If you wanted to do some conspicuous consumption during the 1980s, you couldn’t do much better than the Series II Jaguar XJ-S. A big, decadent-looking coupe with a smooth V12 engine under its vast bonnet, a new XJ-S would have been just the thing to celebrate a fresh round of S&L looting or a Stinger missile deal with Adnan Khashoggi in 1984. The XJ-S cost plenty to keep running, though; when the third or fourth owner got tired of huge repair bills for V12 problems, a small-block Chevy V8 engine often got swapped in. Today’s Junkyard Gem in Denver is such a Jag, with an early-1990s Chevy 350 residing in the engine compartment.
While the good old Chevy 350 didn’t purr quite as silently as the nicely balanced 5.3-liter V12, it got the job done. Some junkyard shopper had already grabbed the heads off this engine before I got to it.
The block casting number indicates that the engine began life in a 1987-1995 car or truck. The small-block Chevy is a common swap for Jaguar XJs, going back to the 1960s.
The cylinder-head buyer tossed the heavy intake manifold on the roof, which would be a junkyard no-no on a nice car.
This car’s body isn’t so nice, though. It appears that some sort of aftermarket hood scoop once lived atop these layers of body filler and pop rivets.
The interior looks decent enough, though the varnish on the dashboard wood shows signs of excessive Colorado sun exposure.
The MSRP on this car began at $34,700, or about $87,300 in 2020 dollars. You could get a new Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz coupe that year for just $23,737, though the real competition for the XJ-S was more likely to be a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or BMW 6 Series with two doors. The 1984 BMW 633CSi went for $39,120, while the Mercedes-Benz 500SEC cost a staggering $56,800 that year.
How the mighty have fallen!
You can’t buy the race car, but you can buy V12 power wrapped in soft leather and paneled in rare wood.