Chop-top Jag still calls Australia home

A superb customised 1953 Jaguar XK120 coupe created by Taree-based custom and restoration guru Justin Hills has been sold to a Melbourne collector.

It was in November last year that Cars4starters first ran a story about Hills and Co. Customs and Auto Restoration.

We flagged the Jaguar project that was set to make its debut at the Lindsay House concours d’elegance in Sydney last month.

At that stage there was significant interest in the car from the United States.

That’s hardly surprising given Hills’ stunning 1960 Dodge that won the prestigious 2013 H.A Bagdasarian Award, as the world’s most beautiful custom car at that year’s Sacramento Autorama show in California.

When he began the Jaguar project, Justin christened the car the XK120 LM (as in Le Mans) because he reckons it’s the car Jaguar should have built.

Once the car arrived in the Taree shop, Justin chopped 75mm from the roof, fitted adjustable air suspension and blessed the Jag with Wilwood disc brakes.

The car’s leather interior uses an original classic Jaguar colour called Suede Green.

The LM’s crowning glory, however,  is the totally re-engineered 5.3-litre Jaguar V12 engine that lurks under the long, slinky bonnet.

It’s a lift from a Jaguar XJ-S and has been brought back to 5.0 litres.

Revved to 8200rpm before Justin backed off, the engine recorded 343kW on a dynamometer – rather more than the 120kW the XK120’s original engine was good for.

When the just-finished LM rolled off the truck last month at the Lindsay House concours in Sydney, it was spotted by a Melbourne collector who was at the show with his McLaren F1.

He also has a Bugatti Veyron among other toys in his garage.

Justin explains that is was a case of love at first sight for the Melbournian and within an hour or so a deal had been struck and he was the new owner.

“I’m actually proud that the car stayed in Australia and went to Melbourne,” he said.

The beautiful black Jag was already booked to travel to the United States in August for the Quail Lodge car show, near Pebble Beach and the new owner has agreed that the car should keep the date.

In September, it will cross the Atlantic to the UK to be shown at the Blenheim Palace concours and will then spend a day at the house of Jaguar founder Sir Williams Lyons.

While some Jaguar purists might not approve of customising any car wearing the Leaper — let alone a classic XK120 coupe — they should know that Jaguar’s current design boss, Ian Callum, has generously written to Justin saying he has no doubt that Sir William would have approved.

When I first met Justin in his Taree shop in November last year, he said he didn’t do commissions.

I asked hime whether, if asked, he would make an exception in the case of another XK120 LM.

“If someone had enough money they could probably talk me into it,” he said.

So what’s Justin’s next personal project, or projects?

Actually there’s two in the pipeline: an Iso Bizzarrini and a 1948 Daimler.

The magnificent Iso Bizzarrini was the creation of Giotto Bizzarrini, a great Italian engineer, test driver and designer who influenced not only the development of the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa and 250 GT SWB, but also designed one of the world’s greatest and most expensive classics — the Ferrari GTO.

The Iso’s original chassis is currently in Sydney and a fibreglass body has been built for it in the US.

The engine will be an original Weber-equipped 327 cubic inch Chevrolet motor.

“It’ll be a clone but with all original stuff,” Justin said.

The other new personal project is somewhat unusual.

It is one of two straight-eight 1948 Daimlers used for the 1954 Australian Royal visit by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh.

The Hills team recently completed a major restoration project on one of the cars, owned by the National Museum, in Canberra.

Justin explained the museum told him the other car was located in Rockhampton, so he tracked it down and bought the car.

Again . . . purists beware.

Justin thinks the big boxy Daimler is ugliness on wheels and plans to “get rid of the roof” and section the body.

“I’ll paint it in blue and black and I’ll keep the original rear seat used by the Royal couple,” he said.

As well as the Iso and the Daimler, Justin continues to have a workshop full of projects.

Two of the most interesting will be an XC GT Falcon and a Maserati Ghibli.

There’s never a dull moment in the nondescript Taree shed that houses Hills & Co. Customs and Auto Restorations.

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