In his book on Jaguar Sports Cars (Foulis, Sparkford, Som.) Paul Skilleter says that the XK 120 Jaguar roadster NUB 120 is the most famous XK120 of them all, and few will argue with him. This alloy-bodied XK120 open two-seater first appeared in competition in 1950, driven by Ian Appleyard and achieved instant fame by completing the arduous Alpine Rally without losing a single mark. Appleyard was navigated by his wife Pat, who is the daughter of Sir William Lyons, so naturally, NUB 120 has the benefit of close co-operation from the Jaguar factory competitions department. During that first appearance in an Alpine Rally the white roadster made the fastest time at the Col du Vars hillclimb and the fastest time in a flying kilometre speed test on an Autostrada, averaging 109.8 m.p.h. on its “mountain” axle ratio. Appleyard made the best individual performance for the entire event.
In 1951 the Appleyards and NUB 120 won the Tulip Rally, the RAC Rally and again completed the Alpine Rally without losing a single mark. The six-cylinder twin-cam engine had been improved by the addition of optional Special Equipment marketed by Jaguars, though the braking was still the Achilles heel of this very fast two-seater, as it was with all XK 120 Jaguars if they were pressed hard. The drum brakes were hidden away inside disc wheels and over-heated too easily, but improvements were being made all the time and in 1952 NUB 120 was fitted with centre-lock wire wheels in place of the bolt-on disc wheels. In that year’s Alpine Rally the Appleyards achieved a hat-trick of no loss of marks, a very rare achievement and for this they received an Alpine Gold Cup. In addition to the classic French Alps rally NUB 120 was used in numerous British events and was a very familiar and popular sight in the British club world.
By 1953 the white roadster was getting a bit long in the tooth and after winning the RAC Rally Ian Appleyard pensioned the car off and put it into honourable retirement in the foyer of the Jaguar factory in Browns Lane in Coventry. By this time this hard-worked XK 120 had covered something like 50,000 miles in competition and had earned its rest. After many years at the Jaguar factory it was loaned to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and is only taken out on special occasions. A few years ago Motor Sport was allowed the privilege of an afternoon out in this most famous of all XK120 Jaguars. It was the XK120 two-seater sports car that really put the Jaguar name on the world map and NUB 120 was one of many that spread the fame of Jaguar far and wide. — D.S. J.