Jaguar XK120 Restoration

The XK120 was put into production after it caused a sensation as the show car for the new Jaguar XK engine. It became the world’s fastest production car at the time of its launch with Clark Gable claiming the very first one in 1948…

Glamorgan Classic Cars were delighted to be asked to find, import and restore a Jaguar XK120 coupe. The customer specified an early model at a good price.

We used our international networks to unearth the perfect vehicle in Los Angeles.  The Jaguar classic was discovered in an old barn in Orange State – having been put there 50 years earlier after a front wing crash. Our personal contacts in America verified the condition of the car and provided extensive photographic evidence for our customer.

We negotiated a purchase price that delighted our customer and arranged the transatlantic crossing to Felixstowe from Los Angeles.  From Felixstowe the XK120 was transported to our workshop in Penarth (near Cardiff) in a secure trailer.

It felt like Christmas when we, with the customer, opened the trailer to reveal one of the rarest of the iconic XK120 models. Jaguar heritage confirmed its rarity and value, also with matching numbers for its body engine and gear box. This car was only the 7th XK120 hard top to be exported to America – what a find! We rolled up our sleeves with glee and the restoration began.

The engine gear box was removed for a rebuild, all interior seats and lights were carefully stored for restoration. All paint was removed (including the engine bay) and the photographic story for the customer’s documentation began.


The major concerns were the damaged left wing (the reason it was put in the barn!) and significant rust around the head light pods. The chassis however was in excellent condition. The underside of the car was cleaned, the steering and suspension restored and all checked for alignment using our laser equipment.

Unfortunately the boot-lid, although aluminium with no rust (as readers will know the bonnet/boot lid are aluminium) was not original and thus discarded (barring of course any original fittings such as boot catches). A new boot skin was obtained, taken back to bare metal and several hours of expert labour gave it a perfect fit for the boot aperture.

Jaguar XK120 boot

The headlight pods were (at the customer’s instructions) rebuilt with some of our most senior panel makers. Inserts were braised into place, underlined and receive the headlights with perfect gaps.

The left wing was brought back into alignment by an experienced eye and helped by laser measurements. All panels were taken back to bare metal and any rust was removed (which thankfully there was little).

Jaguar XK120 rebuild

Dents were brought back into shape using the most modern pulling and stretching techniques. The doors were fully stripped, hinges repaired for bonnet, doors and boot lid - and the gaps are now near perfect and arguably better than when this car left Jaguar in the 1950’s for its American adventure.

XK120 restoration wing

Although the Jaguar, still in restoration progress, currently stands among seven other rebuilds including Porsche, E-types and a Ferrari, it is already breath-taking.

XK120 rebuild

Within the next few weeks this car will have its first coat of paint (including the engine bay in black) to verify perfect lines and no imperfections. The engine and gear box will be then replaced and top coats follow to bring her back to her original magnificent suede green colour.

Revisit this space to see the photos of the next phase of transformation…