1952 JAGUAR XK120 Coupe By Nigel Dawes

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1952 JAGUAR XK120 Coupe By Nigel Dawes


The XK120 was first shown to the world at the 1948 London Motor Show.

With a slim waist and alluringly voluptuous curves that would put Jessica Rabbit to shame, it caused weak men to gibber and strong women to faint.

Once seen, the XK120 was forever coveted.

The ensuing tsunami of desire from a salivating public persuaded Jaguar founder and Chairman William Lyons to put it into production.

The first 242 cars were built in aluminium and it was these lightweight versions that first made Jaguar’s name in the world of motorsports, clearing a path to glory for the C and D-Types. As you might expect, these early aluminium cars are now among the most sought after (and expensive) cars in the world.

As demand grew, the XK120 was re-imagined in steel for a full production run. Fixed-head and drophead coupé models joined the line-up in 1952 and 1953 respectively. When XK120 production finally ceased in 1954, a total of 12,064 XK120s been sold.

Unfortunately, very few of these cars ended up in the grateful hands of UK buyers. Most went to the US, where they secured Jaguar’s place in the hearts and minds of American enthusiasts for decades to come.

In 1949 the very first production car (chassis number 670003) was delivered to no less a luminary of the silver screen than Clark Gable. We’d like to think that, frankly, he gave a damn about being the first owner.

The ‘120’ in the name referred to the aluminium car's 120 mph top speed, which made it the world's fastest production car at the time of its launch.

These are beautiful, iconic, important cars.

Examples that truly do justice to the legendary status of the model are few and far between.

Even in that exalted company this fabulous Nigel Dawes XK120 3.8 FHC manages to do justice to the marque, to the model and to the revered restoration and fettling prowess of Mr. Dawes better than any other that has yet to cross our path here at The Market.

The Vehicle

This exceptional car comes with truly impeccable provenance.

The donor vehicle was sourced by none other than Jeremy Wade, a well-known and respected XK aficionado. It was then restored and rebuilt by Nigel Dawes to a Wynn-Williams specification even more exacting and exhaustive than the usual Nigel Dawes spec.

One of the car’s last owners was none other than that much-missed doyen of the classic car world, Simon Diffey.

“Your time was not wasted! I must have one of your Jaguar XK120 Fixed Head Coupes”.

So said Alan Wynn-Williams in 1995, having visited Nigel Dawes after the latter had let it be known that he would be turning his formidable skills, passion and knowledge to the task of creating a limited run of bespoke XK120 FHCs.

Chassis 679405 was secured for this project by Jeremey Wade, the car having returned to UK shores some time in the late 1980s.

From then onwards, every twist and turn in its specification, build, evolution and eventual completion is documented in extensive correspondence between purchaser and restorer - in fat files full of invoices, bills and receipts, and in Nigel Dawes’ customary and forensic photographic record of the build.

Mr Wynn-Williams explained to Nigel Dawes that his “…ultimate aim [was] for a safe performance grand tourer reflecting the original concept…” of the XK120 FHC.

He then began adding to the famously comprehensive list of upgrades that customers had come to expect of a Nigel Dawes’ build.

The list of this car’s upgrades and features is detailed in the contents of the files. You’ll want a spend a while perusing them.

In the meantime, here’s an abridged version containing a few selected highlights.

It has a Les Trafford 3.8-litre engine with a C-Type cylinder head, 4-speed overdrive gearbox, seam welded chassis, uprated suspension, uprated radiator, rack and pinion steering, C-Type instrumentation, Cooper Craft disc brakes, Borrani wire wheels, ‘flame thrower’ spotlights, a big Monza fuel filler cap….and many, many other upgrades too numerous to mention here.

The files detail paint codes, trim references and every fettle and tweak along a road to completion that began in September 1995 and ended in June 1998.

Guy Broad, who recently serviced the car, were commissioned to fit a pedal box, an amendment which will be much appreciated by anyone who’s a little taller (and has bigger feet) than Jaguar’s legendary chief test driver, Norman Dewis. And that’s almost everyone.

Being properly screwed together and built by true experts, the car is unsurprisingly a total joy to drive.

Indeed, in addition to mentioning the car’s splendidly torquey engine and slick, notchy, all-synchro gearbox, we should add the report of Jonny Shears at Pendine – “It goes like stink”.

Quite so.

And yet we’d argue that, exceptional performance and dynamics aside, the thing that will last longest in the memory is the exquisite attention to detail that sets this Nigel Dawes creation apart from lesser XK120s.

What do we mean?

Well, the leather straps over the louvered bonnet have felt pads underneath them to protect the paintwork.

And take a look at the bespoke, (lockable) slide-out tool tray that sits under the luggage shelf in the boot

It’s the myriad instances of this obsessive pursuit of perfection that, together, make 679405 a very special car indeed and one where every penny of the £50,000 spent on the restoration is both evident and seems like remarkably good value for money.

On the Outside

The Project Aston Martin racing green paintwork is in very impressive condition and the bodywork is free of any dinks or dents.

The panel gaps and shut-lines are consistent and even.

All the chrome work is shiny and bright. The wire wheels are in fine condition, as are the matching tyres.

The lights, lenses, badging and other external trim, fixtures and fittings are all first-class.

In general, the car’s condition is exceptional even for a vehicle with just 18,195 miles on the clock, let alone one that’s 24 years on from its restoration and has a total of 70 years under its belt.

There is a small lump under the paint just by the n/s/f headlamp.

One or two light scuffs are evident on the o/s/f wing.

Aside from that, and a minimal number of stone chips in the usual places, you’ll have to look very hard to find any meaningful fault with the exterior of this magnificent car.

On the Inside

The interior of this car is a glorious symphony of beautiful, glossy wood and green hide, carpets and mats.

The bucket seats are comfortable, supportive and, unlike most XK120s of our acquaintance, easily accessible – thanks to the new pedal box and a greater range of adjustment than would have been found on the original.

The fabulous quality of the restoration workmanship is evident wherever you look, from the C-Type instruments and dials to the concealed radio.

As far as we can tell, everything electrical works and does what it’s meant to do – with the exception of the water temperature gauge, which has decided to retire.

The gear lever (and gaiter), steering wheel and handbrake are in similarly irreproachable condition, as are the carpets, mats, door cards and headlining.

Opening the boot reveals, unsurprisingly, an immaculate, green-carpeted interior.

The compartment underneath contains a spare wheel, all the appropriate tools and, of course, the aforementioned custom-built slide-out tool tray.

Lifting up the carpets anywhere in the boot or elsewhere on the car reveals….nothing to worry about whatsoever, as far as we can see


The undersides of the car seem to be in very good order and possessed of a plenty of structural integrity.

The engine and engine bay are things of beauty and joys to behold.

History Highlights

The car’s provenance and history are impeccable, impressive, comprehensive and meticulously detailed.

Just to recap.

It was sourced by Jeremy Wade, built by Nigel Dawes and owned by Simon Diffey.

And every nut, bolt, upgrade and amendment is mentioned in despatches.

The car doesn’t have a current MoT certificate.

Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of this and other paperwork to support our claim that this car has been maintained to a very good standard.

If you’d like to inspect the car prior to placing a bid – something we would encourage – then please use the Contact Seller button to arrange an appointment.

What We Think

Any one of the nine Nigel Dawes XK120s ever built is the stuff of legend among XK aficionados and, indeed, anyone with a passion for classic cars.

Rightly lauded for their build quality, attention to detail and engineering integrity, these cars rarely come to auction and always attract a good deal of attention from those for whom the best is the only option worth considering.

We’re confident to offer this extraordinary car for auction with an estimate of £125,000 to £145,000.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with the vendor in Bicester, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. To arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

Bidders MUST ensure they are aware of the registration situation of a car in auction, and whether it will be possible to export/register a vehicle in their country BEFORE they bid.

All vehicles MUST BE COLLECTED WITHIN 7-DAYS of the auction end. Storage fees of £180 + VAT apply (per week) thereafter without exception.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage can offer you options, plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping both domestic and international.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we always encourage bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using basic cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen (Caveat Emptor) and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, a return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: Bicester, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 18193
  • Chassis Number: 679405
  • Engine: 3.8
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Steering position: Right-hand drive
  • Colour: Green
  • Interior: Green
  • Estimated Price: £125,000 - £145,000
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