Jaguar XK120 - A Story of History

After being properly introduced to Jaguars recently, it’s fair to say that I have developed a new appreciation for the brand. Many an idle minute is spent day-dreaming about the sound that the F-type makes or the brutal acceleration of the XJ220. However, the brand has a lot of heritage to its name, which is- unfortunately for us - usually found in better better climes.

They say things happen for the best. ‘They’ are usually right. After seeing my photos of the two fast Jags, Gilbert Ayoub got in touch and very kindly invited me for an afternoon out with his cars. Which ones? Two very tasteful Jaguar XK120s from the 1950s. An opportunity to experience the automotive equivalent of a unicorn does not present itself everyday, so you can figure out why Gilbert could not understand the next few words I said. He wisely took it as a yes, however.


So, one fine Saturday afternoon (read that as dreadfully humid), I found myself navigating through the newly constructed Downtown area around the Dubai Mall. A quick call to Gilbert later, I was parked under his building. A white XK120 rolls up to the kerb. It turns out that Gilbert has invited his friend James to join us with his XK120!

The second XK120 arrives with Gilbert at the wheel and after exchanging pleasantries, we decide to get moving. Hopping in with Gilbert for this leg of the trip, we quickly get onto empty roads that weave through the concrete and glass structures that fill this side of town. As the sun flashes through here and there, I try to snap a few photos of James’ car as he keeps up with us.

A few minutes later, we reach an isolated stretch of road with the skyline directly behind us. Giving my trigger-finger a short rest, I glance towards Gilbert and the interior. Simple, even spartan is what describes it perfectly. A few basic gauges, a shifter and a large steering wheel, that’s it. Taking turns with the XK120 is an interesting affair, with the driver having to lean with the wheel due to its size.

After reaching our first stop, I decide to get some motion shots of the cars. Gilbert and James drive up and down as I make the shutter do its work. While the cars may be the same, there are a number of differences between the two, which become quickly apparent. James’ car, which is a later model, comes with wire wheels, a footwell air vent, a red leather interior and fog lights. Gilbert’s example is equipped with a beige leather interior and whitewalls.


Having finished with that location, I climbed into James’ car for the ride back. A few short minutes on the highway and we were there. Gilbert brought out his second car, a red Jaguar XK120 coupe. Placing the cars together, there was a sudden flurry of flashes as people arrived to take photos with their phones. Even among the classic community in Dubai, a Jaguar XK120 is a rare sight. With three of them together, it was to be expected. A Jaguar F-type also made a special appearance!


After the crowd cleared a little, I got back to shooting. The XK120 has a unique shape, which is shared with very few other cars, on of them being the Triumph TR3A. Possessing a classic British sports car silhouette, this machine was meant for pleasure drives on Saturday or Sunday afternoons on B-roads. The inline-six produces enough power for fun, yet won’t get you into trouble. Skinny tyres on all four corners make for interesting handling, but have their advantages.


The XK120 gives one a very pure classic motoring experience, or so it seemed to me. Goggles, gloves and the wind in your hair all look very much at home, while you pilot a machine from the 1950s. No air conditioning here, just a quick tap of your foot and a vent allows cool air to fill the footwell. These little details make the car very desirable.


As the sun dipped behind the towering buildings, a member of Dubai’s finest rolled up and asked us to move along. As the Jags were driven away to their respective homes, I had a fleeting glimpse of something that I thought would have leapt straight off the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s the Great Gatsby. I guess the humidity was beginning to get to me.


Looking back, we had done exactly what these machines were intended for – pleasure drives on Saturday/Sunday afternoons. I had also been properly introduced to Jaguar heritage and had understood why it holds so much weight in the classic car world. With classic Jags crossing auction blocks for millions of dollars, it now seems clear why that happens. How to make those millions of dollars is somewhat of a mystery to me, which shall now be the subject of my day-dreaming…..

This blog was written by Siddharth Pandey; owner of Nocturnal Bandit. An avid car enthusiast and active member of Wisconsin Car Enthusiast Club. Take a look at more of his work here:


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