A very special Jaguar XK120

A very special Jaguar XK120

Another find at the British Motor Museum at Gaydon, was this lovely 1950s Jaguar XK120. The XK120 on its own is quite a desirable car, and on first inspection this particular example was a bit rough around the edges but nevertheless important enough to warrant a place in this collection. This car is part of the Jaguar Heritage Trust Collection and according to it’s history, was the car that established Jaguar’s motorsport credentials. Big words for a rough looking XK, so what’s so important about it?

The XK120 was successful in many different forms of motorsport, particularly production car races and timed rallying. The XK120 here, NUB 120 was by far the most successful. This was by no means a factory supported works team, but was instead privately owned and campaigned by Ian Appleyard and his wife Patricia, who happened to be William Lyons’ daughter – her job being that of navigator. Sir William Lyons being co-founder of the Swallow Sidecar Company – along with William Walmsley – which later became Jaguar.

In 1950, the couple entered the Alpine Rally and won the coveted Coupe des Alpes. The following year they repeated this success once again in the Alpine Rally, followed by triumphs in the RAC rally, and the elusive Tulip Rally adding to their impressive tally.

Despite unfortunately not winning in the Alpine Rally in 1952, they earned a very impressive Gold Cup for the car, which was rewarded for completing three consecutive rallies without incurring a single penalty point! I’ve never heard of another car achieving this. That is mighty impressive for any team, especially a private outfit.

As with all XK120s, the secret of their success, both as a road car and more importantly in competition, was its extremely rugged chassis, coupled with impressive reliability of the twin-cam engine. These features coupled with the lightweight alloy body made it fast and manoeuvrable. The slight downside to the car was a weak brake package. This lead to heavy brake wear, and susceptibility to brake fade. This is where the brakes become too hot to work effectively, resulting in the stopping power “fading” over time. This, according to the history, was almost the undoing of the Appleyard couple on many occasions! I can imagine, I’ve had the odd heart stopping moment when your stopping power isn’t quite as immediate as you expected. 

After an impressive run like this ended in 1953, NUB 120 came back to into the hands of Jaguar and has been with the heritage collection since that day. Mr. Appleyard replaced it with a brand new XK120 – and why not? The registration was particularly apt, RUB 120.

If you’re ever in the area, the British Motor Museum at Gaydon is an excellent visit – I highly recommend it as well as a wander around the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Collection which is housed in the building opposite – included in the ticket price.

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