65 YEARS OF JAGUAR GT CARS
Exactly 65 years ago, Jaguar launched the fixed-head coupŽ version of its XK120. It kickstarted a long line of tin-top grand tourers that continue to thrill through to this day
How the XK120 FHC started a coupé legacy that still thrills to this day.
Despite its origins dating back to 1922 (when it was co-founded as the Swallow Sidecar Company by William
Lyons), Jaguar as a marque only came into existence in 1945. It took its name from the firm’s SS Jaguars of the 1930s. However, the letters ‘SS’ were far from desirable in the wake of World War II, so Lyons tactfully decided the Jaguar moniker was ‘distinct and cannot be connected or confused with any similar foreign name’.
Even though it was a fledgling compared with most British carmakers, Jaguar grabbed big headlines for itself with the XK120 of 1948. Originally intended as a showcase for Jaguar’s new XK engine, such was the public reaction to the exotic and utterly beautiful new sports car that it went into production, albeit only as a rather basic two-door convertible. But there had always been a tradition with the company of enclosed cars that were just as exhilarating and stylish as the al fresco ones. This had been evident with the gorgeous SS100 coupé prototype of 1938, magicked up as a retort to Bugatti’s Atalante.
Thus, in 1951, the XK120 coupé was launched, its tin-top incorporating what would become the Jaguar trademark of a C-curve in the rear side windows. The coupé offered refinement, comfort and quietness over the open cars, as well as an extra level of security. It appealed to those who wanted something more than just frenetic fun on dry days and that wouldn’t let in the damp and draughts.
Since then, coupés have always featured alongside Jaguar convertibles, satisfying a different type of Jaguar customer and sometimes, as with the XJ-S, the coupés were there long before the soft-tops. And they’ve proved just as important in the Jaguar success story as the attention-seeking hair-blowers, even the E-type.