1955 Jaguar XK140 Drophead Coupe
Owned by Peter Fielding
Members of The Jaguar Drivers Club of Natal, South Africa, are justifiably proud of their cars. Some are brand new; others in original condition and some have been restored to their former glory, having been found as wrecks.
This page features the Jaguar XK140
The Jaguar Drivers Club of Natal
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Jaguar XK120 left and Jaguar XK140
1955 Jaguar XK140 Drophead Coupe.
Chassis # 807295DN. Reg. No: XK140 ZN
Story by Peter Fielding, Scottburgh, KwaZulu Natal
The car has had several owners since it was brought to SA in 1971.
I spotted an advertisement in the Johannesburg Star in 1984 but to my dismay, someone had beaten me to it by a couple of days. I was still scanning the Starís classifieds in 1986 and by an amazing coincidence; the same car was advertised yet again. This time I responded shortly after the paper hit the streets and I drove out to a plot north of Johannesburg immediately. I was the first to view the dismantled car and I bought it - but only just, as several others were after it too.
The owner decided that the totally dismantled XK which he bought in í84, was too much of an ordeal to complete. So, by the time I got it, all the running gear, the complete engine bay, hood, seats, nuts and bolts and even the registration papers were missing. But I didnít worry and in fact I didnít even think about it at the time. At last I had my 140 with those beautifully shaped heavy bumpers and tall over-riders together with the chrome strips down the entire length of the car - simply gorgeous! This is one of an estimated 200 RHD 140DHC known to have survived out of the total of 479 manufactured.
I then set about finding or making all the missing parts whilst stripping the few bits that remained on the chassis. During the following ten years that it took to build the car, I learnt much about XKs but even more about myself. I discovered that if you really want something badly enough, youíll go to any lengths to achieve it without any negative thoughts about the hardships involved. With hands bleeding from the sharp metal and burns from the gas welder, there was never a thought that this might be too big a task - despite what some of my friends were telling me.
During those years I met a host of people and travelled extensively, not only in South Africa but in the UK and on the west coast of the US while procuring parts and getting advice. It was during this time that I discovered the tremendous bond that exists between the owners of these great cars. The first time I drove my 140 was hardly an ideal test as I was on the chassis only without the body, seated on a cut down kitchen chair. I drove about 50 miles around Johannesburg, to the Jaguar Annual Concours and even into the old Jhb Licensing Dept and Testing grounds but all thatís a story for another time.
In 1996, it was payback time for all those lonely nights, weekends in the garage and missed car events. My XK turned out better than I ever imagined and this was reflected in the accolades wherever I went and a clean sweep of the trophies at the Jaguar Club (Jhb) Concours. I could stop nowhere without someone approaching the car to talk about it or to tell me their particular story of a Jaguar.
The drop-dead gorgeous looks turned heads at every car show we attended. On the road, folk either smiled and waved with approval or dropped their jaw in amazement. It became a ticket to meeting folk and opening doors. The stunning beauty of the 140 with its massive wings climbing high in front, and then plunging down dramatically to the rear, embellished with huge amounts of sparkling chrome - no wonder people find it irresistible. It looks perfectly proportioned from any angle.
Even with the slightly larger cockpit than the 120, itís still cramped for my long legs. But the steering is positive and the XK feels stable on the road at any speed. The drum brakes are adequate for normal road use but I have grown accustomed to driving with a long view of what lies ahead. Neither the slab seats nor leaf-spring rear suspension are the most comfortable for the 1500km journey to Cape Town. However, all this is forgotten when Iím on the road with the torquey XK engine burbling away. The performance is slow by todayís standards but it must have been awesome way back in 1955.
To date we have driven 37000 miles and so the car is beginning to show signs of wear and patina. It is so enjoyable to drive that I cannot resist taking it out on the road on every possible occasion. XKs are a rare sight on our roads today and so I drive it and show it as much as possible. Val and I have driven to places throughout South Africa that we would never have dreamt of going unless we had the 140. Weíve driven seven Durban Dashes, four Mielie Mealias, two Kruger Capers, and Cape Town several times. Perhaps one of our most memorable local trips was to Namaqualand with another XK140 on a two week tour to see the flowers.
In 1998 we shipped it to the UK to participate in the XK 50th Anniversary celebrations which comprised a week-long organized tour of the southern counties of England followed by an international gathering of 526 XKs at Donington. We also drove it home to Jaguarís factory at Browns Lane, Coventry, where it was assembled way back in 1955.
But above all, I have met other XK enthusiasts from around the world whose lasting friendships will be enjoyed for years to come as a result of proudly owning this great classic Jaguar. I have stayed with XK friends in the UK, Germany, Canada and the US.
If I had known what lay ahead of me way back in 1986 when I was so fortunate to secure the XK, I would never in my wildest imagination have believed it. The most frequently asked question when people approach the car is: ďHow much is it worth?Ē I ask you - how can you possibly put a value on all the places Iíve visited, the friendships Iíve made and the experiences Iíve had - Itís impossible.
And thereís more to come in the years ahead.
So the XK140Ö is ďpricelessĒ.
Photographs of the restoration of Peter's 1955 Jaguar XK140 Drophead Coupe
As purchased - and not much more because a lot was missing!
Cutting out the rust and welding in new metal.
Body cut in half while taking out the rusty metal.
Rear section with new floor and all rust removed.
Chassis complete with unfinished rear section in place.
Driving the chassis - it was very quick!
Val & I drove the chassis to the Jag Club Showday.
Finished body ready to go to the painters.
At Showday - finished at last!