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1953 Jaguar XK120 'Le Mans'

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  • Fabulous tribute to the works Jaguar XK120 Lightweight ‘LT1’, fresh from an extensive restoration

  • Created by the vendor’s father after his campaigning of LT1 in the 60’s made such an impression, he vowed to one day create a tribute 

  • Impressive specification and a must-see car

In 1951, William Lyons was preparing Jaguar’s new C-Type for entry at Le Mans. Doubtful that the completely new automobile would be ready in time for the race, Lyons ordered up three special Works-built XK120s as an insurance policy. The ‘LT’ (an abbreviation of ‘Lightweight’) Jaguar XK120s had a mass 20% lower than that of the road going version. This was achieved with a unique single piece magnesium alloy body. Although the body in silhouette looked like a production XK120, in almost every other respect it was completely different. Instead of the laminated wood frames of the original alloy XK120s, the body was supported by a steel tubular frame anchored on to the chassis. The shell itself was a one piece alloy construction. There was no boot lid aperture nor detachable rear wings. The doors only extended down to floor level and the characteristic ‘alligator’ XK bonnet was replaced with a simple lift out panel. The bonnet was louvred with a leather strap to hold it in place and aero screens instead of a full width windscreen. The cars benefited from  aluminium C-type wheels, an aluminium radiator plus many other weight saving alterations. Only 3 bodies were ever built and sadly, these special XK120s never competed for Jaguar at Le Mans as the new C-type was ready in time. Instead, Charles Hornburg, the famous US West Coast Jaguar importer, spotted them during a visit and LT2 and LT3 were subsequently sold and taken stateside, where Phil Hill masterfully drove one to 3rd overall and a class win in its very first race in August 1951.

Unlike the LT2 and LT3 alloy bodies, the LT1 body was not fitted by Jaguar to a chassis and remained at the factory until 1954, when Bob Berry, Jaguar’s PR manager, fitted it to his own XK120, 660917, reg MWK120. This car, also made in 1951, had left the factory and was then modified and raced by Berry. With the new body, he eventually installed a D-Type engine and four-wheel disc brakes. Berry had a successful amateur racing career and was considered as one of Britain’s up and coming drivers, with three 1st places, four 2nd  and three 3rd places among 23 races in the car in 1954-1955. 

Two brothers, Robin and David Baker were studying engineering at Sheffield University in the early 1960s and subsequently bought LT1 from Bob Berry. The vendor of the car on offer here at Klasiko’s father, also studying engineering at Sheffield at the time, campaigned LT1 with the two brothers in local sprints and races and the car made such an impression on him that he vowed to one day build a tribute to it. LT1 was later famously in the ownership of David Cottingham of DK Engineering twice, spent time in Canada, in the collection of Ralph Lauren and is believed to presently be in a private collection in Japan. 

This particular ‘LT1’ tribute is the result of that 60-year old vow made by the vendor’s father. The aluminium body was sourced in the north of Scotland amongst a large collection of Jaguar parts and projects and was believed to have been built around 40 years ago. An unrestored 1953  XK120 was sourced and its original steel body removed in preparation for a complete body-off restoration. The chassis was sandblasted, primed and painted, all bushes were replaced, the ENV rear axle replaced with a rebuilt Salisbury axle and differential, new rear Koni shock absorbers mounted, the brakes rebuilt with new master and slave cylinders and the new body mounted on the restored chassis. 

A 3.4 engine was overhauled including being rebored with larger pistons (no greater than 40’’ so slightly larger capacity than 3.441cc), the crank reground with new big end and main bearings, a full C-Type head from Guy Broad fitted along with two 2 inch SU Carbs. A new twin stainless steel exhaust and manifold was fitted, new Facet fuel pump, lightweight alloy endurance fuel tank with Le Mans style filler, uprated Lucas starter motor, oil pump, the radiator overhauled with new hoses, the wiring loom replaced with a cut-off switch fitted and Brooklands aero-screens fitted. 

The original 4-speed moss gearbox was retained with standard ratios, as well as the gearbox and the gauges for originality.  A hydraulic clutch with lightened flywheel and an adjustable pedal box with lightweight racing pedals, however, were fitted for an improved driving experience and to accommodate the taller driver -always a problem with the original XK120s.

The wheels were stripped, restored and painted with original Jaguar spinners before being dressed in Blockley tyres and tubes. The leather bucket seats were upholstered in leather with matching door pulls and removable headrests and a bespoke tonneau cover manufactured to give that unmistakable 1950s Jaguar driving experience. True to Bob Berry’s original LT1 the driver’s side headlight has been removed to incorporate an air intake to the SU carbs. To ensure illumination isn’t lost two auxiliary lights have been mounted below that work as headlights.

Having been only driven since its restoration in preparation and for our video shoot and offered for sale due to the sad passing of the vendor’s father before he had the opportunity to truly relive his experience, this wonderfully crafted example is offered with a comprehensive history file including a large collection of LT1 related literature, the current V5C document and Jaguar Heritage Certificate.. A matching weekend leather holdall bag is also included, alongside a copper wheel hammer and a variety of Jaguar tools. 

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