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H o u n d s t o o t h  H u n t e r - Jaguar

                  A brief history of the Jaguar XK 120


 The Jaguar XK120 was launched in roadster form at the 1948 Earls Court Motor as a show car for the new Jaguar XK engine destined for the new Mk VII saloon. With alloy cylinder head and twin side-draft SU carburettors, the twin overhead camshaft 3.4 L straight-six XK engine was certainly advanced for a mass-produced unit of the time. With standard 8:1 compression ratio it developed 160 bhp (119 kW). A 7:1 low compression version was also available to cope with low quality fuel. This same basic design of the XK engine, later modified into 3.8L and 4.2L versions, survived into the late 1980s.

The XK 120 roadster caused such a sensation tha William Lyons was persuaded to put it into production.

The "120" in its name referred to its 120 mph (193 km/h) top speed (faster with the windscreen removed), which made the XK120 the world's fastest standard production car at the time of its launch.

The XK 120 available in two convertible versions — first as a roadster (designated OTS, for open two-seater, in America), then also as a drophead coupé, or DHC, from 1953 — and as a closed, or "fixed-head” coupé (FHC) from 1951. The DHC was a more deluxe model, featuring a beautiful wood dashboard and wood features on the door interiors.

The first 242 cars, all roadsters hand-built between late 1948 and early 1950, had aluminium bodies on ash frames. To meet demand it was necessary for the mass-production versions, beginning with the 1950 model year, to have pressed-steel bodies. They retained aluminium doors, bonnet (hood) and boot lid(trunk) lid.

The drophead coupé had a padded canvas top, which folded onto the rear deck behind the seats when not in use, and roll-up windows. The windscreen was fixed. Dashboards and door caps in both the FHC and DHC were wood-veneered, whereas the roadster's were leather-trimmed. All models had removable fender skirts – or ‘spats” covering the rear wheel arches, which enhanced the streamlined look. On cars fitted with optional centre-lock wire wheels (available from 1951), the spats were omitted as they gave insufficient clearance for the two-eared knockoff hubs.In addition to wire wheels, upgrades on the Special Equipment, or SE, version (called the M version in the United States) included increased power, stiffer suspension and dual exhaust system.


The British magazine “The Motor” road-tested an XK120 roadster in 1949. With hood and sidescreens in place, it achieved a top speed of 124.6 mph (200.5 km/h), accelerated from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 10.0 seconds and consumed fuel at the rate of 19.8 miles per imperial gallon (14.3 L/100 km; 16.5 mpg-US). The car as tested cost £1263 including taxes.

In May 1949, Jaguar demonstrated an XK120 roadster to the press on the high-speed autoroute between Jabbeke and Aeltre in Belgium. The road was closed for the occasion. The white left-hand drive car, chassis number 670002, was the second XK120 built. Jaguar test-driver Ron "Soapy" Sutton drove the car. With hood and sidescreens erected, and the airflow under the car improved by the addition of a full-length aluminium undertray, the Jaguar was timed through the flying mile by the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium at 126.448 mph (203.498 km/h). With hood, sidescreens and windscreen removed, a metal airflow deflector fitted in front of the driver, and a tonneau cover fastened over the passenger side of the cockpit the speed improved to 136.596 mph (219.830 km/h), making the XK120 the world's fastest production car


XK120s set numerous world records on the steeply banked oval track at the Autodrome de Monthléry near Paris

1950 107.46 mph (172.94 km/h) for 24 hours (including stops for fuel and tyres): Leslie Johnson sharing his XK120 roadster, road-registered JWK 651, with Stirling Moss. The first time a production car had averaged over 100 mph (160.93 km/h) for 24 hours. Changing drivers every three hours, the Jaguar covered 2579.16 miles, with a best lap of 126.2 mph (203.10 km/h).

1951 131.83 mi (212.16 km) in one hour: Johnson solo in JWK 651. "No mean feat...driving at almost twice today's maximum (UK) speed limit into a steep turn, assaulted by the g-force induced by 30 degree banking twice every minute, using Forties technology, leaf spring suspension and narrow crossply tyres...Johnson remarked that the car felt so good it could have gone on for another week, an off-the-cuff comment that sowed the seed for another idea. Flat out for a week..."

1952 100.31 mph (161.43 km/h) for 7 days and 7 nights: XK120 fixed-head coupé driven by Johnson, Moss, Hadley and Jack Fairman. William Lyons, mindful of the considerable kudos and advertising mileage that had already accrued from Johnson's exploits, commandeered a brand new XK120 FHC for him: bronze-colored, and fitted with wire wheels, it was Jaguar chief engineer Walter Hassan’s car, the second right-hand drive coupé made The car took the world and Class C 72-hour records at 105.55 mph (169.87 km/h), world and Class C four-day records at 101.17 mph (162.82 km/h), Class C 10,000-kilometer record at 107.031 mph (172.250 km/h), world and Class C 15,000-kilometer records at 101.95 mph (164.07 km/h), and world and Class C 10,000-mile (16,000 km) records at 100.65 mph (161.98 km/h). After repairing a broken rear spring the car went on to complete the full seven days and nights, covering a total of 16,851.73 mi (27,120.23 km) at an average speed of 100.31 mph (161.43 km/h).

A truly remarkable and beautiful car that set the standard for the modern sports cars all those years ago.

Care of Your ‘Cold cast” Art piece 

Your AutCouture Art piece is treated with automotive wax and all that is required is a dusting or wipe down with a damp cloth. However, the surface may tarnish over time and you can either leave it as is, or you may wish to polish it up again.  

To restore the lustre, polish with a Brass polish (Brasso or similar) and then seal with either a White Wax furniture polish, or an automotive wax. Scratches can be removed by light sanding with a fine 600, followed by 1,500 grit water-paper, then polished with a Brass polish.

John Wessels.


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