Junkyard Find: Small Block Chevy-swapped 1969 Jaguar XJ6

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
The Series 1 Jaguar XJ, built for the 1968 through 1973 model years, sold fairly well in the United States but became a rare sight in self-service wrecking yards well before the 20th century was through. I photographed this ’69 in a Northern California yard all the way back in 2007, when I was busy harvesting clocks for my collection and gauges in general for my team’s 24 Hours of Lemons Volvo, and I think it’s time to share them.
Jaguar straight-sixes weren’t horribly unreliable, at least by the standards of the 1960s, but the good old Chevy 350 has always been tantalizingly affordable when the Jag’s original engine gives up. This was a very, very common swap, given the Jaguar’s spacious engine compartment and the overabundance of cheap small-block Chevrolet engines going back to the 1950s.
The shadow of the yellow-on-blue California plate, drawn in road dust, remains visible. The first year for the blue plates was 1969, so this may have been the car’s original license plate.
Would you trust any of the Lucas– or Smiths- built electrical components you see here? As I recall, I bought the clock and voltmeter, neither of which worked.
It was beat-up and showed ample evidence of liberal application of body filler, but it didn’t seem rusty. Worth restoring in 2007, with the Great Recession just getting into gear? Probably not.
It’s better to imagine a car like this when it was a very luxurious status symbol, not what it became during its decline-and-fall years.
Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Apr 02, 2018

    A lot of the transplanted XJs I've seen over the years, going back to the '80s, ran Buick 400s rather than SBCs. Was this because of the displacement versus physical dimensions?

  • Greg Greg on Jan 23, 2023

    Yes, here in Australia too in times gone by there were people in the Jag club who had fitted Buick 400's & 454's to both series 1 xj6's & also to the bigger mk10/420G's as there is plenty of room and the big block Buick v8's are still lighter than the Jag 6 cylinder!!

  • Irvingklaws Was a must have for my wife's new car. After years of windshield mounts, trying to keep the sun off the phone, wires running across the dash, etc...it's been a welcome upgrade. Don't have it in my current (old) car, just a stock stereo with the aforementioned windshield phone mount and wires...which is fine enough for me. But if I upgrade the radio with an aftermarket unit, the first thing I'm looking for, after separate volume and tuning KNOBS, is Carplay. Note, I've yet to find an aftermarket head unit meeting these basic qualifications. The infotainment in my '17 GTI had both of these and was near perfect, I'd be happy with that unit in any car.
  • Haze3 Near must have... car guy make car, software guy make software THAT I CAN USE EVERYWHERE and not just on some specific brand of truck/car/suv.
  • Wolfwagen If there is no Rust or rot this would be a good buy when MB craftsmanship and engineering meant something. While I prefer the 500 or 560 for the larger engine, this is good
  • Wolfwagen Tim, Now you should ask the B&B who we want to succeed and why. You could limit it to EV or non- North American MFGs.
  • TCowner I consider it mandatory for the navigation purpose - using a phone in a Weathertech cupholder in my old Town Car just doesn't compare. However, I don't use it for anything else (i.e. music, etc) and don't find that important.