Tim Barnes: 1951 Jaguar XK120

Peter Darnall, the fine motorsport writer and photographer, wrote a superb piece on the Jaguar XK120 the first year it raced. What follows is that article.


I’ll admit to partiality when it comes to XK120 Jaguars. Naturally I was drawn to Tim Barnes’ beautiful 1951 roadster in the covered area of the paddock. The leather straps holding down the long louvered hood and the dual Brooklands windscreens were the tip-off. This was not a meticulously detailed restoration to showroom stock specifications. Tim’s Jaguar is a racer very much in the tradition of Ian Appleyard’s famous NUB120 that dominated the early fifties rally events or, with the dark blue color, perhaps reminiscent of David Murray’s Ecurie Ecosse team cars.


“The color is supposed to be Jaguar’s Pacific Blue,” Tim said, “but no one seemed to know exactly what the color was.” His inspiration was Lance Reventlow’s original Scarab. As a boy, he had seen the Scarab under construction in his uncle’s shop in Southern California. His uncle, Tom Barnes, in partnership with Dick Troutman, operated Troutman & Barnes, one of the most successful race car fabrication shops in Southern California in the post-World War 2 years. Lance Reventlow had chosen Troutman & Barnes to build his Scarab cars and had specified the distinctive blue color for his creations.


Tim found his Jaguar half buried in an orchard in the San Joaquin Valley in the spring of 2002. Work to extract the car began in the summer of that year. Tim is a professor of American History at Cal Poly. He did the restoration work himself, learning the skills of sheet metal fabrication and engine building under the tutelage of professionals. The entire restoration took more than seven years and he noted that the project was “in stark contrast to his life as an academic and in that way appealing.”


The high point of the restoration came on the day the engine was fired up on the dynometer. Tim proudly watched as his engine was put through its paces and performed perfectly. He recalled that at 6000 rpm it was still making power when, much to the disappointment of the real engine builders, he halted the test because “I simply could not imagine that something that I had put together could endure such stresses.


The white number “138” on the Jaguar is also significant. Tom Barnes painted that number on the original Troutman-Barnes Special for its first outing at Willow Springs in 1954. Sadly, Tom Barnes passed away before Tim had finished the restoration. In their last telephone conversation, Tim recalled that his uncle was very gratified to hear that #138 would return to the tracks once again. He referred to Tim as “Jag Man.” Perhaps the highest compliment Tom Barnes could give, recognizing the superb restoration his nephew had carried out.

Robert Davis: 1953 Siata 208S

In 2003, Mark Gessler invited me to co-drive his 1938 BMW 328, in the Colorado Grand and the Mille Miglia. I was hooked. the next year, he sold me his Siata 208S; it had been accepted at the Concorso Villa d’Este , but I just wanted to race and rally the car. So, after one race, it was shipped to Italy, to be driven in the 2004 Mille Miglia. It was quite the adventure, because while it did fine on the racetrack, on the road and in traffic, it overheated, slowed down and died with some frequency, resulting in a lot of time spent by the side of the road. Generally near enough to a cafe that we could keep our espresso level high enough to avoid collapse and have interesting conversations about the car with all the Italian men who gathered around to offer their suggestions about fixing it.

When the car returned to the USA, it was determined that it needed a new distributor, among other things. Over time, it became an amazingly reliable car, with wonderfully light and noble handling. It was ideally suited to touring (at least in fine weather) and it was a pleasure to drive on the racetrack (though not very competitive). The car has done numerous tours, including the Colorado Grand, the Going to the Sun Rally, the California Mille and the Italian Mille (twice). After the second Italian Mille, the car was on the lawn the next week, at Villa d’Este, where it won a Targa d”Argento award, in part, I think, because it was so obviously a car that was used enthusiastically as well as cared for.

The Siata has also done numerous races, quite a few of them at the Monterey Reunion. Its grip level is quite limited, diminishing as the tires warm up, making it quite entertaining to slide around; it is a quintessential fifties sports car. It is, however, rather sophisticated for an early fifties car, with an all aluminum V8 engine and 4 wheel independent suspension. The engine was called an Otto Vu (8V) by Fiat, its manufacturer, because they thought, incorrectly, that Ford had copyrighted the term V8.

James Alder: 1952 Jaguar XK120

My understanding is that prior owner, Mr. Ken Haller of Reno had driven the car to Reno from New York in the 1950’s. He was active in the Reno SCCA as a participant in rally’s and gymkhana’s. According to Reno British Car (and Merle Brennan’s) mechanic, Ray Craft, Ken Haller had an incident driving home from a party at British Motors on S. Virginia St. in which the 120 was gently turned over in a ditch….not even breaking the windshield!!

My part starts in 1975 when I saw the 120 at Craft Foreign Motors shop where I was having some service done to my TR3. I was infatuated with the car, though thinking it was a Bentley or Rolls Royce sportscar. Ray Craft told me about Jaguar XK120 history in general. A few month’s later there was ad in local paper for an XK120 for sale. Indeed, it was the same car I saw at Ray’s shop. I convinced my boss Bob, (I was salesman at local Honda Motorbike dealership) to come up with half the money….which was good, but I still needed my half……which I borrowed from Christi (Bob’s daughter). The plan was to re-sell in Harrah’s Swap Meet for a nice profit. Car did not sell…Then everything changed when I was a spectator at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races in August 1977. This shot to the surface my simmering romantic idea of somehow being a “gentleman race driver”….like in the decades prior to, and just after, WWII. It became my mission to race the car. After paying off my boss and his daughter, I started the preparation work in order to make the Jaguar race worthy. Initially it never occurred to me to trailer the car to race events….lack of resources was one reason, but also it seemed that driving the car as transport to and from the race events was just the “proper way to do it”. After all, isn’t that how it was done…….back in the day?

The 120 has raced at Riverside, Westwood BC, Palm Springs, Portland, Seattle, and many events at Laguna Seca and Sonoma. This 120 Jaguar has approximately 130 race events in the logbooks…. although, not without some drama over the years. I have almost always been able to drive the car home to Reno. At this point, my intention is to carry on.



Lars Mapstead 1951 Jaguar


Lars Mapstead  hails from Aptos California

Drives a 1951 Jaguar


1952 Vintage Racer – Jaguar XK 120
While this is street-legal and licensed for driving, modifications were made to make it eligible to race with vintage race clubs CSRG, General Racing and HMSA at raceways in Northern California until 2008. Modifications include diaphragm-type clutch, fuel cell, roll bar, and 60-spoke heavy-duty wire wheels, racing seats, heavy-duty torsion bars and sway bar. Original equipment is also included: bumpers, leather seats, windshield and 54-spoke wire wheels.

Here you can watch the car in Action at Laguna seca

For more info email  [email protected]

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