History of Jaguar
When British gentlemen William Lyons and William Walmsley founded their “Swallow Sidecars Ltd.” in 1922, they were focusing on “torpedo shape” motorcycle sidecars. But after the brand introduced the SS Jaguar 100 in 1935, Lyons bought Walmsley out with a public stock offering to become the sole Managing Director and changed the company’s name to “S.S. Cars Ltd.”.
However, ten years later on 23 March 1945, the “S. S. Cars” shareholders agreed during the annual general meeting to change the company’s name to “Jaguar Cars Limited”, and this is how the company we know today was born. Chairman William Lyons said that “unlike S. S., the name Jaguar is distinctive and cannot be connected or confused with any similar foreign name.” (We should remember that this happened during World War II where Germany’s SS troops were feared across Europe.) But who could have thought at that time that a British car fanatic would produce multiple Le Mans winning race cars in the near future? One of Lyons‘ stroke of genius was the Jaguar XK 120 – a must-have classic car.
Introduction of the Jaguar XK 120
First introduced in 1948, the Jaguar XK 120 was the fastest production car of its time. It’s suffix “120” was given due to the fact that the British race car was the first ever street-legal production car to achieve 120mph (or 192km/h) and from then on Jaguar became the benchmark within the sports car market.
The old-timer is a two-seater roadster that Jaguar launched as the successor to the S.S.100. It is not only considered one of the most beautiful classic cars of all time, but also a very successful one. Its many infamous race wins include Silverstone in 1950 and the Coupe des Alpes the following year.
The shape appears streamlined and was highly modern at the time. In fact, its presentation at the 1948 British International Motor Show caused a sensation. Even the press cheered, “The Jaguar XK 120 stole the show…”!
Jaguar XK 120 by Casper Bijmans
Originally, the British icon with its aluminum body was planned to be produced as a small series with around 200 examples. But its glamorous appearance was such a success that Jaguar was literally overwhelmed by demand and decided to produce the car in higher quantities, but with steel bodies instead. Compared to its predecessor, the S.S. 100, the headlights on the Jaguar XK 120 are now no longer mounted above the fenders, but integrated into the fender, which allowed Jaguar to design a sportier shape. Due to the fact that most of the XK 120 were exported, the majority were built as left-hand drive vehicles for abroad.
Under the hood of Jaguar’s XK 120 you will find the 3442 cc engine which has an output of 160 PS (119 kW). The car is equipped with a four-speed gearbox and rear wheel-drive, eventually allowing the roadster to reach a top speed of around 200 km/h.
Variants of the Jaguar XK 120
In 1951, Jaguar introduced an elegant coupé variant in addition to the Roadster. While the Roadster is still referred as OTS version (Open Two-Seater), the Jaguar XK 120 Coupé is called FHC variant (Fixed Head Coupé). The latter has a dashboard covered with walnut wood, while the rest of the interior was furnished with leather as in the Roadster.
At the same time, Jaguar introduce and offered a more powerful engine as an option for the Roadster and the Fixed Head Coupé. The so-called Special Equipment (SE) variant of the 3.4-liter engine produced 180 PS and had a dual exhaust. Additionally, the car was equipped with a selectable 5th gear (overdrive) and wire wheels as standard.
Finally, in 1953, the range was expanded to include the “Drop Head Coupé”, known as DHC. The vehicle is a convertible and had, unlike the “Open Two-Seater”, a truly weatherproof top and proper side windows, instead of the side-hinged windows used on the Roadster. And like the Fixed Head Coupé, the Drop Head Coupé had a wooden dashboard and a small storage compartment behind the front seats.
In summary, the Jaguar XK 120 was a huge success for the British car manufacturer and conferred the prestige that lives on until today. By the end of its production in 1954, 7’373 Open Two-Seater, 2’678 Fixed Head Coupé and 1’767 Drop Head Coupé models had been sold – a total of around 12’000 vehicles.
At its time, the sports car was the pinnacle of the automotive industry, beating Ferrari, Porsche and its British main rival, Aston Martin, in terms of performance, which makes the Jaguar XK 120 a must-have classic car and a British icon.
Original selling price was around CHF 20’000 but current market price for well-maintained XK 120 is around CHF 160’000.
Production batch of around 12’000 cars (7’373 Open Two-Seater, 2’678 Fixed Head Coupé and 1’767 Drop Head Coupé), while only a small percentage of the cars have been kept well maintained to the present day.
When to drive:
Personally, I would consider the British sports car one of the most elegant and most beautiful car designs of the late ‘40s / early ‘50s, which gives the Jaguar XK 120 so much charm. I would love to drive the roadster on a nice sunny day around the city and the country side in a gentleman’s outfit.
What we love about the car:
Personally, I believe the Jaguar XK 120 is underrated. At its time, the sports car was the pinnacle of the automotive industry, beating Ferrari, Porsche and its British main rival, Aston Martin, in terms of performance.
Photography: Casper Bijmans IG: @csprb