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Pedal to the (Tailor-made) Metal

The latest collaboration between Jaguar and David Gandy brings a whole new meaning to the concept of made to measure 

words by Will Halbert
photography by Patrick Gosling

Placing the word ‘bespoke’ in the general vicinity of the name David Gandy is likely to evoke images of the model’s six-foot-something frame adorned with fabrics and fits from Savil Row’s finest. And rightly so. Over the course of his career, Gandy has made quite a name for himself as a paragon of bespoke style and first-rate sartorialism. 

But to delve into the world of bespoke is, above all, to challenge the very limits and thresholds of a design paradigm. Bespoke is both risky and respectful, irreverent and intelligent. It’s a coming together of individual attitude and artistic vision that extends far beyond the realm of the sartorial and into broader, bolder territories. 

It’s precisely in these territories that the Jaguar Classic team thrive. Boasting an alchemic blend of unadulterated aesthetic artistry and top-tier engineering, Tim Leese and the Jaguar Classic team have dedicated themselves to the meticulous restoration and recreation of some of the company’s most iconic cars. From the painstaking reproduction of the legendary, triple Le Mans-winning D‑type to the rigorous, hand-building of the XKSS, the Jaguar Classic team are nothing if not dedicated to their craft. 

Now, ‘hand-built’ isn’t a term you’ll often find bandied about in today’s automotive industry. But David Gandy’s XK120 is exactly that: it’s the result of over 2,800 man-hours and almost a year of development. And the proof is in the pudding: it’s a souped-up showstopper with brawn and beauty in spades. Built from the body of a 1954 XK – located in California by Jaguar’s dedicated team of researchers – the restoration is a sleek and sophisticated little number that still turns heads despite the six and a half decades behind it. 

And thanks to the experts at Jaguar Classic’s facility in Warwickshire, that beauty continues under the bonnet, too. The 180bhp of the 1954’s original straight-six engine has been ramped up to a formidable, but no less road-friendly 225bhp. Newly-added steel bracings ensure that the engine’s core plugs stay along for the ride at higher speeds. A dual-pipe exhaust system kicks the horsepower up another notch, while a purpose-built, racing-style gearbox allows for faster, cleaner shifting built to hold its own at top speeds. Further race-ready flourishes such as the new, up-front, four-pot calliper disc brakes and fully adjustable dampers are built with control and customisation in mind.  

‘Finding that balance between race ready aggression and road-friendly politeness with such a classic build was interesting to say the least,’ says Tim, ‘But Jaguar Classic is never one to shy away from a challenge.’ He’s not wrong: In Jaguar Classic, Tim Leese and his team have made a playground out of conventional paradigms. The bespoke Jaguar XK120 is a four-wheeled foray into true, petrol head passion: a first rate, for-the-sheer-glory-of-it exercise in superlative engineering that, under the watchful eye of David Gandy, is not without a sartorial edge. 

The sleek, blacker-than-black convertible is fitted with a racing style flip-top fuel cap, and two curve-top aero screens (replacing the original split windscreen). David’s addition of an aged and latticed saddle tan leather interior adds a touch of tailored flare to an otherwise utilitarian turn: ‘The classic leather seats of the XK120 were undeniably beautiful,’ admits David, ‘but they did tend to leave you sliding about a fair bit. The bespoke seats fix that’.

In further testament to the Jaguar’s bespoke nature, the two batteries that would usually sit behind the driver’s seat have been reduced to a single battery, which has been relocated to the passenger seat to accommodate David’s somewhat superlative stature. The same goes for the bespoke steering wheel, nipped and tucked to afford more leg room. 

The last word in made to measure motoring, the Jaguar XK120 is more than just a poster boy of bespoke beauty: It’s a visual ode to the glory and prestige of Jaguar’s ride so far, and an awe-inspiring glimpse at the road that lies ahead. EJ