Duncan Hamilton was one of Britain's foremost racing drivers and his racing autobiography 'Touch Wood!' became a classic publication. The larger-than-life Hamilton drove Formula One and Two Grand Prix cars for Lago-Talbot, Maserati, HWM and Gordini, and "works" sports cars for Jaguar and Ferrari. His company, which sells elite sports cars (the company has sold more than 60 genuine F1 cars plus thousands of roadgoing exoticars of the highest ilk) has been in operation for over 50 years, and operates to an equally elite clientele. This week the company has a very original Jaguar XK120 Roadster for sale—the XK120 debuted as a concept and test bed car at the 1948 London Motor Show as a test bed and show vehicle to highlight the new Jaguar XK engine. The car caused a sensation, which persuaded William Lyons to put it into production as a standard model. The first 240 cars manufactured had hand built aluminum bodies on an ash frame before moving to mass production in order to meet the demand—the production version had a steel pressed body with alloy doors, bonnet, and trunk skin. The car on offer is as original today as when it the sixth steel body XK120 off the production line, and comes with a full history. See inside for some great period imagery of the XK120 and siblings.
This is without doubt one of the most original XK120 Roadsters in existence and is very rare in every respect. The car drives beautifully and has been maintained superbly and is well known to Hamiltons.
The Jaguar XK120 was manufactured between 1949 and 1954. It was the first post-war sports car from the marque, succeeding the SS100 which ended production in 1940 with the start of WW2. The XK120 was launched at the 1948 London Motor Show as a test bed and show vehicle to highlight the new Jaguar XK engine.
The first cars manufactured in 1948 and 1949 had hand built aluminum bodies on an ash frame. Jaguar built 240 of these alloy bodied cars prior to moving to a more mass production XK120 in order to meet the demand for this popular model. With the 1950 model year a production version had a steel pressed body with alloy doors, bonnet, and trunk skin. Other features included torsion bar front suspension, and a removable windscreen.
Power came from a dual overhead cam 3.4 L straight-6 engine, Jaguar's famous XK engine. With an alloy cylinder head and twin side draft SU carburetors, the XK engine was very advanced for a mass produced unit, developing 160 bhp with the standard 8:1 compression ratio. This same basic design of the XK engine was used in 3.8L and 4.2L versions into the late 1980s.
The XK120 name referred to the vehicle's impressive 120 mph (193 km/h) top speed—even faster with the windscreen removed—and at the time of its launch it was the world's fastest standard production car. It was available as a coupe (FHC or Fixed Head Coupe, introduced in 1951), convertible (DHC or Drop Head Coupe, 1953), or the original roadster (OTS or Open Top Sports).
The Roadster had a very light weight canvas top and removable side curtains screwed to the doors, which had no external handle—to open them you reached through the screen to pull a cord on the inside. The DHC or Drop Head Coupe had a padded top and roll up windows. Both the FHC and DHC had an elegant wood veneer dash, whereas the roadster's was leather. All models were manufactured with spats to cover the back wheel arch which enhanced the streamlined look, but when optional (from 1951) wire wheels were fitted, the spats had to be removed to make room for the hub spinners.
Traffic indicators were not installed in the roadster (the cut away doors were considered ideal for hand signals) but when the FHC was introduced it included a minimalist system operated by a lever in the centre of the steering wheel which caused the side and brake lights to blink intermittently. Many cars were later updated to the superior XK140 spec, with separate amber lights situated above the front bumpers.
Duncan Hamilton's discreet 12 acre operation is based in specialist premises deep in the heart of rural Hampshire, 40 miles from Central London, easily accessible from both London Heathrow and Gatwick Airports. The company maintains a permanent helicopter landing site guaranteeing maximum convenience and security for all its clients.