Jaguar founder William Lyons had one simple mantra for his company’s cars: “Value for money.” The company, which started out manufacturing motorcycle sidecars in the early 1920’s, soon turned its attention to cars, and the first car with the Jaguar name would appear in 1935. From that day to this — eighty years’ worth of an automotive legend — Jaguar has made good on Mr. Lyons’ promise.
Jaguar had earned respect during the inter-war years for the quality of their cars, but World War II would be a lean time for the company. Manufacturing and demand both fell off amid wartime privation, low demand, and material shortages. As things slowly returned to normal in the postwar years, Jaguar surveyed the landscape, and decided to go all in on sports cars.
That’s not to say that the company shied away from the saloon cars that had originally been its calling card. The Mark V, introduced in 1948, would have been familiar to prewar Jaguar owners. But it was another car launched the same year, the legendary XK120, that proved to be the company’s breakout moment. With a 3.5 L DOHC hemi that had been painstakingly refined during the war years, and the low-slung and elongated profile that would define Jaguar for decades to come, the XK120 was nothing if not distinctive. What was intended as a limited production model would remain part of the Jaguar lineup ’til the XK140 arrived in 1954.
The days of the XK120 are long past. But the XK120 shares more in common with today’s 2016 Jaguar F-Type than meets the eye. The value for money promised all those years ago by William Lyons is very much in evidence, and if you get behind the wheel, you’re likely to feel the same thrill that’s united Jaguar drivers throughout the generations. Come to Jaguar of Peabody to see — and feel — for yourself.