In 1948 at the London Motor Show, Jaguar unleashed the first of the Legendary Cats. The XK120 sports car set the world alight. It was one of the fastest non-supercharged production cars in the world, with a top speed in excess of 120 m.p.h.
The car was designed by Sir William Lyons and developed by Jaguar's Chief Engineer, William Heynes. It was a total departure from the popular prewar SS series. The all new, advanced 6-cylinder, dual overhead cam engine was a masterpiece of engineering. It had an aluminum hemi-head design. The first engines had placed 3.4 liters and produced 180 h.p. A variation of this engine has been used in the production in all 6-cylinder Jaguars through the current models, resulting in year production run!
The first 200 XK120 cars were constructed of aluminum. Production was changed to pressed steel due the strong demand. The XK120 become an instant classic with its advanced flowing lines and high performance.
There was no doubt this car was made for speed. The fenders swept into a dip at the rear of the door, up over the wheels and terminating in a softly rounded oval.
In 1951 a Jaguar XK120 won the LeMans 24 hour race, being the first British car to win since 1935. Race prepared Jaguars set impressive racing records and attracted many of the great names in racing, such a Sterling Moss and Phil Hill.
The XK120 fixed head coupe was introduced in 1951. It was more luxurious than the roadster, having a walnut dash and interior trim. At this time nearly all XK120 production was committed to America. Demand greatly exceeded the supply.
The similar XK120 was introduced in October 1954 London Earls Court Motor Show. Many improvements developed as a result of Jaguars racing program were incorporated in the new version. The brake horsepower was increased to 190 pushing the top speed over 130 m.p.h. The outward design changed only slightly. The most noticeable changes were the massive front and rear bumpers for the American market, and the grill. A thin chrome strip was added to the center of the hood. Rack and pinion steering was added as a Borg-Warner automatic transmission.
A year later as a result of the Jaguar Racing program the brake horsepower was again increased to 210, and the top speed was over 140 m.ph.
In May of 1957, the XK150 was introduced. It was fatter and heavier in appearance in order to appeal to American tastes. The two piece "V" design windshield was replaced by one piece curve design. The flowing sculptured sides were replaced by slab sides without the trademark dip. The bumpers and grill were even more massive. The horsepower in the optional XK150's was increased to 250 h.p. to accommodate the added weight.
The end of the era came in 1961 when an all new Jaguar, the XKE series, was introduced. History records that the XK120 production run lasted 6 years and with a total of 12,000 cars. The XK140 was produced was produced for 2 years and 8,900 units were built. During the 4 years of production for the XK150, only 7,900 units were produced.
Currently, the XK120, XK140, and XK150 series are very popular, both in the U.S. and Europe. They are considered one of the best classic sports cars ever produced and as such have and will most likely continue to increase in value. The current price ranges from $12,000 for a restorable example to over $50,000 for a showcar. The variation in prices reflect the particular model as well as the original condition of the car.