The XK140 was introduced in October 1954 at the London Motor Show as the successor to the XK120; it was easily distinguishable from its predecessor by its more substantial front and rear bumpers, a radiator grille with fewer slats, and a chromium strip which ran along the centre of the bonnet and boot. A major improvement was to lengthen the cockpit to make the car more comfortable for taller drivers. Under the bonnet the 140 had the superb six cylinder XK 3.4 litre engine, basically the same as the Special Equipment XK120 unit, producing an impressive 190bhp at 5,600rpm, compared to the 160bhp of the standard XK120. Like the earlier car, however, the XK140 retained independent front suspension with semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The new model sold very well indeed, with orders flooding in for two main reasons: firstly, the proven excellence of the old XK120, which had won so many peoples' hearts, and also because of the enormous success Jaguar was enjoying in its greatest period of international motor racing, winning Le Mans in 1951 and 1953 with the C-Type and in 1955, 1956 and 1957 with the D-Type.
The XK 140 fixed-head coupe, had an interior trim far more elaborate than the roadster, complete with superb wood cappings. The special C-Type cylinder head was also carried through from the XK120 catalogue as an option, specified at 210 bhp. A car fitted with the C-Type cylinder head, 2-inch sandcast H8 carburettors, and heavier front torsion bars were designated XK140 SE or special equipment.
This example well known by its registration mark "420 AVT" was first registered in October 1956 and the Heritage certificate states that it was delivered to Byatt Jaguar and was finished in Battleship Grey with the grey interior. The chassis number is S804840, the "S" denoting that the car was equipped with the Special Equipment package from new.
Early on in its life the car was converted to a lightweight racing specification, for use by the then owner Reverend John Fellingham, which included the fitment of a D Type cylinder head for a period of time. The Reverend campaigned the car, wearing his dog collar, with much success throughout the 1970s including a win at the Thoroughbred race in 1979 and hence it became known as 'The Vicars Car'. Clearly helped by the D-Type head and much improved brakes the "Flying Vicar" was extremely competitive especially during the 1970s; which included a win at the Thoroughbred race in 1979. The Vicar raced AVT in the 1976 TS Championship through until the end of 1980 and in a few other suitable races - about a dozen races a year - but in 1977 he finished a very creditable fourth in the TS Championship especially as he only considered himself to be merely 'competent'. The car was often driven by Martin Crowther or John (metal) Pearson. The history file contains some lovely racing shots of the car including one of the Vicar lapping the XK120 Roadster of the well-known Roger Saul at Silverstone.
In 1999 420 AVT was purchased by renowned Bentley racer Paul Carter. He had decided that he wished to complete the Carrera Panamerica and decided that he would do this in an XK, because of its strength and reliable power plant, and set about finding a suitable car. When he found AVT with its contemporary history he knew he had found the right car. He set about a complete rebuild and restoration because it would have to complete thousands of miles at maximum speed in extremely tricky conditions. He sent the car to David Sedge of Maidstone, a well-known and respected Jaguar and Bentley engineer who set about making this a real contender. The car was completely rebuilt, there are photographs in the history file showing this, and strengthened where necessary with the engine getting a complete revamp with larger valves and a very impressive specification, David still thinks of this as one of the best engines he has ever built and remarkably the car was said to produce 315bhp. A look in the history file at the wiring diagram will be enough to show you the detail they went to in order to ensure the car would finish.
Despite investing over £60,000 sadly Carter was unable to run the car in the Carrera Pan America, but did take part in the Monte Carlo Retro and various club events, which showed this vehicle to be a very competitive winning car. This level of expenditure and preparation meant the car was an obvious choice for Simon Hope of H&H Classic Auctions who wanted a race car that was also perfectly suited to regularity tours and rallies. In his ownership the car competed in just one race at Oulton Park where it was the 1st XK140 to finish and had a further light refurbishment at renowned Jaguar specialists CMC which included a brake overhaul and new tyres in order for the car to remain at the front of the grid.
The "Flying Vicar" with it's in interesting history is today equally suited to Historic racing, hill climbs regularity trials and European tours, 420 AVT is eligible for a huge variety of events and is as such an ideal affordable and reliable race car.
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