By on April 2, 2018

1969 Jaguar XJ6 in California wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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.

1969 Jaguar XJ6 in California wrecking yard, license plate shadow - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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.

1969 Jaguar XJ6 in California wrecking yard, dashboard - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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.

1969 Jaguar XJ6 in California wrecking yard, LH view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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.

1969 Jaguar XJ6 in California wrecking yard, front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
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.

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21 Comments on “Junkyard Find: Small Block Chevy-swapped 1969 Jaguar XJ6...”

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    “Clarkson’s Car Years – Who Killed The British Motor Industry?”

  • avatar

    I recall by the time of the 73 oil embargo these were a dirt cheap 2nd owner buy on our local Leyland lot. The full Leyland decline hadn’t yet set in. They weren’t thought of as poor quality. Just high maintenance and thirsty. You couldn’t skip a service with jag or you’d pay for it dearly later on. Most took a pass on the appealing price. That was the perception then.

  • avatar

    These old Jaguars deserved so much better. Some designs are indeed loathsome when you consider the original price-tag but some are oh so sweet.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Say what you will about their electronics and maintenance costs, but Lyons certainly knew how to make a timeless design. And that wood and toggle switch instrument panel still has a classic appeal.

  • avatar

    The bastardized Chevy swap was the only way to own these things. Instantly quadrupled their value, same with Rolls Royces. Or they’ed break your heart if you fought it. Luckily I’ve never saw their appeal.

    • 0 avatar

      My brother did the swap in his ’72 XJ6 sometime in the early-80’s. No more Strombergs! He drove it another 4 years before crashing it.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t know, I bought an ’85 XJ6 with a lot of miles on it, and the motor was really solid. I suppose if it went south you’d save a lot of dough by going with a SBC instead of rebuilding/replacing the Jag motor. Mine had fuel injection, I expect the older carbureted models were more fussy.

  • avatar

    IIRC these came with a version of the GM TH350 transmission, making the change to the 350V8 easier. No fiddling with driveshafts, shifters, or trans mounts.
    I know two people that bought these as 3rd owner. One had the 350 and he went through the hassle of having to find all the original emission control hardware, including air pump, to get registration in California. He finally got tired of dealing with expensive replacements such as the ATF cooler.
    The other one was a similar chain of failures. The gasoline tanks had to be removed to repair leaks. There’s one in each rear fender. Something went wrong in the rear axle. Might have been a leak, but whatever it required a lot of time to fix. The final breaking point was when the climate control system failed on a winter trip through New Mexico resulting in no heat when temps were around 10 F.
    Of course there were electrical troubles with Lucas and Smiths.
    Those cars rode very nice and went around corners well for something of the size and weight and the era.
    Also knew a guy that ran a business for a few decades doing custom engine changes and chassis work. He did a few Big Block Chevy’s into XKEs. The first time I saw him working on one of those I asked about the weight. He said the Chevy motor and trans was nearly 100 Lbs lighter than the 6 cyl Jag.
    As has been noted on TTAC, “No matter how far down you’ve gone you can always turn around.”

    • 0 avatar

      Those British motors were always heavy slugs. The Buick/Rover aluminum V-8 was considerably lighter than the 4 cylinder in the MGB, a cast iron Chevy SB was considerably lighter than the 6 cylinders in Healeys, Triumphs, and Jags, and the 289 Ford was lighter than the Bristol 6 in the Ace/Cobra. American V-8s = more power, less weight, lower price, better reliability = no brainer.

  • avatar

    This one has a Goodwrench 350 crate motor (instead of a junkyard pull), so the owner put some effort into it.

    I could see this being a project for Freiburger and Finnegan, but they’ve already been there, done that.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting observation. Anybody remember the “Targetmaster 350” crate engine?
      In today’s convo, that name probably wouldn’t be too marketable.

      • 0 avatar

        I remember that name well, and upon seeing the sticker on the valve cover, wondered myself if it might be a “target motor.”

        Mike Knell’s Jaguars That Run, in Livermore, CA, made a cottage industry of swapping SBCs into needy rides from XJ6s to 240Zs. JTR’s swapping manuals and over-the-phone expertise were an extremely valuable resource when I TPI 350’ed an ’89 Caprice wagon that was originally equipped with the Olds 307 back in ’96.

        Best thing he ever told me? “Make the engine think it’s still in the car it came out of.” That factoid alone answered many questions about how to properly adapt a fuel-injected engine with an electric in-tank fuel pump to the last carbureted vehicle to come out of GM.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes I remember the old Target Practice 350.

        • 0 avatar

          I remember those. Here’s an old forum thread from 2003, with different opinions about whether they were good, or garbage. Apparently they were built in Mexico:

  • avatar
    Mike Thomas

    Guy came into restaurant, where I work for min. Wage. He had a 1976 , with a 300 horse 350 , hooked to a turbo 400 , slightly modified. Black paint done in 1978 , interior drove him nuts , water.
    We live on north coast of Oregon. I expected a bomb. Instead , my Jag runs incredibly smooth, the carrier bearing is vibrating but that is all. I am a MG guy , now my Jag makes heads turn and State police wish they had faster cars. It was a XJ12.any idea what it is worth ?

  • avatar

    I remember the fender gas tanks in these- not a great plan for salt country!

    I remember the Jag 6 cylinder engine being heavier than the Chevy V8 conversion, so I’m not surprised to see @pwrwrench cite a figure of 100 lbs.

    The Stromburgs and SUs were good carburetors, but they needed a bit of particular care from someone who knew what they were doing. Their undoing is you could always tune old ones to get the engine started and to idle, but that didn’t mean it would run well. They were particularly sensitive to throttle shaft bushing wear- that would screw up the idle mixture, which you would compensate for with a mixture adjustment, but that adjustment would then screw up the mixture the rest of the time. There were a few other specific areas of attention, and then finally synchronizing both (or all three like on the XKE) needed a knowledgeable person, who could accomplish the task in a matter of minutes. An unknowledgeable person could waste hours and still not getit right. Ahh, carburetors. Keep in mind that contemporary Holley 4BBLs and Carter Thermoquad, Rochester Quadrajet, etc. also needed particularly knowledgeable service to keep running well. With enough neglect, an engine with any of those could certainly be made to run like crap- but people with the knowledge have always been easy to find on this side of the pond.

    • 0 avatar

      Best thing you can do to SUs is to have modern specialty plastic throttle spindle bushings put in them. A fellow near me in Maine does this, along with properly rebuilding them. Had that done 17 years ago to my Spitfire and haven’t had to touch the carbs since.

    • 0 avatar

      IIRC, we’re going back over four decades, very few carbs had throttle shaft bushings. The shaft rotated in a hole in the carb body and yes they would wear enough to cause trouble after about 60K miles.
      When I first started working on engines I was asked to “tune-up” a Mini which had two SUs. The owner had a workshop manual. A rarity in those days. I tried following the steps to adjust the carbs and could not get anywhere. Shortly after that I went to work at a shop where a few guys had lots of experience with SUs, Strombergs and so on. One of them had a special tool kit to machine the carb body for larger throttle shafts. This would cure the air leakage, idle, and hesitation/stalling problems. Part of that tool kit was a special small open end wrench to adjust the needle jets and hence the mixture. The shop manual stated that you could do it with your fingers. Maybe on brand new carbs.
      Customers did not like the cost of rebuilding the carbs and the throttle shaft replacement, but that was less than half the price of new carbs. Which still needed installation,tuning and synchronizing.

      • 0 avatar

        “IIRC, we’re going back over four decades, very few carbs had throttle shaft bushings.”

        I can’t say I realized that. I “made my own” bushings, not knowing any better, but knowing that my twin SU throttle shafts had way too much play. Really, I just took some thin brass tube from the local hobby shop, cut to length (about 1/4″) and pushed them on my throttle shafts about where they should go. My new bushings were too tight, so I chucked the throttle shafts in my drill and turned them in a wrapping of fine grit sandpaper, bit by bit, wiping them down each time to try the fit again, until they fit. That took a couple hours. And then my old car ran so much better!!

        “Customers did not like the cost of rebuilding the carbs and the throttle shaft replacement.”

        I can see this, but knowing what is involved I personally think that less than half the price of new carbs would be a bargain.

  • avatar

    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?

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