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SOLD – 1951 Jaguar XK 120 Roadster

  • 1951 Jaguar XK 120 Roadster
  • Period competition history
  • Original RHD UK-market car
  • Mille Miglia eligible

Looking every inch the competition car with its steel disc wheels and aero screens, this Jaguar XK 120 is also immaculate enough to pick up awards at the world’s leading concours.

Chassis number 660647 was built on 29 January 1951, and was fitted with engine number W2873-7, body number F2742, and gearbox number JH 5389. It was finished in Birch Grey with Biscuit and Red interior, plus a French Grey hood, and was first registered on 9 February with the number OUA 456.

It was a UK-market, right-hand-drive SE model, fitted with the C-type specification cylinder head, sand-cast 2in SU carburettors and twin exhausts, and it was also specified with a close-ratio gearbox.

The XK 120 was supplied new via Ian Appleyard in Leeds. Appleyard is one of the most famous names in XK history thanks to his success in international rallying aboard his own XK 120, which has become known by its registration number of NUB 120.

The first owner of OUA 456 was a Mr Holroyd, who owned West Yorkshire Foundry – one of the two foundries that made cylinder heads for Jaguar. The XK 120 took part in the Coronation Year Morecambe National Rally and Concours d’Elegance on 15-17 May 1953, driven by JL Pattinson – presumably on behalf of Mr Holroyd.

Reports suggest that OUA 456 led the event at the end of the first day, before competitors tackled a second day that took them into the Lake District and across the Wrynose Pass. They then returned to Morecambe, where they were treated to a reception and a ball hosted by the town mayor. In the end, Ian Appleyard and his wife Pat – daughter of Jaguar boss William Lyons – took victory, and on the third day they were all entered in the concours d’elegance.

After being owned by a Mr Speakman in Manchester, OUA 456 was acquired by Ken Coffey, a member of the BRDC and Cheshire Car Club, and an active racer for a number of years. Coffey raced the Jaguar at Aintree in 1963, and the following year it passed via WR Phillips & Co to Walter Whitehill.

By 1975, the XK 120 was with a JRB Dersley in Cheshire, who wrote to the DVLA in 1983 to explain that, when he bought the Jaguar, ‘I understood it to have been off the road for a number of years undergoing restoration’.

Mr Dersley apparently intended to complete that work but never did, although the XK remained complete and untouched throughout his custodianship. He retained OUA 456 until 2005, after which its new owner had it fully restored by marque specialists M&C Wilkinson.

The colour had been changed to red in the meantime, so it was resprayed metallic grey, and the engine was rebuilt by Sigma Engineering. The original crankshaft was nitrided, modified con-rods and pistons were fitted, plus an upgraded oil pump. The cylinder head was ported and polished, and the straight-six now gives in the region of 240bhp. With the increase in performance came a front disc-brake conversion, and the original four-speed Moss gearbox has been retained.

Now being offered for sale with the Classic Motor Hub, this Jaguar XK 120 is supplied with an FIA Historic Technical Passport and its original buff log book. The original windscreen, wheel spats and soft-top are also included.

The winner of the Jaguar Trophy at the 2016 Concours of Elegance at Windsor Castle, it is presented in first-class condition and is ready to be enjoyed as a fast road car as well as in the world’s finest historic rallies.

Model history

The Jaguar XK 120 was the sensation of the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show. The new sports car was initially intended as a showcase for Jaguar’s brand-new, 3.4-litre, straight-six engine. It was soon being put into production, though, and its seductive blend of beauty and performance made it an international sales success at a time when exports were vital to British companies.

Three body styles were built before the XK 120 was replaced in 1954 by the XK 140. First came the Open Two-Seater (also known as the Roadster), which was following in 1951 by the fixed-head coupé, and in 1953 by the drophead coupé. At first, the bodywork was constructed from aluminium, but in early 1950 Jaguar began to use steel for most sections of the body.

Although the standard XK 120 produced 160bhp, the SE model upped that to 180bhp. Fitting a C-type head plus larger 2in SU carburettors boosted it even further to 210bhp, and it’s little wonder that owners were racing their XK 120s almost from day one.

At the 1950 Le Mans 24 Hours, the car of Leslie Johnson and Bert Hadley was a late retirement from third position, but their performance helped inspire Jaguar to return in 1951 as a works team with the C-type. This time they won outright, the first of five Jaguar victories at La Sarthe during the 1950s.

There was rally success, too, courtesy of Ian Appleyard and others, and an XK 120 even won in the previously all-American theatre of NASCAR. And then there were the record runs – an average of 107.46mph at Montlhéry in 1950, and 100.31mph for seven days and seven nights at the same venue in 1952.

The darling of racing drivers and Hollywood A-listers alike, the Jaguar XK 120 truly put the marque on the map and formed the foundation on which its legend was built.

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