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

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News - WORDS Richard Gunn PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Magic Car Pics/CCW ar­chive

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.

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