Driven - - The Last Word -

It was Jaguar’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary straight-six XK en­gine that put the Bri­tish mar­que on the map seventy years ago. This in­ge­nious piece of auto en­gi­neer­ing made its de­but in an all-new sports car, the XK120, which also served as test-bed for the pow­er­plant. Re­vealed at the 1948 Lon­don Mo­tor Show, the XK120 road­ster caused such a sen­sa­tion that it was promptly put into pro­duc­tion.

The “120” in its name re­ferred to the alu­minium-bod­ied car’s top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h) which made it the world’s fastest pro­duc­tion car at the time, and the first pro­duc­tion road­ster, chas­sis num­ber 670003, went to Clark Gable in 1949.

The XK120 also pioneered Jaguar’s mo­tor­sport in­volve­ment when a pro­to­type (with a small screen in place of the wind­screen) achieved an av­er­age speed of 213.4 km/h in op­po­site runs on the empty Os­tend-Jabbeke high­way in Bel­gium, and 217.2 km/h with a pas­sen­ger-side cover in place.

In 1950 and 1951, at the banked Li­nasMontl­héry oval track in France, XK120 road­sters av­er­aged over 160 km/h for 24 hours and nearly 210 km/h for an hour, and a year later, a coupé took nu­mer­ous world records for speed and dis­tance, av­er­ag­ing 160 km/h for a week.

The dual over­head-cam XK, with al­loy cylin­der head, hemi­spher­i­cal com­bus­tion cham­bers and twin side-draft SU car­bu­ret­tors, de­vel­oped nearly 120 kW in its orig­i­nal 3.4-litre form, but was later mod­i­fied into 3.8- and 4.2-litre ver­sions, which sur­vived into the late 1980s.

The XK en­gine was also used in the C-Type, win­ning at Le Mans in 1951, and the D-Type, that dom­i­nated the iconic long-dis­tance race for three years, and to this day re­mains one of the most suc­cess­ful rac­ing cars ever built. Jaguar again won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1988 with the XJR-9, and (un­suc­cess­fully) raced in For­mula One from 2000 to 2004.

In­spired by this long rac­ing her­itage, Jaguar Rac­ing now com­petes in For­mula E for a third sea­son with its all-elec­tric fu­tur­is­tic-look­ing I-Type 3 with a driv­e­train that can pro­duce up to 250 kW of power. Much of the tech­nol­ogy in the I-Type has been in­cor­po­rated in the re­cently re­leased Jaguar I-Pace.

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