1954 Jaguar XK120 Coupe Project

The International Motor Show was an annual fete in Great Britain, held in the 30s at Earls Court, understandably interrupted for ten years between 1938 and 1948.  The show was re-introduced and its first post-war show was announced for late October 1948.  That year’s attendance was the highest then recorded at the Motor Show, attracting more than a half-million people. Meanwhile, “Mr. Jaguar,” as Sir William Lyons was called, had been quietly engineering a nearly salacious and proportionally delightful sports car design in Coventry to wrap around his ingenious 6-cyl twin overhead cam 3.4l engine.  The result of the pent-up angst from WWII combined with Mr. Jaguar’s forward-looking designs and engineering was the Jaguar XK120, which debuted to rave reviews at the 1948 International Motor Show. You can read an article announcing the 1948 show here.

Wouldn’t this have been a great shot to lead a story off with a “Guess-the-make-and-model?”  (Small problem: The make and model appear in the title of the piece.) Nevertheless, at the 1948 show, when Sir William’s sports car did an eye-popping 120 mph on the test track. The intended one-off roadster, designed to showcase the engine and drivetrain, wound up taking Jaguar into full production mode for the XK120.  The reaction to the XK120 was a “sensation”, so the legend goes, it “stole the show”. Our subject car is a later model XK120 Fixed Head Coupe, listed for sale in Lebanon, TN as an eBay auction here.  Currently, there are no bids; the requested opening bid is $15,600 with a BIN of $24,500.  The bidding is scheduled to close Saturday morning.

There is no denying even in its present state that the curve-melting into-curve lines of this coupe are sensual. Other than the very bottom road line, there are no square edges anywhere.  This car’s vertically ribbed chrome front grille was the beginning of a long line of Jaguar cars utilizing that grill design. It just oozes with “come-hither”-ness. Sir William bucked trends by eliminating running boards and by hiding the rear wheels behind “spats” or fender skirts on non-wire wheeled cars (knock-off hubs did not work with spats). The original XK120s followed the trend of other British sportscars by having an ash wood cabin frame clad with metal. But following the first 242 XK120 roadsters that were made, in 1950 a full steel and aluminum version replaced the aluminum clad wood cabined sports car.  The subject car is the full metal version, and from the few photos supplied on line, the steel and aluminum body parts seem cancer-free and ready for restoration.

This undercarriage photo is our only glimpse of the engine and drivetrain, sorry.  In this model year, Jaguar used four-wheel drum brakes and a four-speed manual transmission.  The car weighs in at more than 2,900 pounds and has independent torsion bar front suspension. Slowing down and brake fade are often noted as potential issues with the car. The frame appears to be in very good condition.  For more photos or questions about ownership or title, the seller-dealer, who is also selling other cars from the “Bobby Gunther Collection,” can be contacted by phone or email.  This car when new as a base model sold for a tick over $3,800.  Remember now that a ’54 Corvette sold for $2,750 new, and a base 210 model sold for $1,771.  BF is unable to verify if the “Bobby Gunther” whose collection this is claimed to be a part is the NASCAR owner, driver and radio personality.

The interior is rough we are guessing from this dashboard photo.  Originally decked out with fine wood dash and leather seats, most of the XK120s built had the left-hand drive–most were exported to the United States.  There were only a total of 2,672 XK120 Fixed Head Coupes like this one made.  The huge Bluemel steering wheel has lost its original cladding and the horn button but the Bluemel logo is still visible on the spoke shown at 1 o’clock.  This is a project car, simply put.  It requires full restoration and there is only guessing about the drivetrain’s operability if any.  Make no mistake though: this car in FAIR condition is valued by Hagerty at $53,100.  In excellent condition, not Concours, the values start at $110,000.  And the prices just go stratospheric from there. Although there are companies that specialize in replacement parts for these British cars, you’ll need a big wallet and a strong constitution to push the “order now” buttons.  Used or NOS parts? Good luck.  There are reports online that a larger bodied man would have trouble getting under the original Bluemel steering wheel and there may be additional trouble getting in and out if you’re too tall–the later XK140 added more room for taller drivers. Entering into the rarified air of the 1954 Jaguar XK120 strata of collectible cars requires that purchasers be well endowed of wallet.  So, then, skinny, fat-walleted, slightly vertically challenged buyers would, pardon the expression, fit right in.


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  1. Maestro1 Member

    One would do this if the objective was to save the car and ignore market values. As much as I love these old Jaguars I’d rather have the Mercedes in the background of one of the photographs.

    Like 1
  2. Larry siegel

    Although I believe this is one of the finest Jaguar models ever built, the restoration is probably upwards of $175,000
    It would truly be a labor of love and patience, does that make the investment of time and money worth it?

    Like 4
    • Crispy

      Sounds like your asking a wounded bull to do the work. RispyThese are pretty basic cars.

  3. Charles Sawka

    I did one, NEVER AGAIN. Is that enough said ?

    Like 5
    • Mike Tarutis Staff

      Charles. . .can you share some of the details? Photos? Would love to hear and see your story. MT

      Like 2
  4. angliagt angliagt Member

    There’s a reason that they’re selling it “as-is”,
    rather than restoring it & then selling it.

    Like 3
  5. DRV

    Take it for free only.

  6. Bill McCoskey

    So the lead photo shows 3 cars, this one and 2 in the background. Great photo composition, but it makes me want the other 2 cars, not this one!

    Like 2
  7. Imperialist1960

    The attraction here is the body.

    If you want historical accuracy, restored car, etc, you’d be insane to go to this one. Why not spend the money up front and allow someone else to take a bath on one?

    I’d look at gutting (the car is already gutted, babe) the car, fabricating in a modern, dependable driveline, getting good-enough paint on the car, and then spending plenty to make the interior plush, and then have a destination and a reason to drive the car.

    What if it had a modern inline 4 out of a compact import pickup truck that comes with a manual. Get steelies for wheels so you can put spats on the car, make it comfortable enough for your S.O. to not complain, and then road trip/daily drive it.

    This whole plan would take considerable commitment to pull off.

    Good luck to the seller – car’s worth a third of ask says me.

  8. Wayne

    Nice Jag but the restoration would break most banks! I admit the return would be healthy, but this is clearly a labor of love and fat wallets. But now that Mercedes Benz 300SEL 6.3 in the background under the barn roof, that’s another story!

    Like 1

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