1954 XK120 Drophead Coupe-Nostagia Department

How many on here grew up in that period, and drove and used one of these cars as an everyday driver? I bought mine around 1958 from a GI who came back from Germany and was still looking for a job and not having much success. He had returned to one of his favorite haunts, a sweet shop where we would hang out and play pinball machines and talk about cars and girls. This was truly a Golden Age to live in and have the cars back then. The car was white with a black canvas top and it looked a little strange with the hood down, but it was a convertible, and it was a Jaguar. Not many to be seen on the road at that time, so it was kind of special. Now, stepping out of large cars like Chryslers and Packards, this was quite a shock. It was a stick shift, small, uncomfortable and rode like a friend’s truck. Many, many good times in that car. Lots of near misses too. I kept it up to 1963 and traded it for a 1960 Chrysler New Yorker. Then, it happened. E-types started arriving, and I went ‘just to look’. Wham! New 62 roadster for $5,000 out the door. ‘Those were the days, my friends, those were the days’.

Ronald: the XK120 FHC, 1954, was my daily transport the last months :smiley:… It is possible, even today.

It was a ‘period’ of adjustment, but once you mastered the car, it was a delight. I learned to double clutch in that car.

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Why did you have to double clutch it? Bad clutch adjustment?

I have a 54 DHC and have driven it over 40K miles (with the same clutch) and have never double clutched it once? I continue to drive it regularly several thousand miles a year.

Just sayin.

John Brady
Bedford, MA

I believe double clutching is the technique of getting it into a non-synchronized gear while at some speed without too much grinding. For us just first gear, but it used to be more common with racing cars in which none of the gears were synchro.

Hi Rob,

Nice to hear from you.

I watched a driving video of an XK120 on BAT a few months ago and the seller driving it double clutched on every shift and made a point of how great he is at it. Totally unnecessary ask you know.

I’ve found that if the car is rolling, there is no need to get it into first gear. Just slip the clutch a little until you get moving fast enough to let it out fully in the very rare case that you need first gear like approaching a hill in traffic after a near stop. Otherwise, just stop and put it in first.


If you had one of these cars, it was common knowledge that the second gear synchro’s would die at about 40,000 miles, and the ‘fix’ was to learn to double clutch down into second for making turns in town. The alternative was to find a mechanic that would work on one of these cars and rebuild the transmission. Kind of embarrassing to grind the gears in your fancy car.


I agree with you that downshifting into second on a Moss box is a tad tricky. I have found that giving the throttle a good blip as you are easing the lever back makes the task easier. Many years ago I used to get my XK carbs tuned and set by an ex-Lotus employee and every time we went for a road test after he had finished he would say, “I wonder if I can still do this?” and double clutch into first without grinding the cogs. Personally I have never tried this and one reason is remembering Ian Appleyard’s observations about one Alpine Rally he was on where descending on of the Alps NUB 120 jammed in first on deceleration. Fortunately, he eventually managed to get it unstuck, but on the occasion it happened to me the cure involved pulling the top off the box and manually moving the forks. Admittedly this was many years ago and long before I had the gearbox rebuilt, however, ever since reading the story I have never let the car decelerate in first gear without pushing in the clutch and pulling the lever into neutral first. Just another quirky detail of XK lore I have salted away over 60 years of ownership.


On the first drive in my XK120, after a cosmetic restoration, paint, engine overhaul, brakes overhaul, electric repairs and getting it somewhat roadworthy, about 1/4 mile from home, I got stuck in first gear.
Here is my story.