Bill Wallace’s & Chuck Puth’s Racy XK120

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 01/2023
  • posted in: Newswire

This Jag purrs, with power, panache and pedigree.

Every day, day or night, car restorer Bill Wallace starts up his internet search engine and cruises for classics to renew and, most often, sell to appreciative buyers who love the original car and the restorative caress.

In October 2021, he was doing a midnight scour of Craig’s List and noticed a vehicle that jumped from the listings: a 1952 left-hand-drive Jaguar XK120 roadster, one of six that appeared in the promotional Race of Champions May 10, 1952, in Silverstone, England. Documented by a certificate of authenticity from Jaguar, the XK120 is the only one in bronze and probably the last of the sextet existing.


The search for the XK120 was as exciting as the ride it offers: “It’s all about the chase,” says Wallace, who previously owned the Autobahn Collision and Preferred Collision shops, both in the Scottsdale Airpark. “I love cars and am always looking for that needle in the haystack. I start with a year between 1940 to 1970, the years I am most interested in,” explains Wallace, who opened Impact Collision Shop in Fountain Hills, Arizona, in 2019. His daughter, Shanti, assists him in the office.

“That particular day, I was looking for a 1952,” he continues. “A guy in Oklahoma had stored the car in his barn, in pieces. It’s was all original with no major accidents recorded. I sent him a deposit on the condition it was what he said it was, and he assured me it was.”

He and the car’s co-owner, Chuck Puth, are completing a nut-and-bolt restoration of the 70-year-old matching-numbers English sports car at the shop; they hope to enter it in next August’s stellar Pebble Beach Concours in California.


Jaguar, which owned the cars, randomly removed them from the assembly line and hired six accomplished drivers for a race to promote the car. In particular, potential American buyers were yearning for English sports cars after returning home from World War II, Wallace explains.

They were Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh of Siam (1914–1985); English/Belgian Johnny Claes (1916–1956); Tony Gaze (1920–2013), an Australian flying ace with 12 1/2 kills in WWII; the Swissman, “Tulo” de Gaffenried (1914–2007); Paul Pietsche, a German who founded Das Auto magazine (1911–2012); and International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee, the great English racer, Stirling Moss (1929–2020), who won the event.

“After the race, they sent the cars back to Jaguar where they were refitted and shipped to the States but with no badging or special recognition that these were the cars that had been in the Race of Champions,” Puth says. They were built in March and April of 1952 with VINs 672012, 672063, 672070 (the car now in Fountain Hills), 672080, 672094 and 672104. As yet, no one has been able to identify which driver piloted each car.


Giles Chapman, in his Jaguar Century: 100 years of Automotive Excellence (Motorbooks, 1991) explains that three of the cars were sent to Los Angeles and three to New York City, to dealers who had been selected by William Lyons, the founder and owner of the British car company. On the West Coast, that man was Charles H. ‘Chuck’ Hornburg Jr., whom Lyons had met a few years earlier in England for the XK120 unveiling. On the East Coast, Max Hoffman had a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Jag dealership on posh Park Avenue in Manhattan.

At the request of Lyons, Jaguar quickly designed the XK120 in 1948 to accommodate the new XK twin-cam engines that would win an extraordinary five times at Le Mans in the 1950s in the magnificent Types C and D. The successful platform continued from 1949 through 1961, morphing into the fine XK140 and XK150 models. A total of 12,078 cars were sold, most of them open-top roadsters (The Encyclopedia of Classic Cars, Thunder Bay Press, 1999).

“By standards of 1948, the XK120 was a huge leap into the future,” the writer continues. “Not only was it beautiful but it was very fast, it had the world’s first production twin-cam engine, and it offered remarkable value for the money.” In fact, with taxes, it was about £1,298; In current dollars, that’s approximately $52,000, says Dennis Hoffman, the economist for Arizona State University.


Following its debut at the London Motor Show in October 1948, the production run of 240 went quickly, with the first to actor and car lover, Clark Gable, who claimed one of his possibly three XK120s in September 1952 at Kent.

Beautiful it was, with flowing, Delahayesque lines, and superbly fast, capable of 120 mph, establishing the XK120 as the world’s fastest production car; it immediately excelled on tracks and in rallies. Helping to make it so were the aluminum bonnet, trunk and doors on the steel chassis.

In 1948, driver “Soapy” Sutton nailed 132 mph in Belgium, and the great factory driver and test engineer, Norman Dewis, made it no doubt a year later in Spain, attaining 172 mph in an aerodynamically modified XK120.


East to Midwest to the West

In New York City, Hoffman sold Wallace’s and Puth’s car to a retired New Jersey man who drove it all day and painted it white. The Oklahoma man bought it from him; he knew the car for what it was because he had searched down the VIN and found that this was one of the six Race of Champions cars. “He hunted for the other five cars, and no one seems to know where there are, if they still are,” Puth says. “He told us if had found them, he would have bought them.”

Keeping the XK120 for 12 years, the Oklahoma man started to disassemble it for restoration, but the savvy assistant who was helping him died. “The owner got lost and overwhelmed, was moving to Naples, Florida, with his wife and sold the car to me and Chuck,” Wallace says.


A native of historic Rumson, New Jersey, just outside New York City, Puth built homes and apartment communities until about five years ago; he now lives in Montecito, California, where his children are in the music industry: Charlie, Stephen and Mikaela, who manages Charlie. Part time, Chuck continues his building activities.

He’s always loved cars such as old Volvos; his brother had Pontiac GTOs, a Chevelle SS and a 1970 Grand Prix. Puth and Wallace met through a 1967 Lincoln Continental and Highline Autos magazine. Puth had invited restoration experts to work on the car, but they made the well-traveled classic worse. “I was going to junk it,” he recalls.

A couple of years ago, he and his wife Debbie came west to help his children with the demanding music business. “I saw a Highline Autos magazine in a car wash in West Hollywood and saw Bill’s ad and called him. I had the car shipped from New Jersey to here and drove out with my building construction assistant,” he explains. “Bill and his team finished the car in 2020, and I ended up selling it at Barrett-Jackson. Since then, the two of us have become very good friends.”


Boxes of Pieces, and then Confetti?

“Everything was in impeccable condition in the barn, starting with the engine and transmission, and Chuck and I are bringing it back to life,” Wallace says.

They are doing “everything by the book, to the letter,” he explains. For one, they have contracted with a concours judge, who provided a book detailing all the do’s and don’ts of competitions.

For example, they have applied hand-brushed paint to the underside of the hood and the bronze body color to selected areas. And, they have secured leather straps around the leaf springs. “We think that was meant to keep stones from getting caught in between the springs,” Wallace says.

Everything is original or original refurbished such as the stainless steel exhaust, the color-keyed steel wheels, half-moon caps and the Pirelli tubed repros. “The original car had Dunlaps, but they’re out of business, so these tires are acceptable by the judges,” he says.

They sent the engine and transmission and other components to specialists for redo’s in California; the chrome work has been completed by a shop in Tucson Wallace has been working with for years.

“Not often do you find a car with this kind of pedigree,” he says. “It’s pure art.”

The Race of Champions XK120 should easily qualify for the Mille Miglia, and the men will be registering it for Pebble Beach in a few months. Wallace says: “This is a car they’ve never seen before. So we’re hoping they will sign us up and we will see confetti next August.”

For more information, call or email Bill Wallace at Impact Collision Shop, (480) 809-6745 and This is part one of the story; the second will follow in the next issue of Highline Autos.