V8-Powered 1953 Jaguar XK120 Barn Find!

This 1953 Jaguar XK120 fixed-head coupe is a barn find from Alabama that features some unusual modifications. The engine has been swapped out for a Chevy small-block V8 and a four-speed manual, and the nose has been fitted with genuine Porsche 356 headlights from OEM manufacturer Hella. The result is a curious combination of styles that almost gives it a Bugatti-vibe. Find this custom Jaguar here on eBay with bidding at $7,500 and the reserve unmet.

The best part about this project is the next owner will have the option to take it back to stock condition or preserve the mild “rat rod” look it has going for it. The seller notes a spare XK120 chassis is included in the sale, with a 3.4L XJ engine and original gearbox. Even better, that engine is a Special Equipment model that featured higher lift camshafts from the factory. How can you go wrong here? The bigger challenge will be deciding how to move forward with restoration.

Despite being a purist at heart, I see this XK120 coupe as a sort of artifact from the glory days of hot-rodding. Anything could be modified if you tried hard enough, or simply had access to a tired chassis and a good parts car. I just met with a local shop owner who chased a Mercury lead-sled because it was modified in-period, and there’s nothing like owning a genuine custom that reflects the tastes of the era. Check out that shifter – but also note the wood dash has perished.

My vision? Leave the drivetrain, perhaps modify it a little further, and preserve the paint – but then restore everything else to Jaguar-levels of perfection. Full wood dash, sumptuous leather, proper grill, wood floorboards, wire wheels – it would be an amazing combination of classic English luxury with bad-ass American attitude, and that’s a combination you rarely see outside of a TVR. That’s just me, however: how would you preserve or restore this XK120 moving forward?


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    It is what it is but the only change I’d make is to replace the original headlights. It looks like a big frog now. Cost to make it original will be too high so might as well rework what’s there now and have some fun with it.

    Like 10
  2. Coventrycat

    Like a Saville Row suit worn by a dude with neck tats and bits of metal stuck everywhere. No thanks.

    Like 6
  3. Northernrover

    I love the repositioned headlights and would leave those in the current position however the rest would get completely restored to a level befitting the Jag and using the SE engine. I would also keep the standard wheels and would just have to add the spats on the rear fenders.

    Like 2
  4. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Dang that looks like a 327…..if so that Cat will sure purrr !

    Like 1
  5. Tom Bell

    A once beautiful coupe now an organ donor.

    Like 4
  6. grant

    I’d hardly call a 350 swap into anything “unusual” but I do really like this.

    Like 1
  7. Terry


    Like 2
  8. robert kirk

    I wonder how much frame wood rot lives in what once was a glorious coupe Cat.
    I just walked by an alloy roadster body car (1 of the first 250 or so) due to frame rot.

    • John Elmgreen

      Robert, I track alloy 120 roadsters, love to know more about the car you just walked by.


    😲 gm v8 yes but old’s 215 turbo😎

  10. JagManBill

    I’d loose those bumpers for sure then see what it looks like. Whats done is done under the hood unless they didn’t cut the original mounts then I might consider going back to the original engine. If I did that then I’d fix the headlights back to original. Then I’d over-restore the car and sell it for a $100,000.

    How it looks (minus the bumpers) is starting to grow on me…

    Like 1
  11. Jim

    Definitely those ugly bumpers have to come off, what the hell were they thinking.

    Like 1
  12. Ken Cwrney

    Leave the 350 and M-22 where they are
    and restore the rest. A GM V-8 is the only
    way to make these cars reliable and safe
    to drive on American roads. And we haven’t even mentioned the lack of spare
    parts yet. We don’t see that many Jaguars here in central Florida for that very reason. I had to do a V-8 conversion
    to a ’50s model Jaguar sedan in ’72 just
    to get the car back on the road as there
    were no spare parts or no internet to find
    them on. About that same time, there was a guy I knew of that put a 454 rat
    motor into a really nice Rolls Royce
    Phantom II for that same reason. From
    what I heard from older mechanics at the
    time, the engines in these cars were finicky troublesome pieces of machinery
    that broke down when you drove the car
    over a set of railroad tracks and the no-syncro gear boxes caused the engines to
    consume a lot of gas as well. I think this
    would be a fun project for someone out
    there but not for me. Think I’ll pass on
    this one.

    Like 1
  13. John D.

    A car with these looks, a V8, and a small computer to hold all of my music was a road car I built in my mind on one solo road trip, but it was a Gen 3 Hemi. A super comfortable seat that just lets you eat up the miles and hours.

    Another chassis, another car? Who says it has to be a 100 point restoration? Finish the body with repop sheet metal, make it run. Enjoy driving a classically beautiful car without the worry.

    Like 1
    • bob

      You obviously haven’t looked into availability of “repop” sheet metal for an XK120.

      Like 1
      • John D.

        I went looking. I don’t recall my friend who bought and rebuilt my XKE complaining about the price of those panels,, but the 120 coachwork is rather dear. It almost seems to be a better value to get a fiberglass replicar for everyday banging around.

  14. moosie moosie

    I’d cherry out the as is body and interior , paint it the deepest and darkest black, black leather interior, add all the necessary comfort features , get a 383 stroker from G.M. automatic overdrive trans. chrome spoke wheels, update the chassis, 4 wheel disc brakes ETC. and drive it wherever and whenever I wanted.

  15. JagManBill

    ya’ll all takin about swapin this engine out…if this is a late 327 (which the valve covers allude to) then this has 202 heads. More power on tap than you think!! Anything bigger your cuttin sheet metal to make it fit.

    Like 1
  16. moosie moosie

    The ebay listing says its a 1961 chevy V8 which makes it a 283, 327’s came out a year later, 1962. With very few exceptions the small block chevy is extremely (almost impossible) to identify by sight. Side by side you’d be hard pressed to pick out the motor in this Jaguar from what I would swap in if the car were mine, a stroker 383 crate engine.

    Like 1
  17. jake

    The headlights were done like that on more than just this car. Don’t remeber who but a road racing roadster that ran many of the curcuits of the 50’s & early 60’s had this done as did the coupe in the attached picture. Kinda sorta has a C Type look. Well won’t let me add a picture but I know of 1 I’ve seen and now 3 others with this type headlamp reconfigure!

  18. jake

    Just enlarged the head number on the Jaguar 3.4 and it’s prefix of W 1949 -1954, and sufix of 8 be the 8 to 1 compression all follow true, but should have an “S” sufix if it was a Special Equipment engine. Have to have a better picture or hands on look see before of being sure that’s a SE head!!! Needs a lot of work but seen em come back from cars close looking to the parts car!!! Just takes time and ability plus money or lots of $$$$$ to have someone else do it for you! Cheers.

  19. Steve

    The 1970’s version of the LS swap. I saw too many E Types back in the day with cobbled small block Chevy and ford hack jobs. It just ruins them.

  20. Del

    I would preserve exactly as Jeff outlined in the write up.

    Like 1
  21. John Elmgreen

    The faired in headlights are going to mean that someone will now claim it is a Barris car … and why not add in that it was owned by Clark Gable too?

  22. JagManBill

    with those frenched headlights, it does have a Talbot Lago look to it doesn’t it….

  23. Doug Hansen

    I came her looking for the XK-120 that a neighbor back in mid-60’s Grosse Pointe MI. dropped a big block hemi into. It was set up as a dragster He drove around town with drag chute on back and leather helmet on his head. Mike was his name.

    Like 1

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