XK 150S Drophead Vs Roadster

Hi - first post here as I normally hang out in the Etype section.

Many, many years ago when I lived in the UK I looked at buying a XK150S Roadster (cannot if a 3.4 or 3.8 but was a late production). I didn’t buy it but did buy a Series 3 Etype Roadster that I still have.

I have always wondered what Jaguar’s logic was in selling two different convertibles, the Roadster and the Drop Head.

While I appreciate the basic differences between the later versions and I prefer the lines of the Roadster what was Jaguar’s logic in producing both convertibles at the same time? - a practice that did not flow over to the Etype.



It started with the XK120, of course. The roadster came first, then the fixed head coupe. Finally, the drophead coupe. My guess would be that Jaguar had responded to buyers who wanted creature comforts, but still in an open car. Of course, this doesn’t explain why the XK140 carried on with the three body styles. Even more puzzling is the logic behind the XK150, when the roadster was the last variant to be introduced.

I have been asked this question. I dunno has been my answer, so it would be very informative if this has ever been competently explained by those involved in the decision.

Maybe it was Chris’ thought about the DHC being a little more comfortable and with the DHC a little more roomy with a better hood and better in wet weather - but was the DHC it more comfortable, it does seem to be a bit more roomy behind the front seats with the hood up?

I guess Jaguar’s marketing at the time told them that it was a good option to have three body styles for the XKs.

Hi Garry:

While I have never driven a 120OTS and have only sat in a 120FHC I have owned my 120DHC for 57 odd years and I am not sure I would agree that it has more interior room than the OTS. The major reason the DHC was introduced was better weather protection. Featuring a superior top, wind-up windows as opposed to side screens and vent windows (quarter lights). Again, never having owned an OTS or driven one in inclement weather, I have, however, read several posts on this Forum attesting to assorted cases of water ingression in the cabin. The use of the FHC-style walnut dash and door caps added a step up in more luxurious interiors. Not sure if the weather protection on the OTS had improved by the introduction of the 150, certainly wind-up windows would have helped, so cannot surmise as to the continuation of the DHC model.


I’ve drive an MGTD and 2 MGA roadsters in downpours and for the life of me can’t imagine walking up to a new OTS and saying, Yep, let’s do that again with a roll-up version sitting next to it.

So, I’m restoring an OTS.

I can’t tell you why that’s my preference - except - that it represents a by-gone age of motoring. This can’t have been so in 1953… they had roll-up-windows by that time, and they lived IN the by-gone days we treasure as nostalgia.

So, I still say I dunno. Was it a lot cheaper?

Garry, both the XK150 DHC and OTS offered good weather protection because of their roll-up windows. The 150 DHC was no longer equipped with walnut trim so it lacked the luxury of the 120 and 140 DHCs. I think the main difference was the 150 DHC was a 4-seater while the 150 OTS was a 2-seater.

The Porsche Speedsters of this era add some interesting context to this discussion. The original 356 came out about the same time as the XK 120. My understanding is that a Cabriolet was offered from the start with a padded top. In 1954, the Speedster was introduced, reportedly at the urging of Max Hoffman, who also sold Jaguars at this time. Like an XK OTS, the Speedster was a more stripped down model, lighter weight and sportier in appearance with an unlined top and side curtains. Was Max influenced by the Jaguar OTS when lobbying Porsche? The Speedster was popular, but dropped from the lineup in 1958 or thereabouts when roll up windows and a decent top again rose to the fore. So, for a few short years in the 50s, drivers recognized that true sports cars didn’t need proper tops, roll up windows or wood dashboards, but like most humans they tired of being cold and wet and eventually went for something a bit more refined. Yet, with the full benefit of hindsight, the XK OTS and the Porsche Speedster are still among the most desirable cars of their era, so someone knew what they were doing by keeping these cars in the lineup.

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Thanks for all those comments as it gives a bit of insight to the possible thinking at the time. The XK 150 I looked at all those years ago must have in fact been a DHC rather than a Roadster as it has a walnut dash - it had a huge scratch right across it and that is one of the reasons I did not buy it. It was also more expensive than the E-Type, in fact even more expensive than the Dino Ferrari Targa I also looked at.



As Chris said, it all started with the XK120 OTS, and in Oct 1948 it really looked the coolest car in the world with no top (the top was tucked out of sight).
Then people started to want a hard top, so a number of fiberglass companies made tops for the OTS to meet market demand.
Then Jaguar decided they could make it with a hard top and meet that demand, so the FHC was born.
Then they decided there was a market for a better soft top, hence the DHC.
It looked better than the OTS when both had the top up.
But it didn’t look as cool with the top folded back (not tucked away as with the OTS).
So the market demand supported three variants for awhile, in other words, there was a market for each.
The top of the 150 OTS was an improvement in appearance over the tops of the 120/140 OTS. Or anyway Sir William Lyons thought so.
It is interesting to study the monthly production figures for each variant.
The demand for the 150 OTS was very strong in 1958 but seems to have withered about mid 1959, where demand for the FHC and DHC remained good.
So ultimately it’s market forces at work, demand drives supply.

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Sorry, but it started much earlier. In 1935 before the launch of the very first SS Jaguar, SS Cars had introduced two new models. Their first sports car, the SS90 and the SS1 Drophead Coupe.

Later that year almost all models were dropped, but the SS90 received the new engine and revised chassis and was called the SS100. The SS1 and SS2 closed versions were discontinued for obvious reasons but they continued the SS1 Open Tourer also with the new engine (or rather a new OHV cylinder head) as SS Jaguar Open Tourer until the new Drophead Coupe body style entered production for both the 2 1/2 Litre 6-cyl car and the slightly shorter and lighter 1 1/2 Litre 4-cyl car.

In 1938 came the 3 1/2 Litre. After the war, in 1946 production continued pretty much the same, but no new sports cars were made before the XK120 was introduced.

However Jaguar made more than a thousand Drophead Coupes on 6-cyl MKIV chassis, a luxurious 2-door convertible with proper side screens and a padded hood (top) with wool headliner and an interior lamp etc, and the same continued with MKV both 2 1/2 Litre and 3 1/2 Litre from early 1950 to mid-1951.

There was a MKVII Drophead Coupe prototype, but it never went into production. In the 1990’s Jaguar made one Daimler Corsica XJ convertible concept car but that didn’t go into production either.

I think it may be that as the XK120 was such a success, they didn’t see the need for another convertible.

Also before the war, one SS100 had been built as a coupe. There were some aftermarket hardtops made for the XK120 and then after ca two years of successful production of the XK120 OTS they introduced the XK120 FHC.

So when in 1953 the XK120 Drophead Coupe entered production it replaced the earlier luxurious convertibles offered before by Jaguar to it’s customers.
1935 SS1 Drophead Coupé
1936-1940 SS Jaguar Drophead Coupé
1946-1949 Jaguar Drophead Coupé (MKIV)
1949-1951 Jaguar MKV Drophead Coupé

Some people do call the E-type open cars ”dropheads” and IMO they are nit wrong, as opposed to SS1/SS2 OT’s, SS90/SS100’s and XK120 and XK140 OTS’s all open E-types have wind-up side windows and a proper hood (top) and interior light, although they do lack padding and headliner, so not exactly that comfortable as some ”cabriolets” or ”convertibles”.


Our 1950 MKV DHC #647194 behind my cousin’s son’s Healey. They are more like cousins as well, very similar in many ways, the Jaguar is just a bit taller, bigger, heavier and more comfortable, of course.

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Of course you are correct, Pekka. I wasn’t thinking pre-XK! BUT, there weren’t open and closed versions of the sports cars (SS90 & SS100) except for the one-off SS100 fhc. They were quite different dimensionally, mechanically and bodily to the SS1, SS2, SS Jaguar saloon & drophead, etc, in the same way that the XK120 was vastly different to the Mk V. In actual fact there were four body styles on the SS1 - open tourer, closed coupe, drophead coupe and Airline.

Chris funny enough they did actually make a SS90 FIXED HEAD COUPE.
No photos but but the info is in the draft research for Montague book.

Interesting, Terry - that’s news to me.


I don’t think the MKV and XK120 are “vastly different” the front suspension and the whole chassis are essentially the same, as is the gearbox, steering, brakes and rear axle, the XK120 chassis is just shorter and the rear a bit different.

That was the point in my photo, even the Healey although smaller than an XK120, has a lot of the same kind of technology and feeling. :slight_smile:


I realise that the Mk V and XK120 chassis are similar except dimensionally, and not forgetting of course, the different engines. I think if you drove them both back to back you might find quite a difference! I’ve owned and driven XK120s and a Mk VII, and of course, they feel entirely different to drive, even with the same XK engine. I’ve not driven a Mk V, but I have owned a 3 1/2 Mk IV, but that’s a different kettle of fish…

Nice looking Healey, but tell your cousin’s son that the chrome side flash is on backwards.


Sure, but the MKV and especially the 2-door DHC with the hood down is not very different as an experience from the XK’s. Although the chassis again is the same on the MKV and MKVII the later feels (and probably is) much heavier than a MKV DHC.

The original point was and is, that for many customers of Jaguar, especially overseas like my car was sold new by C. Hornburg in Hollywood, LA, if they were buying a ”Jaguar convertible” it made not much difference if it was a MKIV or MKV DHC, or later the XK120 or XK140 DHC, it was a Jaguar convertible. The XK140 even became available with an automatic gearbox.

I have driven many XK’s and also a MKVII and a MKIX and despite the more powerful XK engine, IMO my MKV DHC with the hood down looks and feels more like the XK’s than the Saloons.

That’s why I was trying to point out that Jaguar had had customers for a more luxurious convertible, aka a drophead, they had made some from 1935 to 1940 and then again from 1946 to 1951,

Also the SS1 vs SS90 / SS100, the very first SS90 even had an SS1 chassis number (and still has) as it is what the first sports car was built around.

When the MKV and XK120 were introduced in late 1948 they were designed and built by the same people, mostly from the same parts, on the same assembly line etc.

I have had the MKV DHC for almost 19 years. The XK120 is much closer to it in design and driving experience than the XK150 is to the E-type.

Also if you look side by side, an XK120 DHC (or a 140) and a MKV DHC, both with steel wheels, spats, hubcaps etc and take a look inside, they are, very, very similar. The MKV is just a bit taller, longer and heavier, but no-where nearly as much as a MKVII-MKIX. The wheelbase on them is the same, but the MKV body is much smaller and lighter than the later Saloons, and the drophead even more so.

Have you driven a MKV DHC in good nick with the hood down? 70-75mph effortlessly. :slight_smile:


Ps. Of the XK’s I have driven a few, an 1952 old race car on tight curvy country roads, and a few XK140 and XK150 FHC’s, well tuned ones.


Thanks! I will! :laughing:

I am sure he does not know. I hadn’t paid any attention to that. I did replace the rear springs last year, it’s a very low car, but with those tired springs it was touching the garage floor!

He’s in Monaco now but once he gets back in here for summer you can count on it that I will tell him that! (We share some garage space.)


Mk V saloon - 3,696lb, dhc - 3,808lb, XK120 dhc - 2,968lb. Quite a difference. But, I agree, the driving experience in both dropheads would promote a sense of well-being!

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