A Jaguar XK120 was once the fastest car in the world!

Many years ago 0-100km/h did not matter all that much. It was about brand identity, rebuilding image, and being the best. The Jaguar XJ120 is the embodiment of such an era.

The XK120 was assigned to this Jag, “XK” marking the newest engine technology from Jaguar, and “120” representing its speed in miles per hour. Production started in 1948 and ended in 1954, with the first 242 wearing a wooden framed aluminium body, and like many of the classic featuring here on Torquesteer, it had a whole long list of “modern” features, making it the best of the best.

I am not interested in that. What I am interested in is the story behind the story. I am interested in how the managed to not only break, but shatter all other attempts.

Jag XK
The Jag that set the record

The XK that made the run was not exactly “standard” – It had fender covers, the windshield was removed and replaced by a “brooklands” type wind deflector. A tunneau cover reduced turbulence, and an under tray improved aerodynamics.. With the windscreen replaced, speed dropped slightly to a respectable 213 km/h. Claims to whether or not the engine has been fiddled with is quiet, but I would not be surprised.

It held the record for a few years. from 1949 right up to 1953, where it broke it again running an incredible 275km/h in a more streamlined dress. The Latter recordis considered a “stock” car record, and not that of a production car.

Power was made by the Jaguar 3.2l straight 6 twin carb setup for the first couple of years producing roughly 160bhp. The American market had a more powerful setup, running a 180 bhp setup similar to the one above, where the only difference is the high lifting cams, and twin exhaust pipe. This engine technology was used all the way to the 80’s.

Oddly enough, during its first road test where the prototype was borrowed to the clowns who tested it, the 0-100 speed came in at 10 seconds flat – with a fuel consumption of 14.6l/100km. Thirsty.

Jag record holder
The last hoora of the Jaguar XK120

The most impressive part of this car, is that it would be faster today without you having to do any modifications. It was built to run on 80 octane fuel, the English version could run on 70 Octane. Most our regular ol’ cars runs on 93 Octane.

There were cars before this that had a stint at carrying the “Fastest-car-in-the-world” label, but it was achieved by blaming fuel quality, cheating on an even greater extent, and blaming everything on everyone. Whether or not Jag did it too I wouldn’t know.

All I do know is this was a car for the average hard working man. A car that would fit beautifully in the English country side, and a car that has, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful engine notes to ever come from an exhaust.



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Juan Loubser

I am an old fashioned 30 year balding, ham fisted egghead, with a love for mechanical engineering, Victorian era architecture. There was always something about cars, and up to this day I cannot put my finger on it, the easiest way to explain it would be to like it to something you just understand, you get it, you don’t know why or how, but it’s something you've understood all your life. With Torquesteer I have created a couple of Goals. One is to tour the little market town of Todmorden, England in a MG B roadster, and the Second is to do the US route 66 in true american muscle style. Driving a Tesla is also on the list.

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