Classics World’s Paul Wager test drives and reviews the 1960 Jaguar XK150…
If you’re partial to a 1960s Jaguar, but the E-Type seems just too common, then here’s the ideal solution: the XK150, which was the glamorous evolution of the line started with the XK120 back in 1948.
The original XK120 was the car which gave us the XK engine, its name supposedly referencing the car’s 120mph capability, but by the time it had evolved into the XK150, things were markedly different. The body style may have remained broadly similar, but the detailing was much more modern – including a one-piece windscreen – and the car boasted creature comforts the late ’40s owner could only have dreamed of. For 1959, Jaguar also added rear seats to the XK150 which aren’t exactly massive but do allow enough room for the kids to enjoy the classic Jaguar experience.
Meanwhile, the XK engine had grown to 3.8-litres and in SE form was good for 220bhp, giving the XK150 a top speed of 130mph and making the all-round standard disc brakes a handy thing to have. “A car combining electrifying performance with armchair comfort,” was how the 150 was decribed in the 1958 motor show guide and even by modern standards it’s a quick car in 3.8 form.
The XK150 was introduced in 1957, but the 3.8 option wasn’t offered until late 1959 for the 1960 model year, making the 3.8-litre XK150 a rare beast. Indeed, it’s said that just 450 fixed-head coupes were built with this engine and the chassis number of this example indicates that this is the sixth from last made. However, acording to the XK Data resource online it’s unlikely that any of the later cars in the same specification still exist, making this one the latest automatic 3.8-litre XK150 coupe to survive.
Built in November 1960, this car left the Browns Lane plant when E-Type development was already well under way and by the time it was delivered to Jaguar New York in January 1961, XK production would have ceased.
The XK was sold to its first owner by Californian Jaguar dealer Len Sheridan of Santa Monica and a sign of how original the car is comes with the fact that the original dealer surround and California black plates are still in place half a century later, with the car having been in the ownership of a single family since 1961.
When it arrived at Fayreoak, they were suitably blown away by its originality and limited changes to simply fitting a new carpet set to replace the threadbare original.
It’s very much on the button, too: the 3.8 sounds superb through its twin pipes and the 2018 tag on the rear plate suggests the car was in use until very recently. It certainly drives as if it’s been regularly used and enjoyed, with the Borg Warner automatic changing properly and everything working as it should.
Looking round the car shows it to be a very honest survivor, with shiny paint and good chrome, but also a patina which it would be a shame to destroy with an over-glossy restoration. As they point out at Fayreoak, it simply doesn’t need restoration anyway and would be a candidate for ‘best original car’ at any show you took it to.
The wire wheels and whitewall tyres shout 1960s Beverley Hills, but in some respects they’re just right: the XK150 was a car for movie stars and the black exterior with red interior gives it a classy late ’50s style.
The XKs have a lot going for them over the E-Type. Certainly a late-model 3.8 like this is a much rarer beast than the E-Type, while they’re also much easier to get in and out of while also being quick enough to be fun to drive. Oh and they’re also a lot more affordable: Fayreoak was asking £67,850 for this very original example and a ’60s E-Type in similar original condition would be a level up entirely.
Top speed: 130mph
Fuel consumption: 18mpg
Gearbox: 3spd auto