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Car Tales: Jaguar XK120, The Movie Star's Choice!

‘The Jaguar XKE, the Jaguar XK150…Such defining pieces of automotive art. But of course they had a predecessor: the fabulous Jaguar XK120, manufactured from 1948 to 1954. It was the Jaguar XK120 that established Britain as a maker of great sports cars. By the time XK120 production stopped, a total of 12,064 had been sold, mostly in the United States.
Jaguar XK120 Roadster for sale
‘This sales success in America set Jaguar up as one of the most desirable sports car brands. The XK120 was also the car which firmly established Jaguar as one of motorsport’s greats.

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‘Here at Beverly Hills Car Club we presently have four examples of the XK120 for sale. These include an especially gorgeous 1952 Jaguar XK120 Roadster with matching numbers, in Old English White with a red and tan interior. The vehicle comes equipped with a 4-speed manual transmission, 3.4-liter engine, dual carburetors, side curtains, soft top, tonneau cover, solid wheels, and Jaguar hub caps. It is an excellent vehicle that is ready to be driven and enjoyed, a beautiful color combination British classic that had the same owner since 1974 and is mechanically sound. This car is so great to drive, as all the XK120s are: an extremely capable car, its 3.4 liter straight six engine delivering 160 bhp using those twin SU carburetors.
Clark Gable Jaguar XK120
‘And talking of Beverly Hills, where I am, I am reminded that the XK120 even had a relationship with a famous film actor. Although nowadays not so many people are aware of the movie star Clark Gable and even fewer know of his link to the Jaguar XK120.
‘Gable was one of the most consistent box-office performers in film history, named the seventh-greatest male movie star of classic American cinema by the American Film Institute. For Frank Capra’s wonderful 1934 film It Happened One Night he won the Academy Award for Best Actor; he was nominated twice more, for his role as Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty and for his part as Rhett Butler in 1939’s Gone With the Wind.
‘In 1949 the first production Jaguar XK120, chassis number 670003, was delivered to the dashing Clark Gable. This initial model was an early aluminum-bodied version of the car – Gable had proclaimed he ‘wanted it like a child wants candy.’ The first 242 XK120 cars were wood-framed open 2-seater bodies with aluminum panels. Production switched to the 1cwt heavier all-steel in early 1950. The ‘120‘ in the car’s name was a reference to its top speed of 120mph, at the time the world’s fastest production car.
‘The XK120 had been launched at the 1948 London Motor Show as a show car for the new Jaguar XK engine. Initially it had not been intended to put the XK120 into production. It was simply intended to demonstrate Jaguar’s new XK twin camshaft 3.4 liter 6-cylinder engine, fitted to a shortened version of a new chassis destined for a luxury saloon.
1952 Jaguar XK120 Roadster
‘But at that 1948 Motor Show the two-seater sports car, with its sinuous, sensuous lines – its elegant styling probably influenced by the pre-war BMW 328 Roadster – had a sensational response, blasting away the blues of post-war austerity: Jaguar founder William Lyons was thus spurred to put it into production. It was the first post-war sports car from the marque, succeeding the SS100 which ended production in 1940 with the advent of World War 2.

Driving the XK120:

Alex Manos Driving 1952 Jagaur XK120
‘Almost from its inception, the XK120 had an impressive record in racing. Despite an early collision with an out-of-control Jowett Javelin, it came first in a One-Hour Production Car Race at England’s Silverstone Circuit in August 30 1949. And four months later it came first in its production class at Palm Beach Shores, Florida. Later in 1950 the XK120 won the Alpine Rally, a Coupe des Alpes as well as a Coupe d’Or.
‘In 1951 an additional model, the fixed-head coupe, was produced. This was unique in having roomier saloon car interior appointments, including wind-up side-widows, lockable doors and wood-veneered dashboard. In 1953 a further new model was added, the drophead coupe, which providing the benefits of open-top motoring, but with a quick action hood and luxury appointments.
1952 Jaguar XK120 Roadster interior
‘Clark Gable, meanwhile, had been so happy with his prototype XK120 that while filming in Cornwall in England three years later he took delivery of another, steel-bodied with the chassis number 672282. But having got to know his first car, he requested that Jaguar make changes to better accommodate his requirements.
‘The first of these was a rear-mounted luggage rack. And he also complained of the lack of ventilation for the six-cylinder engine. There was no factory solution but, after much insistence from Gable, a remedy was found: after he brought the new car back to William Lyons, two rows of slots were punched into the bonnet!
‘Incidentally there is a real XK120 model car currently on the roads. Superstar model David Gandy bought a wrecked 1954 Jaguar XK120 that had been found under a Californian bush and restored it to mint condition after 2,700 hours.
What a labor of love!
-Alex Manos, Owner
alex manos jaguar xk120 buyer

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