Old School Cool: 1980s Jaguar XK120Z

If your overwhelming desire is to park a 1952 Jaguar XK120 in your driveway, you need to have a wallet that contains at least $70,000 for that dream to come to fruition. Some alternatives are worth pondering, but this 1980s replica, known as the XK120Z, is something different. While it may not be the real deal, it uses a lot of genuine Jaguar hardware and a more modern drivetrain that should make it easier to live with than your average Jag. If you’re starting to feel tempted, you will find this XK120 located in North Scottsdale, Arizona, and listed for sale here on Craigslist. You don’t need $70,000 to secure this classic because it can be yours for $35,000. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder rex m for spotting this fantastic replica for us.

It would be easy to dismiss this vehicle as a kit car, but that would be doing it a disservice. It is the product of a company called Coventry Classics Ltd. They operated out of Santa Ana, California, and amongst their offerings was the XK120 tribute that they christened the XK120Z. These were a turn-key proposition they produced in the early 1980s before they closed their operation in late 1982. They eventually rolled eight of these cars out of their factory, and the price was an eye-watering $30,000. Although the Coventry product was significantly more exclusive, that figure was around twice what a buyer could expect to pay for a shiny new Corvette. The body is a replica unit made entirely of fiberglass, and it is bolted to a steel ladder frame that my research indicates started its life under a Toyota Pickup. Coventry was determined to remain faithful to the XK120, and this car shares all of its dimensions with the original. With a body made from fiberglass, external rust was never going to be a concern. The owner provides no information on the state of the frame, but if the Jag has spent its life in Arizona, there’s a better than even chance that it will be structurally sound. The black paint shines impressively, with only a few minor flaws. The condition of the trim and chrome are a match for the paint, and it is worth noting that all of those items, along with the glass, are genuine Jaguar components. The car rolls on a set of Zenith wire knock-off wheels, and the wide whitewall tires add the perfect finishing touch to the exterior.

One area where this classic falls flat is the state of its soft-top. The frame and bows are in good order, but the top itself has seen better days. If the vehicle is as dimensionally accurate as Coventry Classics claimed, sourcing a replacement should not be difficult or particularly expensive. Reproduction tops remain readily available, and a nice one will lighten the owner’s wallet by around $400.

A genuine XK120 rolled off the line with a DOHC 3,442cc six-cylinder engine that produced 150hp. That power found its way to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission, giving the car the ability to cover the ¼ mile in 17 seconds before winding its way to 120mph. Following that type of mechanical pathway in a reproduction would’ve caused the price to balloon, so Coventry Classics followed a more affordable path that offered the benefit of easier and cheaper access to spare parts. This engine bay is occupied by a 2,393cc L24 six-cylinder engine that started life in a Datsun 240Z. It would’ve produced 152hp in its original home, but the addition of triple dual-throat Mikuni carburetors and headers should lift that figure significantly. Whatever the actual number, those ponies find their way to the rear via a Datsun five-speed manual transmission. The donor Datsun offered better performance figures than the genuine Jag, so with the upgraded drivetrain dropped into a lighter vehicle, you would have to wonder whether a sub-16-second ET would be possible. It seems that this is a turn-key classic, and the owner says that it is fun to drive. He also describes the engine note as similar to a genuine XK120, so people could be fooled if the buyer never lifts the hood in public.

It’s easy to see why these cars were so expensive when you consider some of the original Jaguar parts that Coventry Classics used in their construction. The seats are genuine with every upholstered surface finished in hand-stitched red leather. The floors are covered in black carpet, and everything looks to be in excellent condition. This Coventry may not be a kit car, but there are some obvious hints that it isn’t a real XK120. The dash and some of the switchgear are the giveaways. I like an engine-turned gauge cluster as much as the next person, but the overall fit and finish are not that great. The same is true of the switches mounted below the dash. They have an afterthought look to them, and if I’d been the original buyer, I would’ve expected better for my money. However, a competent upholsterer could potentially address these shortcomings, making this interior feel more worthy of carrying the Jaguar name.

The history of Coventry Cars Ltd was brief, much like a meteorite that burns up in our atmosphere. It shone brightly for barely more than two years before it closed its doors for good in 1982. Why this occurred isn’t documented, but you can probably assume that the price of their products did them no favors. They would’ve been selling into a niche market, and this may have been one of those moments where ambitions were far greater than reality. Given their relative rarity, these vehicles don’t come onto the market that often. The last sale that I could find was in 2019, and that car sold for $30,800. With this car’s issues with its soft-top, I can’t help but think that the owner might be slightly optimistic with his price. Still, it is half the price of a genuine XK120, which will have some potential buyers thinking long and hard. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. DRV

    The soft top is rediculously hard to put up and stow and chances are a real 120 has a raggedy one, mine did and it still sold for over 100k. It can’t be too hard to cover the metal dash and fix up the switches, but the steering wheel has got to go. The steering wheel size would be a welcome feel, but would detract from the vintage feel.

    Like 4
  2. S Craig MacDonald

    I was surprised to read “a competent upholsterer” in connection with the dash, so I did an image search. Am I correct that it would not have had a metal dash, but either a dash covered with the same leather as the seats or a burlwood dash? That’s what I’m seeing online. I prefer the look of the burlwood, and that also should be doable.

  3. Allen L

    Want a little more HP (not the sauce,) under the hood?
    You can now buy a double overhead cam conversion, based on the Honda K series cylinder head, for the Datsun/Nissan straight six.
    That would really make this replica scat.

    Like 3
  4. ADM

    It may be a “faithful reproduction,” but with the Nissan drivetrain, fiberglass body, and other deviations, it’s still a “kit car.”

    Like 4
  5. Gerard Frederick

    At first look it appears to be a dream. The fact that it has a fiberglass body and a 240Z drive line makes it one. I know that originality is king, but I am a stickler for reliability being of the opinion that a car is made to be driven rather than to be displayed at a show only. This beauty checks most of my boxes.

    Like 6
  6. charlie Member

    Having owned a real XK 150S, when it was only 8 years old, with about 45,000 miles on it, it was even then just a toy. It spent about 3 of every 4 weeks ilde waiting for a part or a diagnosis. When it ran it was stupendous. U-Haul used to rent tow bars, and that was often my solution to getting it home or to the shop behind my ultra reliable ’56 Chevy. It never left me stranded by the side of the road, but all sorts of other issues – transmission no reverse, no lights at midnight, no starter action, but could push start it, wire wheel damaged splines so could not get flat off the car, etc. etc. So this would be a great car to have, and drive. There is nothing like having your ass up against the rear axel, with all that hood out in front of you – probably a phallic image – and, at times, a very errotic experience.

    Like 11
    • Gerard Frederick

      True story, the originals were a nightmare. There simply was NO excuse for such unreliability, none whatever and it was that very characteristic which doomed the British automotive industry all excuses notwithstanding.

      Like 5
      • tompdx Member

        I mechanically restored a ’58 XK150 then drove it for a year. It was supremely reliable. The only problem I had was a sticky float in the rear carb with was easily remedied by cleaning up the shaft it road upon. I think the majority of Jag problems back in the 50s and 60s were inept mechanics unfamiliar with the cars.

        Like 7
      • Bill Hall

        I remember an interesting comment on Lucas Electric ,
        Lights Unless Counted AS SUCH. From what I know of old British cars this had to be true.

        Like 2
    • Frank

      Boy do I agree with you. I had a 67 XKE water pump let go sat in the garage for close to a month. Dealerships back then hardly ever had parts in the New England area, I sold the car shortly after that.

      Like 3
  7. Skid

    I would drive that car in a heartbeat. Besides replacing the top, which I’d do in black, I’d also replace the valve cover to get rid of the Nissan name. Sure it’s still not a real 120, but it is more reliable, gets the same looks, and just as much fun to drive. The 5-speed is an added bonus. And I’m sure parts are cheap and easy to get. The pics look like the paint is nice and I really like the interior. And at a third of the price of a real one.

    Like 9
    • Eric Henning

      I agree w Skid fully,
      Had a 140MC in the late 60’s. Drove it for about a year +. Had the cam chain slip once fixed by a local mechanic .. thankfully. Did the usual needle dance but sold the car after the left wheel spline shaft stripped.
      I would consider a 3.8 GM V6 of the 90’s or other engine.

    • Eric Henning

      My XK140 was mostly good except for the rear wheel shaft spline stripping. That was the end for me. Just didn’t fit my college going at the time.
      Re the kit car engine I’d stay with the Nissan. Enough power and enough everything else too. And I certainly wouldn’t take off the valve cover. Nissan’s are great. I have (my only (sorta collectable)) an 87 Stanza that has 2/3rd’s of the Z3000 engine. 303kmiles so far. Trans is noisy but the engine is fine.
      I wish I could afford this car. And I’m amazed how well they did with the replica. There were kit sports cars before there were “replicas”. Most were a bit funny looking to just plain bad but some were beautiful.
      The old XK was more of a boulevard car anyway. My friend Larry had a 300SL and the two cars couldn’t be more different. The steering on the SL was so heavy it was hard to enjoy driving it. Not so the Jaguar. Loved that car.

  8. Terry

    Sacrelicious!

    Like 3
    • Euromoto Member

      Sacrilegious. There, fixed it.

      Like 6
  9. bobhess bobhess Member

    A replica is a replica. If it’s as good as this one it’s a great replica. Love the car.

    Like 5
  10. Frank

    Lucas Electrics is what we called The Prince of Darkness. I had a 59 Triumph the generator was held in the front motor mount. The bike spent more time draining the battery than anything else. Finally after two batteries and a wiring harness it was operational.

  11. Capt RD

    No windows – nice replica car – but kinda like taking your nice looking cousin to the prom OR kissing your sister compared to driving/owning a real Jaguar.

  12. John Harmer

    I am into Datsun Z car’s and saw the add for the car in Arizona before. And it’s very well built and more reliable than the original. My Dad had 3 Jags. 2 1962 e types a coupe and roadster and a 1957 Xk 140 Jag. I grew up around them. And this car would definitely work for me. Most people today would not know it’s not original. Be a great driver.

    Like 2
  13. jwaltb

    That rectangular dash panel is such a letdown-

    Like 1
  14. ClassicCarFan

    as I always say…it’s a free country and each to their own, but I’d say give me a real Jaguar any day, warts and all. I guess you’d need to be psycho-analyst to fully explain why people are attracted to the concept of “pretending to be something you are not” but I’ve never got it. replica = tribute = fake = phony = sham = false. as someone said above, you’d get all the same admiring looks as driving a Jaguar ? I doubt it, not from anyone who actually knows classic cars…and wouldn’t you get pretty sick of explaining to people, “yeah, OK, it’s not actually a Jaguar… ” or watching their faces at a cars & coffee morning change from an excited “wow, an old XK140” to and disappointed “oh….er, never mind”.

    Personally, the whole point of old cars is that they have character. If you don’t like a bit of “tinkering” maybe there are other more suitable hobbies for you? I’d agree – you can improve on a 1950s automobile with more modern machinery. todays’ Honda Accord is way more civilized, faster, cleaner and far more reliable than any old Jaguar… the Honda’s a great car… but if you like classic cars you take the foibles that come with it…

    Like 1
    • Gerard Frederick

      Classic Car Fan – you are a purist, good for you. I am more plebeian, I like to get in my wheels without worrying about what will misfunction next and hoping in vain there isn´t an oil puddle underneath. The problem is, that the reliability issues were serious, relentless, fundamental and without a long term solution, because it was all because of basic poor quality and workmanship as well as arrogant designers who couldn´t have cared less about the guy who bought their wares. It all reminds of Mr. Bugatti who after being admonished to do something about the horrible brakes an his cars disdainfully said: ¨My cars are designed to go, not to stop¨. Well, tragically his only son was killed driving one of his creations ostensibly because the brakes failed. There is something to be said about the Mercedes Benz attitude ¨Perfection is not good enough¨, even though that sounds a bit extreme.

      Like 2
      • Skid

        I’m guessing mr classic doesn’t own a classic British car. I do (68 E-type). And though I absolutely love the styling, which is why I bought it, the build quality is sloppy at best. For those who have worked on them, you get it. For those who look at a restored original at a car show and think it’s a great reliable car, they don’t get it. I’m doing a restomod on mine because I want to be able actually drive it and not stress about whether or not I’ll make it back home. And I’ll love watching the purists squirm. And if I wasn’t knee deep in my project, I’d 100% go take a serious look at this car.

        Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey

        Gerard,

        Jean Bugatti was Etorre’s first son, but not his only son. He remarried and produced 2 more sons, and I think at least one is still living in France.

      • Gerard Frederick

        Thank you Bill for the correction.

      • Bill McCoskey

        Gerard,

        The only reason I know about the second marriage and 2 more sons, was because when I lived in Mannheim, Germany back in the mid 1970s, I rode with some friends to a party just over the line into France, a small town called Molsheim, and the host of the party was a “Mr. B”. It wasn’t until many years later I found out the host was one of the Bugatti sons!

        Like 1
  15. gearjam1

    Not a fan of replicas…but, have to say that the XK has always been on my bucket list. So much so, that I bought a Jowett Jupiter-due to the fact that if you close one eye, it kinda looks like an XK. I’m too old to give a sh@t what other people think, and this car would make me smile every time I saw it.

    Like 2
  16. charlie Member

    A thing of beauty is a joy forever, or, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, either way, to me, this is a beautiful car, as was the original. The advantage of this one, and other tributes, or replicars, or resto mods, is that you can use them. At a car show Saturday in the boonies of California, which was predominately rods and customs, my favorite was a ’36 Olds convertible, well, the body, trim, gages, and basic frame were ’36 Olds, of which the owner believed only 5 existed, but underneath it was a Camaro front subframe, a modern engine, transmission, rear, electrical, wheels and tires, etc. He drove it over 100 miles to the meet, and drives it a lot. He enjoys it. It is a beutiful car. I had never seen one before and will probably never see one again. So, in its original state, restored, it would be worth more to some, but in this state, drivable, I would prefer it. The reproduction Jag as well. There was also a reproduction ’36 Mercedes convertible. It was like new, giveaways were modern tires, and somehow it was wrong. Too wide? Too perfect? And, on its sign board there was nothing about it not being “real”, just credits to the shops that had put it together. It was beautiful as well. If it were “real” it would be worth in the high 6 figures, or maybe more, and one would not drive it to a meet in a small city park, parked on the grass, no ropes, or chains to protect it, no admission fee to the spectators, it would languish in a museum or a wealthy collector’s stable. So, I would like the Jag, and I would drive it, and drive it some more.

    Like 3
  17. ClassicCarFan

    Hi Skid

    Well, you were guessing wrong. I do own more than one classic British car (along with American and one German currently) have restored same, to the last nut and bolt, from ground up, and do all my own work…so yes, I certainly do know how they are put together.

    as I always say, each to their own. it’s probably a good thing that this hobby attracts a range of people with different tastes. I’m not much of a purist…. don’t do the concours show thing and my classic cars have some subtle mods to make them more drivable and reliable too… I’m just stating an opinion… a car that is pretending to be something it really isn’t – doesn’t appeal to me at all. YMMV.

    Like 1
  18. charlie Member

    My 1960 XK150 S had a padded vinyl dash, better for your head if you stopped fast, but not nearly as nice as the wood dash of the XK 140 and XK 120.

  19. Kenn

    I can’t tell if ClassicCarFan is a purist or a snob. Bet he never dated a gal with a padded bra – or implants even – or one with blue contact lenses hiding her brown eyes. Or that – gasp! – dyed her hair.

  20. charlie Member

    Left rear spline shaft on my XK 150 stripped as well, “foreign car mechanics” could not get the chrome wire wheel off to fix the flat tire (I had given up and put enough air in to get it from home to their shop) and could not do it with a wheel puller and eventually heated it, and ruined the wire wheel. What was foreign about them, was that they were Chechs, and could fix Fiats, they also had, for several years a Ford based Brewster bodied car, don’t know what was wrong with that. Fortunately the Jag had a full sized chrome wire wheel spare, sorced a painted one for a spare. So, if it were to be restored it would have needed another chrome spare, but it was only worth $350 then, in 1972 when I sold it, not running, “foreign car” mechanics could not figure out why, towed it to a private hanger with my ’39 MG SA for storage. Sold both as package deal. MG started and ran after sitting for two years. But it had a Hudson Super Six engine. The pair, if found today in that hanger, would be a superb Barn Find. I could stil write them up 50 years later.

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