One of only three
1952 Jaguar Supersonic Coupé
Coachwork by Carrozzeria Ghia
State-of-the-art at the time of its creation in 1949, the XK120s William Lyons-designed body would stand the test of time, lasting in production, in only mildly modified form for the successor XK140 and XK150 models, until the E-Types arrival in 1961. Few owners can have had any cause for complaint about the cars looks, and only a relative handful of XK120s was supplied in bare chassis form for bodying by independent coachbuilders. The car offered here is a rare example of an XK120 fitted with bespoke, non-factory coachwork, being one of only three XK120s bodied in Supersonic style by the renowned Italian coachbuilder, Carrozzeria Ghia.
Carrozzeria Ghia was founded by Giacinto Ghia in Turin in 1919, soon establishing a reputation not just for luxury coachwork but also for bodying competition cars. Despite its founders death in 1944 and wartime damage to the factory, Ghia resumed its place at the forefront of Italian coachbuilding after WW2, providing the training ground for many of Italys rising-star designers: Michelotti, Boano, Frua and Savonuzzi all making a contribution to its continuing success. Ghia has collaborated with many of the worlds leading car manufacturers, producing memorable models such as the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, Lancia Aurelia B20 and FIAT 1500 and 2300 Coupés.
The 1950s decade was a period when automobile stylists the world over were influenced by developments in aircraft technology, in particular the coming of the Jet Age. This influence would reach its zenith in the United States in the decades latter years and is perhaps best exemplified by the outrageous tail fins of the 1959 Cadillacs. European designers too fell under its seductive spell, as this car clearly illustrates. The work of Giovanni Savonuzzi at Ghia, the Supersonic body design first appeared on a Conrero-tuned Alfa Romeo 1900 entered in the 1953 Mille Miglia. In addition to the solitary Alfa and three XK120s, the Supersonic design also appeared on an Aston Martin and a number of FIAT 8V chassis.
This left-hand drive Jaguar XK120 Supersonic, chassis number 679768, is one of two ordered via the French Jaguar importer in Paris, Royal-Elysées, by a Lyonnias businessman, a Monsieur Malpelli. The other Malpelli XK120, finished in blue, is known to exist in France while the third examples whereabouts are unknown. There are numerous detail differences between the coachwork of the red and blue Supersonics, while the car offered here, 679768, is the only one fitted with a cylinder head modified by Virgilio Conrero to accommodate three twin-choke Weber carburettors instead of the standard twin SUs. The engine is reputed to produce 220bhp.
After completion, 679768 was exhibited at the Paris and London Motor Shows in 1954 and took part in the Concours dElegance competitions in Montreux and Cannes. Originally registered 69 BJ 75 and subsequently 66 BJ 75, it was retrieved by Royal-Elysées following the disappearance of the mysterious Malpelli, remaining with the company until 1969 when proprietor Charles Delecroix ceased importing Jaguars. When Royal-Elysées sold up, the Supersonic was bought by Philippe Renault and subsequently sold by him to Roland Urban, who displayed the car at his motor museum devoted to special-bodied Jaguars in Montlhéry. When the current owner, a prominent Jaguar collector and member of the French Jaguar Drivers Club, bought the car from Roland Urban in 1994 it had recorded only 9,400 kilometres from new.
Following completion of a no-expense-spared total restoration undertaken with the assistance of marque specialists Atelier Sontrop of Pourrain, the Supersonic won 1st prize at the prestigious Louis Vuitton Concours at Parc de Bagatelle, Paris in September 1996. There are bills totalling circa FF240,000 for this restoration work in addition to Atelier Sontrops invoice for servicing in 2005. Since restoration the car has covered only 10,000-or-so kilometres. Offered with French Carte Grise, this unique XK120 represents a rare opportunity to acquire a car that is not only an important piece of Jaguar history, but also a milestone in the development of Italian coachbuilding in the innovating post-war years.
Cette Jaguar XK120 Supersonic à conduite à gauche, châssis n° 679768, est une des deux voitures commandées via l'importateur Jaguar de Paris, Royal-Élysées, par un homme d'affaires lyonnais, M. Malpelli. Une autre XK120 Malpelli peinte en bleu, existe en France, tandis que le destin du troisième exemplaire est inconnu. Il existe de nombreuses différences de détail sur les carrosseries des Supersonic rouge et bleu, mais la voiture de la vente, 679768 est la seule équipée d'une culasse préparée par Virgilio Conrero afin de recevoir trois carburateurs double corps Weber au lieu des deux SU standard. Le moteur est donné pour 220 ch.
Après son achèvement, 679768 fut exposée aux Salons de Paris et de Londres en 1954 avant de participer à des concours d'élégance à Monreux et à Cannes. Immatriculée à l'origine 69 BJ 75 puis 66 BJ 75 , elle fut récupérée par Royal-Élysées après la disparition du mystérieux Malpelli et demeura aux mains de la firme jusqu'en 1969 lorsque le propriétaire, Charles Delecroix, cessa l'importation des Jaguar. Lorsque Royal-Élysées liquida son stock, la Supersonic fut achetée par Philippe Renault puis vendue par la suite à Roland Urban qui l'exposa dans son musée consacré aux Jaguar hors-série situé près de Montlhéry. Lorsque le propriétaire actuel, un important collectionneur de Jaguar et membre du French Jaguar Drivers' Club acheta la voiture à Roland Urban en 1994, elle n'affichait que 9 400 km au compteur.