Is restoring a jaguar XK 120 worth it? Need advice!

I’ve noticed a lot of Jaguars needing restoration for sale, like this one: 1952 Jaguar XK 120. I’m wondering how much a restoration typically costs and if it’s really worth it. The price without restoration seems quite high. What do others think about buying a classic Jaguar that needs a restoration?

If by “worth it”, you mean financially, then the answer is almost certainly no.

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Yes, financially

Hi Ben… introduce yourselves a bit more and let us know what your after…top class restorations can cost upwards of $100k…but it depends what you want…a show car or a usable runner…cost to restore is typically more than the finnished car is actually worth on the open market…Steve

The cost of restoration depends entirely on who does the work, you or someone charging $150 an hour. As for your example, I would keep looking. Check the history on Bring a Trailer and see pictures of cars and what they sold for.

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Looks cool the way it is.

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That example has been on the market for a long time due to the asking price and the fact it’s being sold by a retailer.

I’ve seen comparable recent completed auction listings on BAT for close to half of the example posted.

Regardless of the initial purchase price, when it comes to a restoration the big question is, will you be mostly writing checks to others for work done or mostly doing it yourself? If the former and on a budget, save yourself some grief and instead save your money for the best running, original example that’s still in driveable condition. They’re not that much more money than your posted example. And as these cars aren’t for everyone, you may decide you don’t like it and will be able to more easily pass it on as opposed to waiting years to learn that fact.

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Yes it’s worth it in terms of what you will learn and the feeling of accomplishment from bringing a worthy object back from the inevitable fate of becoming scrap metal. Financially it’s only “worth it” if you’re doing it for someone else.

Gullwing’s ad states: “ The ideal candidate for easy restoration and offered at a bargain price.”

It will be neither easy nor a bargain.

Restoring that car, even to driver level, will easily exceed the value of the car.

However, that does not mean it’s not ‘worth it.’ But it must be a labor of love.

As someone in the middle of a multi-year restoration, I can testify that costs can very quickly get out of hand, even if you do a lot of the work yourself. Body and paint are voracious monsters when it comes to your finances. With prices depressed at the moment, buying the best car you can afford will almost certainly put you money ahead in the long run. However, if you want to grab a wrench and do the work yourself, it is definitely rewarding in non-monetary intangibles. And, unlike almost any modern car, these cars can be worked on by home mechanics with even modest skills. So decide what you want and go for it, but have no illusions if you buy a full on project.

About the most positive thing I could say about that car is it’s almost all there, not too many missing parts. Fender skirts (aka spats), tail light lenses, trunk handle, hood prop rod, horn button are missing. You can look up the prices of those parts at Moss or SNG Barratt or other sources.

Definitely assume you will try to do almost all the work yourself.
Do you have a large comfortable garage?
Do you have shop tools, air compressor, sand blasting cabinet, etc.
How are your body hammering skills?

Then start adding up the other stuff you will need.
The obvious things are:
seat upholstery kit
interior panels kit
carpet kit
chrome plating existing parts ($75-$100 per part) or buy new
5 tires and tubes (the size is 6.00-16")
all brake cylinders rebuilt or new
all brake pipes and hoses
fuel pump will need rebuilding
exhaust system
all water system hoses
radiator and engine block may be gunked up and need cleaning
cylinder head may be corroded and need welding
front suspension ball joints, rubber bushings and other parts may be worn
battery and battery boxes (almost always rusted away)
primer and paint ($250-$500 per gallon)

Add up all that stuff and see where you are.

Then the less obvious things:
plywood floors and trunk floor
gas tank rusted?
Ask for some pictures of underneath.
Does the engine turn or is it stuck? See the car in person and take along a 1-5/16" combination wrench and try turning the crank on the front damper bolt. If it’s stuck deduct $5000.

But I’ve found it’s definitely a satisfying hobby.

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Its a rough car for that price. If you take the time to do some more research and be a little patient, you’ll find a better car than that for half what they are asking.

My advice is to look at the Hemmings magazine. They are at most book stores. Some of the prices these online dealers are looking for boggle the mind. I’ve noticed more sober expectations there.

I recently got some open ended quotes on engine rebuild and paint and body work. A lot of these guys work by the hour. There used to be a lot of body guys who would take on the older cars that went then collision route leaving the paint and body work to a niche few who charge a premium. To give an idea and take these figures with a grain of salt because it will vary by car, location, expectation of quality…engine rebuild is 6k to 12k, body and paint 40k to 60k…what i decided to do is take the car apart myself, rebuild the engine myself, and deliver the body only or body work and painting so they dont have to worry about the process of taking everything apart and boxing it, etc…my budget is 35k to 40k which I think I can manage, but I would be in a deficit compared to what I could sell it for. It helps to have technical ability owning one of these cars. If you put it in the hands of other people, it’s going to cost you a lot over the lifetime of ownership.

All good constructive comments, but in Hemmings most of the Jags are advertised by maybe three dealers: Gullwing, Beverly Hills, Fantasy Junction. Better cars for reasonable money may be found by an online search for “Jaguar XK120 (or 140, or 150) for sale”.
Buy the best one you can afford. It’s far more work, time, and money than you imagine to fix a car like the one you’re looking at - probably 4 times as much.

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Hi Ben,
$46,500 for what is being shown is unrealistic in my opinion. Every part of that car will need to be restored, which takes time, ability and money, even if you do it yourself. Hemmings and Bring a Trailer have ongoing online auctions and are a great source of information and comparative valuations for XK’s. You will see very good drivable examples being sold for $50K and up, $3500 more than the asking price of the car you have noted. I suggest you follow a few of these auctions to see what’s out there and then decide what to do. There is a lot to be said for buying a drivable XK and enjoying it now versus spending years or even decades restoring one.

Best regards,
Tom Brady

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Try classics.autotrader.com
Pat H

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Here is an example of what I believe to be a good purchase for a restoration project.

No Reserve: 1954 Jaguar XK120 SE Roadster Project for sale on BaT Auctions - sold for $55,000 on May 22, 2024 (Lot #147,805) | Bring a Trailer

Although $55,000 is not cheap, the body work, paint, interior, wheels and tires, miscellaneous parts and chrome cannot be duplicated for anything close to this price. There is still plenty to do to if you want to turn a wrench, but you would be money and time (possibly years) ahead to look for a car like this, rather than a car that may be complete, but needs everything.

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Thanks a lot!!! A very short and clear answer!

That’s true :white_check_mark:

thanks a lot!

it IS worth it.
Nick

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