This Used To Be The Fastest Car In The World, But Is It Worth Saving Now?

Some of the best gifts in life don’t look like gifts at first. You may have some that keep you up at night, some that eviscerate your bank account, and others that may give you tetanus. This cheap Jaguar XK120 is a fair helping of all three, but if you could manage to get it done, all the coffee in the world wouldn’t be able to bring you off the resulting high. Here’s why.


This 1954 Jaguar XK120 was notable for several reasons when new. First, it was the world’s fastest car when it was launched, with a top speed of 120 mph.

Second, it’s one of the most elegant cars ever made, preceding the ubiquitous and monumentally pretty E-Type, while matching the E’s trademark inline six cylinder wail. However, this particular car is missing that particular aspect of Jag-ness because instead of the dual overhead cam inline six that made Jag famous, this XK has a Ford V8 shoehorned into its narrow engine bay.

It’s also a complete and total project car and needs everything either redone, rebuilt, or restored, although the body doesn’t look like a complete rust pile, despite currently residing in Connecticut. While total restoration may be a daunting task for the regular mechanic with a meager salary, here’s why it might not be such a bad project to take on.


Jaguar prices, especially the extremely early iconic models, are going absolutely stratospheric. Average value, according to Hagerty, for a 1954 Fixed Head Coupe, or FHC as it’s known in Jag circles is more than $77,000.

Obviously, the potential sale price of this car would be hindered by the lack of an original engine, but at a price this affordable for a classic (current bidding is just over $13,000) I’d urge the potential buyer to consider another avenue - don’t sell it and use it for a restomod.


Jaguars, over the years, have retained their heritage with very little in the way of compromise to their styling. (Yes, I’m counting the X-Type as well in that statement.) What I’d do is put a more modern XK8 drivetrain in the car, which is readily available for pennies on the dollar of its original cost, install some modern brakes, overhaul the suspension, and have a modern version of what was once the world’s fastest car.


Here’s an even crazier idea: you could restore just the underpinnings and interior and leave the body in its worn and tatty shape and instantly make Jonathan Ward the most jealous person on the planet.


However, those who don’t really have a knack for engineering and throwing aside the status quo will be glad to hear that you could realistically track down a replacement, period-correct engine, but as the cars were built in relatively small numbers, I’d wager that you’d have to do a lot of across-the-pond shipping for parts that honestly weren’t that great to begin with.


How long would an undertaking like this potentially take? For the average mechanic that’s learning on the go with some garage space and extra cash, it would easily be a multi-year project that would test patience, wrenching skill, and your relationships with any sort of supportive significant other.

It wouldn’t be easy, but in my opinion, it would be beyond worth it in the end.

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About the author

Freddy "Tavarish" Hernandez

Tavarish writes and makes videos about fixing and modifying cars on the internet. Sometimes they actually run.