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Rust-Free 1953 Jaguar XK120 SE FHC

When the Jaguar XK120 appeared in 1948, it marked the company’s first production sports car since before World War II. It was also the first in a line of elegant sports cars that would carry the “XK” designation. Today, spotless examples command stratospheric values, so finding the right project car can be vitally important. For enthusiasts who have been searching, this could be the one. This 1953 XK120 Fixed-Head Coupe is the “SE” version, giving it a significant performance boost over mere mortal examples. It is a rust-free survivor that has belonged to the same family since Day One, but the time has come for it to find a new home. Located in Torrance, California, you will find this Jaguar listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set the auction to open at $44,625, but there have been no bids. He also offers a BIN of $59,500, and as you will see, this could be an option worth considering if you are deadly serious.

There’s no denying that Britain copped an absolute pounding during World War II, and some sections of the community and the economy would take decades to recover. However, the country and its government wanted to prove to the world that Britain was open for business. They encouraged companies like Jaguar to roll out models like the XK120 for several reasons. The first was to raise confidence and morale within its own population that the country was returning to its pre-war best. Developing cars like the XK120 for foreign export also generated much-needed revenue for a country set on rebuilding itself. Our feature car rolled off Jaguar’s production line in December of 1952 and was immediately despatched to a dealership in Santa Monica, Califonia. That is part of the secret as to why this makes such a promising project car. It has spent its life in that climate, which makes its rust-free status no great surprise. The frame and floors look spotless, and I feel that some careful detailing could return them to an as-new state without spending a fortune. The car’s original Old English White paint looks tired, and I believe that the Red top was a later addition. The panels have accumulated a few minor dings ad dents, but there’s nothing irreparable there. The driver’s side bumperette has a ding, but the remaining trim and chrome appear to be in excellent shape for a survivor. The glass looks flawless, and it all points to this being a straightforward cosmetic restoration.

Setting this XK120 apart from the pack is what we find under the hood. The regular XK120 received a 3,442cc DOHC 6-cylinder engine that produced 160hp. However, this is the SE version, which gives the driver 180hp under their right foot. Those horses find their way to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. The horsepower figures may not suggest muscle car performance, but with the ability to cover the ¼ mile in 16.4 seconds before winding its way to 125mph, this Jag was not considered slow when it was new. If the engine looks clean for a classic of this age, it is for an excellent reason. The owner treated it to a rebuild in 2005, and the process was thorough. The engine sports new pistons, conrods, camshafts, valves, and a few other vital internal parts. The rest of the car’s mechanical components came in for a similar level of attention, including the clutch, brakes, suspension, exhaust, and shocks. The seller holds the invoices for the work that total an eye-watering $45,000, but it has been money well spent. The car drives as well today as it did when new, with no vices or issues. As a bonus, the seller has documentation that verifies that this is a full numbers-matching classic. This indicates that the buyer won’t be spending a dime on the drivetrain as part of this restoration.

Apart from the paint, one area where the buyer will need to splash the cash will be on an interior refurbishment. The beautiful burl walnut dash appears to represent a straightforward part of the process, as do the remaining timber features. However, the upholstered surfaces are trashed, and this is going to hurt the wallet. A complete upholstery set in the correct color and grain of leather will leave little change from $6,000, but the final result should more than justify the outlay. If the buyer wanted to cultivate their “shabby-chic” persona, they could throw blankets over the seats and drive the car as-is. It’s an option that some people may consider, but I believe that the potential value locked away in this car would more than justify the expense of a high-quality restoration.

I admit that when I look at the listing for this 1953 Jaguar XK120 SE, I am surprised that there have been no bids, and only eleven people are watching the auction. It is not a cheap project by any stretch of the imagination, but it appears to be one where the buyer will be commencing the process from a sound base. That begs the question of whether it is worth the effort and expense. Given its current physical state and the work that the buyer would potentially be facing, I believe that the answer would be a resounding “yes.” Values have ridden a rollercoaster recently, but this hasn’t been as extreme with these Jaguars as with other classic cars. If the underside is detailed and the paint and interior restorations are completed to a high standard, this XK120 could easily command a healthy six-figure value when the tools are laid down for the final time. That’s why I won’t be surprised if someone grabs it reasonably soon. It won’t be me, but I’d love to see the finished product.


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Had a family friend who had this same car solid white with factory painted wheels to match and a solid tan leather interior. Just sitting around looking at it was as much fun as riding in it.

    Like 3
  2. JohnfromSC

    There’s one bid on it now. One reason are the worthless photos. Most are taken from worthless angles and low light conditions as if the dealer is clueless or seemingly deceptive. Front overdized radiator does not give confidence. This is one where in person inspection prior to bidding is absolutely imprrative. Could have good bones or might be a dog.

    Like 4
    • DRV

      I’m thinking someone will steal this. If the mechanics are truly done and has no rust or accidents it would be a great project car. I know these well and have had the good fortune to drive many reliable miles in one and this may go for reasonable money.

      Like 1
  3. Mark Member

    Nice looking, but the roadster was much better looking.

    Like 0
  4. MikeB

    IMHO no 120-140 FHC should EVER be two-toned. Completely wrecks the beautiful flowing lines of the car.

    Like 4
  5. charlie Member

    Having owned an XK 150 S, these are wonderful cars to drive, and to look at, but I think the market is passing them by, only old farts like me want them now. And they are no more reliable than an HD but at least you are out of the weather when it breaks down in the rain or the cold or the heat waiting for AAA. Given a choice, I would take a stock ’39 Ford if I had to get there.

    Like 1
  6. old beach guy

    All that money spent on mechanicals and couldn’t come up with an extra 2 grand for a seat cover kit?

    Like 0
  7. Al

    Many, many years ago I spotted an abused XK 120 coupe sitting partially apart behind Smally’s Garage in Watkins Glen. I was told it had been raced by Bill Milligan (sp). The motor head was off for starters and the interior was that of a race car complete with roll bar plus various pieces-parts. As I recall, the price was a steal, even then, but the work needed exceeded my skill, tool selection and finances. But the memory occupies one of the many boxes most of us harbor.

    Like 3
  8. DRV

    I’m thinking someone will steal this. If the mechanics are truly done and has no rust or accidents it would be a great project car. I know these well and have had the good fortune to drive many reliable miles in one and this may go for reasonable money.

    Like 0
  9. Charles R. Wirt Member

    As a young kid, XK 120’s/140’s held me in awe. The designations have always been a puzzle. Can someone tell the meaning if XK and SE or any other Jaguar designations/abbreviations?

    Like 0
  10. Kenn

    Would be interesting to know why someone would spend so much money on mechanicals and leave the interior such a mess. And, how did it get so messy in the first place.

    Like 1

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