Jaguar XK 120 Supersonic by Ghia

In October Porter Press published the first title in their new Coachbuilt Car series, which unravels the story of the Jaguar XK 120 Supersonic designed by Carrozzeria Ghia of which only three examples were ever built.

Author Richard Heseltine takes a look at the complicated story of British design brilliance and Italian design artistry that went into creating this unique car which was built on Jaguar XK 120 chassis number 679768. Just two other examples were made in 1954. However, these three cars were just one part of the charismatic Supersonic era which began with a one-off GT intended to contest the Mille Miglia.

Jaguar XK 120 Supersonic illustration

This is the story of how Ghia took the car world by storm with its unique jet-age styling and some of the characters that helped create the legendary post-war Italian car design, engineering and of course, racing.

19 Supersonic designs were created by Ghia, wrapping bodies and running gear from the Jaguar XK 120, Aston Martin DB2 and DB4 and the Fiat 8V.

Ghia's early years

Richard Heseltine, who is both an author and journalist, focusses his writing on classic and contemporary cars and motor sport history. He was a former staff member of Classic & Sports Car and Motor Sport magazines, and is the author of a wide variety of books as diverse as small-series British sports cars, Italian coachbuilding and Ferrari design history, to the biography of racing driver and team principal Graham Warner. Richard looks after his very own coachbuilt Italian classic, a 1966 Moretti 850 Sportiva, at his home in Shropshire.

The book opens with an in-depth background on Carrozzeria Ghia, examining the Italian coachbuilder’s efforts to become known across Europe and break into the potentially lucrative US market, which the company did to a degree, by adding design stardust to Chrysler cars and creating the legendary Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia.

Ghia car designs

Richard covers the birth of Supersonic design and in particular, he covers the Alfa Romeo-powered GT in great detail, explaining how ostensibly the same car carried the badges of Aston Martin, Fiat and even AC/Shelby, as the pretty, wind-cheating shape was adapted to a wide variety of other chassis.

The book goes on to talk about the original Supersonic, which was the work of Giovanni Sovanuzzi, who was the genius designer-engineer famous for the Cisitalia 202. Space is also given to race team legend Virgilio Conrero who was the first to put fire in the Supersonic’s belly so to speak, while fiery Ghia chief Luigi Segre used the car to woo the North American market.

The Jaguar XK 120 Supersonic

A line-up of other Italian-bodied Jaguar XK sports cars are looked at in detail with some great illustrations, by way of comparing and contrasting the Supersonic with the work of other accomplished Italian designers.

Much detail is given to the history of chassis number 679768, recounting its elusive first owner, its lengthy periods hidden from public view, and its status today as the prized centrepiece in a special private collection.

The Jaguar XK 120

This beautifully produced book, which is priced at very reasonable £35, is illustrated with a mix of rare archive images and specially commissioned contemporary stunning photography and makes for not only a great read but also the perfect book to have on show.

Publication date: October 2019
UK price: £35.00
ISBN: 978-1-907085-82-6
Format: 315×270 mm, Jacketed hardback
Pages: 108
Illustration: over 100 images

For more information and to purchase your own copy of the book, please visit the Porter Press website:

Author Bio:

Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.

Illustrations courtesy of Porter Press International

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