- Jaguar XK120 was a revolutionary sports car.
- For the first time, a sports car had the ride and comfort of a touring car and performance that exceeded all other production cars.
- It was priced relatively low compared to its competitors.
Although Jaguar as a make dates from 1945, the company began in 1922 in Lancashire, England, as the Swallow Sidecar Company founded by Sir William Lyons and William Walmsley. Within five years their success was such that they branched out into automobile body manufacture, creating attractive and luxurious coachwork for popular makes, starting with the Austin Seven. As cars began to take precedence, the “Sidecar” part of the company’s title was dropped and the S.S. I and S.S. II cars were built from 1931 to 1936; all models built from 1936 until WW II were named S.S. Jaguar.
When production resumed in 1945, the company name became Jaguar Cars Ltd. and all cars leaving the Jaguar works subsequently were named “Jaguar.” Late in 1948, the XK120 was announced. The first XK120s were open two-seaters, but fixed-head (coupe) and drophead coupe (convertible) models were soon introduced. Generally priced between $3,000 and $4,000, the XK120 brought luxury to sports car motoring and was the first quantity-produced car to be fitted with a twin overhead camshaft engine. The in-line 6-cylinder engine was designed and built by Jaguar in collaboration with Harry Weslake. In 1949, one of the first production models was officially timed in a series of runs covering a “flying mile” at 132.6 mph.
The Jaguar XK120 was a revolutionary sports car not because it contained any spectacularly original advances in technology or coachwork, but because of what the XK120 achieved. For the first time ever, touring car standards of ride and comfort had been incorporated in a sports car and its performance exceeded virtually any other production car. It was also priced so relatively low that it was incomprehensible to most of Jaguar’s rivals.