Featured: This Is The Super Sedan That Jaguar Should Have Made

This Is The Super Sedan That Jaguar Should Have Made

By Karl Muth
October 14, 2015

Photography by Courtney Cutchen

I’m generally most attracted to sports cars, but I was spending an evening with my dear friend Rachel Furnari, an art curator and expert on all things design (and fellow admirer of otherwise-unloved Jaguars), and we were stumbling around eBay Motors waiting to meet our friends for drinks.

We noticed a Jaguar XJ in seemingly fantastic condition, a one-owner car, at about eight hundred dollars with no reserve. We thought it must be worth at least fifty percent more than that, even if it had no engine, so we bid $1,201. Checking my phone from the bar a few hours later, I learned that I was the new owner of a 1999 Jaguar X308 XJ.

From the beginning, the plan was clear: I was going to turn this XJ into the car that I believed Jaguar should have set out to build twenty years ago, and if it had asked me to design it. That meant a set of things mechanically, and a set of things aesthetically. This would not be a restoration, but rather a very, very subtle “tuner” project.

I elected to build this car the way I would…if Jaguar had asked me to design the car. That meant an open-gate six-speed shifter…and a whole lot of other nerdy stuff…

This car has a gated T56 Magnum transmission which transmits power from a Lingenfelter 6.2-litre V8, to a custom driveshaft, through a refitted rear end to the rear wheels. The engine is based on a GM LS3 block, running a Lingenfelter GT1-1 camshaft and LS9 headwork, meaning everything from the head gasket (including the head gasket) up is LS9, including the high-lift-capable springs and titanium and sodium-filled valves of that engine. The heads have been extensively machined for optimal flow at high RPM, including Lingenfelter’s three-angle valve job. The car sits on a custom suspension based on the Arden setup, but with modified lower control arm spring perches that allow it to sit lower. Tires are ADVAN A048s, a tire I fell in love with on my Exige.

Aesthetically, I wanted to make the car look sleeker, and keep its timeless “gee what model year is that?” look. Touches like the bullet mirrors are old-school, but contemporary in that they’re carbon fiber. The flush door handles and motorcycle-style gas cap update and clean up the surfaces of the design. I chose forged Fifteen52 R43 wheels both to get the custom offsets needed, and because I think they recall the mag wheels of the ’70s and ’80s.

The brightwork on the B-pillar has been blacked out to make the roofline appear even lower and the effect seems to work; some have asked me, “did you chop that?” Visual considerations continue inside, where I wanted an upmarket interior that could compete with today’s luxury cars but was not outrageous or obviously aftermarket. I repurposed a Holden engine cover and made the engine bay look as “factory” as possible. Little touches, like re-using the stock shift knob (from the automatic gear selector) and setting the dash unit into the stock walnut trim help the interior come together. The paint is Audi’s Ipanema Brown, which some mistake for a stock color.

This is one of those cars that you’d think could fly under the radar. It doesn’t. Everyone wants to talk about the car, whether at a stoplight, when valeting the car at a restaurant, or at the gas station. Everyone knows it’s a Jaguar from fifty yards away. Everyone knows it’s something special hearing its lumpy cam idle at a stoplight.

And everyone who rides in it forms a fond memory of the car—and that’s what makes me smile.

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blerim kqiku
blerim kqiku(@blerim_kqiku)
2 years ago

I find the car amazing specially the 6 speed transsmission it gives a very sporty look and I think that the car is a work of art and I want to congratulate for your oeuvre d’art (work of art), for automobile culture it’s the thouch that missed.
Once again congratulations to you and continue the good work. ( I am truly sorry to not have stumble in this post sonner)

4 years ago

I love the color and the overall execution. I’m not personally wild about the wheel choice and the stance looks off just a bit. But I love the idea, these year XJ’s are such a beautiful design. Well done!!

Marc Lawrence
Marc Lawrence(@fb_100000216652756)
4 years ago

I’m glad he likes the color and the wheel tire combo – Maybe an owner isn’t the best person to review a car. Maybe it’s not a review – group hug?

Jim Levitt
Jim Levitt(@jrl1194)
4 years ago

Well done.
Odd color for a Jag but well done.

Thomas Dcln
Thomas Dcln(@thomasdecleyn)
5 years ago

That’the review on youtube by the smoking tire https://youtu.be/OTAXykiqsGs

David Banks
David Banks(@alphalife9)
5 years ago

Karl, is there a detailed write up somewhere for this? It is absolutely perfect. I’ve been fantasizing about LS power, a gated manual and wooden steering wheel in all sorts of British cars for a while. Who did the drive line install? The execution is perfect. The mix of British motoring nostalgia, brute power and attention to detail as a proper driver’s car is perfect. This is a dream daily driver.

Yuxiao Chen
Yuxiao Chen(@yuxiaochenn)
5 years ago

I’ve lost count of how many times I read this article, the car is just so gorgeous, and write up is full of details!

Lawrence Bryant
Lawrence Bryant(@thekiwi67)
5 years ago

I build Hot Rods and Custom cars as a living and this is a breath of fresh air to see a well executed build like this.
Its wonderful to see the mould finally being broken and people looking outside of the box!
Well done!!

Doug Stenning
Doug Stenning(@dougiedoo83)
5 years ago

Wow!! I don’t usually go for customising old jags (old school Jag family) but i have to say this is absolutely stunning, in every sense!! Are there any videos of the car?

5 years ago

Incredible job Karl, where did you find an upgraded upholstery kit like that?

Twion Cooper
Twion Cooper(@fb_10153079376400458)
6 years ago

Could you make me one of the gated shifter like yours for a 1991 Nissan 300zx

Joseph Bueti
Joseph Bueti(@jcarb)
6 years ago

Great job, how did you get the gated shifter, custom made ?

Brian Damschroder
Brian Damschroder(@brian)
6 years ago

Karl, the car looks very handsome and the modifications appear to be very well thought out and executed. It’s an inspiration to me as I am the owner of a 1993 535 that is slowly heading in the same direction. Kudos also for maintaining your civility in the face of some rather rude internet comments. Well done!

Ricardo Landgrave
Ricardo Landgrave(@sanpt7777)
6 years ago

Hey man, I’m another expert coming here to tell you what you “should do” or have done. If you want this car to look even less period correct, do a projector retrofit on your lights. Lots of how to’s online. You can use Acura TSX projectors which are awesome.
I would have painted it black if it were for me because I have only owned black cars and that ain’t changing, but this copper paintjob you went with looks like it belongs in the 80’s but at the same time looks very modern. I just love it. Every single body line looks better in this color. The interior is absolutely gorgeous.
What is it you did with the dash? Is it digital? Looks like a tablet or something.


PS I joined just so I could comment on this car. It is THAT awesome. Couldn’t choose a better engine. Hope I have my alas powered E39/E38 some day. I can’t even afford a used E46 but that’ll change haha

Ricardo Landgrave
Ricardo Landgrave(@sanpt7777)
6 years ago

By the way, I meant to say it’s cool that it is not period correct. This Jags were produced for so long that it’s hard to tell the year if your not an enthusiast.

Stephan P
Stephan P(@alfettaracer)
6 years ago

Beautiful work and attention to detail.
The only thing that I’d change is the white lettering on the tires. It distracts from an otherwise beautifully restrained build.

Ian Miles
Ian Miles(@smilo998)
6 years ago

Worked ar Jaguar when they were making this. The LWB version as this is was a bodge. The rear doors were much longer than the front because they could not afford to make new pressings for the body side and the doors were two cut and welded. Better to stick with a 300. The sculpted bonnet over the lights was beautiful but a nightmare to paint. On many you can see through to the primer. The bonnet assembly on the Series 3 on which this was based was made of no less than 90 parts. It took ages to built. The XJ40 cut this in half and this XJ 300 was even more efficiently designed. To be honest this looks like a car that a teenager has inherited from his father and taken to a second rate body shop. The original and unfetterd XJR and the next gen look so much better and with the Supercharger sound and perform perfectly. Jags should never look teenagered.

Tom DesRochers
Tom DesRochers(@brown76)
6 years ago

Absolutely beautiful. I’d have done the mirrors in body color and used rims from a later Jag (with the cat logo in the center), but still amazing work.

This is very much the same philosophy I want to apply to my Maverick, but I’m going for a period look with my mods and sticking with Ford power.

6 years ago

Karl, superb job – the paint, the interior, the engine, the external mirrors.
Looks magnificent, and I bet every time you start it up and drive, it puts a big smile on your face.
Great looking car.

Andrew Chen
Andrew Chen(@andrew)
6 years ago

Not a fan of the mishmash of periods and styles, but great detail work.

Who has this much money to drop on a car that retains so little value though?

Albert Palomar
Albert Palomar(@ramolap)
6 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Chen

I don’t think this car was built with the intention of reselling it. That’s pretty much how it goes with most project cars. Build it because you WANT to.

Joe Van De Veere
Joe Van De Veere(@augustwest)
6 years ago

LOVE this – especially the wheels. And the 6-Speed. Everything. Killer. A British 2001 “M7,” if BMW had ever done it… …put it this way – it’s so good it made me register so I could comment.

Jon Ulrich
Jon Ulrich(@jolrechhotmail)
6 years ago

Fantastic job. It should be fun to drive and isn’t that what it’s all about.

Andreas Lavesson
Andreas Lavesson(@andreas)
6 years ago

I think it’s absolutely awesome! Not a project I would ever have dreamt of myself, but now I’m jealous I didn’t.

6 years ago

I love it, I would just lose the white writing on the tires and that’s it.
Smoking hot, congratulation for the amazing build, Muth!

John Testrake
John Testrake(@jtestrake)
6 years ago

Beautiful craftsmanship here but at the end of the day it’s another Chevy V8 conversion. Not sure why we want a heavy 4-door luxury saloon to smoke tires and race quarter miles. Jaguars are supposed to be all about sophistication and refinement. It’s not supposed to be a Corvette.

Douglas Anderson
Douglas Anderson(@dandydoug)
6 years ago

We owned a slightly earlier version of this model . Had the lovely 6 cylinder motor and was one of the best road cars. My wife loved that car and we regret we did not keep it. The modifications done to this one are very nice, and almost exactly what we would have done had we kept ours.

Fernando Bunster
Fernando Bunster(@fernandobunster)
6 years ago

Hideous! Good only at Halloween.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago

.. Thus Spoke the Purist in the room .

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago

Ahhhh .. a Jaguarlet Resto – Mod .. [ the somewhat adolescent sounding term tuner car does not do the quality of the work nor the finished car justice ] …. Seriously … unless you’re a purist … whats not to love ?

I might chose a slightly different wheel style … might … but other than that …. perfect !

Adam Mehl
Adam Mehl(@fb_10204840326754350)
6 years ago

Absolutely perfect build. Very nice work and I have to imagine it is a riot.