If only cars possessing historic significance could talk. What stories they would tell. However, though beautiful, they remain sadly mute leaving it up to us to find their voice.
For the owner of a Sebring-raced XK120 it took 48 years for history to speak up.
Dagavar’s Jaguar, The truth at last
Since buying the 1954 XK120MC in 1971, Dr. Dick Santucci appreciated that by its very nature this Jaguar was special. It would take a phone call 48-years later for him to find out just how special.
Throughout Dick Santucci’s childhood, Fred Dagavar’s 1954 XK120 roadster filled the young boy’s dreams thanks to Papa Santucci’s prolific storytelling abilities and great friendship with Dagavar. Rich with grit, bravado, exotic cars and famous drivers, stories about Dagavar racing his Jaguar filled the Santucci’s Bronx kitchen and gave substance to a child’s dreams of adventure.
Years later, Dagavar, now in his ‘70s, considered selling his long retired and battered Jaguar. Santucci jumped at the chance to own the British sports car that had starred in his childhood reveries. However, with little spare time available or money remaining, Santucci knew that the severely distressed sports car would have to wait years for resurrection. College and chiropractic school would come first.
By 1978 Santucci had established his chiropractic practice. By 1981 the Jaguar returned to the road, reborn.
Having dueled against a pantheon of driving legends such as Briggs Cunningham, Stirling Moss, Luigi Chinetti, Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby and Mike Hawthorne; it was only fitting that Dagavar’s Jaguar, in an age of trailer queens, would benefit from Santucci’s passionate desire for the Jaguar to run strong and free.
Decades of driving pleasure and a total restoration, thanks to a deer that did not look both ways, culminated in 2019 with Santucci’s Jaguar being invited to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Santucci took great pleasure in witnessing what he believed would be the Dagavar Jaguar’s pinnacle achievement and confirmation of its special qualities. He had no way of knowing the secrets Dagavar’s Jaguar had yet to divulge until, back home, his phone rang.
“Do you know what you have,” asked the caller. “I am pretty sure I do,” Santucci replied. The voice of vintage Jaguar owner John Strader of Colorado spoke with confidence and conviction about the few XK120 Jaguars that went back to the factory for special attention. Strader explained that he had seen Santucci’s car on the Amelia Island website and that very few of these cars were ever produced. Actually Strader said he owned what he believed was the only other one of its kind in existence.
In the course of multiple exchanges, Strader, put Santucci in touch with Roger Payne of Perth, Australia. Payne a retired engineer and Jaguar historian was a fountain of Jaguar information.
Learning of the Dagavar Jaguar’s existence, Payne displayed a ravenous appetite for serial numbers and photographs. Like an Egyptologist in a newly discovered pyramid chamber, Payne immersed himself in researching his discovery.
Coming up for air, Payne awarded Santucci with the knowledge that only a handful of 1954 Xk120s returned to the factory to be custom equipped and factory-tuned with one of the spare second generation C-Type heads meant for the LeMans racing team.
It appeared Dagavar, who was a founding member of NASCAR and good friend of Bill France, met Jaguar’s legendary LeMans racing team manager Lofty England through Bill France at Sebring. At that time England promised to arrange a factory upgrade that included a spare C-Type head from the racing team. Santucci, Payne announced, owned one of two matching number examples in existence. Special indeed.
Associating this extraordinary provenance to the already stunningly restored vehicle proved to be the special sauce that enticed the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance to invite the Dagavar Jaguar to display on Sunday June 2nd 2019.
That Sunday at Greenwich, the Dagavar Jaguar, received the Chief Judge’s Award – International. In accepting the award from historians Ken Gross and David Schultz, Santucci smiled acknowledging that Dagavar had planted the XK into a sand bank at Sebring in 1955. Thus, this was the first win for the Jaguar since Dagavar bought the car in 1954.