Paradise Fire Victim: 1954 Jaguar XK120

Oof: this one’s a punch to the gut. Obviously, most of us were aware of the catastrophic fires in Paradise, California, but some of the photos of the damage are still coming out. This includes a burnt 1954 Jaguar XK120, which has been offered up for sale despite its total loss condition. Massive wildfires like the ones that affected California are ruthless; nothing stands in its path, including this scorched Jaguar. Find it here on craigslist with no price listed and a reference to potentially considering a sealed bid approach.

This is just grueling to look at, and it gets worse when you read the listing about how the seller bought the Jaguar in 1980 out of Colorado. It sounds like it lived a pleasant lift in Florida until 2000, before it transferred to the tantalizing pavement of northern California. The Camp Fire is considered one of the most devastating in history, and cars like this XK120 were left behind when homeowners were forced to flee for their lives. The seller sadly states that it was parked in 2009, with plans to restore it during retirement.

To add insult to injury, the seller had two spare shortblocks that were left to the elements after the fire, as he was unable to return to his home for two months. The engines got wet and are now locked up, in addition to the aluminum heads melting. Two manual gearboxes were also left behind, with the aluminum top plates melted or destroyed. The seller notes the car does not roll or steer, as the steering box is locked up and the wire wheels need a lot of encouragement from PB Blaster to even get free of the hubs.

I’m not sure cars like this can ever be brought back, and there are other challenges as well: the VIN plate burned in the fire, along with the title. The seller says there may be some identifying numbers on the transmission cross member that will allow the next owner to get a new title issued. There’s lots of implied sadness in the listing, in my opinion, as the seller does not want to open himself up to jokers that think they can work on it in the driveway or if he can store it. While I believe the future is grim for this burned XK120, perhaps there’s a Jaguar enthusiast out there who can find a way to salvage what’s left of this Camp Fire victim. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Matt R. for the find.

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Comments

  1. Will Fox

    This one makes me want to cry for the car AND the owner! I can only hope & pray he had insurance to cover this. No telling what shape it was in before the fire, but damn…this tugs at the heart strings.

    Like 17
  2. sir mike

    This is beyond sad….sorry for all your losses owner.

    Like 8
  3. Keith

    Looks like a small block Chevy engine setting in it right now with a melted carb . Many great cars lost in this fire .

    Like 1
  4. Bruce

    The aluminum deck lid and hood evaporated. As long as nobody poured water on the car while it was hot it can be restored. I will be a long process and any aluminum parts will need to be remade but there are those that do just that in England. Also note when you enlarge the photos you can see where the lead used in the body evaporated away in the heat.

    Every part needed to restore this car exists and is being remade in small numbers. It is not cheap but it is possible. These are fun rides. I have taken worse and put them back on the road but this is truly heart braking. I also hope he had insurance but that will never pay for the pain of a dream being crushed. I truly hope the owner can find another dream and gets the chance to make something amazing with his hands and the help of friends. That is the kind of thing retirement is for. God Speed good man and good luck.

    Oh as for the wheels they are not repeat NOT salvageable for trailering maybe but they should be replaced. The hubs I am certain will be fine but not the wheels. I have made that mistake with the wire wheels of a TR-3 that was burned. Having a wheel come apart even at low speed is not something you want to have happen and you will be lucky to live thru.

    Like 6
  5. Coventrycat

    Sorry to see it go like that, but it is just a car and why we get insurance. It’s not like you can’t find another XK120 around – it’s not a one off Duesenberg. Now that would be tragic.

    Like 2
  6. Bob S

    From my experience, no matter how much insurance you have, you always lose.
    I knew the steel bodied cars were worth a fair amount of money, but I think what is happening, is that the sellers are conflating the value of the hand built alloy cars with the steel cars to make more money for themselves. Mind you, an aluminum body would not have survived the fire.
    They are lovely old cars. I will never forget driving one back in the early 60s. Even then, it was still an exciting car to drive.
    It really is sad to see one destroyed like this, particularly considering all the other collected parts, such as the two engines, that were also lost.
    Bob

    Like 1
  7. Steve R

    It’s probably not worth much. Who knows how much damage was done to the sheet metal and frame in a fire that burned hot enough to melt all of the aluminum component. As someone pointed out, it has a small block Chevy installed. Registration may also be a nightmare, he has no title, the car has aged out of the California DMV’s computer, the VIN on the car melted away. It’s not going to be as easy to register as having CHP officer fill out a form in order to get the car a new title, if it was he would have done so.

    A friend lost his old Mustang and pick truck the year prior in a similar fire. There was nothing left to salvage on either. Luckily he has collectors car insurance which paid him the stated value he had previously chosen for the car plus $3,500 for parts he had in his garage. The car had been off the road for a couple of years, but he never dropped the insurance. They didn’t flinch or argue when they wrote him out a check for $20,000+.

    Steve R

    Like 3
    • karl

      I was thinking the same thing .The car was burning until there was absolutely nothing left to burn. It reminds me of Ford Granada car that someone lit on fire after we were closed at the junkyard I worked at in the 80’s . The tires were completely gone ,the transmission was nothing but plates and shafts ; the case had melted into a puddle in the dirt. The fire took the structural integrity out of the car. When they picked it up with the loader , the front and back on the car drooped down. I wouldn’t trust anything left on this car , better to recycle it at this point.

      Like 7
  8. Ike Onick

    Too soon to worry about cars folks. I believe the first building permits were issued just this week.

    Like 2
    • daveshoe Member

      I had driven through Paradise just a week before the fire, and commented just what a beautiful area it was, and how appropriate the town’s name was. Most of the residents were middle class to lower middle class retirees, living on social security. Certainly not like the Malibu fires area. People are now living in their cars on their lots, waiting for permits and insurance money to rebuild. Oh, yes, like many of us car nuts, they’re mourning their once beautifully restored or even survivor cars destroyed, but they need a roof over their head as a priority. The Salvation Army is still taking donations. Just designate it’s for Camp Fire survivors.

      If I were 25 years younger, and my health were better, I’d head up to the area and volunteer my services, but alas, I’m a rather sickly old coot, and can only encourage others to do so…

      Like 5
      • Ike Onick

        Great post.Thanks.

  9. That Guy

    I personally know two people who lost car collections in the Paradise and Sonoma fires respectively, as well as their homes. They are alive and well, and that’s all that matters, really. It’s sad the cars are gone, but they are just things. Things can be replaced with other things.

    Like 5
  10. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    This is sad to see.

    Collector car insurance is one thing, and it can solve the monetary angle. But the sentimental value is another thing.

    I have experience with collector car insurance. Actually, it was a pleasant experience (given the circumstances). I had a fairly new Roush Mustang which was covered via a collector policy: limited driving, garaged on the premises, evidence of a different daily driver, stated value. I was rear ended hard and driven into the vehicle in front of me. Filled out a form, got a repair estimate (for them to do the ‘totaled’ calculation), sent pics. A week or so later I had a check for the stated value.

    Like 3
  11. Steve R

    That’s not true. A friend that barley escaped the Santa Rosa fires with his wife and kids in the middle of the night the year prior mourned his cars more than any other possessions. Once he moved into a rental house, a few weeks afterwards, he found that talking about the loss of his car with his car friends was therapeutic. It was a way to get his mind off of the work him and his wife needed to do to rebuild their life. It gave him a chance to talk about the good times he had with his car and his friends at the track over the years that wouldn’t feel sorry for him.

    Steve R

  12. slimwhitman

    My vintage car has been off the road for a long time, waiting for me to get it going again. I paid insurance on it for many years, but have let it drop many years ago. That probably means that if I have a house fire that burns the car, I will be out its value. I hope this Jaguar’s owner kept his insurance up even though the car has been off the road for a while.

    Like 1
  13. BronzeGiant

    There were some really tragic automotive losses in the Camp Fire. One was the customized 1953 Studebaker go-kart hauler but the most tragic of all was the 1948 Norman Timbs Buick. As the body was aluminum it simply vanished in the fire. Both of these were in the same collection.

    Like 2
  14. bobhess bobhess Member

    The “restorers urge” keeps nibbling at me on this one. Not enough time available to jump on this one but would love the challenge to restore what’s there and pass it on to someone to complete. Why? I learned to drive in a 120 Roadster. As a lifetime car nut you don’t forget stuff like that. Not sure I even want to know how many cars like this were lost out there.

    Like 1
  15. luke arnott Member

    I was offered an XK120 Roadster for £50 in 1968 – turned it down!

  16. bobhess bobhess Member

    Luke… Just like the ’67 427 Corvette coupe I didn’t buy from one of my customers for $13K in 1987. Then there’s the Porsche 906 race car I passed on for $9K. I’m a lot smarter now but a lot poorer….

    Like 1
  17. PDXByan

    Burnfinds….:^(

    Like 2
  18. MG Steve

    Our home, cars and all else were destroyed in a fire years ago. We had an MGB that I had just finished. I tried to scavenge some parts from it, but even that which I tried to save has rarely been put to use. Anything glass or aluminum melted. I was told, and believe, that I would never trust the engine or tranny. The body work? I’m sure some old panel beater could have saved it, if it was a very valuable car. That said, for me, an average DIY person, the panels were SO warped, that I just can not conceive any of it could be saved. The fire dept. did attempt to put out our fire, and I would imagine the water on top of very hot metal was the cause of such incredible panel warpage.

    However, keep a perspective. I love my cars, and the hobby as much as anyone. But human life, and the life of animals, is the ultimate lost. My heart goes out to all those in those horrid fires.

    Like 4
  19. redwagon

    If someone had insurance on this car why would they be offering to sell it now? Wouldn’t the insurance company take control of the vehicle they just “bought” with a check? It seems to me the more likely scenario is that the vehicle was uninsured – while sitting in a garage awaiting restoration.

    Yes, it is sad but hopefully the family suffered no loss of life on top of the loss of personal property.

  20. MG Steve

    Usually what happens, is that after a settlement is made, you can buy the vehicle back, usually for a pittance, as the insurance companies do not really want to deal with a burned out hulk either. In the case of our MGB, I was unaware at the time, that there was Classic Insurance Car Companies (Hagerty, JC Taylor, Condon & Skelly, etc.). Therefore, we were forced to put it on our regular car insurance. Therefore, it was only insured for “PL & PD”, and they would NOT insure it for body damage. Thus, we “ate” the entire cost of the car, replacement, etc. Looking back, we were much younger, and obviously pretty dumb and naive about the ways of insurance companies, and not being aware of the Classic Company options was very costly. That said, no lives were lost.

  21. bog

    Sad any way one looks at it. Hopefully he had some insurance on it. A really good friend of mine, going back to high school and before, lived there and tried to get me to relocate. She survived with clothes on back, only one cat, and little else. Car, house and everything else consumed by that fire. Glad she survived and has other friends living near enough that she doesn’t have to give up her California dream.

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