This 120K-mile Jaguar survives thanks to a Corvette
Little did I know that in 1984, a Jaguar XJS-HE touring coupe with dealer-optioned Dayton wire wheels was destined to be attached to my life for the next 38 years.
The HE is a high-performance version of the XJS, with a 291-hp V-12 and a three-speed automatic. It was built for high-speed travel, and it was something elegant and aesthetically appealing I could afford. I loved taking long, comfortable cruises up the Pacific Coast Highway—and the occasional perilous ride across the Ortega Highway.
Time wore on and so did the Jag. The car’s Lucas “Prince of Darkness” electrical system did its insidious worst on everything with 12 volts running through it. Gas consumption was about 2 gallons to the mile, and some of the tow truck drivers around town knew me by my first name. I shouldn’t have been surprised when, at 112,000 miles, the engine seized. At that point, I bought a Mercedes, and the Jag was put to rest in the garage.
Just after my retirement in 2007, my wife suggested I do something with the Jag, so I started thinking of a project. Now I had something to do instead of playing bingo.
An XJS conversion is nothing new, and at last, the upgrade began with a donor Corvette LT4 V-8 and a five-speed manual transmission. Everything was redone from front to back, top to bottom, and the final touch was new paint.
Jaguars are not always easy to find parts for, so I spent countless hours online, on the phone, and in salvage yards searching for little bits. In the end, a donor XJS was the answer.
Although it is no longer as quiet, the Jag is still silky smooth and continues to be an awesome touring coupe. I’m not finished, however; in my ongoing quest to avoid bingo, I’ve begun a new phase to replace the current drivetrain with a 430-hp LS3 and six-speed.
I cannot wait to ride again through those canyons and up the ever-beautiful PCH.