they know they’re starting with an original, unmolested car that’s correct in every detail.

The top XK at this sale

Our subject car compares with the car SCM originally asked me to write about, Lot 19, a nicely restored — but otherwise unremarkable — gray XK 150SE coupe. Nothing wrong with it, and at $111,399 it even looked to have a breath left in it for retail — but no Unique Selling Point either, apart from its lowish mileage. Or Lot 55, the XK 120 drophead coupe that on first glance looked absolutely gorgeous, with deep and lustrous black paint — and never mind the slightly odd cut-out rear spats. But it was a much older restoration and, peering through the door and panel gaps, you could see rust lurking in the structure, confirmed by more on the steering column, which should have been easy enough to clean off.

How much corrosion there is within will determine how much of the car has to come apart, and this is no doubt why potential buyers suddenly developed short arms and long pockets and it sold cheap for any open 120 at $95,387. It was cheap for a good reason.

Try to find another one

This brings us back to our subject roadster — or Open Two Seater, to give it its proper title. Very original cars like this just don’t come along very often, especially in right-hand-drive, home-market form. Most domestic-market cars were coupes and dropheads, and only 76 home-market XK 150 roadsters of all kinds were made against 2,187 for export, although the base 3.4 is thought to be rarest variant, outnumbered by SEs.

This is an early car. S roadsters started at chassis T820001; this is 820030. (T signifies S, S prefix on early cars signifies SE.)

Quite rightly, the market snapped it up at top dollar — three times the pre-sale estimate, though I suspect Bonhams always knew it would go for much more. This is an S roadster, after all, with a claimed 250 brake horsepower instead of the SE’s 210 — and whose values are only eclipsed by the 3.8S version, which uses the same motor that went into the E-type, with an alleged 265 bhp (yeah… right; all these claimed outputs were maybe achieved on a test bench with no ancillaries and optimized timing).

As an aside, the last digit of the engine number on Jags of this vintage indicates the compression ratio, in this case 9:1.

Someone’s got a cracker, and if the decision were mine, it wouldn’t be restored. The catalog promised it would be recommissioned before sale, so after a change of rubber and fluids — plus a damn good service including a compression test and very careful check of the motor before attempting to start it — I’d continue to wipe it over periodically with an oily rag and continue to relish this true survivor, in the same way that it has enjoyed and been enjoyed for the first 60 years of its life. Huge money — but well bought. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)


Comments are closed.