How many of us have yearned for classic Jaguar ownership, only to be deterred by expensive servicing bills, and unreliability issues that plague old cars?
Well, this reader from Thailand has proven that if you are prepared to think outside of the box, then it is possible to combine both British heritage and style with modern performance and reliability.
Electrical engineer, Sarawut Kanchanarattan, had long dreamt of classic car ownership. The appeal of owning something a bit different, with a touch of class, that didn’t suffer heavy depreciation had driven him in the direction of the Jaguar XJ, series one. He was drawn to the timeless classic lines, yet by the same token, he needed reliable easy-to-maintain transport that wasn’t too costly to run.
Sarawut was aware of the fact that many cars in Thailand had non-standard engine conversions “It is a big business out here, and quite common for a BMW, Mercedes, Volvo or Ford to be powered by a transplanted Toyota engine…. so why not for a Jaguar as well”. Why not indeed! Sarawut made the necessary enquiries and found out from a specialist in Bangkok that a Toyota engine conversion was indeed available for the Jaguar XJ.
First task was to track down a series one XJ. After much hunting, a smart example was found at a dealer in the Pattanakarn area of Bangkok. “The car was genuine and the best that I had seen. It was up for sale for 316,250 baht, approx £5750, but I managed to get it for 294,250 baht, approx £5,350.”
Although Sarawut is an engineer, he didn’t do the engine conversion himself. That job was entrusted to a specialist engine conversion garage in Bangkok, who quoted 50,000 Baht, approximately £910 for the fitment of a second hand Toyota 2JZ-GE 3.0 litre six-cylinder engine, sourced from Japan. Although smaller in capacity, the replacement Toyota unit offers significant power gains, pumping out 230 bhp at 5800 to 6000 rpm and 209 to 220 ft.lbf of torque at 3800 to 4800 rpm. This provides much more useable performance and is a marked improvement over the original Jaguar engine. Sarawut can certainly vouch for the performance of the Toyota unit.” The fastest I have been in it is 140 kmph, but there was plenty of power left in reserve. What is impressive is the acceleration of the car – especially noticeable for overtaking.”
Although basically in sound condition, being an old car, the XJ still required a certain amount of restorative work. The rusty petrol tank has been replaced and the speedometer re-calibrated. A new wiring loom for the lights has been fitted, as has a new exhaust system – the original having completely rusted through. Rather more seriously, the existing weaknesses in the chassis have had to be reinforced. Corrosion and rot in the subframe and chassis were a problem, but this has now been removed and treated. Any structural weaknesses have been reinforced.
Sarawut has also completed other improvements to the XJ, which have included:
replacing the car’s perished rubber window and door seals; fitment of front seat belts; fitment of mirror glass film tint – vital in Thailand due to the intense heat. Additionally, new moulds were created of the rear indicator lenses and replaced, as the original units were rather worse for wear.
Currently Sarawut is in the middle of the more ambitious project of installing an air-conditioning system. “I have had some problems, because although the air-conditioning works, it is now causing the engine to overheat”. To remedy this, he is installing a second electric cooling fan to keep the Toyota engine cool.
If all these modifications weren’t enough, this Jaguar also boasts an LPG conversion.
Sarawut explains: “The toyota engine has better economy than the original Jaguar engine at 22 mpg compared to 12 mpg, but this is still quite a low figure. The LPG conversion helps me to make big savings on fuel costs – and means I can afford to use the Jaguar every day.”
Now that the Jaguar restoration is almost completed, I asked Sarawut what his thoughts are on the project. “So far I have spent 155,815 Baht (approx £2833) on improvements – so this brings the total cost of the car up to 450,000 Baht (approx £8,180) which is quite a lot of money for an old car, but I can honestly say that it has been worth every penny and I am very pleased with the finished car.”
By putting a Toyota engine into this XJ series one, Sarawut has given new life to an old Jag that had seen better days. Admittedly, it goes against a purist’s idea of a restoration project, but it’s hard to argue with the overall appeal this car has as a useable everyday classic.
The engine transplant process:
- Take out old engine and make and fit new mountings for engine and gearbox
- Fit new engine
- Install drive shafts and gearbox linkages
- Fit new exhaust system.
- Replace engine loom wiring
- Hook up engine coolant system (radiator) and air-conditioning compressor.
Engine: 2JZ-GE I6
Configuration:DOHC 6 cylinder
Power: (PS/ RPM) 230 / 6000
Torque: (KG-M/RPM) 29.0 / 4800
Transmission: 4 A/T 4 speed automatic