WEDNESDAY ONE-OFF: JAGUAR XK120 SE BY PININ FARINA

This XK120 SE was sent to Carrozzeria Pinin Farina, with instructions to reimagine it as a dashing coupe with contemporary styling.

WEDNESDAY ONE-OFF: JAGUAR XK120 SE BY PININ FARINA

Some cars are born as one-offs, and others gain that status over time. One of the most famous is perhaps the Ferrari 250 GT SWB ‘Breadvan’, which was based upon a competition specification Berlinetta, and rebodied by Piero Drogo’s Carrozzeria Sports Cars to its current incarnation around nine months after it first raced.

Seven years before this, a similar Italian coachbuilding project played out with a sporting Jaguar. In 1954, an XK120 SE ‘OTS’ left the factory finished in Pastel Blue with a grey soft top roof. Less than one year later, it is reported to have appeared at the Geneva motor show looking radically different. 

It is thought that the car had been dispatched to legendary dealer Max Hoffman in New York, who had previously been the distributor for Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Alfa Romeo and Delahaye in Vienna, before seeking refuge in the US in 1941. Hoffman had quickly gained a reputation for importing the most luxurious and exciting European automobiles, and even played a key role in the product development of the likes of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL ‘Gullwing’, Porsche 356 Speedster, and the BMW 507 – so the belief that he had a hand in this car’s creation certainly has merit.

Between its export from the UK and its reappearance at the 1955 show, this Jaguar XK120 SE had been sent to Carrozzeria Pinin Farina, with instructions to reimagine it as a dashing coupe with contemporary styling.

While the basic shape of a slim front grille and large headlights on either side was retained, the rest of the car was completely transformed. Unsurprisingly, it was a far more continental take on what a Jaguar could be, with several elements similar to Pinin Farina’s coachbuilt Ferraris of the same vintage.

Over the next 25 years, the car would be bought and sold across borders, travelling first to Canada, then the US, and then imported to Germany in the late 1970s. It remained in the same private collection for decades, with the intention to restore, but with work never commencing.

Eventually, in 2015 it was secured by Peter Neumark of leading Jaguar specialist Classic Motor Cars in the UK, who had been tipped off about the car by Jaguar Heritage. With the XK120 quickly acquired, what followed was nothing short of perfection; a 6,725-hour restoration that brought this unique classic sporting coupe back to life, and secured the 2017 ‘Restoration of the Year’ award from Octane magazine in the process.

Photo credits: Classic Motor Cars, Justin Leighton