Jaguar XK120 SE Drophead Coupé 1953
Chassis no. S677504
•Restored to a very high standard
•Rare and desirable Special Equipment 'SE' version
•One of only 709 left-hand drive SE models built
•Only circa 600 kilometres since restoration
'We claimed 120 mph (for the XK 120), a speed unheard of for a production car in those days.' - William Heynes, Chief Engineer, Jaguar Cars.
Conceived and constructed in but a few months, the XK120 debuted at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show where the stunning-looking roadster caused a sensation, the resulting demand for what was then the world's fastest production car taking Jaguar by surprise. With orders rolling in apace, Jaguar had no choice but to think again about the XK120's method of construction. The work of Jaguar boss William Lyons himself and one of the most beautiful shapes ever to grace a motor car, the body had been conceived as a coachbuilt, aluminium panelled structure for the simple reason that Jaguar expected to sell no more than 200 XK120s in the first year! In conjunction with the Pressed Steel Fisher Company a new all-steel panelled body was developed, which retained the fabulous looks of the coachbuilt original while differing in minor external details. Beneath the skin the steel car was entirely different and it would take some 20 months of development before manufacture could begin.
The XK120's heart was, of course, the fabulous XK engine, which had been developed during the war and was intended for Jaguar's forthcoming Mark VII saloon. A 3.4-litre 'six' embodying the best of modern design, it boasted twin overhead camshafts running in an aluminium-alloy cylinder head, seven main bearings and a maximum output of 160bhp. It went into a chassis that was essentially a shortened version of the simultaneously announced Mark V saloon's, featuring William Heynes' torsion bar independent front suspension. Jaguar lost no time in demonstrating that the XK120's claimed top speed was no idle boast. In May 1949, on the Jabbeke to Aeltre autoroute, an example with its hood and side screens in place recorded a speed of 126mph and 132mph with the hood and windscreen detached and an under-tray fitted.
The XK120 set new standards of comfort, roadholding and performance for British sports cars and, in keeping with the Jaguar tradition, there was nothing to touch it at the price. Coupé and drophead coupé versions followed, and for customers who found the standard car too slow, there was the Special Equipment (SE) package which boosted power to 180bhp. With either engine and regardless of the type of bodywork, the XK120 was a genuine 120mph car capable of sustained high-speed cruising.
The XK120 was produced until 1954 and would prove to be the most popular of the XK series, with 12,078 examples built, of which only 709 were left-hand drive SE dropheads like that offered here. Introduced in 1953, late in the XK120 production run, the drophead coupé is considered by many enthusiasts to be best of the breed, retaining the original open roadster's lines while boasting much greater practicality and refinement courtesy of its wind-up windows, opening quarter lights, heater, improved ventilation and a permanently attached lined Mohair hood, all of which had been first appeared on the fixed head coupé in 1951.
This car was built on 23rd June 1953 to be shipped to the USA for delivery to Jaguar's West Coast distributor Hornburg in Los Angeles, California. Its original colour scheme was Birch Grey with red interior.
The car's history is not known prior to 2003 when it was found in a barn and purchased as a restoration project by a Dutchman from Hengelo, which is where the current vendor first encountered it. He was very keen on buying the XK because the car was very straight, highly original, and retained matching numbers. The owner did not want to sell but eventually, in 2006, the Jaguar was sold to a Mr van Rossum in Holland.
Mr van Rossum had the car treated to a complete 'last nut and bolt' restoration to concours standards, albeit at a relaxed tempo. The colour was changed to the current beautiful dark blue while the interior was completely re-upholstered in burgundy – a most handsome colour combination. This XK120 went to various different restorers because it was never 'good enough'; the owner being perfectionist wanted to have the best of the best – an approach that has its price and is time consuming. It is for that reason that it took him so long to get the car finished.
In 2012, the Jaguar was registered again for road use, though Mr van Rossum hardly drove it. Three years and a few kilometres later, in 2015, he decided to sell the car to the current owner. The latter advises us that the XK has been driven only some 3,000 kilometres since the restoration's completion in 2012. According to him, the car is still in the same concours condition as when it finished restoration. It still presents beautifully and is said by the vendor to be mechanically in top condition. Offered with a Jaguar Heritage Trust Certificate, this must be one of the best XK120s currently available.
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