Showstopping Barra-swapped Jaguar XJC

Hamish Davidson's showstopping Barra-swapped Jaguar XJC goes like a scalded cat

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

Remember when dropping small-block Chevs into Jags was very much the done thing? It gave them some semblance of reliability and a bit of extra shove, and while such a car is a street machine of sorts, we’ve never before encountered a Jag like Hamish Davidson’s truly jaw-dropping 1976 XJC.

First published in the November 2023 issue of Street Machine

An XJC is not just a garden-variety Jag. It’s effectively a sportier two-door version of the XJ sedan, manufactured in relatively small numbers across four years in the mid-70s.

“My dad had a four-door Jag back in the 80s, and I remember seeing an XJC in a Jag book and thought it was the sleekest shape I’d ever seen,” Hamish says. “I bought this XJC in 2004, flying down to Melbourne for a road trip with my then four-year-old son Hadley. I drove it all the way home to Wollongong, then went to get it checked out the next day and had no brakes going down the driveway!”

A selection of subtle exterior modifications enhance the Jag’s look and presence, as does the stance provided by the airbag suspension. Custom-made 18in Dragway billets are upscaled versions of the 15in Kent alloys that were commonly used on these cars back in the day

Hamish’s example came fitted with the 127kW, 4.2-litre inline six-cylinder running on gas. Initially, he went down the well-trodden path of ditching the six for a 350ci Chev TPI engine, but some headaches prevented him from enjoying the car as he should. “I wouldn’t spend the money it needed to make it a reliable driver and I couldn’t get rid of it, so I stuck it in storage for 10 years,” he explains. “The car had been sitting in storage for so long that my wife Pat said, ‘Fix it properly or get rid of it.’ I bet she regrets that now!”

As you can see, Hamish did indeed “fix it properly”. He enlisted the help of the wizards at Exclusive Customs to transform the languishing project into a slick turbo Barra-powered trophy magnet that’s an absolute joy to behold.

Doing so was quite an undertaking, and the build took place across two different states; when the Exclusive team packed up their operation and relocated from Sydney to the Gold Coast, they took the Jag with them and continued the project up there.

Fitting the Barra was the first order of business, and that meant modifying the bonnet and engine crossmember, fitting a custom transmission tunnel, and of course a set of custom-made mounts. While they were at it, the lads carried out all the requisite smoothing in the engine bay.

The Jag is a striking car from the factory, so rather than reinvent the wheel, Hamish directed the team at Concept Coach Works to enhance what was already there, shaving the scuttle vent, deleting the brightwork from the boot and frenching the number plate light.

A custom lower front grille was fabricated, while the bumpers had the over-riders removed before being narrowed and shaved, welded into one piece and re-chromed. The front indicators were replaced with frenched beehive-style units, while the tail-lights are customised OEM items.

Rounding out the exterior mods, the rear quarters were subtly pumped, with the inner wheel tubs also enlarged to accommodate a very special set of custom wheels – more on those later.

Many of these changes go unnoticed until they’re pointed out – a testament both to how right they were for this build and how well executed they are.

Final bodywork, gapping and paint was handled by Exclusive Customs, and the colour is an inspired choice: Jaguar British Racing Green. When you see the car in the flesh, it’s difficult to imagine it in any other hue, and the quality of the finish is superb.

The Barra of choice is top of the pops – an FPV FG F6 with a matching ZF six-speed auto. Given this engine produces 310kW in stock trim and the Jag’s factory 4.2L naturally aspirated six-banger makes a comparatively modest 127kW, the Barra didn’t need much of a tickle to make for a healthy upgrade. That being said, Currey Customs still treated it to a sexy Plazmaman inlet manifold and intercooler, along with the typical Barra upgrades of performance valve springs, ARP head studs and billet oil pump gears. It’s yet to be dynoed, but it’s safe to assume that with a custom tune loaded into the ECU and a bit more boost on board, it’ll go like a scalded cat.

Hamish didn’t have to look far to find a suitable rear end for the project – hot rodders have been throwing Jag IRS units under anything with wheels for decades, so the stock diff was simply fitted with an XJS limited-slip centre, re-bushed and bolted back up.

Suspension-wise, the car has already seen a major upgrade since it was unveiled at Meguiar’s MotorEx earlier this year. “Originally it was fitted with GAZ shocks and King Springs, but I found the best-looking ride height was too low for daily street use,” Hamish says. “The solution was an AccuAir e-Level system, including four ’bags in the rear and two in the front. Exclusive Customs hid all the AccuAir hardware in the spare wheelwell.”

The OEM flavour of the cabin very much remains, but the quality of the fit and finish is streets ahead of where it was back in 1976 – so much so that the car scored a gold medal for Best Interior on debut at Meguiar’s MotorEx

Looping back around to the wheels, they do, as we’re all aware, maketh the car, and Hamish had a very specific look in mind – too specific to just pluck something off-the-shelf and bolt them on.

“I had a set of period-correct 1970s 15-inch Kent alloys 3D scanned, with the original design proportions enlarged and a new set of wheels CNC machined by Dragway,” he says. They measure up at 18×8 front and 18×9.5 rear, fitted with 235/40 and 265/40 Yokohama V105 tyres respectively, and the custom billet centre caps wear original Jaguar badges – such a neat idea.

The cockpit was a challenge. How do you take an interior that was quite decadent in its day and decked out with all the bells and whistles, and make it better? Concept Coach Works started by getting the ergonomics right, as Hamish is quite a tall fella. The team cut-and-shut the front seat mounts to position them lower and further back in the cabin, before Brent Parker Motor Trimming rebuilt and re-foamed the seat frames and wrapped them in brown Nappa leather.

The OE instruments were all reconditioned and a Moto-Lita steering wheel was fitted, along with a ZF shifter from an E90 BMW, due to it being more appropriately proportioned than the Ford unit. There’s VintageAir air conditioning, and the Classic Auto Sound Becker Tribute source unit combines retro looks with modern functionality, feeding tunes to the occupants through Kicker speakers and amps.

All the old vacuum-formed trim components and the dash pad were wrapped in leather with French seams, and the dash was re-veneered using birch timber and 12 layers of clear to match the finish on the steering wheel. The console was extended and covered in custom basket-weave and stitched leather, and the custom door trims and parcel shelf were fitted with 3D-printed speaker grilles. Glance upwards and you’ll spot the one-piece Alcantara headlining.

In short, the cabin works hard to retain the factory Jaguar vibes, but ratchets the level of comfort and tech – not to mention the quality of the finish – up to 11. It certainly resonated with the judges at MotorEx, who awarded it with a gold for Best Interior and a bronze for Design & Execution.

The Jag uses a ZF six-speed plucked from an FG FPV; however, a BMW E90 shifter was favoured for it being a more appropriate size. The shifter features a custom knob and boot, with a 3D-printed chrome surround and a neatly integrated gear position indicator

“I never intended to show the car, so I was gobsmacked,” Hamish says of the car’s MotorEx success. “What was awesome was the reception the car received from everyone: Jag fans loved it, Ford fans loved it – and it was built by Holden guys!”

1976 Jaguar XJC

Paint:Jaguar British Racing Green
Brand:FPV F6 Barra Turbo
Induction:Plazmaman intake and intercooler
Turbo:Garrett GT3576
Head:Stock, with beehive valve springs
Oil pump:Billet gears and backing plate
Fuel system:FG Falcon
Cooling:FG Falcon
Exhaust:Custom stainless steel, ceramic-coated
Gearbox:ZF six-speed
Diff:Jaguar XJS IRS
Front:GAZ shocks, Slam Specialties Slam Bag RE-6 airbags
Rear:IRS, ShockWave air struts
Brakes:DBA rotors, Jaguar calipers (f & r)
Master cylinder:Wilwood
Rims:Custom Dragway billet; 18×8 (f), 18×9.5 (r)
Rubber:Yokohama Advan V105; 235/40R18 (f), 265/40R18 (r)

Jason, Glenn and Rick at Exclusive Customs for the incredible paint, body and build of the car; Brent Parker Motor Trimming for the outstanding interior; Dragway for the beautiful wheels; Concept Coach Works for the metal fabrication; Barry from Split Decision for all his hard work; Currey Customs for the engine and mechanical work; Mikey Flynn for the custom exhaust and coil cover