1948–1954 Jaguar XK120 roadster
The Jaguar XK120 is a sports car manufactured by Jaguar between 1948 and 1954. It was Jaguar’s first sports car since the SS 100, which ceased production in 1940.
The XK120 was launched in open two-seater or (US) roadster form at the 1948 London Motor Show as a testbed and show car for the new Jaguar XK engine. The display car was the first prototype, chassis number 660001. It looked almost identical to the production cars except that the straight outer pillars of its windscreen would be curved on the production version. The roadster caused a sensation, which persuaded Jaguar founder and design boss William Lyons to put it into production.
Beginning in 1948, the first 242 cars wore wood-framed open 2-seater bodies with aluminium panels. Production switched to the 1cwt or 112 lb (51 kg) heavier all-steel in early 1950. The “120” in the name referred to the aluminium car’s 120 mph (193 km/h) top speed (faster with the windscreen removed), which made it the world’s fastest production car at the time of its launch. In 1949 the first production roadster, chassis number 670003, was delivered to Clark Gable.
The XK120 was ultimately available in two open versions, first as an open 2-seater described in the US market as the roadster (and designated OTS, for open two-seater, outside America), then also as a drop head coupé (DHC) from 1953; and also as a closed, or fixed head coupé (FHC) from 1951.
A smaller-engined version with a 2-litre 4 cylinder engine, designated the XK100, intended for the UK market was cancelled prior to production.
On 30 May 1949, on the empty Ostend-Jabbeke motorway in Belgium, a prototype XK120 timed by the officials of the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium achieved an average of runs in opposing directions of 132.6 mph with the windscreen replaced by just one small aero screen and a catalogued alternative top gear ratio and 135 mph with a passenger-side tonneau cover in place. In 1950 and 1951, at a banked oval track in France, XK120 roadsters averaged over 100 mph for 24 hours and over 130 mph for an hour, and in 1952 a fixed-head coupé took numerous world records for speed and distance when it averaged 100 mph for a week.
Roadsters were also successful in racing and rallying.