The first Jaguar was manufactured in 1935 by William Lyons who, in 1922, started to build motorcycle sidecars.
Lyons started building cars in 1927 and as they improved, he apparently thought he needed a spiffier name to better reflect style, sleekness, speed, agility and power than the Swallow Side Car Company. He named his car company Jaguar.
The original plan in 1948 was to build between 100 and 200 XK 120 prototype vehicles to demonstrate Jaguar's new 160-HP, 210 c.i., twin overhead cam inline-six engine capable of speeds of at least 120 mph, hence the 120 model designation. The engine was to be used in future sedans. However the public reaction was so great for the roadster the company changed plans and built more than 12,000 XK 120 models instead of the sedans.
"The XK 120 series started in 1948 and went through 1954," owner John Anderson said. "The 'M' stands for modified by the factory as it was the last model of the XK 120 series."
When new, an XK 120 sold for $3,940 or about $33,650 in today's dollars. Anderson said it was the fastest production car in the world in 1954 and able to reach a speed of 141.51 mph.
At age 14, Anderson acquired this XK 120-M.
"We were living outside of Hartford, Conn., and I wanted a sports car." In 1965 he saw a private party ad for this car with the asking price of $500. He pleaded with his dad to look at it. Trying to appease his kid, Anderson's father took him to look.
"It was difficult to find and was in a tough part of town, but there it was. It had been raced and painted British racing green with a brush but it was pretty much all there. I looked inside and saw that steering wheel with the Jaguar emblem on the giant bullet shaped horn. I thought this is the greatest car."
Anderson's father, an IBM (I've Been Moved) engineer was transferred to Philadelphia, and he gave that as the reason Anderson couldn't have the car. But, once there, parental guilt set in.
"My mother said to my father, 'it's too bad you didn't get him the car.' So my father decided to write the owner a letter but offered $275 for the car. Soon the owner called and said to come and get it.
"It was winter in New England with snow on the ground. The car hadn't been moved in months, maybe years. The car had no muffler, no heat, no brakes and a racing clutch. My father found a guy to fix the brakes and told him he would pay him to drive the 200-plus miles in the two-seat Jaguar from Hartford to Philly but he also had to pick up the left behind family collie and bring it with him."
Car and dog made it.
There has been a lot of down time in what turned out to be a great father-son project. Being an engineer, Anderson's father didn't just replace broken or unusable parts; he would figure out the function of the part and a way to correct the deficiency. Anderson has sketches his father made to understand and then correct a wiring system different from the Jaguar design. "The goal," Anderson said, "was to get what we had working." The Jaguar has been restored twice. "First in the 1980s in a two-year project I had the car professionally painted the original color, Old English Cream. The interior was professionally redone with the factory Cherry Red Connolloy Leather which took an additional year.
"I started the second restoration in 1998 as the paint was flaking. The car sat untouched in my buddy's body shop for 18 months or so before I finally found an independent contractor to complete the job for about $5,000."
In 2005, Anderson moved to California. Once in Moraga, Anderson found Ravi Singh, a master mechanic. "The engine was running until about two years ago. Then one day, the car would not idle. I took the car to Ravi who promised to work on the car in his spare time. He took the original engine completely apart and reassembled it over a two-year period at a cost of about $10,000." Anderson just regained possession a few weeks ago and it purrs like a kitten. He plans to drive it at least once a week.
The story of Anderson and his car is like hearing of a rescued pet. He found this car that had been abused and abandoned and adopted it. Like abused animals, his car needed some TLC and he and his father provided that. Today, like the individual who adopted the abused pet, no amount of money could get Anderson to part with this particular 1954 Jaguar XK 120-M.
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com