This Pontiac-swapped Jaguar is just weird enough to work
The land of engine swaps is an odd place filled with cars that deserved better than their OEM powerplants, re-powering projects done just to be different, and the crimes of opportunity. We aren’t sure which one this Jaguar E-Type falls into, but we are surprisingly OK with the final product. After all, it’s at least still an inline-six, right?
Like any car ever built, the Jaguar E-Type is not immune to a heart transplant. Even the most collectable cars today were once just steps above used vehicles. That is where scenario number one that might have caused the Pontiac OHC inline-six to be settled into the Jag frame rails. It’s certainly an odd swap at first glance, and it only gets weirder once you look a little deeper.
The OHC Pontiac is a cult favorite engine. The fans will tell you about how ahead of it’s time it was, that the man behind it was John DeLorean, and how it might have been based on the Chevrolet 230 inline-six but carried almost no identical parts. Those are all true. The valves of this engine were the same size as those found in the 389 V-8, despite this six-pot only displacing 230 cubes. The camshaft relocation allow significant reduction of the valvetrain weight, which allowed for higher rpm with less valve float. Total output was 165 horsepower with the standard single-barrel carb, but when fitted with the option Sprint kit it was advertised at 215 hp.
That’s nothing to sneeze at, but considering that small-block Chevy V-8s were being stuffed into E-Types long before the 1980s—which is when the Bring a Trailer seller figures this conversion was done—it makes for an odd choice, since power was clearly not the reason.
One explanation might be that the owner was a regular Car and Driver reader. Brock Yates wrote an article about re-powering an XKE in the July 1966 issue. The engine in that car was on the receiving end of some performance upgrades, not unlike the one for sale now. Side-draft Webers and upgraded clutch made for an interesting driving experience or, as Yates put it, “one of the zaniest, most intoxicating vehicles whole world.” Strong words from a man like Yates.
An interesting point worth noting is that the Pontiac engine allows the use of a manual transmission—often a Muncie four-speed—whereas a SBC swap is often paired with an automatic. Save the manuals, right? The interior also looks box-stock, down to the shifter. We really like that. The Pontiac engine is a little lighter than the DOHC Jag it replaces, so some weight off the nose might make for a fun driving experience. The exhaust note has to be just strange enough to really make folks look twice when this otherwise gorgeous drop-top drives by.
Overall, the car is proper weird and that’s a good thing. Sure, with minimal work you could return this back to a Jag-powered Jag, or you could revel in being an oddity just about everywhere you go. We know which way we lean here.