• Chassis # S680947
  • Engine # W9554-8
  • Non-Matching But Original Type Engine
  • Older Restoration Completed By Marque Specialist
  • Former AACA National First Prize Award Recipient
  • Sale Includes, Spare, Air pump, Tools, Restoration Photos, And Available Service Documents
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This car is currently located in: Philadelphia, PA

The Overview

Jaguar’s release of the XK120 in 1948 must have been a tremendous relief to motoring enthusiasts enduring the post-war recovery of the civilian automobile market. Due to both the switch to war effort manufacturing and the bombing campaigns in western Europe, the immediate years following World War 2’s conclusion saw manufacturers ramping up production with models introduced prior to the conflict. It would take several years for all new lineups to be developed making this period a rather bland rehash of the late depression offerings. 

Although Jaguar was very much in the same position producing their 4 and 6 cylinder saloon cars, their latest creation had been a long time coming. Throughout the war, Sir William Lyons’ team of engineers began developing an advanced motor with enough power to stay ahead of the competition for several years. His goals were achieved, and the legendary XK motor was introduced to the public with its hemispherical combustion chamber and dual overhead cams. To house this specular power plant, the company needed an equally spectacular vehicle: enter the XK120. 

Its svelte body and sweeping curves were an immediate hit at the London Motor Show, and public demand for the sports car led to full-scale production not soon after. Early examples featured alloy bodies and are the most sought after as a result. However, the expensive construction meant that steel would be employed for all subsequent vehicles, but these cars would still retain aluminum doors, hood, and trunk lids. 1951 would see the introduction of the Fixed Head Coupe body style and the drophead version followed in 1953. Coinciding with these additions, Jaguar further offered an ‘SE’ option (Special Equipment) that featured a more powerful engine with higher lift camshafts and dual exhausts. 

This 1954 Jaguar XK120 SE Fixed Head Coupe, chassis #S680947,  was completed in Coventry, England in the final year of production before the updated XK140 was released. First and foremost, this example does not retain its original engine, #W9554-8 is an original type motor, but the original engine number according to the JDHT Certificate is W7850-8S. According to the title, the vehicle was initially delivered to a lucky individual in New Jersey and likely purchased through Hoffman in New York. In the 1970s, this XK120 came into the possession of Steve Helms, a Reading Pennsylvania-based English car specialist. Under his care, the Jaguar was fully restored to an incredible standard in 1983/4 which resulted in the vehicle receiving an AACA National First Prize award in 1985 and the medallion displaying this feat still accompanies the car to this day. In 1988, the Jaguar changed hands to the family who has kept the vehicle to this date. We believe this to be a 3 owner XK120.

Photos from the time of the restoration show the car completely stripped down to its base components. The body and chassis were separated and individually dealt with.  Images of the pre-restoration chassis show the state of the mechanicals to be in fair condition, and the reassembled components showed like new after installation. The body is shown to have been stripped down to bare metal and repainted in a fresh coat of white paint while the interior was refinished with parchment leather. 

Since the completion of the project, the car was sparingly driven, and just 1,300 miles have been put on the odometer. At the beginning of the1990s, this Jaguar had been placed within a climate-controlled storage facility and ran occasionally. However, in the past 5-10 years, the XK has remained untouched. 

Today, the age of this restoration is beginning to show, mainly in the paint. Across the body, cracks are appearing, and at some point in the future, a fresh coat should be applied. Luckily, this is the only apparent visual flaw. The totality of the brightwork still shows with great luster from bumper to bumper. Equally, the interior has been barely worn thanks to the limited use over the years and the mild creasing of the seat leather appears as the only evidence of the mileage. The beautiful wood dash is free from cracks or peeling veneer and the gauges are crystal clear. Kept in this state, the vehicle would make for an inviting and usable driver allowing its next owner the type of carefree use afforded by not having to worry about damaging an expensive paint job. 

Recently, the fuel and brake systems received some work in order to return the car to better mechanical condition after sitting for an extended period. We can further report that the XK motor ran strong through a short test. With any car that is fresh out of dormancy, caution should be exhibited when it comes to the various systems tasked with running the car. That being said, the engine bay and components sitting therein appear to be in generally good order. An invoice dated to 2005 from Steve Helms’ shop further outlines the rebuilding of the brake master cylinder, fitting of new wheels, installation of a new starter motor and water hoses, a carburetor rebuild, oil change with new filter, and an engine tune with new spark plugs. Lastly, the Jaguar will arrive with its tools, jack, spare tire, and air pump. 

The XK120 offers one of the best classic motoring experiences money can buy. These Jaguars engage every sense in the most delightful way. The legendary XK motor is sonorous and powerful and the interior’s rich leather and ample wood exude the smell of luxury and quality. Even the 4-speed gearbox provides a satisfying, tactile throw into the gates. Best of all, these tremendous qualities are housed in one of the prettiest automotive bodies ever penned. It is no surprise that these Jaguars have been sought after since their introduction and their desirability will surely never wane. It is no question that a finely restored example like this will be cherished by its next owner. 

The Details

exterior

body and paint

This is the most glaring issue with this example. Since restoration, in the 1980s this car was kept in climate-controlled storage and overall well kept. However, it does show consistent flaws on every panel in the form of checking, cracking, or shrinkage throughout. The value in this offering is that of a well-restored example that is simply in need of an exterior cosmetic refresh, primarily. Overall the panels are straight and the gaps are otherwise acceptable but less than perfect.

glass and trim

The brightwork has all been re-plated during the comprehensive body-off restoration. Today it shows light blemishing that further detailing would likely remedy. Otherwise, the new custodian should factor replating odds and ends as needed. The glass appears to be the correct original throughout with the exception of the windscreen panels which are the only pieces that do not have the correct maker's mark/etching. Otherwise, the car appears complete with all of the correct components present.

wheels

The wheels are the correct wire type and were likely refinished at the time of restoration and remain in good condition, needing only detailing.

notable flaws

interior

seats and surfaces

The interior is overall in excellent condition, reflecting that of a freshly restored example but perhaps with light use or age. The dash fascia still has a nice finish as do the door tops. The carpets, kick panels, door cards, and other trimmed components are in nice condition and appear to be correct. The headliner is excellent and the seats are the correct grain and finish needing only minor detailing to be improved upon. The door jams do show the continuance of cracked/checked paint. Overall though a very well restored interior that needs little if anything to be shown today.

functionality and accessories

Limited testing of various interior systems shows that most systems are working such as the dash lighting, gauges, horn, lights, etc… but the turn signals appear to be nonoperational at this time and the wipers are not functioning properly either. A general review of systems should be completed as items may need further attention. One item that stands out is the high/low beam switch on the floor which appears to be missing its finishing cover and rubber button.

engine bay and trunk

engine bay

The engine bay is reflective of a well-restored example with attention to detail and correctness. There are a handful of incorrect clamps throughout the cooling hoses but other clamps appear to be correct. Some items are polished that maybe should not be but overall the engine bay would take very little to be Concours correct. There is no excessive leaking noted and overall it is very tidy and complete. Further detailing would provide improvement.

trunk area

The trunk area is excellent. Highly correct throughout with all accessories present and in nice restored condition with nothing noteworthy.

notable flaws

The underside reflects that of a car that received a body-off restoration down to details like leather gators on the rear leaf springs. Minor surface oxidation on some components and chipping in the paint in some areas are all that stand out. Minor refinishing on the underside would bring the underside back into Concours status.

mechanicals

engine

After sitting for many years the engine started easily after a recent carburetor rebuild and general inspection. Running strong with no smoke, knocks, or other such issues found from minimal testing. It shows strong oil pressure and holds a steady temperature, makes good power, and is ready for further use and sorting as needed to bring it back into consistent service.

transmission

The 4-speed Moss Box shifts as well as originally designed with definitive gear selection and operating correctly as the clutch was likely replaced during the initial restoration and works well today.

brakes and suspension

The brake hydraulics are all new having recently been rebuilt and are in correct working order needing only minor adjustments as needed as use continues. It should be noted that the brake drums have been polished rather than the correct black finish from the factory. The suspension should likely see new rubber components as needed and will benefit from further use and sorting.

tires

This example currently has Lester 6.00-16 Cross Ply White Wall tires (5). They are undoubtedly too old for consistent road use and replacement is recommended. Though they retain the correct look and style and could be used for shows if desired.

driving experience

This XK120, for a vehicle sitting for many years, post-restoration, runs and drives well for having a simple recommissioning completed. The initial restoration quality comes through in that experience. The car starts, runs, drives, and stops as it should making great power and with further use will only get better.

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