The Jaguar XK120 That Raced In Mumbai With Much Success

Images: Makarand Baokar

This Jaguar XK120, chassis # 660798, was imported by a certain John Warden in 1951. On November 26, 1953, the car was sold to Habib Hoosein, the owner of Liberty Cinema. In 1954, the car was raced at the Juhu races, in Bombay, driven by Englishman Peter Heilbron, who won with this car.

Jaguar XK120 Indian Mumbai Nazir Hoosein, Jimmy Tata, London Motor Show 1948
Designed by Jaguar's owner William Lyons, the XK120 caused a sensation at its unveiling

Originally, imported in a shade of cream, the car was repainted British Racing green, and then back to cream in 1978, by Nazir Hoosein, the motorsport legend, who inherited the car from his father on the 16th of July 1968. The car was finally sold to fellow enthusiast Jimmy Tata in 2017.

Unveiled at the same time as the Mark V, the Jaguar XK120 was planned as a stopgap, before the real Mccoy—the Mark VII—was ready for series production. Yet it was the car that not only caused a sensation at the 1948 edition of the London Motor Show, it was also the one that went on to become one of the most legendary Jaguars of all time.

Jaguar XK120 Indian Mumbai Nazir Hoosein, Jimmy Tata, London Motor Show 1948
With its flowing lines and perfect proportions, the Jaguar XK120 is one of the most desirable sports cars from the 1950s

Though Jaguar’s new state-of-the-art engine was ready by 1948, the chassis and body of the new sedan—the car that would be the Mark VII eventually—was not. Two months before the London Motor Show, in 1948, William Lyons decided to unveil his revolutionary new engine in a limited production sports car. Using a shortened chassis of a Mark V, a roadster was rapidly designed and readied for the motor show. The name chosen was XK120 Super Sport, to hint at the potential max speed of 120 mph (193 km/h). A bunch of Jaguar engineers took a XK120 to Jabbeke, in Belgium, where they timed the car at 126mph, or 201 km/h, making it the fastest production car in the world then.

Jaguar XK120 Indian Mumbai Nazir Hoosein, Jimmy Tata, London Motor Show 1948
With the rear wheel covered with spats the car looked more aerodynamic than it really was

The XK120 had every automotive enthusiast drooling. Not only did it have a splendid DOHC 3.4-litre six-cylinder engine powering the car to a max speed of close to 200 km/h (124mph), it also featured an astoundingly sensual, low and flowing shape. With such a charismatic provenance, the car did well both on the road and the racetrack. The XK120 went on to spawn the famous Jaguar C-Type and the D-Type, cars that went on to write the most fascinating pages in the history of Jaguar as a sports car specialist.

Jaguar XK120 Indian Mumbai Nazir Hoosein, Jimmy Tata, London Motor Show 1948
The jaguar's head became the new logo for the carmaker after it had been renamed Jaguar from SS

Though the initial plans were to build just 200 of the XK120, an overwhelming number of orders forced Lyons to redesign the XK120 for series production. The first batch of cars, from 1949, used aluminium for the body, with series production in steel commencing in 1950. Several XK120s made it to India—including one early, and rare, aluminium XK120—and not insignificant numbers survive today. Quite a few of them were raced, as was the car featured here. Not only does it have a fine history, it is also one of the best preserved, with about 35,000 miles on the odometer.

Gautam Sen

Serial concours judge, author, founder-editor of several Indian auto mags, as well as co-conspirator with design greats Marcello Gandini, Tom Tjaarda, and Gérard Godfroy on a few vehicle projects


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