JAGUAR XK120: THE REMARKABLE HISTORY OF JWK 651
Having established its excellent Scrapbooks and Great Cars, Porter Press has now embarked on a new series of books, with the overall title of Exceptional Cars. This is the second volume in the series, following a book on a competition Iso Bizzarrini. It focuses on one of the six aluminium-bodied XK120S that were prepared for competition use in 1950, and sold to private owners while benefitting from factory support. JWK 651 has an amazing history, especially compared with today’s very specialized racing cars. Not only was it one of the first three XK120S to compete at Le Mans, but it raced in the Mille Miglia (twice), the Tourist Trophy, and set long-distance records at Montlhéry. As if that’s not enough, this versatile car also took part in the 1952 RAC Rally of Great Britain, and only missed a podium finish because of a minor technical matter! In the hands of owner, Leslie Johnson, and various co-drivers, such as Bert Hadley and Jaguar racing mechanic, John Lea, this particular car didn’t take any major victories, but it always performed with distinction as an essentially production sports car, as shown by an impressive fifth place in the gruelling Mille Miglia in 1950, behind three Ferraris and an Alfa Romeo! In addition to covering all these events and the drivers involved, the book summarizes the competition history of the other five cars (one of which was the Appleyards’ famous Alpine Rally– winning NUB 120) before looking at JWK 651’s later life and owners, up to today. Although various modifications were made over the years, the car is now in absolutely superb condition and is exactly to the specification in which it raced at Le Mans 67 years ago. The 12-page photo gallery at the end of the book shows how beautifully it has been restored. With 128 large pages in landscape format, and the usual excellent photo selection expected from Porter Press (such as JWK 651 accelerating hard up the Mulsanne Straight, past tree trunks protected by a band of white paint!), this is another series that looks set to provide enthusiasts with plenty of great reading.
Review by Mark Holman Published 2017 by Porter Press International, who supplied the review copy. ISBN 978-1-907085-56-7. Available from Octane Books Chas Parker and Philip Porter.