Jaguar XK 120
Some history & technical specifications
Jaguar XK 120 Setting a new design and performance benchmark
Richard Spiegelman photo / Jaguar courtesy of Bill Hay
was an awesome sight, rotating on a tilted platform at
the 1948 London Motor Show in Earls Court. Lean, lithe
and sensuous, its finely crafted grille, delicately tapered
hood, and long thrusting fenders were penned by William
Lyons. It marked a departure, a clean break from sports
cars of the past. This new 1949 XK120 Jaguar roadster
from Jaguar Cars Ltd., had the advanced mechanical credentials
and outstanding performance to match its stunning beauty.
It was a far cry from the motorcycle side-cars that William
Lyons and William Walmsley began building in their Blackpool
garage in 1922.
and Walmsley progressed to stylish custom bodies for such
cars as Austins and Morrises, and in 1931, incorporated
in Coventry as the Swallow Coachbuilding Co. It was changed
to S.S Cars Ltd. in 1934.
built its first car that year, using running gear from
the Standard Motor Co. with which it developed a long
relationship. The S.S.1’s low, elegant lines that
made its contemporaries look tall and ungainly became
a defining characteristic of the company.
the 1930s S.S. built several stylish models, including
the classic S.S.100 sports car, and introduced the Jaguar
name in 1936 on a handsome sedan. S.S. cars offered style
and performance beyond their moderate prices. Following
the Second World War, now as Jaguar Cars Ltd., it produced
sedans of pre-war design until 1948. In late 1948 it introduced
the new XK120.
the war Jaguar had decided to replace its Standard engines
with its own design, and the XK120’s was the result.
It was originally intended to power the luxurious 1951
Jaguar Mark VII. The XK roadster was to be merely a test
bed for the new powerplant, but what a test bed it turned
out to be!
chief engineer William Heynes designed a 3.4 litre inline
six capped by chain-driven twin overhead camshafts. Its
robust crankshaft rotated in seven main bearings, and
in spite of a relatively long stroke, its 160 horsepower
came at a lofty 5200 rpm. The big six would prove itself
on the road and in competition, and would live basically
unchanged for some four decades.
demonstrate that the XK was not just a boulevardier, a
roadster was taken to Belgium’s famous Jabbeke highway.
With the windshield removed and a bellypan and tonneau
cover fitted, it reached a stock car record 213 km/h (132.6
mph). In standard form it topped 203 km/h (126 mph). So
the XK was fast, but would it last? The answer came in
competition and closed track feats. A three-car team of
competition XK120C Jaguars was entered in the 1951 LeMans
24-hour race. One triumphed, starting a run of five LeMans
wins in seven years. In 1952 a Jaguar coupe averaged 160
km/h (100.13 mph) for seven days and nights at France’s
Montlhery racetrack. The Jaguar was indeed more than a
watershed XK120 Jaguar sports car laid the foundation for
the mystique and reverence the Jaguar name still enjoys.
Jaguar XK 120
@ 5200 rpm
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