The World’s rarest Jaguar is out of hibernation

Consider what you could do in 6,725 hours. You could drive 128,503 laps of Circuit de la Sarthe at world record pace in that time. After which time you would be a little green in the face, but it’s still doable. Or, if you’d like to spend those 6,725 hours at a more sedate pace, you could restore the one-of-one Jaguar XK120 by Pininfarina to its former glory. Well, the team at Classic Motor Cars (CMC) could. And they did.

You may have heard of this car off the back of its win at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the O-2 Postwar Closed Class, or maybe you remember this car from when it was launched in 1955. Or maybe you saw it at the London Classic Car Show for the first time and wanted to know more, so here’s what it took to bring the Jaguar XK120 by Pininfarina back to life.

The car in question started life as a Jaguar XK120 SE built in 1954 for none other than legendary American car importer and the original ‘influencer’ Max Hoffman. Hoffman commissioned Pininfarina to create a custom body for his XK120, which made its official debut at the 1955 Autocar show and took the motoring community by surprise. The striking design on top of one of the most exciting drivetrains of the day was a hard package to ignore. The defined and muscular lines crafted by the Italian carrozzeria bought a continental twist to a stern, British icon.

As was customary for new coachbuilt cars of the day this XK was booked to be paraded around the show circuit for all to see. So keen was Hoffman to take delivery of the XK120 that it soon made it’s way back to Hoffman’s garage, missing an appointment at the Turin Motorshow in 1956. The car was never heard from again for over 20 years. 

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1954 Jaguar Xk120 Se By Pininfarina @ Pebble Beach Concours 2017 Classic Motor Cars Ph Wouter Melissen

According to records the next time this car surfaced was in 1978 when a German buyer purchased this car from the U.S.A with the goal of restoring it. Once again the car fell away from the limelight until UK based Classic Motor Cars purchased it from Germany with a view to bringing it back to its former glory. And what happened in the following 6,725 hours is remarkable.

When it came to actually restoring the car there were more than a few challenges. Since the car was a bespoke build finding new or original parts was impossible. Luckily the team at CMC found photos of the car from new and could craft bumpers and chrome sections from hand based off old pictures, but it was far from straightforward. Many of the smaller components like the front and rear lights were custom builds so CMC 3D scanned the front and rear of the car to create some new lights that would fit the body and match the original design.

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Once scanned the necessary parts were 3D printed in-house according to CMC Chairman David Barzilay, who quoted that up to 80 per cent of the chrome trim had to be remanufactured for this car. The restoration was one of the more in-depth projects undertaken on a Jaguar, requiring a full rebuild of the car’s front end, new rear quarter panels, inner arch panels, boot floor, sills, door skins and door cards. It’s getting easier to see where those 6,752 hours were spent.

Due to the car’s condition and previous attempts at restoration CMC were faced with a couple of key challenges – they didn’t know how original interior was trimmed, neither did they know in what colour the exterior was painted. The answer to these questions was found once they had properly gutted the car.  Barzilay said that “There were no signs of the original paint colour until, when the front screen was removed, we discovered a small section of original paint and used it as a colour match” and similarly when they were gutting the interior found a small section of ochre tan leather from the original seating. 

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1954 Jaguar Xk120 Se By Pininfarina Classic Motor Cars Ph Justin Leighton

Once the team knew the final specification of the car it was time to start preparing the bodywork for paint, a job that was taken on by Soda Blasting LTD who also created the mesmerising video of the boot being soda blasted. We recommend you watch this, headphone users beware.

To finish off the XK120 it received a full engine and gearbox rebuild to original specification of 3.4L straight six with C-Type headers and double SU Carburettors, and delivers 180bhp at 5,300rpm. The finished car was delivered to such a standard that it won first place at Pebble Beach, but also won the hearts and minds of all who have seen it on the show circuit, some 62 years after it first appeared to the world.

The Jaguar Enthusiasts' Club is the best place for you to receive bespoke Jaguar content, events and help on our forum. If you’re undertaking a project similar to the team at CMC then we want to hear from you! Similarly if you’re looking for help or advice you can become a member and take advantage of the help and support that the club offers.

Click HERE to become a member of the Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club. 

Words by George Cheetham

Photos by Andrew Coles, Matt Howell & Justin Leighton 

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