Tuesday, 28 April 2015

XK120 Supersonic

Words & photos: Daniel Bevis

This sublime 1954 Jaguar works on a number of levels. For those with little knowledge of cars, they'll see it simply as something beautiful, in a sort of retro-futuristic Jetsons sense. Those with a little motoring savvy may glimpse it from afar and assume it's a Ghia-bodied Fiat 8V Supersonic. Jaguar aficionados with a fondness for the XK120 seem fairly evenly split between rapturous admiration and astonished horror. You see, this is a really quite unusual Jaguar.

One of a very small number of XK120 chassis that were sent to specialised coachbuilders, just three of these cars were bodied by Carrozzeria Ghia, using the torpedo-like 'Supersonic' design first seen on a 1953 Alfa Romeo 1900 and subsequently a number of Fiat 8Vs. While Ghia dealt with the coachwork, the engine was sent to Conrero who replaced the twin SU carbs with triple Webers, adding a little extra bite to match the silky, refined bark of the freshly-hammered curves.
This blue example was one of two ordered by a Monsieur Malpelli, a Lyonnaise businessman, via Jaguar's French importer in Royal Elysées, Paris. The other car, finished in red, caused no small amount of consternation at Jaguar when it appeared under the Parisian registration number '69 BJ 75', which they saw as having inappropriate sexual overtones - they insisted it be changed. Of course, anyone with any sense would counter this with a wry grin and say 'Why, Jaguar, whatever do you mean...?'

These concerns of overt sexuality were probably misplaced if the prudish Jag bosses were only focusing on the number plates. I mean, look at the thing - with those sumptuous curves, slinky hips, pert haunches and glistening lips, has there ever been a sexier Jaguar?

Spotted at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed - click here for more photos

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