'We claimed 120 mph (for the XK 120), a speed unheard of for a production car in those days' - William Heynes, Chief Engineer, Jaguar Cars.
Told by the post-war Attlee government to 'export or die', the British motor industry responded valiantly, none more so than Jaguar Cars, soon to become the UK's biggest US-dollar earner thanks in no small measure to the success of its XK120 sports car. Ironically, the XK120's creation had only come about because delays in the gestation of the MkVII saloon had forced Jaguar to find an alternative method of bringing its new XK six-cylinder engine to public attention. Conceived and constructed in but a few months, the XK120 debuted at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show where the stunning looking roadster caused a sensation.
Its striking appearance notwithstanding, the XK120 was conventional enough beneath the skin, being built on a separate chassis - in essence a shortened and narrowed MkV frame - featuring independent front suspension by means of wishbones and torsion bars, a live rear axle, and drum brakes all round. The fact that the major mechanical components were already in existence meant that development centred on the body. The work of Jaguar boss William Lyons himself and one of the most beautiful shapes ever to grace an automobile, the latter was conceived as a coachbuilt aluminium structure for the simple reason that Jaguar expected to sell no more than 200 XK120s in the first year!
Although conceived as a low-volume model, the XK120 proved considerably more popular than expected, the resulting demand for what was then the world's fastest production car taking its maker by surprise. It was immediately obvious that the ash-framed alloy coachwork hand built in the best vintage tradition - would have to go and the XK120 was re-engineered in steel after 240 cars had been completed. The new all-steel panelled body had been developed in conjunction with the Pressed Steel Fisher Company and retained the fabulous looks of the coachbuilt original while differing in minor external details. The steel car's underlying structure was entirely different and it would take some 20 months of development before manufacture could begin.
The car's heart was, of course, the fabulous XK engine. Conceived in wartime and intended for Jaguar's post-war range-topping saloon, the 3.4-litre six embodied the best of modern design, boasting twin overhead camshafts running in an aluminium-alloy cylinder head, seven main bearings, and a maximum output of 160bhp. When installed in the lightweight XK120, the result was a car with a phenomenal power-to-weight ratio and blistering performance.
Jaguar lost no time in demonstrating that the XK120's claimed top speed was no idle boast. In May 1949 on the Jabbeke to Aeltre autoroute in Belgium, an example with its hood and side screens in place recorded a speed of 126.4mph, and 132.6mph minus its weather protection and equipped with an under-tray!
The XK120 set new standards of comfort, roadholding and performance for British sports cars and, in keeping with the Jaguar tradition, there was nothing to touch it at the price. Coupé and drophead coupé versions followed and for customers who found the standard car too slow there was the Special Equipment package, which boosted power from the stock 160 to 180bhp. With either engine and regardless of the type of bodywork, the XK120 was a genuine 120mph car capable of sustained high-speed cruising. From launch until the end of production in the autumn of 1954 the XK120's popularity never slackened, especially in overseas markets that took over 85 percent of total output. The XK120 would prove to be the most popular of the XK series with 12,078 examples built.
Purchased as a restoration project by the retired owner in 2009, this XK120 roadster has been fully restored by his personal mechanics and converted from left- to right-hand drive in the process. The accompanying Jaguar-Daimler Heritage Trust certificate reveals that the car (chassis number '673343') was despatched to the distributor Hoffman in California, USA in January 1953. It was the owner's intention that the car should drive perfectly so the original, bent chassis was replaced with a new one supplied by marque specialists A1XK's of Stoke Golding, Leicestershire (hence the DVLA-issued chassis number). Both the interior and electrics were renewed during restoration, and the chassis upgraded with disc brakes, wire wheels and Koni telescopic shock absorbers. Finished in Old English White with red leather interior, '547 YUM' was completed in 2012 and is described by the private vendor as in generally excellent condition. The car is offered with numerous parts invoices, (copy) old-style logbook, a quantity of expired MoT certificates and Swansea V5 registration document.
The copy of the logbook is not included in the documents for this vehicle.