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Leaping Jaguars! Rare 50s XK150 spotted

2014-09-22 07:54

THEY DON’T MAKE THEM LIKE THEY USED TOO: Jaguar’s glorious XK150 fixed-head coupe - better than cash in the bank. Image: DAVE FALL

DAVE FALL

In my travels I often come across a classic car that excites the senses. This timed I’d been told about a late-model Morgan Trike (the model with a S&S Harley V-twin engine poking out the front) that was for sale at a classic-car dealer in Cape Town*.

Curiosity got the better of me and on a Saturday morning I paid them a visit. The Moggie proved even better in the metal than any newsprint photo could convey.

A casual walk around the ‘man cave of all man caves’ revealed plenty of wonderful cars but the one that really caught my eye was another pristine British desirable, one decidedly far more practical than the Trike - a Jaguar XK150 FHC (fixed-head coupe) from the late 1950’s.

AFFORDABLE CLASSIC JAG

Designed by entrepreneur Williams Lyons, an enthusiastic 20-year-old car addict, who first hit on the idea of car manufacturing in 1922 in Blackpool in the north-west of England.

Knighted for services to the British vehicle industry many years later (1956), Lyons had the happy knack of styling the perfect car, including the pre-war SS100 sports (the first Jaguar to bear his name), as well as the post-war Mk2 range and of course the celebrated E-Type.

This man actually made high-performance cars affordable to enthusiasts around the world.

The XK150 was the culmination of the XK’s, a range that first saw the light of day in 1948 but ran through to 1961 with the 120/140/150 versions. Until the E-type that appeared in 1961) the XK150 was arguably the prettiest of them all.

It looked right from any angle and could be equipped with either a 3.4 or 3.8-litre straight-six twin overhead cam engine capable of 142kW or, in the case of the triple-carburettored ‘S’ version, 198kW.

The coupe had a potential top speed close to 220km/h. That’s amazing performance from a car that’s close to 55-years-young!

Motorsport would play a big part in the financial success of the Jaguar Cars in the 1950’s. It was a good time to go racing at the 24-Hour Race at Le Mans in France for instance, the seminal home of sports-car racing to this very day.

FAVE WITH CELEBS

With victories in XK-powered C and D-Types, Jaguar won Le Mans in 1951, 1953, 1955, 1956, and once again in 1957 – an embossed badge on the boot lid on every XK150 built attests to this winning credential.

Celebrities of the day also loved the Jaguar XK150, including British F1 champion Mike Hawthorn who owned one of the first to come off the Coventry production line, just before his untimely death in 1959 in his souped-up Mk2.

Actress Anita Ekberg adored hers and I well remember as a youngster seeing that raffish, British-to-the-core film actor Terry Thomas driving along in his XK150 as he sped through Hyde Park in London. The hallmark 15cm-long cigarette holder gave away his identity, along with that signature toothy grin!

*Check out www.crossley-webb.comto discover its latest stock of classic cars for sale (most from a bygone era, alas), at their Cape Town showrooms.

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