's Great British Cars – Jaguar XK120

Mon 10th Sep 2018

Great Britain, great cars. The UK motor industry is respected the world over, and though many of the vehicles are actually owned by foreign manufacturers, there can be no doubting of the fantastic heritage of the British motor.

To celebrate Britain’s famous history is launching a series looking back on some of the most famous vehicles the UK has ever seen.

Jaguar XK120
When the XK120 was introduced to the public at the 1948 London Motor Show, the first person in the queue to purchase one was Hollywood legend, Clark Gable. Reason enough for Jaguar’s beautiful post-war motor to go down into the annals of motoring history.

Did Gable know that the XK120 was only intended to be a limited edition car? Or were Jaguar inspired to send it into full production off the back of their celebrity endorsement? Whatever the truth, it all adds the legend of a British motoring masterpiece.

The truth is that the XK120 was only ever put together in order to showcase Jaguar’s new XK engine. The engineers had tapped on an Mk5 saloon chassis and added an ultra-curvaceous roadster body. It was an instant hit with orders flying out the door.

The XK had two major things going for it. It was fast, very fast, the 120 in its name referring to the 120mph it could achieve. It was also more than affordable compared to other sports cars of the time, Autocar magazine even suggesting it the best value car available at the time.

By the time Clark Gable received chassis number 670003 in 1949, the decision had already been taken by Jaguar founder and Chairman, William Lyons, to put it into full production.

Built in Coventry, the XK120 went on to enjoy a six-year stint on the production line and saw 12,055 built in that time.

During its time at the top, the XK120 went on to be a classic on the race-track, taking its first chequered flag at Silverstone in the Daily Express sponsored On-Hour Production Car race. The Jaguar’s engine performance would see it flirt with podium places as Le Mans and win a host more races before retirement.

Today, the XK120 is in huge demand with collectors, and though average prices range between £60,000 and a £120,000, more recent prices have achieved much more than that.

Years of manufacture: 1948-1954
Price when new: £1,263
Price now: £60,000-£120,000
Engine: 3,442cc 6cyl petrol, 160bhp
Top speed: 120mph