V8-Powered 1954 Jaguar XK120

This is definitely something you don’t see everyday – and based on the seller’s description, they haven’t either. This is a 1954 Jaguar XK120 roadster with a Ford V8 under the hood. I spent some time trying to determine whether it was a kit car or some sort of replica, as there are a number of very convincing XK facsimiles out there. But the picture of the VIN plate seems to confirm this was built by the factory in Coventry before getting some help along the way in the performance department. Yes, it will make purists cringe, but if it kept an otherwise dead car out of the scrap heap way back in the day, I’m all for it. Find the V8-powered XJ120 here on eBay with bidding up to $24,300 and the reserve unmet.

First and foremost, this is a very pretty example of one of Jaguar’s most recognized sports cars. It looks to be in fine shape, with the understated looks still intact, right down to the factory hubcaps. Now, I’m still prepared for someone to point out how this is a fake in some way, with the VIN plate swapped in to fool internet armchair quarterbacks like myself. But if it’s a fake, it’s a very nice fake, which becomes clear if you spend a few minutes looking at the various replicas and seeing that plenty of them can be spotted from a mile away. The bodywork looks tidy and the the lines very straight, but the interior does show some rough edges that at least indicate this Jaguar hasn’t lived a museum-quality existence.

The engine swap looks to have been done to a high level, with the details fairly neat under the hood. No engine specs are offered and the seller claims they found the Jaguar as part of an estate sale and otherwise know very little about it. This is a shame, as the history behind this example is likely quite interesting. The seller claims it is titled as a 1954 XK120, but the running gear is all Ford: engine, transmission, and rear end are all Ford products, and it’s said to run strong. Rear photos show what looks like a true dual exhaust, too, so it’s definitely got the goods if you’re looking for a hot-rodded XK and don’t care much for impressing the tea and crumpets set.

The interior is also an area where it’s very close to the original layout but has some details that are off, like the gauges in the center portion of the dash and some additional ones mounted to the left of the steering wheel on what looks like a homemade mounting station. The seats and center hump look accurate, but you can also tell the shifter enters the cabin slightly differently than the original Jaguar assembly. Overall, this looks like a fun project that would be fairly cheap to own in the long-run, and certainly a candidate for swapping back to original specs if you wanted to restore it to showroom condition. Which direction would you take this project XK120 in?

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  1. Steve Bush Member

    Seller is apparently a classic car dealer in Statesboro, GA so there’s no excuse for the poor pics and incomplete info. For the amount he apparently wants, we should have way more info about the drivetrain or whether the brakes/suspension/tires have been updated from original specs.

    Like 20
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Nice looking car. At this stage the driveline transplant doesn’t take anything away from this being a fun vintage car you can enjoy. Somewhere along the line the builder should have hired someone to design and build a proper dash board with a matching set of instruments. This one looks like it came out of a front end loader.

    Like 9
  3. ken tilly UK


    Like 4
  4. ClassicCarFan

    Sacrilege might be a strong word for it, but I’m sure most classic car enthusiasts probably say “shame it doesn’t have the original engine”. kind of missing the point of owning an iconic model like this if the whole drivetrain is from a completely different car.

    and not that everything in life comes down to money, but good original XK120s are $100,000 plus cars and home-made hybrids with SBF motors are, er, …not.

    I’m not sure who the “tea and crumpets set” are meant to be really, but originality tends to drive desirability for all classic cars, whether they are Jaguars, numbers-matching Detroit muscle cars or whatever. The higher-end you go in the market the more important it becomes.

    Maybe this conversion was done a while back before XK120 prices went into the investment grade bracket. As an enthusiastic home restorer and “improviser” I can kind of see the appeal of the challenge of an engine swap like this, fitting it in and making it all work properly – but I would still have opted to try and fix or replace the original motor in a car this grand.

    Like 7
  5. Stangalang

    I’d rather see this beautiful car with a Ford drivetrain and odd dashboard than made into food and beverage containers..just sayin

    Like 19
  6. Stephen Miklos

    After looking over photos real close on E-bay . The engine could be a 289 with Shelby part’s. Which make this Jag very fast. First thing I would do is to relocate the ballast resistor next to the fuel filter. Or move the fuel filter to a better location. Then redo the dash all together. Get nice oak or maple and newer gauges. Change that shifter lever and handle to Jag type. And detail the XK120 and have fun. 😄

    Like 8
    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings Stephen,

      The roadsters did not have wood dashes or roll up windowsthe drophead coupes however had both, along with a painted frame windshield as opposed to the thin chrome OTS/open top sportscar.

      • HelenaNOLA

        This is supposed to be a 1954. Roll up windows weren’t until I believe 1958 models on the dropheads.

  7. Kenneth Carney

    Did the same thing to a Jaguar sedan
    nearly 50 years ago. Only difference
    there was that I swapped in a 350 Chevy
    V-8 and a turbo 350 into mine. Original
    parts for these cars were hard to find
    even then. And for a 17 year old kid,
    even if you found them, they were out
    of reach pricewise. Ken, it’s not sacreligious to equip a rare older car with a later model driveline especially
    if you want to use it every day. That way, if something breaks, you trot on
    down to your local Auto Zone, buy what
    you need, and you’re on the road again.
    That 271 horse 289 will definitely bring a
    smile to your face and a joy to your right

    Like 16
    • David Gilbertson

      I agree. I remember having a book about engine swaps in the early 70’s and putting a 289 Ford into a Jag was one chapter. The cost and reliability to replace a worn out Jag engine was an issues so this could have been a popular swap. My question on this car is when was the swap made? Was this done in the 70’s when the value of an older Jag was much less than these days?

      Like 1
    • Rob

      I’m with you Kenneth. I know of at least 100 V8 & V6 engine swapped British cars & there are likely 10 or 20 times that many more running around. The vast majority are well done & no where near the cobbled messes folks here alwasy seem to assume they are. In my experience, they are more reliable, WAY more fun to drive, and able to be actually used way more often too. And, as for values, I’ve seen well done examples go for exceptionally high prices – more than factory correct cars of the same make/model/condition. Anyone remember Dan Masters’ MGB GT that sold on BAT for $65.5k?

      Like 1
  8. James Simpson

    In the near future, and happening right now, the swap will be to electrics. When I was a kid in Fullerton CA in 1963, my friends and I made slot cars run so fast on Chuck’s Hobby House tracks- that actual human reaction time was challenged. As a parts fabricator, I have had several inquiries to put a classic car on a Tesla chassis. There are companies now doing this. Even Jaguar has an electric E. The future of engine swaps is happening faster than you think. Might be a time to copy-write the sound of your 350 Chevy, and invest in surround sound equipment driven by Lithium Ion power! Think future!

    Like 1
  9. charlie Member

    Having owned an XK 150 S, it ran one week out of 4, the other three it was waiting for a part. When it ran it was one of the most exhilarating cars I have owned (out of 30 or so). AAA was my friend. If it had had a Ford drivetrain, and a new wiring harness, it would probably have run 3.5 out of 4 weeks, or better, and the parts would have been cheaper. It finally was towed by my ’39 MG SA to a barn, when it was “found” and sold with the MG as a “deal”, since nobody wanted the Jag (this was1972) and I had to get them out of the barn, and had no place to put them, and no money to store them – suddenly a house, 2 kids, car payments, etc.

    Like 5
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      We do understand, Charlie…..

      At least the memories are still quite intact.

      If you don’t have stories, you have led a very boring life!

      Like 3
  10. gerardfrederick

    I drove an original one in the early 1960´s, wanting to buy it. After 2 minutes behind thev wheel, my desire to buy it turned into the desire to leave it. It´s seating position was poor, the steering wheel was 1 inch removed from my chest and you needed to exert entirely too much strength to operate the clutch and brake pedals. All this coupled to the notoriously horrible reliability of the car makes this a nightmare to own. Now with the Ford drive train it´s a different story, but it still doesn´t change the terrible seating position and the lack of power assist all around. . These cars are wondeerful in a museum, but utterly useless in the drive way.

    Like 7
    • Bill McCoskey

      You described exactly why I’ve always loved to see these cars, but never wanted to drive one. I’ve tried to sit in them, with no luck.

      When I was a young man, I was a big guy at 250 pounds and 6’2″ tall. Back then I was physically fit, all muscle, and the problem was I simply couldn’t fit comfortably into any of the XK cars or smaller British sports cars like the Triumph TR-3 or the Sprite/Midget cars, when the folding tops were up.

      Like 3

      Totally agree terrible seating and steering layout. One hour drive was enough.

      Like 2
  11. Healeymonster

    I have kicked myself for passing on a few early XKE’s many years back at a price of 15k because they had 289 swaps. In 89 i did buy a 57 100-6 with a 289 and couldnt be happier. That little motor is a gem! Perfect for livening up any British roadster. (Alpine>Tiger) Im curious if the seller would know enough to take a picture of the harmonic balancer, a clue to if its a holy grail Hypo 289. That motor alone commands $$.

    Like 2
  12. Capt RD

    Considerably more information then the current seller offered is available here.


    Like 1
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      Has me scratching my head…

      Are the cars shown in red and silver the same vehicle, with a complete color change?

  13. Hemidavey

    I love it, best part is that I have a nice 3.8 twin cam 6 and manual trans from an XKE sitting in my showroom. This looks like a great place to put it!
    I was thinking about how much I liked the XK series last week…

    Like 4
    • ken tilly UK

      That’s the way to go Hemidavey. The other bits and pieces are not immediately important and can be returned to original appearance as time goes by.


    Clean it up and drive it every weekend…reliably.
    Love the car.
    Not seeing the problem here.

    Like 3
  15. Kenneth Carney

    Right you are James. Once they solve
    the issue of range, and install more charging stations, electrified classics will indeed be the next big thing. As an
    interested party in electric cars, I can’t
    wait! Makes me wonder what I could do
    with that ’57 Olds basket case that was
    posted here yesterday. Just imagine
    what it would be like to drive an electrified version of that car after a
    hurricane hits here in Florida. You’ll
    still be on the road while everyone else
    is paying $10 a gallon for gas.

  16. MikeB

    Back in the early 80’s or so IIRC there were a couple of shops Here in the US that only did Chevy small block conversions in Jag sedans. Anyone recall this ?

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey

      Years ago I spoke with the owner of John’s Cars, a large shop in Texas that specialized in American V8 conversions for Jaguars. He told me that the Chevy small block V8 was the ideal conversion for the sedans, and the Ford small block was suitable for the XK series cars.

      Like 3
  17. DRV

    If it’s not rusty it’s a fun car to drive for sure. This also makes it affordable for many. The original pulls like a train with the Moss box being the slow part of the drivetrain.
    This American V8 transformation happened to so many in the day and I don’t have a problem with it haven driven an original hundreds of miles.

  18. Richard

    I have a 1956 XK140 with a Chevy 350. I absolutely love the car. I could have sold it several times, but I enjoy it too much! I love converted cars. This 120 looks awesome! The Ford motor fits perfectly without cutting. I had a 69 XKE with the Ford drivetrain. It too was a great car! MY 62 XKE OTS is matching #s, but the converted cars are best! I am eagerly searching for a converted Rolls Royce Shadow or Bentley Arnage!

    Like 2
    • Bill McCoskey

      I was in the vintage Rolls-Royce service/repair business for a couple of decades. During those years I saw multiple “Converted” Rolls-Royce cars with USA V8 engines, NONE were performed to what the automotive industry would consider a SAFE level. Before you buy a converted Rolls-Royce, especially a Silver Shadow or newer model, please have it checked over by a competent mechanic.

      Like 2
  19. HelenaNOLA

    The description lists it as automatic transmission which it clearly isn’t.
    the 120, 140 and 150’s are my favorite cars and I don’t mind an engine swap if it’s easier to maintain but there is so much else wrong with this vehicle. Spoke wheels are needed. It was registered on XK Data in 2017. It was red at that time. More photos were added in 2019 when it was still red with a tan interior. The Shelby engine was in it in the 2017 photos. It was listed for sale on ebay February 2017 for a buy it now of $44,950 by Savannah classic cars.

    Like 1
  20. HelenaNOLA

    Here’s the sales history on the car.
    2017-02-12 11:55:04 | pauls writes:
    Ebay item 2/12/17 http://www.ebay.com/itm/172519937199
    Car has a buy it now price of $44,950 for 2 days, seller savannahclassiccars, 700 miles reported.
    Sellers description:
    This is a 1954 Jaguar XK120 Roadster Convertible. This original body with the stunning red paint gives this roadster a unique and bold appearance. The engine is a Ford 351 Modified with approximately 400hp and the dual exhaust that gives it that muscle car sound. It has a 3 speed automatic with overdrive and a 3.08 gear ratio. The seats are leather which was completed by an interior master craftsman. The tonneau cover is leather and has a nice tight fit. The car has about 500 miles on it since restoration. The front brakes are original drums. There are several items included with the car: The hardtop, the original differential, 2 sets of original rear brake drums, side curtain brackets, roll of carpet to match the current interior and the original carpet is included to use as the pattern, spare tire and wheel. The car had some repair work done to the front lower body panel due to contact with the transport trailer rail and has primer applied and is ready for paint. The car is 95% completed and is ready for the new owner to take it to the next level.

    2019-03-15 07:35:06 | pauls writes:
    Car returns to ebay 3/15/19
    Current bid: $17,500.00 Reserve not met 1 bid 8 days left in auction, buy it now price $39,900, seller bodonaldson2exb, car now said to be in Statesboro, Georgia.
    Seller’s description:
    I have known of this car for a while and eventually I was able to buy it from the second owner of 20 years. The owner told me; he traded his 1967 427 Corvette and money for the Jaguar to the original owner that lived in South Carolina; so the car has always lived in a warm climate which explains the rust free body and chassis. The roadster was painted over 10 years ago and it is showing some imperfections but nothing major. The paint is way above driver quality, the body is very straight; you can tell it’d always had a good life.
    Now, …The reason this car is selling for a third of his value is that at some point; the Jag engine failed, and the owner was talked into putting a more reliable drive-train. Not, the greatest advise, anyway – he was smart enough to keep the original rear-end but not the drive-train; so it is now power by a Ford 351 matted with a 3-speed automatic transmission and Ford nine-inch rear-end.
    The car runs, drives and shifts great. But this decision has affected the value, but the car still appeals to a number of different buyers. First, the guy that loves the look of a XK120 Roadster but does not have $100K to spent. Second, the Cobra guy that loves American muscle and classic styling. And third, the guy that wants to bring it back to its glory and originality.
    The car does have a custom-made hardtop that was made using the original soft top frame that is the only top that car has and there are no side curtains.
    The things that I know that are not factory to the car are: the engine; the transmission, exhaust system, shiftier, the rear-end; the gauges; and the seats.
    So, drive the car for the next twenty years or more, the way it is or restore the car to factory specs and bring it to Pebble Beach; either way the value is there- at this price its money in bank at minimum.

    2020-08-21 06:34:51 | pauls writes:
    Car returns to ebay 8/21/20
    Current bid: $12,000 reserve price not met 1 bid 9 days left in auction seller bodonaldson2exb, same location.
    Seller’s description:
    We are helping settle an estate so we don’t know much about this

    Like 1
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      Great research.
      When $ are the driver, truth and ethics often go out the window, and rarely fly back in.

      Apparently, the car was sold for the top bid at $33,200.00
      That bidder has a significant number of feedbacks, and placed a single bid on this car.

  21. charlie Member

    This has been going on for a long time, my ’39 MG SA had a Hudson 6 with Twin H power (2 carbs), transmission, and overdrive, done some time in the early 1950’s since the word (wrong) was that MG built only 500 of them. True for the SA, one of very few MG’s that was a 6, but not the engine, of which thousands were built for the Woolsey, which was the standard British cop car of the 1930’s and 40’s. But it ran strong and with the OD could cruise at 60 mph if one trusted the skinny (4.75 x 19″) wheels and tires. This was probably inspired by the Railton of the 30’s which was British with a Hudson drive train from the factory.

    Like 1
  22. Phlathead Phil

    Now ain’t this the epitome of sexy car design? Just look at that front end. The whole body design is just fluid. I was once told as a kid that buying parts for a “Jag” was like buying jewelry for a car you’ll never see again. So, I stayed away from them. IMO, the engine swap makes perfect sense, as jag engines were very complex. However, this example somewhat lowers the value. Probably hauls bass coming home from the favorite fishing hole!

  23. bobhess bobhess Member

    If you have ever had to change the water pump on the original engines, which was quite often on the 120s, you’d do an engine swap and love it. Not going to change the great sound of the Jag 6 but, as said above, you can get there and back without repairing something.

  24. DayDreamBeliever Member

    Bidding at $29,300 now, looks like the reserve has been met!

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