Jaguar XK 120 Bumper Spring Bar Colours

Yes, I know: the subject has been covered many times before, but now I have to take a decision for my 1954 XK 120 OTS SE (or M if you want).

As far as I understand it could be either black or body color, if a follow the JCNA Judging Guide, right? But other specialists have (or at least did have) a different opinion. Hence my question whether the JCNA Judging Guide is now considered as the “final verdict”.

A short summary why I’m still hesitating

Viart (Jaguar XK 120 Explored) mentions that Spring Bars are usually painted body colour.

Porter (Original Jaguar XK) however states that “sprung steel brackets were painted semi-gloss or gloss black”. He continues: “brackets in body colour have been painted subsequently, sometimes by the factory”.

Urs Schmid (Jaguar XK 120 The Anatomy of a Cult Object Volume 2) writes: “…sprung steel brackets… were normally painted in the colour of the car, although sometimes ….they were simply left in black protective coating”.

The Third Edition of the JCNA Judging Guide for the XK 120 states under a photo of a pre-October 1952 XK 120 painted OEW (Cream) on page 11: “early Jaguar XK 120 cars Spring Bar assemblies were painted body color (1949 to December 1952)”.

The same Judging Guide mentions on page 15: Prior to December 1952, the front and rear spring bars should be painted body-color. From December 1952 onwards, the front and rear spring bars are painted EITHER body-color or semi-gloss black.

So this is the status quo?

Bob K.

Status quo? More like best guess. Nobody wants to go out on a limb.
Here is 670001 at Silverstone in 1949, red brackets, the only color photo I’ve found.

But there are others in B&W of early light colored cars on which the brackets are light colored, presumably body color.

I didn’t find any evidence of pastel green metallic on mine, just black, so I chose to restore them in black.

My 54 xk120 OTS was all original when I bought it from the original owner 50+ years ago. It had black bar colors


I personally prefer a black painted bumper bracket for my Old English White 1954 XK 120 OTS, so your answer pushes me further in that direction.

But also Rob’s reply regarding his earlier FHC with black bumper brackets is a further support in that direction.

I understand that there’s no “black or white” answer to my initial question (I do like that phrase in this particular context …). So unless there are indications that I’m going in a wrong direction, black it will be.

Bob K.


I think you need to look at original paint cars to make the determination. Early XK120s appear to have come with body-colored spring bars. But at some point, the spring bars simply got black paint.

Here are two original paint XK120 roadsters with many accompanying photos, plus their Heritage Certificates. These should help you decide what color paint to use on your spring bars.

Being personally involved in all four books you mention - from being a major extent as a Co-Author to a minimal extent, contributing to certain areas only, and not the bumpers brackets in this case, I suspect I have a well-informed opinion of the capabilities/priorities of all four authors regarding matters originality…
I usually don’t like to, and I don’t think it is appropriate to talk about the JCNA XK120 Judges Guide on this non-JCNA forum - and comments, questions, critique should in fairness be directed to JCNA who have a mechanism to respond - most importantly within their own policy guidelines. But as a Co-Author, I can explain the rationale of the bumper bracket issue noting that although there were two co-authors - me and Bob - we also had some six peer reviewers who as they saw fit contributed/commented/critiqued or chose not to comment, depending on their additional added expertise. This JCNA Guide has two weaknesses - it doesn’t cover Aluminium cars, and it doesn’t cover RHD cars, which in your case is irrelevant. Its strength is that concludes all aspects based on verifiable evidence, and where that evidence is not 100% conclusive, then softens the position erring on not penalizing an entrant - so if not 100%, it is deliberately vague or accommodating… Personally, I think that is an appropriate decision, especially with your example that has been debating for many years…
In writing this section of the JCNA Guide, we of course input our own well researched/expert position, but not being 100%, then as we did considered all the other available ‘expert’ sources. Then and now, I maintain the best XK120 reference by several country miles is Urs Schmids two volumes. The Porter book is second best, usually very accurate in what it does cover, but limited in being a smaller book spread across all three XK models. The Viart book - as above which I certainly was a major contributor to, is simply NOT a reliable original reference/position on anything that is debatable, and not established fact. So our initial position was moderated/softened, based mostly on Schmid’s position, and less so interpreting Porters position (given books limitations), and Virat’s position honestly, simply ignored as being unreliable. Then the JCNA peer group review, of both additional expertise, and those more concerned about how it sits re JCNA Concours policy.

So I think what is in the JCNA Guide is as good and as accurate as you are going to get anywhere, with the one qualification it was written in 2017/8, so subject to ongoing review as and when it is ever updated based on new strong evidence. As it sits you are in a position to make your own choice, and indeed take note/make your own opinions of any new books on XK120s (none I am aware of that matter), or indeed informed comments/photos input on this forum and similar, but if you, I would look at such comments in the same context as we did re reliability, but you have the benefit that you can focus in particular to the 1954 position, and not have to worry about the full steel bodied 1950-54 position.

So if I now personally cut to the chase, if I had a 1954 XK120, I would carefully look for any residual signs of my bumper brackets were body coloured or black - but if zero, I would be prioritizing looking/finding another original 1954 XK120, and failing that for 1954 car I would go with BLACK…

See following photo, of a June 1954 XK120 that is very much a time warp and one of the most original XK120s I have ever seen…

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If the body color is black, would the bumper spring bars be that color, if one followed the “paint them black” policy, or would they be semi-gloss like so many other brackets? Not being facetious, that is a question I am likely to face, if I go with my 1945 DHC’s original color.

1954, I mean.

Bob my 54 is Old English White also which is what is on the Heritage Certificate as original color. I would go with black on the bumper brackets - I thinbk they also look better

You open up another can-of-worms… You may well be going with your ‘original colour’ - in theory, but in practice how authentic is your modern paint, not just in the exact shade of black (they can/do vary) but in this case the issue is GLOSS level which has a huge impact on the final visual result… Most modern restorations, and restorers, prefer maximise the gloss levels available with modern paints, and indeed enhance (aggravate?) that even further by adding a clear coat over the colour. Such paint jobs, regardless of how accurate or otherwise the shade of colour matches the original (or not), look very very different to the original paints that had far less gloss level… This is not something that matters or is considered in any Concours I am aware of worldwide, but certainly in Australia those who are seeking a better standard of authenticity for their own satisfaction, invariably need to add a reducer to the modern paints to ‘de-gloss’ them back to something more authentic.
So to your original question - originally, the bumper brackets were painted in a similar shade/gloss black as the body, BUt without all the preparation re primers and sanding/polishing etc - so did look a little duller, but due to the chassis standard metal finish and preparation. Even though ‘over restoration’ of body paint is now endemic, it is not so bad with chassis/brackets restoration. So decide what matters to you - there are no RULES, but if you are seeking something more ‘authentic’ I would at least paint your bumper brackets semi-gloss black, and don’t overdo the preparation of the chassis standard steel…

Thank you for that advice, Roger. The UK XK Club has a chart with paint codes. Are you familiar with that, and if so, do you have an opinion as to how closely those correspond to original factory colors?

I am not familiar with the UK XK Club chart - but original XK120 paint colour codes although valuable for research purposes, are irrelevant to finding/selecting a moder matching colour paint. If they are modern paint codes, again it depends on how accurate/diligent whoever determined the colour match… You really can’t go wrong with Black however being a prime colour with paints, with no tinters added to be an ‘off-black’. The original paint used on XK120s was made by Pinchin Johnson to their code J.869 or their alternate supplier British Domolac to their code Q.1073. A few years ago, when I tried to put together a set of definitive accurate colour matches for all the XK120/140 standard colours for both my purposes and for use in Australian Concours judging, using the then ‘preferred brand’ of paint for top quality XK restorations, the best colour match was GLASURIT to their then code JAG900. But with Black, it will not be difficult to get a good cross reference to other manufacturers paint codes and thus formula, as regardless how accurate or otherwise the black will look is far more affected by the GLOSS LEVELS as I mentioned before. With colours, differences in shades, is far more evident, and that includes the so called 'White" which in reality was an ‘off-white’ with a formula for its tinters…

Thank you, Roger, very helpful. As my restoration progresses, I may well have additional questions that relate to JCNA judging standards.

Roger, Mike and Alan,

Thanks for your input. You showed some “original” examples which in it self s probably the best kind of evidence (assuming they are “original” indeed…).
Black painted bumper bars have apparently been used on 1954 cars, which is sufficient evidence for me to follow my preference for black in combination with OEW (Cream).

Bob K.

I believe I have the best of both worlds with my 1950 120 - body colour brackets at the rear and black at the front! To be fair, I haven’t got around to the fronts yet… Would it get a point deducted at a concours, or only half a point? - ha!!

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keep it simple
basically pre early/mid 1952 body colour post early/mid 1952 always black
It may be something to do move Foleshill to Browns Lane and different painting process.

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I generally tend to agree with Terry, that its likely that the change happened when the factory changed from Foleshill, (where they were still using the original Cellulose Enamel paint) to when they moved into Browns Lane that commissioned a totally new paint shop that now used the new SYNTHETIC Enamel paints. This happened in November 1952, and the Service Bulletins actually quote the exact BODY Nos of which OTS and FHC received the new Synthetic Enamel. Significantly the Foleshill paint shop painted Body Shells mounted horizontally on a static wheeled trolly, that had provision for other loose items to be placed on the same trolly so everything got painted BODY COLOUR, so a good chance the bumper brackets may have been painted body colour with body shell.
At the new Browns Lane paint shop, using the new synthetic enamel the body shells were now mounted on a moveable rotisserie thus allowing easier application of paint colour top-side/underside, under bonnet, within boot area etc, but not so easy to also carry things like bumper brackets probably painted separately, thus typically then black to suit assembly later to all cars, regardless of their body colour…
So that’s production engineering logically and I think probably, but that still is not PROOF, as expected these days re matters originality, where you get judges/points involved, so still need to have conclusions for judging suitably qualified/flexible until better proof is in hand re the Nov1952 to 1954 situation…


As before, if you have questions about JCNA judging - you should best refer them to JCNA…
This site has no association with JCNA, and all comments/inputs are those of their authors, of variable standards. My comments are invariably focused towards strict authenticity, my personal priority…

Hi Roger,

OHP 503, definitely a late '53 or '54 car, with coloured brackets:

Maybe it was simply randomly painted at the factory?..


673375, Dec '52 - on BaT: