THAT MISSING YEARS OF XK120
Jaguar Magazine|Issue 206
Kieran Lillis explains the previously unrecorded and lost years of the 1951 Darwin to Alice Springs world record breaking XK120. How it survived unscathed is astounding.
Kieran Lillis

UNDOUBTEDLY, ONE OF THE most daring feats in Australia’s Jaguar history was Les Taylor and Dick Rendle’s record-breaking run from Darwin to Alice Springs driving an XK120 in 1951.

As many readers may already know, they averaged 91.3 mph, despite having to stop for repairs after crashing into a bank while trying to avoid cattle on the road.

They hit kangaroos, and encountered mobs of wild brumbies (horses to our overseas readers). To top things off, most of the road was not sealed and badly corrugated – what an amazing feat!

Quite a lot is documented about the car in those early years, and its later restoration and participation in Darwin to Alice Springs anniversary events since.

However, the years between when it ended its racing career and when the restoration by its current owner commenced, are unknown. To my knowledge, no photos have emerged of the car during that intervening era - until now!

The new photos come from Neville Morris. He owned chassis #660569 when it was de-registered on July 6, 1968. Having known him for many years, in 2015 I had done some local detective work regarding the XK120 for its owner, Kees Heybroek.

At the time, Nev couldn’t find any photos, but he knew he had a couple somewhere. Then in August 2020, on one of my visits, the topic came up again in the company of another car enthusiast.

It suddenly occurred to Nev that the photos were on slides, not photographic paper. After searching through hundreds of them, Nev finally found the missing link images.

He passed them on to me to convert them to digital - and here they are. Prominent racing identity, Rex

Taylor, sold the car to Thomas (Tom) Rauchle in 1954 after it became obsolete for racing. Rex Taylor’s next car was the F1 Talbot-Lago T26C 007 which twice won the Australian Grand Prix. In 1949 it won the French Grand Prix driven by Louis Chiron.

When Tom acquired the XK120, it had been painted blue. He had a local mail run in the Leyburn district, and the story goes he used the car for many years to deliver mail!

Tom was quite proud of the old Jaguar, and would often take it to local shows where it would attract a lot of attention. At some time he painted the car. His daughter-in-law Shirley Rauchle remembers going for a ride in the XK120 with Thomas around 1958/59. She said he drove quite slowly, and the trip from Leyburn to Toowoomba seemed to take forever.

Shirley said the car was red when Tom used it as a mail run car. He obviously liked convertibles because after selling the XK120 to his nephew Terry Rauchle, Tom bought an MG.

Nev Morris bought it from Terry Rauchle, although no money changed hands, because Nev swapped an old 1950 Chev thirty hundredweight truck for the XK120!

Terry offered it to Nev from whom he had often bought motorbike parts, it was still registered and so he drove it home to Dalby.

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