In the process of buying an XK120 FHC

Dear Forum,

First of all, let me thank you in advance and retrospective for the help you have already given me, unknown, the last months, as I have been making my homework buying an XK120 FHC,

I started looking at forum, as I am in the process of purchasing an XK120 FHC, and have narrowed down my list to five-six candidates, privately advertised or dealer based. I am not new to Jaguars (having owned XJ’s, XJS’s and co-owned E-Types) but I have some questions relating to the FHC specifically, where I really would appreciate help.

  • One of the car’s I am looking at, seems fully original (matching numbers) but has a plain-grain wooden dashboard, rather than the usual walnut-burr: does anyone known whether plain-grain dashboards may have been original?

  • One car that I am looking at was LHD (US), imported into the UK and converted to RHD and now, would I buy it, I would rather like to have it back to LHD. I know there is information in the forum for the conversions, but this case is a bit like looping the loop, Is the conversion from LHD to RHD and then back to LHD something that can be done with the “on-board” components?

  • Finally, I honestly like the Moss gearbox, but would like a taller end-ratio, as I take many highways. What is the best available option, that does not require 5 speeds?



The 120 FHC is my favorite as well, although of course there are 8 other opinions represented here. :smiley:

  1. Burl walnut veneer was standard. I don’t believe any were made without it. Plain grain would be a cheap restoration. There are places that do veneer work.
  2. A conversion requires some specific opposite components, such as steering worm gear, clutch linkage, dashboard, accelerator linkage, handbrake handle and rod, notched floor for handbrake handle. Then there is the problem of the holes in the firewall (scuttle) for steering column and pedals, and the scoop in the firewall for clearance on the steering column. Some conversions might be per factory specs, and then there are others not so well done. Check if they saved the old LHD parts.
  3. Later cars '53-'54 have the Salisbury 4HA differential, which is basically the same as the Dana 44 used in Fords and Jeeps, and various ratio gear sets can be found for it.
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Many thanks, very useful. It’s a complex puzzle buying these, I have two matching numbers cars and two with MKI and MKII engines. The matching numbers ones have colour combinations that I like but I love the colour of the non-matching numbers… arghhh terrible dilemmas, right?

My philosophy is, if the colour combination isn’t to your taste, matching numbers or otherwise, then change the colours.

To wit, my E-type sports its factory colours but has a (period correct) replacement block, while my XK120 is matching numbers but the colours have been changed (still period correct) to a combination more pleasing to my eye.

To each his own, eh? :sunglasses:

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And even if not “period correct,” and you like it, go for it!

Over the years, I caught sheis for keeping my mom’s choice of ‘poiple,’ but it simply was what the car was known as… and I was unlikely to ever see another, in the same color.


What a beautiful purple, too!

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Hehe… thanks!

Folks viewing it were of two minds:
-they LOVED it (~90%)
-they DESPISED it.

To tell you the troot, for years, back in the day, I was in the first group: then, it grew on me.

Thanks, in the meanwhile organising the test drives (Netherlands, Germany and Belgium).

I’m set on the FHC, but there are two OTS that I’ll try, to see, maybe I change my mind.

It will be a decision between originality (all matching numbers and a 15% higher price-tag) and half-originality (MkI and MkII motors). All cars so far seem (very) good older restorations. One even sports the steel-wheels and spats.

I drove one with the MKI engine and a B-head, and it went really well, in a couple of weeks into Germany to test two more.

Any thoughts that can help, most welcome.

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That is a cool colour, and the attitude to go with it. :sunglasses:

I really think that what matters is to have the right attitude for the right colours…

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At the end of the day, what it comes down to is: Are you buying the car for yourself, or the next owner?

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Honest answer Nick: for both of us. So it will be a balance.

We’ll, I’d say that’s the first thing you should change.
Pick whatever make YOU happy !


agree with what makes you walk to the car and feel so pleased about it…if you always have to think…different engine, or will hate to maybe say that to others, or wish it was this, or that, …well then…but If that matters not at all…and a body style , or feel of the car, or whatever is tmore satisfying, no apologies (sure, there is always something you’d like to do) …that may be the one. Such a different feel to the FHC and the OTS…that would be a hard choice for me…I have the OTS…and am admiring the FHC I see a lot…grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Nick

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Thanks for all replies. I will see and drive more examples in the next couple of weeks and keep you posted. Tides are on the side of Matching numbers, but I think that the overall feel of the car must be the right one, so I will be open.

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Some update on my quest to buy an XK120. On my third car now, in Germany. Saturday we test drove a more or less matching numbers car, extremely well done older body restoration and solid and clean underside. Incredibly, the salesperson had done little to prepare the car, the brakes were terrible (air in the system, out of balance) and the steering felt like chewing gum. The engine was not very well set up but no overheating, came up nicely to temperature and good oil pressure. No smokes or chatty noises. It was a good car that needed attention and a good candidate for us.

We moved then to another car that must be one of the most interesting restorations I have ever seen of any trade. The salesperson was really honest and let us go through all documentation. It was completely rebuilt in the 70’s-80’s in Rhodesia, with some scarcity of original parts. Only the chassis rails and the body were original. Engine was MkII, dashboard was incredibly well put together, from some sort of tropical wood but completely remade. What surprised me is that somehow it all came together beautifully and it had a top-notch older paint and trim job (not sure what the leather was, but it felt fantastic). Not for us through, although at a good price, it will make a happy owner: engine was really smooth and all worked together really nice, nice odd car.

So quest goes on…


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Got first reply from a vendor of the cars tested the last few weeks… long chat on the car (beautiful) but no history on what was done to the engine. I can only say it drives nicely and is non-matching MKI 3.4. Willing to skim the price quite a bit (>10% as vendor admits car will need more detailing that what perhaps he was ready to accept on expensive details)… and thus giving me some think-time. Hopefully seeing what seems to be a beautiful restoration from the 1990’s, with little use since, this week end or early next week.

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Dear list,


We just bought #681474, 1954 XK120 FHC, one of the very late models I trust, Very good condition and in original colours (black on red with red wires). Numbers match for all main components but the head (an 8S, period, non original).

The car is really in great condition, needing only adjustment after a period with little driving.

Everyone home is excited about it. Our Mini (1380cc, 16V head…) will need to make place for it, but we will find a good home.

Many thanks to those in the list that gave a good hand to this XK-illiterate. In two weeks, when it’s home, I will post more pictures.




Well done, Lluis! It looks a nice one, and a great colour combination. I can see the German safety-type wheel spinners (surely not a legal requirement on a vehicle as old as this?) and it looks to be on “curly hub” 15 inch, rather than 16 inch wheels? If it were mine, I think I’d change to 16" wheels and rather than paint them black, I’d do them silver (which was an option, originally). I think that would make the wheels “pop” a little more. Not too keen on them in red… Let’s see some more pics!


By golly, I went back and looked at the picture and you’re right!

Just as a warning to Luis: some of the modern repro spinners are not made properly and therefore may or may not self-tightrn as they’re supposed to. If he does decide to go back to eared spinners, which would be my preference, it would be best to find a good used set and have them restored.

Service Bulletin 263 dated April 1959 says special wheel knock-ons for Germany were now being fitted to comply with safety regulations.
They had shorter lugs and are sometimes called earless spinners.
The other kind were sometimes called hamstringer hubcaps.
So that gives you an idea of the earliest date they might have been installed on your car.
My US delivered '70 E-Type had them as well. There was a brass ring that fitted over them to use the hammer on.