Jaguar XK120

Aluminium Roadster 1950

  • William Lyons' spectacular creation projected Jaguar to the front of the world stage and opened the way to the Le Mans 24 hours.
  • Just after the War, Jaguar produced a surprise with the birth of a sporting roadster with spectacular engineering : a dual overhead cam-shaft engine that could push it to speeds of around 120 miles per hour.
  • Overwhelmed by the number of orders received, Jaguar had to fit the aluminum bodywork by hand on the first two hundred forty roadsters. This engineering test bed became a production model in itself.

Unveiled at the 1948 London Motor Show, its sculpted beauty, incredible performance and price eclipsed all other European automobile production at a time when the industry was struggling to recover from from the war. With its innovative engine and sale price of less than a thousand pounds the XK120 was a true marvel.

William Lyons' ambition was to design a sedan that could be driven at 100 miles per hour. In order to achieve this, the company's founder commissioned a new engine development program that would herald the legendary XK genes - wartime research related to XA, XB, XC, XD, XE studies having remained on the drawing board. The first prototype to be built around 1942-1943 was the 4 cylinder 1360cc XF, followed by the 4 cylinder 1776cc XG, the XH and XI studies, the 4 cylinder 1996cc XJ and finally the 6 cylinder 3181cc XJ.

This latest prototype was the twin brother of the next development, the 3.4 liter 6 cylinder XK, the final stage of the project. Its half-brother, the 4 cylinder XK, became famous in 1948 as the engine of the highly streamlined MG that smashed the rolling kilometer record at Jabbeke with Goldie Gardner behind the wheel, reaching a speed of 176 mph! Quite a publicity coup for a 2 liter, 4 cylinder engine.

In 1947, the new engine and a chassis with independent front wheels was finished. However, problems with the presses at the Pressed Steel Company lead to production delays and the bodywork could not be delivered on time. With the sedan still not ready for the 1948 Motor Show, Lyons decided to modernize the old bodywork of the MK IV and to fit it to the new chassis with an old engine. The result was the MK V, a transitional model.

To be continued...