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V8 Transplant: 1952 Jaguar XK120 OTS

It isn’t unusual to see a Jaguar XJ6 or an XJ12 with a Chevrolet V8 under the hood, and conversion kits for this transplant are readily available. Finding a classic like this 1952 XK120 OTS with such a transplant is far less common. However, there are plenty of good reasons to perform this upgrade. If a classic British sports car with some honest American iron under the hood sounds like a winning combination, you will find the Jag located in Mason, Ohio, and listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding sits at $30,100 with the reserve unmet. There is a BIN option of $59,000 if you want to avoid the trauma of an auction.

The XK120 is a striking traditional British sports car, but if you are the sort of person who focuses on spotless originality, then this probably won’t be the car for you. The paint that it wears is not original but is a Chevrolet shade called Dusty Rose Metallic. It suits the car nicely, and the consistency across the vehicle looks pretty impressive. The panels appear to be straight, although the owner admits to some small areas of filler in the front of the car where some dents were repaired before the repaint was performed. There are no rust issues for the buyer to worry about, with the frame looking particularly good. There were a couple of small rust spots in the floor under the seat, but these have been patched. The Jag comes with a convertible top that has never been used, while the chrome and glass look flawless. The owner has performed one exterior upgrade, of which I fully approve. The XK originally wore disc wheels and spats, but it now rolls on wire wheels. Despite appearances, these are not chrome. They are 60-spoke stainless steel items, which means that long-term deterioration should not be an issue.

Purists, look away now! The seller’s father previously owned the Jag, and it was he who performed the transplant work on this classic. It seems that this might have been the lesser of two evils because when he bought the car, the original engine was dismantled and missing some significant components. It would have been possible to locate replacement parts, but he chose to remove the original 3,442cc 6-cylinder engine and substitute a 327ci V8. The original 4-speed manual transmission was consigned to the pages of history, and a TH350 was slotted into its place. This conversion offers some significant advantages over the standard drivetrain. The most obvious of these is an increase in power. The original motor would have been producing 160hp, whereas the V8 is pumping out 300hp. I mean, an 87% power increase is never going to go astray. The other key advantage to consider is weight distribution. The V8 is physically shorter than the original inline-6, which means it sits further back in the engine bay. That should provide the Jag with less weight forward of the front axle line and make noticeable handling improvements. Thankfully, the firewall and transmission tunnel weren’t cut during the conversion, so the option is available to return the car to its original specifications. The correct rear end is still in place, and the seller is including the original transmission and bellhousing in the sale. The owner says that the V8 is slightly smokey and does drip some oil, which are two characteristics that could afflict the original engine. However, it does run and drive well and can be used and enjoyed immediately.

The interior of the XK presents nicely and would seem to need nothing. The aluminum gauge fascia has been custom made to house aftermarket gauges. This is a necessity because the originals would have been incompatible with the new drivetrain. However, I probably would have sourced gauges with an appearance more in keeping with this car’s character. For my money, the faces of these look too modern. The vehicle has also been rewired, which means that everything should work as it should. The upholstery all looks to be in good order, and there are no issues with the carpet. This interior is simply begging for someone to slip behind the wheel and to hit the open road.

I am usually a staunch advocate for spotless originality in classic cars, but I might be willing to make an exception with this 1952 Jaguar XK120 OTS. Today, a perfect example can push beyond $100,000, but it will need to be a pristine, numbers-matching car to do so. This one isn’t pristine, and it would need to be dismantled entirely and repainted in its original Silver Metallic as a starting point. The new owner would then have to source a date-correct engine to slot in the engine bay in place of the V8. It would essentially be original with all of this work complete, but it wouldn’t be numbers-matching. That would almost certainly put a six-figure value out of reach. That also makes me wonder whether such a path would be financially viable. If I were to buy this Jag, I would probably treat the 327 to a rebuild to address the smoke and leak and then hit the road for a bit of enjoyable motoring. It might not be original, but I bet it would be fun.


  1. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    It’s like trying not to look at a welder, I can’t look away. BLASPHEMY, yet, the SBC, Americas pride and joy, in one of the neatest British roadsters, at least it stayed true to our cousins, and not some Asian motor. That, to me, would be the ultimate slap in the face. The Jag motor was a wonderful piece of mechanical wizardry, the SBC, simple as a toaster, so I like it. It certainly gave this old cat some legs it never saw before. And the price, is a great bargain too*,,
    *disclaimer: my New Years Resolution, not to complain about the price,
    let’s see how long THAT lasts. Happy(er) New Years everyone!!!

    Like 5
  2. Avatar photo Husky

    At a Swedish car meet long time ago, I saw the perfect engine transplantion.
    It was a 1967-68 Cadillac Eldorado with a Saab 3 cylinder two stroke engine. The car could barely move forward -but the sound and smoke from the little 850 cc two stroke engine made my day!

    Like 8
    • Avatar photo DayDreamBeliever

      *Jaw Drop*

      Some things fall under the category of “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

      Back in the late 70’s I saw a local classified ad for an early 70’s Corvette… Due to a blown engine, a replacement was installed, and said to be driveable. A 4-cylinder…. out of a Vega. (GASP) No, I didn’t go and look at it, but have wished I had ever since!

      Like 1
    • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member


      “1967-68 Cadillac Eldorado with a Saab 3 cylinder two stroke engine.”

      I love it!

      Like 1
  3. Avatar photo James Miller

    The marvelous I-6 with split manifold sound would be missing; substituted for an ok V-8 SBC sound, until you hear the automatic transmission doing it’s thing, ARG…….

    Like 7
  4. Avatar photo RayT

    This makes me want to put an XK’s inline-six (with Moss box) into a ’63 split-window Corvette.

    Like 14
  5. Avatar photo Stan Marks

    Very pretty roadster. Lots of fun..

    Like 0
  6. Avatar photo V8roller

    I like this. Externally stock. Nice colour. well trimmed. Stainless wheels.
    I’ve had I6s, they have a unique soundtrack but I prefer the V8.
    If this were a fixed head coupe I’d be all over it, even though it’s a leftie.
    The only thing it lacks is an overdrive, but a 700R4 would fix that.

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo charlie Member

    Big advantage: You can DRIVE it guilt free. No worries about dents – it already had some – no worries about wearing out the mechanicals – already replaced with non originals – no worries (hopefully) about Lucas electrics – already replaced – and with the original weight distribution these drove very well, even better now, and, it is, in my mind, the best looking of the 120, 140, 150 series, and the best looking body – roadster, not drophead (higher window sills and roll up windows) or fixed head coupe. It looks good with the wire wheels as on the 150 (which were chrome), but it also looks good with “spats” or, in American, fender skirts, and disc wheels. And not all oil leaks require an engine rebuild – my Northstar engine leeks oil from the gasket that connects the oil level sender to the oil pan and although it would seem to be a simple fix, several attempts by me, the amateur, and the professionals in the shop, have failed.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo tompdx

      The “standard” equipment XK150 wire wheels were actually painted silver, but chrome wires were available as an option.

      Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Gary Rhodes

    My buddy’s dad had three of these, one stock, one parts car and one with a 348 Chevy with three deuces.

    Like 2
  9. Avatar photo Morley Member

    Perfect. How do I get in touch?

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo Joe Haska

    When I saw this listed , I thought the comments on this are going to be incredible, about defacing history, you should all die in hell, if you like or approve of this and to my surprise, not so much even Howard was relatively approving considering his usual ,distaste for modified cars.
    So I guess, I will go a little negative on it and it is nick picking. I do like it, I just think that a little more attention to the finer details of the fabrication and the cosmetics of the final product would made it much more presentable and a stand out car. Of course if you buy it, that would be an easy thing to approve on.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo tompdx

      Okay, I’ll be that guy … I hate it more than I can possibly describe.

      Like 3
  11. Avatar photo Maestro1

    If I had the room I would jump on this. The instruments would be replaced with appropriate vintage style, and maybe even replace the facia with wood.
    But it doesn’t matter; fix the leaks and drive. There are several people who do these conversions very well, so if one wanted to do this the Vendors are knowlegable and not wildly priced. Having said that. a good conversion is never cheap so be prepared. But this one is all done; so go for it.+

    Like 1
  12. Avatar photo 370zpp Member

    Even just painting the aluminum gauge fascia a semi-gloss black color would be a quick and easy improvement.
    That along with replacing the V-8 with one that doesn’t smoke and leak oil.

    Like 1
  13. Avatar photo MitchRoss Member

    First off , this was probably done when there were lots of these cars around for pretty cheap money. They were not the rare icons they are today. I wouldn’t want the auto, but the good thing is, you can go LS and modern overdrive without effecting the originality.

    Someone mentioned not putting an Asian engine, but a Toyota JZ or Nissan RB DOHC inline 6 is very much like the original engine and would have a similar exhaust note.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Morley Member

      Mitch, you seem to have a pretty loose interpertation of “original” What part of the LS would be original. I am not saying do not make the swap, but change anything and it is not original. Just sayin

      Like 2
  14. Avatar photo MikeH

    Not much Jag left on this Chevy.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo tompdx

      Exactly. Well said.

      Like 1
  15. Avatar photo daniel wright

    I would fix the leaks and drive the wheels off of this. I have a bad leg so no stick shifts for me.

    Like 1
  16. Avatar photo Steve Numrich

    I owned an original 51 as a teenager. Overall…wowee! Very pretty!

    Like 0
  17. Avatar photo Solosolo Member

    Sacrilege! Buy it and overhaul one of the engines supplied with it, re install it and drive a Jaguar XK 120, not a Jevvy Hot Rod! Many years ago I had an XK 120 with steel wheels and fender skirts and loved it. In later years I had a “T” Bucket with a SBC engine and loved it, but an XK 120 with a SBC motor? No thanks! Ken Tilly UK

    Like 3
  18. Avatar photo Morley Member

    You are right , it should have a BIG BLOCK

    Like 2
  19. Avatar photo roland schoenke

    I would rebuild the engine and pop in a five speed, half the fun of these roadsters was running through the gears.

    Like 2
  20. Avatar photo Chuck

    Why worry about the leak…it’s British anyway.

    Like 3
  21. Avatar photo RodL

    I use to rebuild XK120S back in the ‘70’s, numbered. Rebuilt 2-3 engines and hated them. Every step of the way was a pain to put back together. So wanted to just drop a small block in it and call it good. This looks pretty nice with the perfect engine. If I’m gonna spend $59 k on a mutation, I would expect the V-covers to at least be painted matching colors.

    Like 1
  22. Avatar photo Stu

    Now it’s 100 times more reliable and cheaper to maintain………..

    Like 2
  23. Avatar photo Chris

    I have an original 120. The engine, and in particular the aluminium head, is amazingly heavy. Can hardly pick it up. The moss box is a challenge and the brakes are crap. The wind in the hair driving experience with the V8 engine would be bugger all different to that of the straight 6 so why not….

    Like 1
  24. Avatar photo Marc Vivori

    No longer an XK anything. My father put a 327 in a 56 Willys. That made sense. This transplant doesn’t and the owner in in Never-Never Land as far as the price goes. I doubt the current bid price and as far as the BIN, well I suppose there’s nothing wrong with Dreaming. It will never happen. Never!

    Like 0
  25. Avatar photo Roberto

    I had a friend in Pomona, CA who had a 120 with a SBC and a Powerglide sitting in his driveway for eons.

    He’s passed. Wonder what happened to it?

    the only problem for me is that the engine looks like it was pulled out of an old station wagon yesterday!

    Like 0
  26. Avatar photo Charles Sawka

    I believe there is a rift between the hobby car guys and the restoration experts. I can see both sides. This Jag seems like it was pretty rough to begin with and the owner wanted to have some fun. That’s the point of the old car hobby. I have gone down the rabbit hole of restoring a couple of these. Even if you start with a decent car,there are endless hours of tedious work to get it just right. When you’re done you always think twice about what could happen to it out in the real world.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo V8roller

      Exactly right. Restore a car, and you’re likely going to be nervous of taking it anywhere, getting it wet…. This one is fun.
      Too many cats-arse mouthed mod-haters.

      Like 0
  27. Avatar photo Thomas P Cotrel

    Is the engine transplant period correct? Swapping a trashed I6 with an sbc was and is very common. I knew someone with a 1948 Continental Mark I that had a Y-block replacement for the original V12. A very common fix as the original engine was pure junk. A replacement (non-numbers matching) V12 would have cost $12,000.00. Going with the provenance of the car and what was an accepted practice before the car became collectible isn’t a complete lose-lose. And you can use it as a weekend, if not daily, driver.

    Like 0
  28. Avatar photo charlie Member

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think the XK 120 roadster and the ’46 – 48 Continental are in the top tier for their, or any time. There are enough of them to fill whatever museums want to show them, so if there is one on the market, and you like it, make it drive able, and drive it. If the Jag takes an SBC and the Continental a Y block Ford, so be it. And install disc brakes and a dual master cylinder, and seat belts, and radial tires, and you still have one of the best looking cars ever made and you can take it anywhere. Yes the Jag I 6 was a great engine if you could keep it running, but the V 12 Ford was not, although by ’48 most of the bugs were worked out. Like the Jag, the exhaust sound of each was pure heaven for those of us who appreciate such things, so you lose that, but both a Y block and and SBC can sound very nice.


    Like 0
  29. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    Too much money but I love it just like it is.

    Like 0
  30. Avatar photo wardww

    I can’t understand all the hate. he has done nothing that can not be undone and it was a smart cheap option at the time that produced a reliable daily driver.
    If y’all want to get weird and hateful, go look on youtube at the guys who are putting a V8 in a Tesla. Yep, you heard right.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Solosolo Member

      Nothing to do with hate Wardww. It’s just that there are so many American cars that are eminently more suitable for a SBC than a very thin on the ground, rare Jaguar XK 120. There would be no attacks if someone were to drop a SBC into a Corvair/Henry J or similar. Ken Tilly UK

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo wardww

        I’ll disagree on one point Ken. 120s, 140s and 150s are more common than you think, perhaps not in the US, but definitely in the UK where you are. If you follow barn finds as I am sure you do, you can see a couple per week popping up in the UK sites. I am a big fan of re-engineering older cars so they can be daily drivers and not garage queens. Take a look at a company in New Zealand called Beacham Special Vehicles. They are doing amazing work with older Jags.

        Like 0
      • Avatar photo JukeOfEarl

        Solosolo: I’d much rather see a SBC in a Jag than into a Corvair. They used to put SBCs into a lot of 80s/90s Jag sedans. No complaints there. Anybody know what it would cost to rebuild a Jag vs a SBC?

        Like 0
  31. Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member


    One of the reasons we see so many UK adverts for XK cars available for sale is because an estimated 95% of the 120 thru 150 cars were exported, most going to America, making it hard to find an original RHD XK. I also note that many of the ones advertised in UK venues are actually still stateside.

    I’ve talked with many older UK citizens who remember NOT being able to see an XK in the local Jaguar showroom when they were new, because they were not available. I’ve been told the only way a Jaguar dealer got one was when it was pre-ordered, and that was a rare instance due to [in part] the high VAT and purchase tax rates. Those high tax rates were put in place to force the sale of higher value items as exports, to bring in much needed foreign exchange.

    So now [over the last 20 to 25 years] a decent number of them have been re-imported, and there are still plenty of UK residents who have a desire to own one. I’ve been involved in sending more than a few 120 thru 150 cars back to the UK, most of them in the early 1990s.

    Like 0
  32. Avatar photo Solosolo Member

    @Wardww. That’s quite some restoration shop in NZ hey? Looks like they do some magnificent work and I really love the fancy rotissere. Makes life so much easier. Yes, we do see quite a lot of XK’s here these days but they are still something very special. My friend has a 1948 XK 120 Roadster, an early E Type roadster, a 1919 Stutz Bearcat, a 1934 Rolls Royce sedan and a much later Ferrari but the one that gets the most appreciation from bystanders is the XK 120. I bought one from a dealer back in 1961, drove it for 100 miles before I realised I would never be able to afford to run it so I took it back to the dealer who laughed like a drain when throwing my old car keys back, as he obviously knew that as a 21 year old I would never be able to afford to run it, let alone pay for it’s upkeep! Great times. Ken Tilly UK.

    Like 0
  33. Avatar photo chrlsful

    nope, 1 of my fav motors. In fact let’s start puttin them in where they don’t belong just cuz they’re so nice. A ’72 short bed step side 4WD chebby pick up. A 1979 ElDerado, a Cimmiron…nope, Y waste the engine. Those too R beddah w/the oem !

    Like 0

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