1952 JAGUAR XK120 DHC

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1952 JAGUAR XK120 DHC

Background

When the former Swallow Sidecar Company presented the Jaguar XK120 at the 1948 London Motor Show, it caused something of a stir.

Only presented as a show car for the brand-new XK engine, the response to the stunning looks of the XK120 convinced Sir William Lyons to put the vehicle into production, and it landed almost unchanged.

Based on the underpinnings of the Mark V, the first run of just over 240 cars sported an all-aluminium body over an ash frame, but such was demand – following a famous run at the Jabbeke motorway which saw a prototype example hit a world record 135mph – that later models switched to a heavier, pressed steel body.

Jaguar produced the bulk of the early cars as left-hand drive models, to suit demand from the USA – likely helped by the fact Gone With The Wind's Clark Gable was one of the very first owners in 1949 – and all in the initial roadster “OTS” (open two seater) body.

It proved to be an excellent race car too, winning circuit races, endurance events, and road rallies in the production car category. Famously, an XK120 won the first ever NASCAR Grand National road race, leading to foreign-brand cars being banned from the series.

A fixed-head coupe (FHC) arrived in 1951, adding some all-weather practicality to the otherwise rain-averse XK, but the car really hit its stride when the drop-head coupe (DHC) convertible landed in 1953. The insulated soft-top proved the best of both worlds.

With just over 12,000 cars produced, Jaguar retired the XK120 in 1954, replacing it with the upgraded XK140.

The Vehicle

The XK120 presented here is one of the final run of cars to roll out of Browns Lane, and one of just 295 cars produced in right-hand drive, drophead coupe specification.

It's had something of a fascinating life. First supplied to a customer in the Fens, the XK120 ran for around 15 years before being taken off the road for unknown reasons. However it then passed into the hands of an owner and collector in Norfolk who intended to restore the car – one of three he owned – before marital strife intervened.

The XK120 then passed to another owner with similar intent, but again the little Jaguar went unrestored before ending up in the collection of another serial XK owner who wasn't able to give it the time and attention it needed.

Eventually though, in 2003, it found an owner who could do it justice, and – as part of a collection of seven cars, including five XKs – was exported to South Africa.

Its new owner overhauled just about every component of the car, including the chassis, body, engine, gearbox, brakes, suspension, roof, and interior trim over the course of around four years. Although all the receipts are in local currency, it converts to roughly £25,000 of work to bring the XK back up to almost showroom health.

After spending a few more years on the roads of South Africa, the XK120 came back to the UK in 2019 and into the hands of its current owner who has used it sparingly since; there's 1,200 miles on the clocks since its restoration in South Africa.

On the Outside

As you might expect from a car that's been so recently restored and spent most of the intervening time away from British roads and traffic, the XK120 is in a generally excellent condition externally.

Finished in classic British Racing Green – what else? – there's no obvious marking anywhere on the outside of the XK, and the paintwork is still tremendously rich despite its time in the South African sunshine.

All the large panels and body pieces are free from damage, chips, or swirls, even on the leading edges. In fact the only blemishes we can see are a small patch of bubbles at the leading edge of the boot lid on the nearside, and a slight, linear scuff just ahead of the fuel filler flap.

A notable item is the removable spats, covering the rear wheels and helping the XK120 to the 120mph top speed for which it's named. These also look in excellent condition, with a little ageing on the chrome covers for the locks that secure them.

All four wheels are painted in the same green, with chrome covers, and again all are in great condition with no markings or oxidation. The black colouring around the Jaguar wordmark is a little worn but not damaged. There's like-new Vredestein Sprint Classic radial tyres on all four corners.

The soft top hood, supplied by a UK manufacturer to the South African restorer, is also in excellent condition. It's a green, mohair item which should last for years to come; we were only able to find a minor scuff on the nearside, just behind and above the door glass. The plastic rear window is clear and neither scratched, cracked, nor clouding or yellowing.

The glass in the doors, including the quarter-lights, and that split windscreen is all in perfect condition, free from chips or scratches of any kind. That also goes for the lighting, with headlights, tail lights, and indicators all unmarked and in full working order.

There's plenty of chrome brightwork with an XK120, and this too is in excellent condition. Only the offside mirror could do with a little polish to bring it back up to match the rest of the car, and the front radiator grille has some slightly misaligned spars

On the Inside

It's, quite literally, classic Jaguar in the cabin, with a high quality mixture of green leather and walnut burr, complemented by green carpeting throughout.

Just about everything you see in the compact interior was replaced during the 2003+ restoration, so it should be little surprise that it's in excellent and barely used condition throughout.

That starts with the Connolly leather seats. With the exception of a scuff on the outside bolster of the driver's seat – the highest traffic area of the interior of all – it's in great condition. There's some mild creasing on the seat-backs of both, but otherwise there's little sign of age. Both seatbelts are brand new, with even the protective film remaining on the passenger side item.

The leather extends onto the rear panel, door cards, and upper dashboard, and it's again in an almost-new state. There's also leather gaiters for the gear lever and handbrake, a new, four-spoke Moto Lita steering wheel, fitted in 2019.

That rich walnut burr panelling covers the dashboard, door panel uppers, and areas of the roof. On the roof trim pieces there is some delamination – alongside what appears to be a couple of areas of paint touch-up on the body colour metal parts – but otherwise there's nothing to suggest this hasn't just come out of the factory.

All of the gauges are clear and bright, and operate as they ought to, and all the switches remain clearly labelled and operational. We didn't get a chance to test out the AM/FM radio – which looks to be a later item than the original but in-keeping with the car.

The green carpeting covers everything from the waist down, including the transmission tunnel, and is also in excellent condition. However there is a scuff to the passenger side sill, suggesting that the door on that side is rubbing slightly.

Underneath

The XK is a car named in part for its engine and in part for its performance. It sports the twin-carb, 3.4-litre “XK” straight six engine, producing 160hp. It's paired to a four-speed manual Moss gearbox, here with no overdrive.

That's enough to propel the 1.4-tonne XK120 to 60mph in just under ten seconds and on to a top speed of 120mph. Remarkable in its day, that's still enough to keep up with the bulk of modern road cars.

It is something of a challenge to drive compared to modern cars though, with no synchromesh on the gearbox, no power steering, and drum brakes all round. That is, in fact, part of the reason why the seller is opting to part with the car; the experience box has been ticked, but car and driver aren't compatible.

However it all drives exactly as it should, with no modification to the mechanicals aside from an electric fan. It's common to find gearbox and brake conversions, but this XK120 is all original.

Underneath it's close to a new car. The chassis restoration is obvious, with an almost completely unmarked underside including pristine chassis rails. Aside from a little weathering on some of the suspension components, there's barely any sign of age at all.

There's also new exhaust sections, which appear to be stainless steel, and the new brake hard lines and braided hoses just about jump out at you. Nothing leaks, squeaks, or rattles, and the engine fires up and revs without a fuss.

History Highlights

The most remarkable part of the car's history is, without a doubt, the box file full of invoices from its time in South Africa. In fact prior to its spell overseas there's actually not that much information, aside from a certificate and statement from Retro Classics detailing its build date and previous owners.

That file contains receipts for what we'd estimate to be around £25,000 of restoration work, converted from South African Rand to Sterling at 2006 exchange rates, including the leather interior and mohair roof from UK suppliers. There's also the South African equivalent of the UK “road tax” (VED) documents, and import and registration documents.

What We Think

The XK120 was nothing short of a revolution when it arrived. Jaguar's first post-war sports car was the fastest wheeled vehicle on Earth, and was more than capable of conveying two people and luggage up to its maximum speed in comfort for as long as the fuel would last. It's also one of the prettiest cars Jaguar ever made.

This particular example is one of the rarest out there, with fewer than 300 examples of the drop head coupe made in right-hand drive. It's also been through an almost nut-and-bolt restoration, with matching number chassis, engine, and body, and is in full working order ready for next year's classic car events.

We estimate this vehicle to fetch between £70,000 - £85,000 in auction.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with the vendor in Cleckheaton, 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.

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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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Seller

NProctor

  • Location: Cleckheaton, United Kingdom
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 1500
  • Chassis Number: 667030
  • Engine: 3442
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Steering position: Right-hand drive
  • Colour: British Racing Green
  • Interior: Green & Wood Veneer
  • Estimated Price: £70,000 - £85,000

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