Over the years, Jaguar developed quite a knack at unveiling their latest and greatest sports cars to stunned audiences. It happened in the early 1990s with the spectacular XJ220 supercar. Before that, the E-Type set the world alight with its staggeringly beautiful lines and exotic construction. However, it was at the 1948 London Motor Show where it all started when Jaguar unveiled their first postwar sports car to shocked show goers. The spectacular XK120 was initially built as a testbed for their newest engine, the 3.4-liter “XK” inline six. The highly-advanced engine featured a sturdy iron block topped with an alloy, twin overhead camshaft cylinder head, making 160 horsepower in standard form. Supporting the engine was a robust chassis based loosely on the MkV saloon, but substantially narrowed and tuned for handling. The real sensation was the gorgeous body, penned in-house at Jaguar and quite unlike anything else on the road at the time. Devoid of heavy chrome and unnecessary frills, the XK120 body was curvaceous and beautifully proportioned. The clean lines were uninterrupted, particularly on the early examples with their steel wheels and full spats on the rear fenders. The car was so well received that William Lyons, the founder, and chairman of Jaguar Cars, was easily persuaded to put it into production.
More than just a pretty face, the XK120 delivered astonishing performance for the period. The RAC officially timed a largely standard XK120 (with a small aero screen and tall gear ratio) at 132.6 miles per hour on the Ostend-Jabbeke motorway in Belgium. Other speed records followed, as did countless victories on race circuits and in rallies in Europe and the USA. The XK120 paved the way for the Le Mans-winning C-Type and set the foundation for Jaguar’s astounding string of motorsport victories Jaguar enjoyed throughout the 1950s. Today, the Jaguar XK120 is a cornerstone of the collector car market, a spectacular British sports car with passionate owners from the grassroots to the seasoned collector. Some seventy years since it was first shocked the world with its dramatic unveiling, the XK120 continues to thrill with its timeless beauty and electrifying performance.
Our featured 1951 XK120 Fixed Head Coupe is a stunning example that has been in the care of just one singular family since new. According to the Jaguar-Daimler Heritage Trust Certificate, this car was dispatched on September 27, 1951, and was distributed through the famous Max Hoffman Imports in New York. It is one of just a few cars finished in the rare optional color of Twilight Blue Metallic. According to information provided by the previous owner, the car was on the floor at Continental Motors in Hartford, Connecticut in February 1952. A buyer, who worked in Hartford’s insurance industry, put down a deposit on the car and specified a set of Borrani wire wheels be fitted before delivery. It seems that he intended to take the Jaguar sports car racing, but before it was titled to him, he realized that since all of his friends drove Porsches, the Jaguar would be placed in a different class from his friends. He then forfeited the deposit and never took ownership of the XK120. Shortly after, the car’s first and only owner spotted it on the dealer lot and was able to buy the car - with credit given for the other guy’s deposit!
The car was titled in Pennsylvania for the first two years or so, then transferred to New Jersey and issued a new title on March 8, 1954. A color copy of that title remains in the history file. The family enjoyed the Jaguar for many years and used on a regular basis until 1977 when it was parked with approximately 65,000 miles on the clock. In about 2006, the family handed the XK120 over to Eddie’s Restoration; a Jaguar specialist in Elmwood, New Jersey who embarked on a multi-year, frame off, nut-and-bolt restoration.
Meticulously rebuilt to original specification and refinished in stunning Twilight Blue over a dark blue leather interior, this XK120 is a total knockout. Photos reveal the car was complete but in rough condition when the project began, making the result all the more impressive. The quality of the metal and paintwork is outstanding – with straight panels and tight, consistent gaps. The color highlights the subtle curves of the body, which features the correct slim bumpers and delicate detailing. Importantly, the Borranis that were fitted since new remain on the car, and it looks positively striking; sitting subtly lower than stock on the sparkling alloy-rimmed wheels and high-performance Excelsior black wall cross-ply tires.
The interior was also returned to factory specification, with gorgeous dark blue Connolly hides on the seats and door cards, blue Wilton wool carpets and breathtaking wood trim, only used on the Fixed Head and Drophead models. Madera Concepts of California magnificently restored the woodwork. Since the completion of the restoration, the car has seen only light use, and the upholstery remains taut and fresh in appearance.
Careful effort was taken to preserve the original ID tag, and the numbers-matching block and cylinder head remain in place. Like the rest of the car, the engine is impeccably detailed and very faithful to original spec. S.U. carburetors, intake, and cam covers are in gleaming polished aluminum, while the exhaust manifolds are correctly finished in black porcelain; backed with a full stainless exhaust system. Performance is outstanding, and the car is equally well-suited for shows, rallies or casual touring.
Not long after completion, the family showed their freshly restored Jaguar at a JCNA meet hosted by the Susquehanna Valley Chapter. On its first time out, the car scored a remarkable 98.4 points and was awarded a second in class. The result is a testament to the quality and care given to the comprehensive restoration, as well as to one family’s passion and determination to return a beloved Jaguar to its former glory.