A Jaguar XK120 C-Type that was traded from owner to owner up and down the west coast of America before going missing for 23 years has broken cover after being restored by American specialist Terry Larson.
The reason it went off the Jaguar company’s radar 45 years ago was because it was hidden by its owner in the mid-1970s to avoid being disclosed as a valuable asset in a messy divorce.
It reappeared on the Jaguar check sheet in 1997 – many years after the owner’s ex-wife had long remarried – and was offered for private sale via Arizona-based restorer Larson.
Chassis number XKC023, one of 53 C-Types built between 1948 and 1952, was imported into the US in late 1952 by Los Angeles car dealer Charles Hornburg.
It was much sought-after by California sports car racers thanks to the C-Type’s success in Europe, notably at Le Mans where it became the first car to average 162km/h (100mph) for the 24-hour race.
One of its regular drivers Stateside was Hollywood scriptwriter Jack Douglas, who penned much of comedian Bob Hope’s material.
XKC023 was modified over the years it raced in California. Its various owners searched for more power from its 3.4-litre twin-cam, straight-six engine. It left the factory delivering 134kW – but upgrades generated upwards of 155k on race day.
At one stage its SU carburettors were replaced by a fuel-injection unit. A XK140 cylinder head was part of the conversion. Another time, after sustaining damage in a race, it was fitted with a glass-fibre body.
Larson’s restoration began some years ago with a search for original parts, including the bodyshell discarded in the late ‘50s. It was found on a C-Type replica in Canada. The car’s original cylinder head was found on another replica.
The finished car was given a 1300km workout on the roads of Arizona and reportedly didn’t miss a beat. Inside the driver’s door is a FIA heritage certificate. It sits alongside an even more important indication of provenance – the signature of legendary Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis.