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Jaguar XK140 Ghia. Unique piece dressed by the Turin bodybuilder in 1956

Although born in an improvised way, the Jaguar XK is one of the most iconic sports cars of all time. In addition, the bodybuilder Ghia developed various unique projects on its basis. Among them is the one presented at the Paris Motor Show in 1956 at the request of a French client on an XK140 -second series-, which has just been auctioned pending a necessary restoration project.

Under the protection of the Italian government, FIAT acquired control over Ferrari and Lancia in 1969. ORA commercial operation that protected two of the most emblematic national brands from North American capital, which had experienced serious purchase attempts by Ford. A fact that infuriated the Dearborn people, sure that at the stroke of a checkbook they could get hold of emblems of transalpine engineering and design. However, that was not the end of the American company's operations in the country.

And it is that, in a kind of outburst promoted by the impotence of defeat, Ford took advantage of Ghia's difficult financial situation to acquire it in 1973. A purchase that liquidated the independence of this Turinese coachbuilder, which had been signing since 1916 some of the most suggestive creations of Italian design. Of course, curiously many times followers of the futuristic and spatial design that with its chrome shines came from the other side of the Atlantic. Proof of this is the Abarth FIAT 1100 Ghia. Model in the line of Supersonic-type bodies designed on FIAT and Jaguar bases by Giovanni Savonuzzi.

Another of the first-rate Italian bodybuilders who passed through Ghia's offices, which joins Pietro Frua, Mario Boano and even Giovanni Michelotti. Firms that found in this house the possibility of giving free rein to experimentation thanks to daring projects made to order. Just the case of Jaguar XK140 Coupe with 810827D chassis. A unique piece commissioned by the French industrialist Hans Altweg from the Turin coachbuilder at the end of 1955, and it was presented at the Paris Motor Show the following year.


When Jaguar Chief Designer William Lyons introduced the Mark V saloon in 1948, everything seemed to stay in place. And it is that, although it introduced mechanical innovations such as independent front suspension, hydraulic brakes or turn signals the general approach remained true to the conservative ideas of Jaguar. A fact that is mainly seen in the bodywork, which owes its lines to the pre-World War II models. However, trying to gain media presence to support the launch of the Mark V, the Jaguars resorted to something unforeseen.

A small, sporty and light car that would be the perfect wrapper to present a new six-cylinder engine called the XK. A priori nothing more than a short run media operation dubbed XK120. However, the success of this model was of such caliber that only During its presentation at the British International Motor Show, more than three hundred purchase requests were registered. A surprise that caught the brand off guard, which barely had time to finish the development of the model before its series production on the basis of a shortened Mark V chassis.

Jaguar XK120 coupe

Thus the things, the XK120 had two more series to be in production until 1961 being one of the greatest milestones of English motorsport. Regarding the second one, it was called XK140. Gaining 30CV the first time to increase the performance of its 3,4-liter engine to 190CV. Without a doubt a good advance that, nevertheless, it contrasted aesthetically with the attachment to lines that were already beginning to become outdated in the rapid evolution of the postwar period. Aware of this, Jaguar offered the possibility of buying the chassis and mechanics without a body. Option that facilitated the appearance of unique jobs by Italian bodybuilders using the XK140 as a base.


As soon as the XK1954 appeared in 140, Jaguar began supplying up to eleven chassis directly to Ghia. Among them are the four that were the basis for the Savonuzzi Supersonic. Which are similar to those I had already done on various FIAT 8V as well as certain chassis of the XK120. In addition, in a less refined style line Ghia corporately assumed the authorship of other designs such as the one that was executed on the 810827D chassis. First of the XK140s to reach the Turin workshops. Which was presented at the 1956 Paris Motor Show sporting an aluminum body that lightened the weight of the small but not exactly light XK140.

Advantage that improved the performance of the car, lightening by more than 100 kilos the around 1300 of the factory model. Regarding the history of the model, it should be said that a first analysis of its photographs invites error since we see two very different grills. However, this has a simple explanation. Given that after suffering an accident in the area of ​​its left headlight in 1959, this XK140 was sent back to Ghia for repair. Moment in which it was used to update its lines, incorporating a much more spartan grill.

Surely brought about by the new owner Berthelot-Mariat, who used the car in numerous rallies and ascension races. Hobbyist driver who kept the car until 1969, when it passed into the hands of Jaguar Roland Urban collector. An authority in the history of the Jaguar unique piece. Which continued to use the car in races incorporating improvements such as disc brakes or new carburettors. An active life for this XK140 that, however, stood still since 1979 degenerating until accumulating rust and multiple damages.

Photographs: Bonhams / Jaguar Media Press

PS The photographs used to illustrate this article come from the catalog prepared by Bonhams for The Zoute Sale. Auction held on October 10 where the XK140 was assigned to a new owner. He is expected to put the car through some careful restoration work.

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Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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