The sensational Jaguar XK120 first appeared at the 1948 London Motor Show to astonished audiences. This svelte and sexy show car was originally intended to be a styling exercise used to highlight Jaguar’s upcoming and advanced new XK twin-cam inline six-cylinder engine, but response from the press and public was so positive that it took little persuasion to convince Jaguar boss Sir William Lyons to develop the car for production. Thankfully, the road going car lost none of the impact of the original show car when it hit the market.
Aside from the headline-grabbing engine, the XK120 featured independent front suspension sprung by torsion bars, with a Salisbury limited-slip live rear axle riding on leaf springs out back. Large four wheel drum brakes were adequate though could fade when pushed too hard on track. But the star of the show was indeed the iron block, alloy head “XK” twin cam six, good for 160 horsepower in standard form, upwards of 210hp in later models, and 300 or more on the race track. The “120” part of the XK120 name came courtesy of the top speed it reached on a pre-production test, making it the fastest production road car of its day. The earliest cars were hand-built with alloy bodies, which later changed to more cost effective and durable steel construction once the tooling was ready. The XK120 earned its legendary status thanks to its incredible performance and unmistakable beauty, creating one of the most iconic sports cars of all time.
This fine 1951 XK120 OTS roadster is an early production example that has had just three owners from new. It is presented in beautifully maintained order since receiving a high-quality, nut-and bolt restoration to concours standards by its second owner. According to the Jaguar Heritage Certificate, chassis number 670662 is a numbers-matching car that was built on the 4th of September 1950 – coincidentally Sir William Lyons’ birthday. An early steel-bodied left-hand drive car, it was first finished in pastel blue over a duo-tone blue interior and delivered new to D. S. Gross of San Francisco, California in the opening days of 1951. Mr. Gross used the car sparingly through his tenure but he retained it for 33 years, only selling it as a complete, rust-free but non-driving project in 1984.
The second owner, Vincent Weatherby of Costa Mesa, California was a well-known area car enthusiast who purchased the car for himself, recognizing the importance of such a low mileage and original XK120 roadster. In the late 1990s, he embarked on a multi-year concours-quality restoration, returning the Jaguar to its former glory. Those who witnessed the project state that no bolt was left unturned, and every finish and detail was brought back to factory-correct standards. Shortly after the restoration was completed in 2000, Mr. Weatherby sold the Jaguar to its 3rd and most recent owner, an enthusiast and collector from Wisconsin. Over the past 18 years, the XK120 was meticulously cared for and maintained, with much of the maintenance and detailing handled by the renowned John Kies at Motion Products in Wisconsin.
Now presented in the striking but seldom-seen original Jaguar shade of Squadron Blue, this XK120 remains in exceptional condition today. In the years since the restoration was completed, this car has benefitted from light and careful use, as well as extensive maintenance to ensure it is in top running order. The body exhibits excellent panel gaps and fit, and the paint work remains in very fine order, revealing the outstanding quality of the original restoration as well as the care it has received since. The beautiful blue paintwork is set off by sparkling chrome knock-off wire wheels wrapped in Firestone whitewall tires, appropriate for a US delivered car such as this, and the rest of the brightwork also presents very well, showing only slight mellowing.
Trimmed in gray leather, the cockpit is beautifully finished to a high standard with properly upholstered seats appearing in fine order, and with minimal creasing from use. Likewise, gray carpets, leather-wrapped dash and gray hardura door cards are in excellent condition. This car wears the correct early-style convertible top which is noted for its more pronounced teardrop shape. When the top was restored, the original French gray fabric topping was not available, so this high-quality salt-and-pepper material was sourced, and is a very attractive alternative. For the purist, a light gray vinyl soft top will also be included.
The original, numbers-matching 3.4 liter, 160 horsepower twin-cam “XK” inline six rests under the hood. It is of course clean, tidy and well detailed, showing signs of regular maintenance despite the limited use. It runs very well, breathing through original twin S.U. carburetors. The four-speed manual gearbox feels tight and precise as it should and the road manners are quite good.
The most recent owners went to great lengths to document the remarkable history of this fine Jaguar. A large file includes receipts from the work performed while in their care, as well as a multi-page account of the previous ownership, the restoration work, a Jaguar heritage certificate and numerous period articles and adverts. The sale will also include a full set of tools (including the jack, Thor hammer and pouch) restored by expert Tom Buckus, as well as a custom tonneau in gray canvas, and a French gray soft top in vinyl. Maintained with little regard to cost and used sparingly, this lovely XK120 was not shown during the last owner’s time with it, and as such, it would be a very welcome appearance at any Jaguar club concours, regional show or tour.