JAGUAR XK120: THE RE­MARK­ABLE HIS­TORY OF JWK 651

New Zealand Classic Car - - Automobilia -

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.

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