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Jaguar XK120 prices may be down, but the car’s intrinsic value remains sky-high

The 1948 British International Motor Show, held from late October to early November at Earls Court in London, was a welcome-back party for the UK’s postwar car industry. The first London show held since the end of World War II, it saw more than 30 British automakers pack the exhibition center with any cars they had to offer, and many of them were brand new designs. Austin showed off its new A90 Atlantic, Aston Martin brought out the 2-Litre Sports, and Alec Issigonis’s Morris Minor burst onto the scene as Britain’s next people’s car. What really stole the show, however, was the Jaguar XK120.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/10/09/jaguar-xk120-prices-may-be-down-but-intrinsic-value-remains-high

“Younger buyers just aren’t wooed enough by the XK’s good looks and heritage to overcome the ridiculous steering-wheel-in-the-chest driving position, the drum brakes, or, most importantly, the massive price tag when there are plenty of vintage sports cars that do everything the Jag does for a fraction of the money.”

I haven’t driven an XK120. An XK150 is as close as I’ve come, and that was about thirty years ago. I did have the opportunity to look at a beater XK120 that was being driven on the street twenty-five years ago. Even by 1994 standards, the ergonomics were incredibly archaic. The difference in driving position between the XK150 I’d been in and the XK120 looked to be dramatic. While the XK120 was a pretty car and a strong performer for its day, it isn’t a car that I want to climb in and drive. I’d rather take my chances running 60 mph in a Stutz Bearcat than 80 mph in an XK120. If a car is basically going to be a static display item, there are other conversation pieces that are more interesting to look at and cheaper.

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Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Most would agree that Jaguars back in the day were rolling pieces of art, as signified by the reception at the Geneva Motor show when unveiled. Both the E Type and XK120 generated so much buzz, they really did steal the show. My 66 E Type drives almost as nice as many modern cars. 0-60 in 7 seconds is not scorching today, but it’s not horrible either. The Ferrari 308 GTB was listed at 0-60 in 9 seconds! I wasn’t even born when the XK120 was new, but I fell in love with the sheer beauty of the car. It doesn’t drive as nice as a 150, since the 150 has a larger cabin, disc brakes, and rack and pinion steering…but it’s not nearly as pretty either .As far as a Stutz bearcat, again different strokes, different folks. With the Jag, you get an engine and gearbox that won the 24 hours of Lemans 5 times, proven through racing. The 120 could cruise all day at 90 mph no problem. It is rolling art.

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The DOHC six debuted in the MarkVll. The Mark V had the pushrod engine.

I hate to burst your bubble since you are clearly an XK120 fan, but your performance quotes seem to be backward. The Ferrari 0-60 is 7 seconds or less. The XK’s time is closer to 10 seconds. Googling and reviewing several sources easily confirms this. That is not to detract from the XK at all.

I am 45 years old and just purchased an early 1950 XK120 in boxes. Started the restoration, it’s my first! I cannot wait to drive it and just admire its looks in the garage. I honestly don’t care about its value because I bought it to drive it and enjoy it. If I was worried about it’s future value, I would have never purchased it, because I honestly believe my generation is not really interested in these post war pieces of art and engineering!

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What a beauty. Sometimes one has to compare a car like this to American sedans of the early 50’s to realize how amazing some of the same era cars from elsewhere were.

TMH,

Read carefully before responding. I said my E TYPE was 0-60 in 7 seconds, not the XK120. The XK120 is 10 seconds to 60.

The Ferrari 308 gtb was 0-60 in the time quoted according to Road and Track magazine. The 308 GTS when it was introduced, was 2 seconds quicker to 60. The Ferrari hp quoted was just a little over 200. The earlier Dino was quicker to 60 with a time comparable to my E TYPE, at 7 seconds.

Sadly, I think you’re right that the next generation has little appreciation for these cars.

Okay, I know this sounds silly, but those exhaust manifolds look like there enamel porcelain coated. Can anyone tell me about that?

They are porcelain coated, and very hard to keep that way. Very prone to cracking and chipping due to different expansion rates between iron and porcelain. Some concours participants actually change them out after each show and replace them with “drivers” until the next show.

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Not entirely true. I’m in my 30s and have a ‘54 xk120 and love it. I do have friends as well that appreciate these cars, but can’t afford the price point yet. Doesn’t mean they won’t get there some day once student loans, house down payments, etc. are behind them.

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I was 7 or 8 years old (mid 1950’s) when my next door neighbor’s son, who was in college at the time, brought home a XK120 in black. Don’t remember whether it was his or he had borrowed it, but I thought that it was the most glorious thing that I had ever seen and I pledged to myself that I would have one someday. I never got the 120, but in 1967 I bought a XK140MC for $200 and drove it for most of my last two years of college. It burned as much oil as gas, leaked like a sieve and looked like it had been painted with a brush, but it still had some serious grunt and was fairly trouble free . By the early 70’s the car’s electrics completely gave up and it needed to be completely rewired. By then I had a wife, kid, house, etc. and I sold it for $1200. Over our almost 50 years of marriage I have had lots of other British cars (Healy’s, MG’s, Land Rovers, etc.), but the Jag is the only one that my wife told me not to sell. She said “I really think we should keep that one” and I said, we can always get another one - guess it’s pretty obvious who was right. I get reminded of it every time we see one at a British car show!

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So maybe this would explain why the folks who built the Jaguar motor car would do these little things that I heard one engineer say on a program regarding these automobiles; " We enjoyed building strange little quirks into our cars, It gave the owners a challenge you know." Really? Porcelain coated exhaust manifolds? Pretty? Well, yes. Stupid? Absolutely! :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Actually quite typical of the era for European cars.

I’m afraid I have to disagree on the roadster versus the coupe beauty. I don’t think there is anything more gorgeous than the “C-pillar” curve on the fixed-head coupe. That, combined with the skirted-rear fender just knock me out…just like my E–Type did 30 years later.
Pity you didn’t show a photo of one.

I am ashamed a bit to tell this one. When I was 20 years old in 1958 I had the good fortune to have 1950 XK 120.
I recalled had a plaque on the dash on passenger side which read in effect brought into country for use by General Motors. I had no clue what this meant then or today,. The car had LeMans exhausts out the back on driver’s side. Drove it a couple of years then went to British Motor Cars in Burlingame CA (it is not longer there) and traded it for a 1957 Mercury convertible with Laker pipes. How smart was that and what are each worth today? I think the Jag wins hands down. I have always wondered where the Jag ended up…

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You hit the nail on the head when it comes to the XK 120. If you have more than a 28” inseam don’t even consider one of these cars if you actually want to drive it. I’ve driven well over 100 vintage and modern cars, and this model still stands out as the car I would least want to drive ever again.

I have a 30 inch inseam and this December 6,2019 I will have owned a 1954 XK120 OTS for fifty years. It is almost a daily driver. In wet weather I get soaked but if it’s not raining or snowing I drive it. Wonderful car but you have to drive the car and cannot daydream. I had an XKE for a while and it was much harder to get into and out. Fabulous car and do not care about the market price.

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I am very fortunate that I had an uncle who was quite a car enthusiast. He came to visit us in the mid 1960s when I was not quite 10, he was in Toronto to look at a car and asked my dad and I to come along. He said he was going to look at a Jaguar.
When the owner pulled it out of the drive shed I could not believe my eyes. The Jag was like nothing I had ever seen. It was a British Racing Green 1951 or 1952 XK120 roadster. There are images that will stick in your mind for your whole life and that is one for me. And the plaque on the dash commemorating the Land Speed record is something I still check every XK120 for.
Uncle Harold managed to collect two more XKs, another 120 that was red and a later 150 that was black. Fond memories that burn bright and had a strong influence on not just me but my children too. My wife and I attended an English car show recently and the show stoppers for us were the XKs there, a 120 Roadster and a phenomenal Coupe. Wish I could post photos.

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