- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

The Jaguar folks in Coventry, England, took the motoring world a giant step forward in 1948 with the introduction of the then-radical two-seat XK120.

The still-sleek lines no longer appear unusual 55 years after the fact. Compare, if you will, the XK120 to any other production car on the road in 1948 and the difference will be astounding.

Before Bruce Leinberger was a teenager, one of his older brothers bought a very used XK120 Jaguar. Although Mr. Leinberger never was given the opportunity to drive the Jaguar, he was a passenger on countless memorable occasions.

A total of 12,045 XK120 Jaguars were manufactured between 1948 and 1954. One of the roadster versions was built May 16, 1952. Records indicate it was “dispatched” on May 23, 1952.

The left-hand-drive Jaguar, a hair short of 14.5 feet long, found a home in the United States. Beyond that, the history of the car remains a mystery until December 1999 when Mr. Leinberger found it near Gettysburg, Pa., and purchased it.

At that time it was painted white and had a red interior. Mr. Leinberger had his prize trucked to his Great Falls home where he immediately set about to make the car roadworthy.

Even in its undrivable condition, the Jaguar evoked fond memories of his brother’s long-ago Jaguar.

Seven months later Mr. Leinberger had the car running. All it took was a new starter, new clutch, new brakes, new radiator and a new mechanical front end — among other items.

The 3.4-liter, six-cylinder engine was removed and overhauled.

“Everything on the car had to be rebuilt,” Mr. Leinberger laments.

Soon thereafter he decided to bite the bullet and give the old Jaguar a proper restoration. He enlisted the services of Andy Paza for body work, painting and refabricating.

“We found rust where I didn’t think a car could rust,” Mr. Leinberger reports.

That’s when he discovered the car had left the factory wearing a coat of birch grey paint with an interior upholstered in red leather.

From February 2002 until October 2002 the car was mostly to be found in boxes. EBay and the Internet proved invaluable in finding new bumpers, a wiring harness, bright trim and other elusive parts.

He decided to return the car to its original condition.

The final coat of birch grey paint was applied on April 28, 2003.

The rear fenders curve at the rear to embrace the long trunk lid, which slopes all the way to the bottom of the car. No valance here.

When the trunk is opened, the 6.00x16-inch spare tire is exposed stored horizontally beneath a shelf for luggage.

Until the XK120, fender skirts were anathema to sports cars.

On the Jaguar they proved to be helpful aerodynamically. Additionally, each fender skirt has a lock.

At the front of the car, high atop the fenders on either side of the grille with 13 vertical teeth, are a pair of mirrors without which a driver would be blind.

The front fenders are also capped with gracefully styled, but tiny, parking lights..

The black four-spoke steering wheel is adjustable telescopically.

The rest of the interior is red leather with both doors having a convenient storage pocket.

Among the other instruments on the dashboard is a 6,000-rpm tachometer with a red line of 5,200 rpm.

The speedometer (remember this is a 1952 car) is set to register speeds up to 140 mph.

“That would be on a good day with the wind,” Mr. Leinberger says realistically.

The tiny cowl-mounted mirror, immediately behind the two-piece windshield, is good, he says, for observing the reflection of your right shoulder.

The four-speed manual transmission is synchronized except in first gear.

The transmission was rebuilt when Mr. Leinberger discovered that the overworked second gear was virtually without a synchronizer as well.

Now that the Jaguar is back in like new (or better) condition, Mr. Leinberger drives the car locally on sunshiny days.

Mr. Leinberger says the capacity of the gasoline tank is 14 gallons.

As for fuel economy, he reports, “It burns a lot of gas.

No one ever bought an XK120 Jaguar for economy.

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