Monterey 2024

1956 Jaguar XK 140 SE Coupe by Ghia

A Private Collection

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$500,000 - $650,000 USD  | Offered Without Reserve

United States | Monterey, California

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Chassis No.
S 815404
Engine No.
G 6839-8S
Cylinder Head No.
G 6839-8S
Documents
US Title
  • One of no more than four examples hand-crafted in aluminum by Carrozzeria Ghia
  • A remarkable coachbuilt Jaguar; spiritual successor to Ghia’s XK 120 Supersonic
  • Formerly owned by actor Ricardo Montalbán and the Blackhawk Collection
  • Retains matching-numbers engine and cylinder head
  • An intriguing Anglo-Italian creation with tremendous concours, club, and touring potential

By virtually any measure, the Jaguar XK 140 was an improvement over the XK 120: When it debuted for the 1955 model year, it was more powerful than its predecessor, and also larger and more luxurious. Although Coventry’s stylistic aim for the new model was more evolutionary than revolutionary, clients seeking a visually avant-garde car could still purchase a chassis and have it completed by a coachbuilder of their choice. Relatively few would exercise this option: Only 10 XK 140s are known to have been supplied by Jaguar as bare chassis to coachbuilders (an 11th chassis was retained by Jaguar for experimental purposes).

That Ghia would be one of the Italian carrozzerie to create special bodies for the XK 140 should come as no surprise; its stunning, Giovanni Savonuzzi-penned Supersonic coachwork had been applied to the XK 120 chassis to great effect. The XK 140-based successor would retain the Supersonic’s dramatic long-hood, short-deck proportions, but it was clearly modernized. Its flanks were cleaner, its tailfins were larger, and its roofline appeared taller, with plenty of glass on all sides of the cabin. As a bonus, Ghia’s aluminum coachwork was lighter than the typical steel Jaguar body. A subtle emblem on the hood and the script on the trunk were the only exterior clues that there was a Jaguar chassis underneath.

This design is sometimes attributed to Giovanni Savonuzzi, or alternatively Giovanni Michelotti, who worked as a freelancer stylist at the time, although at present there is no definitive proof of either designer’s involvement. It is interesting to note that, much like the Supersonic design before it, this bodywork was applied to a variety of chassis. In fact, the 1954 Alfa Romeo 1900 L by Ghia also offered in this catalogue shares many of the same major design cues, although the proportions of that car give it a very different overall look.

According to the research of Anders Ditlev Clausager contained in Jaguar XK 140/150 In Detail, Ghia is known to have bodied at least three, and perhaps four, XK 140s in this style. Chassis 810827 DN was commissioned by the dealer Delacroix in Paris, France and exhibited at the 1955 Paris Motor Show and S 814937 DN was sent to the Lebanese importer Robert M. Trad. Another chassis, 815942, was sent to Lebanon as well, though it is not clear whether it wore a similar Ghia body. The remaining chassis, number S 815404, is the car offered here.

AN ITALIAN-BODIED JAGUAR IN AMERICA

Clausager’s research indicates that this special XK 140 was ordered by an R. W. Martin of La Jolla, California through the major Los Angles dealership, Hornburg. Each of these Ghia-bodied XK 140s varied in their details, and a photo that is believed to show this car soon after its completion in Turin indicates that it was finished in white (or a similar light color) with chrome rings around the headlamps, a shield-shaped Jaguar hood emblem, and a hood without an air intake.

The car was reportedly next owned by Gower Champion, actor and theater director, and his then-wife Marjorie. In 1967, the Jaguar was acquired by Ricardo Montalbán, known for his film acting in both Mexico and America and beloved in automotive circles for his role as the suave Chrysler pitchman—most unforgettably, for the Chrysler Cordoba and its “rich Corinthian leather.” When acquired by Montalbán, the car was red; a photo on file of the actor posing with the Jaguar shows that, during his ownership, it still lacked a hood intake.

Having made its way to Japan by the early 1990s, S 815404 next appeared in the prestigious Blackhawk Collection in Danville, California. During its tenure there it was shown selectively, appearing at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1992 and 1996. By that time, it had been restored to its present appearance of red over a tan leather interior—though not one of the Corinthian variety, so far as research indicates—with important details such as Marchal headlamps preserved. It also retains its numbers-matching dual-SU-carbureted engine and cylinder head, as noted by its accompanying Jaguar Heritage Trust Production Record Trace Certificate on file (which further confirms its dispatch as a bare chassis). At some point, a hood air intake was fitted, bringing this car in line stylistically with at least one of the other known Ghia-bodied XK 140s.

There is much to recommend a standard XK 140 to the discriminating modern collector, from its engaging road manners to its exhibition and touring potential. This striking coachbuilt Jaguar offers its next owner all that plus the rare distinction of a hand-crafted body—just as when it first rolled out of Ghia’s hallowed Turin works in 1956.