'An engineer with the same name as the car company’s founding father bought his XK-140 in 1964, a good 250,000 miles ago.
William Lyons, 80, a retired aerospace engineer-turned-novelist from Santa Clarita, Calif., on his 1956 Jaguar XK-140, as told to A.J. Baime.
When I was in high school, I was living in Downey, Calif., and I saw a Jaguar XK-140 drive down the road. I was so taken by it, I have never forgotten that moment. A few years later, in 1964, I was in Culver City, Calif., when out of the corner of my eye, I saw an XK-140 with a for-sale sign on it at a corner gas station. The price was $1,100. I did not have enough money, but the seller was kind enough to let me make payments over a few months.
I was 26, and that car became my daily driver. It came with me to Oklahoma and Kansas, then back to California. I have over a quarter of a million miles behind the wheel.
I am in a unique position to tell the story of Jaguar and this car, because I have owned it for 55 years, but also because I share a name with the man who shaped the Jaguar brand from its infancy—William Lyons. He began with a partner in 1922 building sidecars for motorcycles in Britain. He started building cars a few years later. Right after World War II, he introduced a state-of-the-art engine. From 1951 to 1957, Jaguar cars won the 24 Hours of Le Mans—the most famous race in Europe—five times.
During those days, the Jaguar XK-120 became one of the first European sports cars to be imported to the United States. At the time, it was the fastest production car on the road. My car, the XK-140, came after the XK-120. Jaguar claimed the car could go 140 miles per hour, thus its name.
I got divorced in the 1990s and my car sat in storage for a short time. When I married my wife, Darleen, in 1998, she gave me an ultimatum. Either we restore that car and get it back on the road, or I sleep in the garage. That was an easy decision. Darleen loved the car. She would get underneath it, bust her fingernails and cuss like a mechanic. We had the car painted, and although the color is not the original, it is a stock Jaguar XK-140 color called battleship grey.
About 15 years ago we started showing the car at car shows. We have over 100 awards. Every now and then I meet a fellow Jaguar fan who will stop in his tracks when I tell him my name. Yep—it’s William Lyons, no relation to the Jaguar founder.'
-A.J. Baime, Wall Street Journal, 8/13/2019 & photo by David Walter Banks, WSJ