LT1 Transplant: 1989 Jaguar XJ-S

When Jaguar introduced the XJ-S to the world as a replacement for the aging E-Type, it envisaged that it would remain in production for around 10-years. However, the high initial development costs, coupled with lack of funds to develop a replacement for the XJ-S, meant that the car remained in production for a total of 21-years. This 1989 model looks like it is a relatively solid car that represents a stalled project. The owner is now looking for someone to take this car and realize the potential that is locked within. Located in San Lorenzo, California, you will find the Jaguar listed for sale here on Craigslist. The price has been set at $1,500, which represents a lot of car for your cash.

The Tungsten Silver paint on the Jaguar is showing its age, and the car could definitely benefit from a repaint. However, the panels look to be nice and straight, and it doesn’t look like there are any major issues with rust. If the car has spent the majority of its life in California, then this is a huge positive. Damp environments can have an adverse effect on the panels of an XJ-S, although they aren’t as prone to rust issues as some other offerings from the same manufacturer. Cosmetically, it doesn’t look like this old Jag needs much more than a fresh coat of paint.

While the XJ-S was initially marketed as a pure sports car, the reality was that it was far closer to being a classic Grand Tourer. Leather upholstery and plenty of luxury appointments resulted in a fairly heavy car. While the car’s interior generally doesn’t appear to be too bad, there are a few issues that will need to be addressed. The worst of these are the substantial cracks in the dash pad. These are very noticeable, and also appear to be beyond a simple repair. The pad will probably need replacing at some point, and as much as I’d love to assist the next owner with this task, they’re on their own! The rest of it doesn’t look to be too bad, and a decent clean and some conditioner on the seats should see the interior present quite nicely. There are some tasks that will need to be tackled inside the Jag, with inoperative power windows being amongst a list of items that will need to be diagnosed and addressed.

The 5,343cc V12 engine under the hood of an XJ-S was a beast of an engine that produced 262hp. It was also an insanely complicated engine, and when something went wrong with it, you needed to be on good terms with your bank manager if you wanted to get it going again. A previous owner has seen the light because that engine is now gone. In its place, we find a Chevrolet LT1 engine out of a Corvette. This is an unfinished installation, and the car doesn’t currently run. There are also some issues with the brakes, and due to the lighter weight of the V8, the Jag is going to need shorter springs in the front. However, it is claimed that the project has already cost $5,000 to get to this stage, and in all honesty, with that engine under the hood, the car is probably worth more than the asking price in parts alone.

I wouldn’t mind getting a close look at this XJ-S, because it would be interesting to see how much work is going to be required to get it running again. The engine swap that has been performed is a fairly common one, so diagnosing what is still required really shouldn’t be too hard. At the asking price, it represents a cheap project car, so it will be interesting to see how quickly it sells.


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  1. The Tower

    Not an LT1. If it’s a 350, then it’s an L98. If it’s a 305, I believe it’s an LB9.

    Like 1
    • Steve R

      The seller never mentions LT1. I’d also check to make sure it’s not a 305 TPI engine.

      Could be a good deal for someone from another state. I live close by and have one car approaching 20 years of age and another 25, neither have never spent a night parked in a garage or under a carport that have no signs of rust, anywhere. That’s the good thing about California, the bad thing is that over the years so many desirable cars have been sacrificed to their emissions testing regimen.

      Steve R

      Like 2
      • OhU8one2

        The owner probably couldn’t register the Jag in California because of engine swap. There was a guy in Texas that sold a complete kit to do the swap. Plus he has everything needed. You just had to tell him what motor you were going to use. Oh and only SBC engines. The guy even had a news letter he’d send out to customer’s. And he thrived on pissing off all the Jag purist.

        Like 2
      • Steve R

        OhU8one2, there was also a company called Jaguars That Run (JTR) located in Livermore California, which is about 15 miles from the seller, that sold manuals on engine swaps for Jags, S10’s, Volvo’s and others.

        Steve R

        Like 3
  2. Roarrr

    THIS MAKES A VERY NICE GT, THE BIG QUESTION IS: DID THE OWNER GET IT BLESSED BY THE DMV?? It IS possible and if someone wants a XJ-V8 that’s legal, I have one and of course there ARE hoops to leap through to obtain the certification !

    Like 1
    • Steve R

      From the way the ad is written, the answer is, no.

      Like you said, it might be possible, with enough effort and determination to get one since the engine is from a later model vehicle. It would be a hassle, this car will likely head out of state or be scrapped for parts.

      Steve R

      Like 2
  3. Ben T. Spanner

    What’s the point? You can buy running driving examples with working AC for $3000 or so. If you want one, buy a better example that can be registered in your state. California pick and pulls have many nice looking cars that can’t economically pass emissions.

    Like 3
  4. Eric_13cars Eric_10cars Member

    I believe the company in Texas is John’s Cars and they offer a number of conversion kits for Jags to SBCs. However, I think that the V12 is a great engine and not really that complicated to manage. On the other hand, if you’re new to engine work and have to pay a Jag expert, it can be very costly. The other thing about conversions is that they rarely go well. Almost every one that I’ve seen has had issues that remained unresolved. Not to say it can’t be done well, but most fail in my experience. There are a lot them offered for sale with the attendant caveats. Personally, I love the v12 on my 91 XJS convertible…smooth power. It’s a gas guzzler if you put your foot into it, but handles extremely well at speed. A great road car, but not really a sports car unless you beef up the suspension system a bit. Electrical gremlins are commonplace. The window problem is typically bad grounds and dirty contacts. The switches are not well designed.

    Like 4
  5. jerry z

    Too bad it doesn’t have a LT1. I would just ditch the TPI and change it over to a carb setup. A lot less hassle.

    Like 2
    • The Tower The Tower Member

      Why? LT1’s are far more troublesome than TPI motors, what with their OptiSpark distributors, one-off waterpumps and their tendency to blow head gaskets around 100k miles.

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