The Auburn Auction, hosted by Worldwide Auctioneers from September 1 to 3, 2022, is just over a week away. Even as we write this, more and more cars are being added to the auction as final clearances are given, document packages verified, and pinks slips ready to sign over in the event of a successful sale. One of those more recent cars grabbed our attention not because it is the rarest, the most valuable, or even a spectacular restoration. In fact, Lot 648 caught our attention because it is completely and totally unrestored. That car is a 1954 Jaguar XK120 SE Roadster, and even more impressive, it’s still mechanically sound and can be driven day-to-day.
The Jaguar XK120, when it was introduced in 1949, was one of the fastest open top cars of the day, as the 120 in its name was its top speed, 120 MPH. It was also undeniably one of the best looking cars of the period, with the classic “British Roadster” profile in perfect balance: long hood, raked back windscreen, small cabin, and a short tail. This was the era when cars were sold not on what digital features they had, or if they would connect to your smartphone. These cars were designed to exude character, to draw the eye to the gently sloped body line after it left the front fenders, to the small doors before it crested over the rear wheels and trailed off like a teardrop falling from your face.
This XK120 is one of the Special Equipment (SE) models, which is what you would see today listed as a “track pack” for a new car, although in the US at that time, it was referred to as the XK120 M (modified). The SE models gained extra front lights, wire-spoke wheels, and a dual exhaust setup. Another important tidbit about the SE models is that they also replaced the steel hood, trunk lid, and doors with aluminum, as it was no longer rationed for World War 2.
The cabin of the XK120 SE is also a no-nonsense place to be, with a big wheel attached to the front rack-and-pinion steering to let you know exactly what the front was doing, and only four gauges total. Jaguar knew that people were not buying the Roadster to sit about in the city and bumble along at 10 MPH in traffic. The XK120 SE was designed for the British B-road, the twisting, undulating, narrow roads off the motorways that it devoured for breakfast and asked for seconds. It also helped that the SE’s 3.4L XK inline-six engine received 20 more horses than the regular XK120, as it put down 180 HP.
One of the best things about this lot, however, is that under the Jaguar Pastel Green paint, with the exception of wires, hoses, and regular service items like brake pads and oil filters, this car is 100% as it came from the factory. The brakes are the original drum style, not restomodded to discs. The wire wheels are the same ones that left the factory in June of 1954, when this car was built. The engine, apart from gaskets, is still the same unit that was cast nearly 60 years ago.
The reason for this superb upkeep and original equipment is that the car has only had three owners since new, and each has taken all the steps necessary to keep it in running order. Run it has as well, as it has 58,413 original miles on the odometer, which is roughly 1,000 miles a year for what was originally sold as an upgraded XK120 for the gentleman racer. XK120 SE’s were the car of choice for many gentleman racers in the UK through the mid-20th century, with several making a dent in history. One of the most famous examples is when an XK120 FHC was the first imported car to win a NASCAR sanctioned stock road race, the Grand National at Linden Airport, New Jersey. After the race, NASCAR to subsequently banned foreign made cars from the series, a rule still in place today, to prevent being embarrassed by those plucky Brits again.
Another thing that makes this lot enticing is that the original manual, original tool kit, original title, and all original sales paperwork are included. As well, this car, chassis #S675579, has was vetted and certified by the Jaguar-Daimler Historical Trust as an authentic, numbers matching, original equipment car in 2009. This is not a barn find car, nor is it a restored or modified example. This XK120 SE is a mechanically sound, registered, titled, and running example, which unlike some classic cars, won’t have any issues driving the the auction, getting sold, and then being driven to its new home.