When the time came for Jaguar to follow up the sensational XK120 in 1953, they wisely took an evolutionary approach to its replacement. The basic formula of the XK120 was a proven success – a two-place sports car, with a powerful and exotic twin-cam engine, wrapped in gorgeous, flowing bodywork. In designing the new XK140, Jaguar engineers used the opportunity to address some of the primary complaints with the 120, without sacrificing any of the beauty or performance. The body received larger bumpers that were more practical and up to date with contemporary style. Minor tweaks included chrome strips on the bonnet and boot lid and revised grille design. New badges proudly proclaimed the C-Type’s success at the LeMans 24 hour race. On the surface, the XK140 could be mistaken as just a superficial update on its predecessor, yet it was indeed a vastly improved car.
Addressing customer complaints about a lack of space in the XK120, the XK140’s dash, firewall, and the engine was moved forward by three inches. On open cars, a single 12-volt battery replaced the twin 6-volt units. Also, batteries were relocated to the right front wheel well, freeing up additional space behind the seats. Engineers ditched the XK120’s worm and sector steering box in favor of a fast and precise rack-and-pinion arrangement. In addition, Jaguar replced the lever action dampers, with modern telescopic-type dampers that gave superior wheel travel and control. Lockheed four-wheel drum brakes were retained; however the master cylinder was updated. The magnificent “XK” double overhead cam inline saw improvements to power and flexibility. The XK140 used the top-spec 190 horsepower 3.4-liter unit from the XK120 M as a base. With the optional C-Type cylinder head, that figure jumped to 210 hp. For the first time ever, a three-speed automatic transmission supplied by Borg-Warner was available as an option. Of the three generations of XK sports cars, the XK140 had the lowest production, with just under 9,000 vehicles built in all body styles, as rapid development saw the XK150 ushered in for 1957. Many fans prefer the XK140 as it combines the beauty of the XK120 with the superior power, handling and comfort of later models, making it an ideal choice for today’s enthusiasts who wish to enjoy their cars on rallies and tours.
This lovely 1956 XK140 M is a rare Drophead Coupe, exceptionally well-optioned with the Special Equipment Package (also known as the “M” in the US market), C-Type cylinder head, and the seldom-seen Borg-Warner automatic transmission. The included Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust certificate shows this is an original US-market car, delivered new to Jack and Norman Charney of Los Angeles, California in 1956. Subsequent history is not documented, however, this Jaguar eventually joined the famous Gene Ponder collection in Texas. The Ponder Collection housed many significant automobiles, with a heavy bias toward British sports cars, so this Jaguar was in good company indeed. The initial restoration saw the car refinished in this striking red livery over a black leather interior. It appears that Mr. Ponder drove this car, and he had it sensibly upgraded with an aluminum radiator, alloy expansion tank, and electric cooling fan for worry-free touring in hot climates. In 2007, several significant vehicles from the collection were sold, this car included.
The new owner, a Jaguar restorer and specialist, kept the car for personal use. Over the past eleven years of ownership, the current owner continually serviced, detailed and maintained this XK140 to a very high standard. Finished in bright red over black (a signature of many Ponder collection cars), this Jaguar presents in excellent condition. The paintwork is quite attractive, with beautiful, deep gloss and consistent panel fit. Complementing the paint is outstanding brightwork and gorgeous chrome wire wheels and whitewall Firestone tires.
The Drophead Coupe combines the open-air experience of the roadster with the luxurious trimmings of the Fixed-head coupe. It shares the walnut dash and door caps with the coupe, and roll-up windows and a fully lined hood provide a cozy environment should the weather turn foul. This car features excellent black leather seats and door cards. Black carpets were renewed within the last few years in the current owner’s care. In 2014, the wood was removed, stripped and restored by the renowned experts at Madera Concepts in California. Around the same time, the specialists at Nisonger Instrument rebuilt the tachometer and clock. The interior is beautifully finished and finely presented for touring, complete with an original Radiomobile radio and rare tinted Perspex sun visors.
A correct-type 3.4-liter XK inline six is under the bonnet, topped with the original, numbers-matching C-Type cylinder head. SU carburetors wear correct pancake-style air cleaners, and the engine bay is very well detailed with lovely polished cam covers, glass washer bottle, and proper wiring and plumbing. Service records show the car was regularly serviced and sorted to keep it in top running condition. In 2014, it received a fresh timing chain, guides, and head gasket — while the additional cooling capacity and electric fan pair well with the transmission to make this XK140 an outstanding choice for long-distance touring.
In 2008, while in the stewardship of the current owner, this car scored 997.1 points at a JCNA Concours event. Since then, a great deal of work was done to keep it up to a high cosmetic standard, while ensuring it remains usable, and enjoyable on the road. This rare and desirable XK140 is an extremely nice example, ready to be enjoyed on the road or in casual show settings.