George Barris-customised Jaguar XK120 set for Amelia Island

Jaguar XK120 owned by Hollywood star Clarke Gable and customised by George Barris will star at next year's Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance

A Jaguar XK120 redesigned by legendary car customiser Geoge Barris will appear at next year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, celebrating 70 years since setting a new record for being the world’s fastest production car.

After appearing on the West Coast of the United States last year at Pebble Beach, one of four XK120s previously owned by Hollywood actor Clark Gable will star at Amelia Island in 2019, belatedly marking 70 years since Jaguar debuted its XK engine.

Gable purchased one of Jaguar’s limited run of XK120s soon after its debut at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show, demanding he own the very first example exported to the US West Coast.

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Such was Gable’s infatuation with the open top two-seater, he purchased three more in total. Of these four, Gable’s second XK120 was sent to Barris for extensive modifications.

Repainted in a ‘Gold Bronze Lacquer’ colour, Barris also replaced the factory soft-top with a padded Carson top to allow extra headroom for Gable’s tall frame.

Despite Barris’ reputation for zany designs, like matching gold and pink Mustangs for Sonny and Cher, his redesign of the XK120 was far more reserved. It focussed on refining the Jaguar’s sweeping lines with blended bumpers and relocating the rear license plate further down the car’s sweeping rear end.

Like many collector classics of its era, it went missing for several years until re-emerging in 2010 and undergoing restoration, still featuring its original steel wheels and rear wheel spats.

So subtle is Barris’ restyling that of all his modifications, the only one which gives away its origins is the small Barris Custom Cars badges located under the windscreen pillars.

‘Jaguar's XK120 is a landmark car. It was the first sports car I ever rode in,’ said Bill Warner, founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. ‘I was just a kid but the smell of the leather and the wood has stayed with me. The XK120 is simply unforgettable.’

Despite its British origin, the XK120 was successful in America’s racing scene, further raising its profile beyond Hollywood star Gable’s own personal endorsement.

Formula 1 world champion Phil Hill drove an XK120 to victory at the 1950 Pebble Beach Cup, while Al Keller delivered Jaguar’s only NASCAR Grand National victory – now known as the NASCAR Cup series – driving an XK120 coupe at Linden Airport.

Photos courtesy of Joey Limongelli and Jaguar Land Rover

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