September Sale 2018

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1953 Jaguar XK120 Fixed Head Coupé

Lot No.: 340

Registration: 158 UYO
Chassis Number: S680579
Engine Number: W70968S
Number of cylinders: 6
CC: 3400
Year of Manufacture: 1953
RHD/LHD: Right Hand Drive
Estimate (£): 60,000 - 70,000
(+buyer's premium of 15% including VAT @ 20%)
  • Striking FHC in a lovely colour combination 
  • Long-term single UK ownership 
  • Ground-up restoration over a number of years
  • Desirable manual gearbox model
  • Believed matching-numbers
The XK120 debuted at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show where the breathtaking roadster caused a sensation with the resulting demand, for what was then the world's fastest production car, taking Jaguar by surprise. The elegant shape was the work of Jaguar boss William Lyons himself, probably based on a few simple lines drawn on a breakfast napkin as were so many of his design ideas, and brought to life by the talented team in Jaguar's Drawing Office many of whom had only recently been been designing nose cones and wing shapes for WWII fighter aircraft. Jaguar expected to sell no more than 200 XK120s in the first year, a volume that wouldn't justify producing tooling for presses, so coachbuilt aluminium was the construction of choice. With bulging order books it quickly became clear that the labour-intensive alloy bodywork would have to go, and the car was swiftly re-engineered in steel. In a matter of weeks, in conjunction with the Pressed Steel Fisher Company, a new all-steel panelled body was developed, which retained the fabulous looks of the coachbuilt original whilst differing in minor external details.  

The car's heart was, of course, the fabulous XK engine, a 3.4-litre 'six' embodying 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. The XK120 set new standards of comfort, roadholding and performance for a British sports car and, in keeping with the Jaguar tradition, there was nothing to touch it at the price. Once Jaguar had caught up with XK120 Roadster demand and production of steel-bodied examples was running smoothly, it developed a Coupé to widen the model's appeal.  Aside from the addition of a roof, the biggest difference between this and the Roadster is the use of a, mostly steel, floorpan in place of plywood.  

The car presented here is a 1953 Jaguar XK120 Fixed Head Coupe (FHC), specified new with the desirable manual gearbox.  According to the car’s accompanying Heritage Certificate, it was a left-hand drive US-spec car, finished in Black with a Red interior and was completed on the 2nd January 1953 before being despatched to Jaguar's legendary New York distributor, Max Hoffman.  It was fitted with a manual gearbox which was unusual in a car destined for America.  From the Heritage Certificate and physical inspection, the car is thought to retain its matching-numbers status.
 
As an engineer and car enthusiast, our vendor has overseen many thorough Jaguar restorations over the years, enjoying a long relationship with the marque. Now back in the UK, this particular XK120 was acquired as a ‘project’ back in 1994 and did require extensive restoration, but this did not deter our resourceful vendor.  Using his own skills and those of numerous specialists, he set about a real ‘ground-up’ renewal of the chassis, bodywork, and mechanicals (all of which is captured in multiple photographs – a few of which are published here).  Due to his advancing years, and possibly enjoying the restoration 'journey' more than the end result, the car is now offered for sale.  It's a genuinely useable example, restored thoroughly and presented to a fair standard, perhaps requiring some minor ‘finishing-off’ and some additional ‘shake-down’ miles under its wheels (it has only covered around 50 miles since completion).  The mechanicals all appear to be well re-engineered, having been fully refurbished and sounding/running as they should.
 
There is a real purity of design to the XK120, and something quite distinctive and more purposeful about the Coupé over the more commonplace Roadster, especially a standard model on steel wheels, with no spats and a manual box - a drivers’ XK120 if you like. Here is a very solid example from long-term ownership, offered at a very tempting guide price.