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“Road-Test Impressions of a Really Fast, Luxuriously-Appointed Coventry-Built Coupé:
The combination of high speed, very vivid acceleration and safe handling qualities, of which the disc braking is especially praiseworthy, render the Jaguar a superb super sports car, more particularly because the power pours so smoothly from that dependable, docile, quiet and beautifully finished twin-cam engine.” Motor Sport, October 1958
The seminal Jaguar XK range was launched with the 120 in 1948 into the ‘export or die’ ethos of post war Britain. Time being of the essence a somewhat pre-war chassis was utilised though it was clothed in a svelte and curvaceous body which was unequivocally from the future; the epitome of feline grace. Seen as something of a halo model and primarily a test-bed for their new six cylinder engine, Jaguar were not expecting to make many more than a few hundred examples so bodies were crafted in relatively easy to source and work aluminium. However, stunning looks and highly competitive pricing meant sales took off like the proverbial scalded cat and a move to something closer to mass production dictated proper tooling and steel bodywork. Deletion of the early cars’ wooden outer panel supporting framework meant the steel 120s were barely any heavier than the two hundred and forty two earlier aluminium ‘Supersports’. Three body styles were offered - roadster, fixed head and drop head coupés - all housing Jaguar’s ground breaking iron block, aluminium double overhead camshaft, straight six engine which was to go on to power Jaguars for a scarcely believable six decades.
The XK120 evolved, via 140, into the 150 which was launched in the spring of 1957 and represented the range’s biggest step change. A raising of the wing-line gave the body a more more integrated look while a single piece wraparound front screen improved visibility and, many would say, aesthetics. The body was also widened by some four inches resulting in the styling tweak of a subtly raised fillet running the length of the bonnet plus a wider grill. Interior space was hence increased and topped up further by slimmer doors for more elbow room while leather now covered the dashboard as opposed to the wood of the 140. The 150’s running gear and chassis remained much the same as that of its predecessor (itself a significant improvement on the 120) with independent torsion bar front suspension, leaf springs at the rear and telescopic shock absorbers all round along with rack and pinion steering. However, the ‘hold the front page’ news was that, in a move that proved racing really does improve the breed, disc brakes were offered; a first for a production car. The 12” units fitted to all four wheels were developed by Dunlop from those that were instrumental in Rolt and Hamilton’s C-Type victory at Le Mans in 1953. They received universal acclaim being both fade free and full of feel compared to the drums of the XK140. The 3.4 litre XK engine produced 190 brake horse power just as it did in the 140 though Special Equipment and S versions of the 150 upped this to 210 and 240 respectively, the SE version receiving bigger inch and three-quarter SU carburettors and a modified cylinder head with larger exhaust valves.
By the end of production in November 1960, 9,300 150s had been made with the best seller being the fixed head coupé, though the importance of the American market is illustrated by the fact that just 1,386 of those were in right hand drive configuration.
For some twenty-five years this XK150 resided in a collection of Jaguars in Kent, having been bought at a local auction in 1993 for, according to the invoice on file, £10,250. HPI records note that it appears to have been repainted in its current red some ten years prior to this and it seems a certain amount of restoration work was carried out at then. MOT certificates on file suggest the Jaguar did not cover a significant mileage during this time with just 3000 miles logged. Despite this the Jaguar received significant attention in a number of areas with the rear axle and differential being rebuilt in August 2013 at a cost of £2,900. As recently as September 2017 a full service was carried out which with additional attention to the brakes, new clutch master and slave cylinders, a high torque starter and various inner cover panels fitted, generated an invoice which totalled a further £4,200.
Sold again at auction in September 2018 for a little over £40,000 it has since had a further not inconsiderable amount spent on it, the highlights being a new set of 72 spoke ‘Highly Polished’ stainless steel wire wheels from MWS with correct specification Blockley tyres at a cost of £3,135 and a five speed gearbox conversion (further details of which can be found below) courtesy of Beagle Engineering of Stoke on Trent which apparently cost some £4,167.
As far as the nuts and bolts of the XK go, we would suggest it has been well looked after with the aforementioned attention to the rear axle, brakes and clutch hydraulics. The Beagle Engineering five speed gearbox conversion utilises the well respected Tremec unit supplied by Elite Racing Transmissions which with a bespoke bell-housing and gear change mechanism has the considerable advantages of the gear lever remaining exactly where the factory originally placed it and the instillation being totally reversible, though having experienced it at first hand we can not see why anyone would want to do that. With its new 10” Jaguar clutch assembly the unit has a delightfully positive and crisp change that rivals benchmarks such as Ford’s 2000E unit, which is not something one might say regarding the Jaguar’s original Moss ‘box.
While we are on the less obviously noticeable and lets face it glamorous aspects of the car, the underside should be singled out for special attention and we recommend you take a virtual tour through the photo gallery to fully appreciate its condition. With a good but not excessive coat of protective finish plus a light misting of what we used to call ‘duck oil’ to repel moisture, this area of the XK looks to be in excellent order and likely to stay that way for some years to come. The chassis looks rock solid and we could find no evidence of any previous repairs while all the suspension components look similarly well protected and in fine original condition. Cosmetically the Jaguar has clearly been through a dilute muddy puddle or two so a quick clean down would be an easy win. The new Tremec gearbox looks as though it was made for the car and the conversion is very neatly executed even from this rarely viewed perspective. Aeroquip brake lines and stainless steel exhausts are desirable departures from factory specification.
Climbing out from underneath, up top body and paintwork are somewhat less impressive and definitely the Jaguars weakest cards in an otherwise strong hand. There is some unevenness to the panels which is emphasised by the flat sides of an XK150 and a few of the panel gaps are less than perfect. Though it appears essentially sound, there are a number of blemishes and battle scars evident which we have done our best to show in the photo gallery. The paintwork, which we suspect is now thirty-seven years old, has a few scrapes and chips and is a little dull though it might be detailed with some success. Overall the XK is perfectly usable and arguably easier to enjoy without the fear of being responsible for putting the first mark on the car, though it has to be said it won’t win any concours competitions.
By comparison the substantial amount of chrome is for the most part in very good condition with the bumpers, grill, window trims, light units and so on all free from pitting and having a good depth and level of shine. The ‘Leaping Cat’ mascot, making its first appearance on the bonnet of a Jaguar in the XK150, is in similarly bright condition though the door handles have dulled a little.
The interior is wonderfully lived in from the big ol’ steering wheel to the gently creased but split-free leather and mellowed carpeting; nicely worn in but not tatty would be our summation. The three side windows (rear, door and quarter-light) all open either by pivoting or winding (though the passenger side’s handle is loose) to give you every conceivable ventilation option.
Jumping into the XK is pleasantly easy, despite its fixed roof, as the lower sections of the doors are cut into the cockpit with no sill to negotiate, allowing you to get right next to the seat before turning and dropping into it. Once installed you appreciate the legs out, ankles almost level with hips seating position. Though not the cars original unit, the engine is a period 3.4 to the correct specification which fires after a momentary push on the starter button. It shows strong oil pressure of 60 PSI at both cold idle (less than 500 RPM) and on the move when warm. First impressions are of weighty steering as noted in period even when on crossply tyres but this eases off once on the move and the Jaguar drives well with excellent brakes, the superb gear change already mentioned and a well weighted clutch. Despite showing half full on the gauge, the low fuel level warning light stays on.
The 150’s history file contains the current and some previous V5s, an almost complete run of MOT certificates from 1994 to 2010, various photographs, old tax discs and correspondence from the International Jaguar XK Club. A number of invoices relating to the work outlined above and more are present along with those relating to previous changes of ownership. A Jaguar ‘Heritage Certificate’ is also on file and this confirms the XK was manufactured on 14th April 1958 and dispatched on the 23rd of that month to the Sheffield distributors Earnest W Hatfield. It also states it then went to Baily and Law, the Doncaster Jaguar dealers and the V5C confirms it was then registered 1286 DT (a Doncaster number) on 30th April.
A very solid and mechanically sound UK supplied, right hand drive XK150 SE that can be enjoyed just as it is or tidied up as desired. Yes, there is room for improvement and we feel the Jaguar has a reserve that leaves plenty in the pot to do just that.
Registration number: 1286 DT
Chassis Number: S 824369 DN
Body Number: J 8838