Allow yourself to take all this in because it's a one-in-a-million barn find.
In 1961, the British automaker (currently under Indian ownership) prepared a major surprise for the media. Journalists of that time were not ready for what was about to come from Holbrook Lane, Coventry. It debuted at the 1961 Geneva International Salon d'Automobile (today's Geneva International Motor Show).
It was such a show-stopper that even Enzo Ferrari himself had to admit that it was the most gorgeous car he had ever seen. When it came to validating the looks of a brand-new vehicle, it was impossible to do better than this.
Cars and warsOriginally, the company was named SS Cars Co. and made vehicles like the SS 1 tourer or the SS 90. However, after what the Germans did in World War II, the automaker had to rebrand. People learned about the actions undertaken by the horrific paramilitary organization Schutzstaffel (SS), and nobody wanted to associate themselves with that acronym's harrowing reputation.
Thus, after World War II ended, Jaguar was born. And with it, the XK 120 – a roadster with an in-line six-cylinder under the hood. It embodied the feeling of peaceful freedom and signified a return to normalcy. But it also established a brand-new speed record for a production car, tapping out at 172.4 mph on a straight Belgian road.
Jaguar kept making variations of this vehicle because it rose to fame quite quickly and easily. It also put out various other sports cars, but none held a similar value. However, as time passed, the automaker understood it had to prioritize aerodynamics for increased performance.
Time for a revolutionJust one year later, the XKE made its first-ever appearance with a 3.8-liter straight-six powerplant putting out 269 hp mated to a smooth synchromesh gearbox. The recipe helped it achieve zero to 60 mph in approximately seven seconds and could keep going until it reached 150 mph. The rear-wheel-drive two-seater was made available as a coupe and as a convertible.
In today's enthusiast car market, the early models are the most valuable, even though Jaguar updated the vehicle's beating heart later by giving it more torque and an improved displacement.
It's worth noting, however, that there's no rulebook regarding the XKE's value. Auctions may have different outcomes because prospective buyers might relate differently to what's in front of them.
But the XKE wasn't just a pretty face. The car was built around a monocoque concept, boasting an independent suspension setup and four-wheel disc brakes. Something that can pique the interest of enthusiasts is that the vehicle had all these remarkable aspects to it, but the price wasn't as high as one might guess. It wasn't built for well-off buyers exclusively.
The roadster cost $5,660 stateside or $57,756 in today's money. To put it into perspective, that's the cost of a brand-new 2024 Mustang GT Premium Fastback. However, it was by no means cheap. It's important to remember that as we move through the historical timeline.
Corrosion was a big worry for US buyers because the cars were brought over here by ship, and the ocean's salty water could damage the vehicle before it even got into the customers' hands.
Fret notNonetheless, the XKE was unexpectedly popular with American customers. We bought over 38,000 units, most of which were Series 1 XKEs. That's the moniker given to the first iteration, which didn't suffer any significant modifications. Models differed because factories weren't ready to push out identical copies as it happens nowadays.
Still, it's hard to determine exactly what makes an XKE more valuable than another of the same year. Experts say three major series were created, but that's just a way to offer current buyers an easier understanding of the differences between various XKE model years.
The early '60s were also a time when Jaguar was transitioning from coach-built cars to Ford-like assembly lines and introducing modern electrical components. As such, build inconsistencies, dependableness problems, and breakdowns were not uncommon.
But now, add Jay Leno into the mix, and we get a memorable story about a well-known enthusiast who rescued one of the most famous and appreciated vehicles ever created.
The barn find that replaced THE barn findSome time ago, the beloved talk show host said he stumbled upon the "perfect barn find." Someone's dad was in a poor health condition, nearing the end of his life. The man bought the car in 1959 and took great care of it for over a decade. It was an Austin-Healey Sprite (the OG smiling car). But life happened, and the vehicle got parked and forgotten in a garage from 1973 until 2021.
The son knew Jay Leno, called him, and told the comedian he could have it. He accepted the challenge. Money didn't exchange hands. The guy just wanted his pop's car to be taken care of. The vehicle was 100% original. It had a few cosmetic issues and needed a new gas tank, but that was it.
But the Jaguar XKE story is a much better one. It might not get better than this when it comes to fantastic barn finds. A man living in Burbank, California, died under unknown circumstances in his home. Since the neighbors didn't know any of his relatives, the Police were called to do a report. Upon entering the residence, officers discovered a place filled with so much stuff that they could barely go inside and search for what had caused this guy's passing.
After the family came, they talked with the officers. They didn't know what make and model was hidden in there. The only detail the family members spilled was that it was of English origin.
One of the officers knew Jay Leno personally. He called the TV star and told him about what he had seen and that the family didn't know what to do with that car. The comedian enquired about it and eventually struck a deal.
The vehicle hidden under water heaters and old TVs was a 1963 Jaguar XKE. It was bought brand-new by the guy that passed. He used it for around five years. After becoming addicted to alcohol, the iconic roadster got put away in the garage, and it has never seen the light of day again – until Jay Leno got his hands on it. That's how he discovered a new barn find, one that could make any of us envious.
After an initial inspection, the verdict was clear. It was an all-original XKE with only 17,000 miles on the odometer! The car needed some help to return to its former glory, but nothing was missing. The TV star found even the original jack that nowadays is sold by people online for over $1,000. The manuals, books, tool kit, and the Dunlop bleeder hose were also in the trunk.
Ready for Jay Leno's Garage, a museum, or cars and coffeeSome worn-out parts, like the clutch and brake master cylinders and fuel and brake lines, had to be replaced. The differential was pulled out, disassembled, cleaned, and technicians replaced the gaskets and seals. The dents were fixed with great care, and no repainting was done.
But the best thing about this barn find is that the car was kept under a lot of stuff. Thus, water didn't get to it. The XKE survived for 54 years without showing signs of corrosion or severe upholstery damage. Even the factory body markings survived to this day! It is a marvel and sheer luck because, as stated above, Jaguar didn't really focus on reliability when it manufactured this astonishingly fantastic two-door.
Moreover, Jay Leno learned from his recent mishaps and didn't try to fool around this time. He saw the corroded wire rims and elected to put new ones on the roadster. Leno also went for a wider tire. As you may expect, the original ones were stored away.
Finally, this is one grand, if not ideal, barn find. It's a revived piece of history that's fortunately in great hands. The TV star also has a Jaguar XKE Coupe in his famous garage, so he's accustomed to this iconic machine. Now watch Jay Leno driving it around. He's sharing some interesting tidbits about the marque and the era when the car arrived in the US.