During the summer of 1958 Bill Lightfoot was home from his studies at Clark University when his father uttered the secret code words “I don’t think my car is safe to drive, it must be the steering.”
Experience had taught Mr. Lightfoot that soon after his father made that pronouncement a new car would appear in the driveway.
His father was especially fond of British sports cars, and even though the Jaguar he was driving was only 2 years old a new, improved Jaguar XK150”S” was on the market.
So in July Mr. Lightfoot accompanied his father to the Jaguar store where the swap took place. The sticker price was lofty at $5,193, considering a 1958 Corvette sold for $3,631 and even a 1958 Cadillac Coupe deVille carried a price of $5,251.
It was difficult to determine who was happier on the drive home to Hudson, Mass. father or son?
The elder Lightfoot had ordered one of the earliest XK150”S” models in red, according to his son. When it arrived the Jaguar folks called to say racing driver Briggs Cunningham wanted a red one to go campaign racing.
Mr. Lightfoot reports his father said he didn’t mind so long as he got an XK150”S”. For his cooperation he got a dove gray Jaguar, a hue that Mr. Lightfoot describes as shiny primer.
Jaguar introduced the XK120 in 1948, a car that evolved into the XK140 and with improvements into the XK150 and finally the XK150”S” before the “E”-Type Jaguars took over.
The XK150”S” was in reality the XK120 taken as far as that model could go with available technology. Beneath the sleek XK150”S” exterior lay the skeleton of the XK120 with a heavy body-on-frame design.
Performance capable of being commanded by the excellent front suspension of the XK150”S” was unattainable by virtue of the antiquated live-axle rear suspension mounted on traditional leaf springs.
One area where the Jaguar was second to none was in braking. Visible behind each of the painted 60-spoke, 16-inch wheels are the disc brakes. Mr. Lightfoot believes Jaguar was one of the first to offer four-wheel disc brakes on a production car.
Chrome-plated knockoff hubs help dress up the otherwise drab wheel treatment.
The Jaguar was well-cared for but was put into daily use. A few years later Mr. Lightfoot’s father drove into retirement in Vermont, holding the four-spoke steering wheel of his Jaguar.
Less than two years after buying the Jaguar, Mr. Lightfoot’s father replaced the original 6.00x16-inch bias ply Dunlop blackwall tires with an identical set. The second set of tires are still on the car. Even the original spare tire nestles in the well under the trunk floor.
As the years went by, the Jaguar was driven less until Mr. Lightfoot received a telephone call in 1985. His father asked, “Why don’t you take the Jag?”
The younger Lightfoot, a vice president and general manager of an international division of General Dynamics, arranged for one of his sons to make the trip to New England and trailer the Jaguar home to Vienna, Va.
The ravages of New England winters and road salt were evident along the sills on both sides. Other than that the car was and remains in unique original condition. The rust could not be ignored, and in 1990 Mr. Lightfoot had the cancerous rust cut out and healthy steel welded in place. The decision was made at that time to have the entire car repainted in the original dove gray. With the exception of the new paint and tires, the 42-year-old car remains as it was on that July day when it was new.
“As far as I know it’s box stock,” Mr. Lightfoot said. That originality includes the red leather upholstery and extends to the ignition wiring.
The high performance XK150”S” engine was painted a distinctive “old gold” according to Jaguar literature of the day. Mr. Lightfoot places the color closer to “pumpkin.” Regardless, it is distinctive which was the point after all.
Twin fuel pumps feed gasoline to a trio of S.U. carburetors, which brings the 3.4-liter engine to life.
“As far as I know the head has never been off,” Mr. Lightfoot reports about the twin-overhead camshaft engine.
There is no identifiable mark on Mr. Lightfoot’s Jaguar to identify it as an XK150”S” model. Later SK150”S” models had a chrome-plated “S” mounted on each door by the windshield.
“Putting up the top is a big exercise,” Mr. Lightfoot said. Consequently, he continues, “I leave it down.”
Mr. Lightfoot races vintage sports cars and is currently campaigning in a Morgan. The thought of racing his father’s old Jaguar never crosses his mind.
“I’m pretty protective of that car,” he said.
The batteries under the front fenders are kept charged and the dual exhaust system whole, just waiting for an opportunity to go someplace anyplace.
The odometer on the 140 mph speedometer recently rolled over 28,000 miles, which averages out to be about 670 miles a year.
“I don’t want a garage queen,” Mr. Lightfoot exclaims.
That’s just the way it turns out sometimes.