Anyone familiar with Jaguars will undoubtedly notice that the letter X dominates the names of many the models. Visit any dealership today and you will find XFs, XJs, and XK Coupes, and go back in time you will find many more X-dominated model numbers. Obviously this letter of the alphabet carries some strong meaning to Jaguar fans. We visited our Local Philadelphia dealership – Reedman Jaguar and asked why. They quickly pointed out that the X designation harkens back to just after WWII when Jaguar released the famous Jaguar XK120.
The Jaguar XK120 is a sports car that was manufactured between 1948 and 1954 by Jaguar Motor Cars, Limited, Coventry, England. It was launched at the 1948 London Motor Show as a roadster concept car and was outfitted with Jaguar’s brand new twin-overhead cam, 6 cylinder XK engine. As auto journalists wrote at the time, it caused a sensation at the show, the result of which was that William Lyons, Jaguar’s founder and chief designer, put it into immediate production. A little known fact is that the “120” in the name actually referred to the fact that the XK120 could reach a top speed of 120 MPH which made it the world’s fastest standard production car at the time of its release. In fact, in 1950 at the Autodrome de Montlhéry in France, XK120 roadsters averaged over 100 mph for over 24 hours. This cemented Jaguar’s reputation as building a true racecar for the first time.
The XK120 was initially available in just as a roadster (often referred to as the OTS or open two-seat roadster) but was followed up with a hardtop (or FHC, fixed head coupe) in 1951. The first 242 cars, all roadsters hand-built between late 1948 and early 1950, had aluminium bodies on actuall wooden ash frames (this was not uncommon at the time among British automobiles). Beginning with the 1950 model year, body panels switched to metal but the cars retained aluminum doors, bonnets and boot lids.
The Jaguar XK engine was a marvel of design for the time. With an aluminum alloy cylinder head and twin side-draft carburetors, the twin overhead-cam straight 6 engine pumped out 160 HP. In addition, all XK120s had independent torsion bar front suspensions, rear leaf springs, smooth, recirculating ball steering and large 12 inch drum brakes.
Today Jaguar XK120 automobiles carry considerable worth in the collectible car market. Fully restored versions consistently top $100,000 and are generally easy to sell as the supply is limited with just 12,005 built between 1949 and 1954. For everything you need to know about new or old Jaguar models, contact RT Jaguar. They can help you understand the history of Jaguar, and a whole lot more.