XK120 gear lever - straight or cranked?

I wonder if anyone can say definitively whether the XK120 with radio should have a straight or cranked gear lever? Urs Schmid’s book says that the straight one was fitted if the car was equipped with a radio, and the “XK Explored” says the opposite! I would have thought that the straight lever would not travel as far forward in reverse, 1st and 3rd, therefore keeping one’s knuckles from contacting the radio… I actually replaced my cranked one with a straight one, as I was sick of the cranked one slowly moving away from the fore and aft in its rubber bushes. Obviously the straight one has no such turning forces to deal with. I did find that the cranked lever I took off had no splines to grip the rubber bushes with, and I believe that some aftermarket levers may not have the splines. I actually find the straight lever pleasant to use, and you get less interference with the handbrake when it is operated. My car was delivered new without a radio, but the factory fitted one in 1952, so I feel a bit smug that either style of lever could be considered correct in this case!

Just a thought ! perhaps early roadsters, fitted with a radio, required a straight gearlever,
due to their lower, relative to chassis, body mounting.
When I purchased 679282 it was (factory ?) fitted with a valve radio and cranked gearlever.
Peter B

Hi Chris:

I would hate to use the word “definitively”, but I can report that my '53 120 DHC came with a radio fitted and has a cranked gear shift lever. While the radio is long gone I do not recall my knuckles connecting with it when it was fitted (this issue being the first thing I did notice when driving a friend’s newly purchased Mazda MX5 back in the day!). I did replace the rubber bushes in mine last year and it successfully eliminated the sideways movement of the lever when selecting reverse.


Thanks, Chris & Peter. It has occurred to me that the cranked lever might take one’s hand in an arc that would go well below a radio…? Strange that the vast majority of XKs I’ve seen have the cranked lever,and I’m sure that most of them would not have had radios fitted originally…

It doesn’t seem to be relevant on the FHC/DHC whether there is a radio or a map drawer. Here is mine with cranked lever in first.

“XK120 Explored” by Viart Page 192 - C2462 Change Speed Lever (straight) standard feature; C4054 Change Speed Lever (angled) required ONLY when radio is fitted.

“Original Jaguar XK"by Porter Page 110 - " on both Jaguar-built 'boxes a different gear lever was used when a radio was fitted. It was straight so that the knuckles did not knock the wireless set!”

“XK120 Anatomy of a Cult Object” by Schmid P132 - “Change-speed lever C2462: common to all XK120 except those equipped with a radio, which were fitted with the straight C4054 lever”.

Both Porter and Schmid say that the straight lever is required to avoid contacting the radio.

Notice that Viart and Shcmid differ on the part numbers for the 2 levers - one says the straight one is C2462, the other says the straight one is C4054.

Hmmmm… it’s no wonder I’m confused!

I don’t know about anyone else… I’m fitting the one that’s easiest to reach and use.

1 Like

Just looked at Guy Broad’s parts catalogues, and it seems pretty certain that C2462 is the usual cranked lever, and C4054 is the straight one recommended for use with cars fitted with radio. The XK150 has only the cranked C2462 listed.

When in doubt regarding XK120 Originality - it is always best to refer to the ‘Bible’ - Urs Schmid’s two Volumes. It has withstood many years of very close scrutiny, and although not without error, you can count the errors on one hand!
Urs says correctly - C.2462 Gear Lever is ‘bent’ version, and C.4054 Gear Lever is ‘straight’ version.
Where it gets a little confused is the comment about ‘with’ or ‘without’ radio fitted with the J.8 SPC for XK120 OTS advising the C.2462 (bent) was the standard fitment (ie - as in no radio fitted), and the C.4054 (straight) was REQUIRED ONLY WHEN RADIO FITTED.
J.11 (for XK120 FHC) and J.13 (for XK120 DHC) do not specifically comment on their Gear Levers, but defaults back to referencing J.8 (for OTS), but as noted by Rob given the radio (if fitted) substitutes for the standard Drawer, there really is no need nor merit in offering alternative gear levers to address any changed clearance issues - so I would expect all FHC/DHC regardless of factory radio (very rare) or not to stay with the standard ‘bent’ C.2462 gear lever (again as Rob illustrates in his FHC) (Has Urs been a bit vague re DHC and FHC?)

I suspect the confusion is the focus on whether factory radio is fitted or not, and indeed it would seem that is only relevant to OTS anyway.
And realistically, how many XK120 OTS were ever factory fitted with their optional Radiomobile Radio - the overwhelming majority of XK120 with a radio fitted was done after the car left the factory, whether by the importing Distributer or the retailing Dealership or indeed the local radio shop.

Viart got it wrong, and indeed the recently released ‘fully revised’ 2019 edition of XK120 EXPLORED although claiming to be an Amended Plate, has still not fixed this error regarding straight/
bent Change-Speed Levers……………………

Be interesting to hear from anyone who actually has a straight C.4054 lever fitted to any XK120 OTS (or FHC or DHC) that is confident of it being original, and if so, does car have a factory fitted radio or not???

For crying out loud !!! for all this quoting this bible or that bible on this matter. part numbers et al, do any of these publications state , or any of the informed !! opinion know WHY two gearsticks are listed. In the gospel according to this St Peter it`s bleeding obvious, the early
roadster body sits lower on the chassis placing the gearstick, when in a forward throw position, in close proximity to a radio if fitted, to close for comfort for a hand.
If a straight lever is/ was fitted to a FHC or DHC personal preference comes to mind .
Peter B

Peter, I’m sure you are right! From the pictures I’ve seen, the Radiomobile 100 fitted to early 120 OTS was quite a bulky unit, compared to the 4200 which seemed to be the fitment of choice to the FHC (my OTS also had a 4200 retrofitted at the factory). So, it makes sense that the straight lever would be fitted which doesn’t move as far forward, if the early radio was factory installed.

Roger, I think part of the confusion arises from the fact that the factory parts manual only shows the straight lever in the plates, and in the parts list it doesn’t identify which part number applies to which style of lever… If the bent lever was the standard fitment, it would have made sense to show that style on the plates, wouldn’t it?? The vast majority of cars I’ve seen seem to have the cranked lever, so that was obviously the norm. I believe I’ve seen pictures of some of the very first cars with a straight lever, but you can’t be totally certain that the picture wasn’t taken with the car in gear. Anyway, I’m happy with my straight lever, even if it doesn’t have as much character as the bent one - I find it quite pleasant to use.
I’m a bit disappointed that some of the errors in the Viart book haven’t been corrected in the new version - mainly little things, such as the list of intake manifold studs on P150, which lists stud #4 as 4 9/16" or 117mm, and stud #5 as 4 7/16" or 122mm! But all in all, it is a monumental work. I also treasure my two Schmid volumes.

FWIW, the exploded view Plate drawings were created for the Mark IV Parts Supplement, which is why it shows the long straight lever, mushroom knob and tall dipstick handle.

Here are a couple of Radiomobile Model 100s.

It would go under the dash on 120 OTS.

Thanks, Rob - I wondered if the exploded diagrams might have just been lifted from a Mk IV or Mk V parts book. I hadn’t clocked the mushroom knob.
Great photos of the Radiomobile RM100. Presumably, the (valve?) amplifier mounts somewhere near (behind?) the control unit, rather than between the batteries? And it looks like there is a single speaker as part of the unit. I wouldn’t mind finding one, as I wouldn’t want to put an amplifier back there (I have a little hinged door fitted by a past owner between the batteries to access the ENV diff’s dipstick and filler plug).

The Radiomobile Model 100 would be the correct radio for XK120 up to 1952 and it does indeed have the amplifier fitted, on brackets, behind the control unit as normally produced. However, PA can be detached and mounted remotely Rob’s picture shows. From 1952, Radiomobile offered Model 4200 or its derivatives for XK 120 ( and many other contemporary vehicles ). In this case the mounting for the PA was between the batteries and the recommended position for the speaker was in the parcel shelf.

Radios of this era were AM only. I convert them to AM/FM (and DAB) so that they can receive stations broadcast today. If you are in the UK and want a Model 100 or a 4200 PM me for details.

For the '46-'48 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 Mark IV, plates L. M, and N appear identical to my eye with Mark V plates S, T, and U in the parts catalogues. These plates and the parts catalogues show and call out only the straight lever for both the SH and JH gearboxes until the Mark V revised parts catalogue. The revised parts catalogue has the same plates but included a second change-speed lever numbering and showing that this second number lever was used in batches spread over a range of Mark V production. The mushroom knob on lever shown the same throughout the plates has different part numbers for the Mark IV and Mark V. I’ve never seen a mushroom shape knob on lever on the Mark V. Mark V knob on levers were made of something like bakelite with the gear pattern and numbers protruding in unpainted bakelite material at the top of the knob. I’ve seen Mark V cars with sunken and painted gear pattern indented but suspect those are later replacements. My personal preference is to use the cranked gear lever with forward bend in the Mark V.

Maybe Jaguar themselves realised XK120 owners were confused, so when it came to the XK140 Spare Parts Catalogue, they now spelt out the difference in the two gear levers, albeit now no mention of any Radio connotations, just a OTS/DHC versus FHC matter which was all about the bulkhead location.
See below from J.15…………

1 Like

Ah, there it is spelt out in black and white!

Roger (McWilliams) - on the 1946 3 1/2 Litre I owned about a hundred years ago, I seem to remember a larger circular gear knob, somewhat flattened vertically. I believe this was fitted to the double helical gearbox? Why did they stop making that 'box, I wonder? I thought it was pretty good, but maybe too expensive to make…? Or perhaps it was more fragile than the single helical 'box…

Surely the bulkhead on the 140 roadster and DHC was positioned as 120 leaving aside the footwell and door post changes, the reason for the straight gearstick is the repositioning of engine / gearbox to a more foreword placement , the FHC having it’s bulkhead placed forward along with the front seats, in unison with the drivetrain, required the cranked gearstick for best placement for the average driver.
Peter B.

The truncated teardrop knob most of us are familiar with is C.2291 with recessed pattern painted white.
shift knob 001
The mushroom knob with raised unpainted pattern is C.1911 and was used on SH boxes in Mark IV, and possibly the earliest Mark V and XK120 before the teardrop replaced it, thus it went unrecorded in the Mark V and XK120 SPCs.
Early Mark V Shift Knob - 1
The muffin or hamburger shaped knob with raised unpainted pattern is C.853, the muffin shape being necessary because with the double helical gearboxes you lift up on it to engage reverse.