Jaguar XK120

It’s 1948, and Britain is still rationing food and petrol.

Life is grim and the nation is slowly rebuilding cities devastated by German bombs. We open our newspapers and centre stage at the Earls Court motor show is a slinky sexy Jaguar that looks like it’s landed from another world. The XK120 (so named because it could hit 120 mph) took the world’s breath away and gave us hope, optimism and dreams. Post war Britain looked at the brave new £1,000 Jag and felt more optimistic about the country’s future. Nearly seven decades later and we’re still in love with the first Jaguar to really bring mischief to the showroom carpet. Before 1948 most cars had all the excitement of church pews but the 120’s caddishness attracted Hollywood matinee idols like Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart. Jaguar boss, Sir William Lyons, had built only 240 alloy 120s but demand was so huge that by 1950 the Coventry firm was making them in steel and exporting 80% of production to the US.

Success in racing made the 120 an icon – Le Mans, the Alpine Rally and Mille Miglia – along with a speed record on the Jabbeke Highway in Belgium of 132mph. The new XK with its advanced 3.4 litre straight-six engine became the fastest and most glamorous production car of the day. From 1948 to 1954 Jaguar built 12,078 open and closed XK120s, cementing its reputation as the maker of the world’s most desirable cars and went on to produce the XK 140, 150 and legendary E type. Jaguar’s proper glory days began with the 120 in 1948 and they haven’t looked back since. And its testament to the unburstable engineering of the 120 that Jodie managed to complete the grueling Mille Miglia without a single hiccup. That cast iron and alloy XK engine stayed in production for over forty years powering everything from E-types and Mk 11s to XJ6s and Daimler DS 420s and remains an engineering icon and one of the most reliable and long-lived power plants ever.

But here’s the thing, if you’re clever you can still pick up a 120 for £55k. The very best perfectly restored cars can make £100,000 plus but there are still plenty of usable examples out there for sensible money – even convertibles. Find an older restoration with period patina and you can use and enjoy your XK without worrying about keeping it forensically immaculate. Who wants a concours queen anyway? And history teaches us that landmark Jaguars always hold their value – look at the stratospheric rise of early Series 1 E-Types. The 120 hasn’t exploded in price like the E yet but we believe they’re still an underrated classic and a very safe place to park your money. Look at it this way: if you can still buy the world-famous model that catapulted Jaguar to international fame for the same price as a modern Audi or BMW, the market is out of step with the intrinsic value of this historic automotive legend. And owning such a remarkable piece of British engineering history is infinitely more fun that watching your pension struggle to keep pace with inflation. Life really is too short…



Car Body: Two-door roadster
Production Date: 1948


Displacement: 3,442 cc
Maximum Power: 180bhp at 5500rpm


Top Speed: 193km/h, 120mph
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 9.1 secs