Jaguar hit two of the longest home runs in the history of sports cars. The first being the legendary XK 120 and the second, of course, was that object of everyone’s desire, the E-type. Many people are aware, and I suppose that many people are not, that the XK 120 was initially intended as a kind of a concept car, and William Lyons seriously considered building it with a dual overhead cam four cylinder engine as well, an XK 100. Actually a few of these still exist, the engines, not the cars. But people wanted them, and so the car went very hurridly into production in 1948, and the last ones were built in 1954.
Although it was definitely the car the public wanted, it wasn’t the car Jaguar necessarily wanted to build, because its development time was so short. Later on in 1954 a new model, the XK 140 was introduced. This was the car Jaguar would have built 1n 1948 if time had permitted and it was an all around better car than its predecessor, except possibly on the charisma front. More power and better handling via rack & pinion steering, plus more legroom which was created by moving the engine about three inches forward. That helped the handling too. It added up to a thoroughly improved car of which an interesting Special Equipment model was introduced across the model range of Drop Head Coupe, Fixed Head Coupe and Open Two Seater.
Jaguar established their international reputation thru racing in the 1950’s and in 1951 & 1953 they won the prestigious LeMans 24 hour road race. That car, although based on a lot of stuff right off the factory floor, also had a few trick parts, one of which was a competition cylinder head, and homologation requirements necessitated the production of 100 castings. Well, owing to a clerical error, Jaguar got a thousand.
William Lyons, who was a pretty shrewd marketer in addition to everything else, decided to put ’em on the sports cars and charge more money. This car, built late in 1954, was the 508th LHD open two seater off the line, and it was also fitted with overdrive, one of only about 50 OTS cars so equipped. I glommed onto it about 30 years ago by the simple expedient of trading even up for a chainsaw, probably about the going rate at the time. So my New Years’ Resolution (actually I made it in October) is to get a wiggle on with this car. I figure by the time it’s done in a few years I’ll be fully vested in my Social Security stipend and that ought to be about enough to pay for the gas.
A Happy New Year to you.