1954 JAGUAR XK120 FHCView vehicle description
Introduced at the 1948 London Motor Show, lithe looks, a throaty 160bhp six-cylinder heart and a top speed of 120mph ensured that the light alloy bodied XK120 roadster was a shock to the post-war public, and an instant and roaring success.
In truth though it was a sticker price of just £1298 that most definitely did the deed. The world’s fastest production car was a bit of a blimmin’ high-performance bargain.
Just 240 examples were constructed before production switched to steel, but performance remained, to use modern terminology, properly stonking; and to prove so, Jaguar took an XK120 to Jabbeke in Belgium where it clocked a whip-cracking 126mph.
The fixed-head Coupe arrived in 1951, bringing a roof to the party and a more elegant aesthetic. Yes, thanks to a steel floorpan and that tin-top, it was 15kg heavier, but it was still a mighty beast and you got a more luxurious interior than those in the hairdresser’s version.
The XK120 proved to be a redoubtable rally car, further enhancing its sporting credentials and by the time production ceased in 1954, a whopping 12,055 had been sold. But, as we shall see later, most were exported leaving very few for the home market - however this is just one of those latter cars.
‘I bought this XK120 for £25 from a lock-up in Dover back in 1964, when I was a young man,’ explains vendor Nick. ‘At the time I was a motor engineer and I brought it back home, did some tinkering to get it running and drove it 20 miles.’
At that point he moved house (something that’d become a regular occurrence over the years) and parked it up, as life proceeded to get in the way. ‘I got on with my day-to-day work and some time later, around 25 years ago, I started working on it again.’
The car was stripped and the body sandblasted, but after losing his workshop - due to a site redevelopment - it again went into storage. ‘It really has followed me around from one house to another.'
Around five years ago my sons said: “you’ll never get that done, dad”, however I’d finished other works and projects, and thought now is the time…’
Nick made good progress, purchasing a new galvanized chassis (only because he didn’t want to strip down the old one, which IS included in the sale!) renovating the suspension, steering and rear axle. And then he promptly moved house again.
‘I’m now 73 years old with bad knees and once again have no workshop, so I have to admit that it’s perhaps not going to get finished and unfortunately my wife will not get to use it as a shopping car, as we intended.’
So exactly what will the next owner be purchasing? Well it’s the opportunity to buy a very rare and very original matching numbers, UK right-hand-drive XK120 fixed-head-coupe, with just two owners from new, and to put their own stamp on its restoration. Just 151 right-hand-drive fixed-head-coupes were produced for Blighty, and only 57 of those are believed to survive today, which makes the example we have for sale here an exceedingly rare survivor.
When Nick bought it way back in ’64, it’d already been in the lock-up for two years, so incredibly, it has only actually been on the road for eight years in total.
This lovely matching numbers XK120 is creating quite a stir – the gents at Petrolicious have written a piece (https://petrolicious.com/articles/this-jaguar-xk120-restoration-project-is-50-years-in-the-making-perhaps-its-time-for-someone-else-to-have-a-go) and it’ll shortly be making an appearance in Classic Car Weekly – and it’s easy to see why…
What a genuinely lovely opportunity. And a privilege for The Market to be auctioning.
On the Outside
‘In my ownership it’s mostly been stored dry ventilated, so many of the body panels have survived really rather well,’ says Nick. ‘As one of the last XK120s it has steel panels, except for the boot, bonnet and door skins. The nearside door is actually a steel replacement and it’s that, that hasn’t fared too well’ although we note an alloy replacement in grey primer is included. It is of course the next owner’s prerogative, but if it were ours then we’d be commissioning an artisan body shop to re-skin the n/s door in its correct alloy form.
As you can see from the pictures in our photo gallery below, the rest of the body (he’s replaced a panel here and there) looks decidedly solid. The stripping and blasting of the panels has left them rough in places and in need of final surface finish, but it does leave no doubt there is absolutely no hidden rot. As part of the works, Nick has ground the spot welds on the headlamp and side light pods to assure sound metal. The pods are spot welded and leaded to finish, the original headlight pods are included (and photographed) so can be refitted as part of the restoration.
‘There are extensive areas of lead that are still on the car, but when I had it blasted there was virtually no filler at all. I stored everything in three large bins, and it’s probably complete as far as I know. There may be the odd small piece like a door handle or hinge that’s not there, but nothing that can’t be easily sourced.’ Buyers should of course assure themselves of the completeness of this jigsaw puzzle before bidding.
It is indeed a rolling chassis and as such sits on a lovely set of grey wheels with chrome and painted red hubcaps.
On the Inside
We’ll start by stating the obvious: it requires a re-trim.
Okay seriously, there is a real beauty to an original interior like this. Yes, it’s been stripped, but the smell of aged leather is still just about prevalent and again it’s the process of returning it to its former glory that’s going to guarantee satisfaction (after all, isn’t that why we’re daft enough to restore old cars?).
Again, to the best of Nick’s knowledge, it’s remarkably complete and good to go.
A peak underneath the skin shows that this is most definitely a project that’s in progress. The new galvanised chassis has been etched, sealed and painted.
New springs have been fitted, with fresh front shock absorbers and rebuilt rears accompanying them. The steering has been rebuilt and all has been re-fitted on the chassis – as such, it does roll.
Nick has also had a GKN Power-Lock differential rebuilt and installed in the rear axle. ‘The original crownwheel and pinion are present but XKs are renowned for oversteer under a heavy throttle, so I fitted it to offset that. It came from an E-Type that had covered virtually no miles.’
The next owner also has another interesting decision to make: whether to restore and re-fit the original chassis (which Nick says ‘only requires small repairs’), or to continue as is with the hardier replacement item. There’s no doubt it’s an interesting quandary, and one that they can take their time (preferably with a nice bourbon in hand) mulling over, and making a decision on.
There might be a similar decision to be made about the engine. What you see under the bonnet (all panels are only lightly reattached) is the limited skeleton of the engine. The bad news is that we understand all the internals are in the assorted boxes and will probably need a full rebuild. The (very) good news is that we have checked and the engine number tallies with the Heritage Certificate.
So, how does it drive? That’s one thing for the imagination, at least until the car is complete and ready to road test.
There are two documents in this car’s history file: the V5 which is all well and good to have, and of most importance, a Jaguar Heritage Certificate.
The latter confirms the car’s manufacture date as 16 March 1954 and provides the chassis (669139), engine (F2430-8), body (J 3562) and gearbox (JL 21817) numbers.
It also confirms the original paint colour as Birch Grey and interior trim as being Grey, as well Byatts of Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent as its original distributor.
MOT history? Eh nope, that would be a negative. The test protocol was introduced in 1960, the very same year that this car left the road.
There’s also a wealth of pictures showing some of the rebuild progress, including body-off shots of the chassis. In addition to this you’ll also find photographs of the numerous parts included in the sale, as well as of the original chassis.
Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of this and other paperwork to support our claim that this car is matching numbers and ready to be restored to the very highest level.
What We Think
This partially restored barn-find XK120 really is an amazing thing to offer, and here at The Market we’re very proud to do so. The vendor’s journey with the car has been profound, even if it’s only ever turned its wheels for 20 miles by his hand.
It has been an ever-present presence in his life since 1964, supplying him with that ‘I’ll just free up some time and get on with…’ factor. The reality is, that for Nick the opportunity to complete the project never quite presented itself.
So, it’s now time for a new owner. That could be someone with the skills to complete the restoration themselves, or an individual with a dream and a specialist already in mind to complete the work on their behalf.
Whichever it is, the key factor is that this is a complete example. It’s a matching numbers example of a rare and highly regarded breed, which comes with both an upgraded chassis and also the original item.
It does require completion, so it will not be selling for the c.£100k that a superb example might sell for, but valuing such a rare opportunity is difficult. We'll let you decide, but will start with an estimate of £25k to £35k to secure this exquisite piece of British motoring.
Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located at The Market’s headquarters in Abingdon; to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-financing, Thames Valley Car Storage for storing your car, AnyVan for transporting it, and Footman James for classic car insurance.
BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.
Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.
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