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Road Test Report

Anthony Parkinson commissioned an uprated Jaguar XK120; it pretty much looks the same as the original, and sounds similar on start up, but wow does it go!

Classic Cars Magazine November 2001
Words: David Lillywhite
Photography: Malcolm Griffiths.

Several decades ago, Road & Track magazine's Dick O'Kane wrote that the XK120 is 'a machine to challenge all the gods and poets... sometimes.' If you've ever driven one, you'll understand immediately, because it is surely one of the most beautiful cars ever built. But it often frustrates with overheating, cantankerous gear shifting, poor brakes, and a grotesquely uncomfortable cabin. It's like expecting a gorgeous woman to whisper sweet nothings in your ear, only for her to belch instead.

So ever since, owners, enthusiasts and specialists have fallen over themselves to improve upon the basic design. Sure enough, Jaguar moved the dynamics on in leaps and bounds with the XK140 and 150, but neither came close to the sublime 120 for sheer blood--curdlingly good looks.

This is one of those interpretations on the XK120, it hardly stray from the original design, but there are enough clever, subtle detail changes to improve the driving and ownership pleasure two-fold. It was built in Derbyshire by Jaguar specialist Derek to the order, of Anthony Parkinson, the American behind the famed Vicarage Jaguars of the late Eighties and early Nineties. If you want one the same it will cost You £85,000 plus AT. We'll let Tony explain why lie wanted it that badly.

'I love the XK120 - it's a magnificent, stately looking car,' he says. 'But I wondered how I could get more pleasure from one without making it boy racer, keeping the charm and the elegance but making it as quick and exciting as it looks. I started to build it as a track car, but it turned out to be a) more expensive and b) so nice that it's not a track car any more. It's a car that I could use everyday should l want to.'

And that's true, because this is one accommodating XK. Jump in and the first thing anyone taller than 5ft 10in will be relieved to discover is that the seats - XK150 racing buckets - have been made to slide just a few inches further back. They're spot-on for a six-footer now, with the back of the seat just nudging under the cockpit rail when the hood's removed. If you're taller, then there's the more drastic option of chopping back a bit of the bodywork.

Some aspects of the seating just can't be changed though, and you wouldn't want them any different. Like when you open the low-slung door, only to be reminded that in XK's floor is almost at knee height, and the seat a good few inches above that; you sit stretched out in a typical sports car position albeit a good foot higher than you'd expect. But in this car, the steering wheel isn't uncomfortably close to your chest and thighs, in that curiously vintage driving position that the 120 is famous for.

No, in this XK the steering wheel is an inch smaller in diameter than standard (at 16 inches) and two inches further forward. It's hard to see why Jaguar couldn't have achieved this on the standard model, but here the original steering box has been substituted for the lighter, more accurate charms of an XK150 rack-and-pinion set-up. Okay, the wheels on the wrong side of the car, but we can blame that on Tony's desire to ship the car back to the States later this year.

So you get yourself comfy, strap yourself in with those super-trick inertia reel harnesses