After owning the Cressida for a period of time, I’m in love. The FR sedan is a fantastic platform, and I’m sure my next car will be one. But which? The one drawback, in my eyes, to the Cressida as a daily driver is it’s size. By today’s standards, the car has the interior space of an econobox, although the trunk dimensions remain impressive. Good for a drift car, as the huge sedan actually weighs in within 50lbs of the Supra of the same year, but bad for a daily cruiser. Moreover, the X8′s body styling falls into a somewhat awkward transitional period which is not yet appreciated and perhaps never will be: the design language of the ’89 Cressida is too new to be a timeless classic, yet too old to be modern. It shares neither the nostalgic JDM feel of the X7, nor the forever-not-too-outdated looks of the UCF10. For that reason, the dented, scratched, rusted, outright neglected sheetmetal doesn’t lend a beautiful patina to the car as it might to classic eurotrash, it simply makes the car look like what it is: an rotting beater, lumbering and grotesque in form.
What, then, can we take away from this story? Where have I failed, what can I improve upon? I must find an older, more classic chassis. It must be larger, with lines more flowing and eloquent. Ideally, it will have the kind of beauty which is embellished by superficial flaws such as peeling paint, rust, dents, and dings. The sort of car that makes a channel-lock fender flare job look as if it belongs, one that wears a rust hole like a birthmark. The Nissan S30 of family sedans.
But what IS the Nissan S30 of family sedans? Before Infiniti and Lexus, the largest sedans that Nissan and Toyota bothered to import were the Cressida and Maxima / Datsun 810. The MX32 Cressida has the styling, but it’s too small for me. The UCF10 or JZS147 are both fantastic cars, but too new for my tastes. In these cars, the interior is too bland, too 90′s Toyota for me. To my knowledge, Mitsubishi has never and will never make a worthwhile car, and the Mazda 929 only got huge and good looking in it’s last generation. As much as I love Japanese cars, my perfect sedan may not be Japanese, unless I can sell my organs in exchange for the importation of a Japanese market Toyota Crown or Nissan President.
As mentioned before, eurotrash may be my only way out. BMW made the 7-Series, Mercedes the S-Class, and although neither Saab nor Volvo ever produced anything executive enough for my tastes, Volkswagen/Audi did shit out the V8. Obviously, the V8 can be crossed off the list immediately, I could berate it for paragraph upon paragraph, and offend the half-dozen hardcore enthusiasts of the chassis so much that they’ll vow never to read a blog post I have authored again, but I shall suffice to say it’s disqualified from the running due to it’s not being rear-wheel-drive. The 7-Series is definitely a contender, but the first chassis shares too much in common, stylistically, with the newer BMW’s for my tastes. An E23 has the classic feel to it, but the headlights are too reminiscent of the newer 5-series to look truly old school, and the rear end of the car has always bothered me. I’ve never really appreciated the design of BMW’s of these years, and I fear that such a car being owned by myself would suffer a similar fate as the Cressida. They just don’t look good looking bad. And, with that statement, I’m sure you’re already formulating your response to this post. What a fucking idiot I am, Rusty Slammington looked great being a complete and total pile of shit. In my opinion, that’s the biggest problem with my ownership of a BMW: I’d be doomed to live in Mike Burroughs’ shadow, never quite living up to what he had accomplished several years ago. I want this car to be slammed to the ground, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that anything I own will probably wind up looking ratty. The combination of those two things, with a BMW of that vintage, means that such a vehicle would be destined to be viewed as a cheap imitation of Rusty, a halfhearted attempt to replicate former excellence.
Through the process of deductive reasoning, we arrive at Mercedes. The S- and E- class sedans of the late 70′s and early 80′s are gorgeous pieces of machinery, well-built, well-appointed, and well out of my price range. All but the biggest rust-bucket pieces of shit are worth a few thousand bucks at the minimum, and they’re far rarer than I would like. This makes finding one I like more difficult, and it means that whatever I do wind up with, it’ll probably be a shame that I wound up with it. The Cressida is easily rationalized, I saved that car from the scrapyard, so a prolonged death from the unnatural cause of scraping across mountainous Michigan asphalt is a more dignified fate than any alternative ending that car may have had. Believe it or not, even I have a conscience about this stuff.
Obviously, deductive reasoning has failed us. So, the car I’m looking for is neither reasonable nor prudent to own. Of course! It must be English. Nobody knows how to design an eloquent, flowing big body sedan like Jaguar. If only the rest of the company was as good as their art department. In the wheel fitment community, the Jaguar XJ is often forgotten, but I believe the curvaceous sedan has plenty of potential to look phenomenal coasting inches off the ground, floating on whatever rims tuck into the fenders nicely. The reason it’s a long since forgotten platform is likely the same reason it’s perfect for me: you don’t see them on the road anymore. To expand on that thought, you don’t see them on the road anymore because they’re such piles of fuck that various problems keep them immobile for large portions of their life. Many of these cars are doomed to collect dust underneath piled up boxes of family photos, Christmas decorations, and grandma’s china collection in the corner of the garage. A similar effect can be seen in the Cressida community: we find stock shells in great condition because a string of blown headgaskets has kept the car off the road for years at a time, preserving the rest of the car from normal wear and tear. This works even better with Jaguars; they were originally valuable enough that people feel obligated to properly store their $800 cars. On Craigslist, I found one Series II Jaguar that had been garage kept since 1990 after a head bolt snapped during routine maintenance.
Like the Cressida, the stock XJ drivetrain holds little appeal. I believe an engine swap would be a necessary prerequisite to Jaguar ownership. Jaguars all have automatic transmissions, and luckily the view that General Motors made the best automatics of the day is an opinion shared by Jaguar as well as Toyota. Although any XJ6 I find will probably have a bullshit Borg-Warner slushbox, the TH350 and 400 were used in higher-trim XJ’s, and with a factory Toyota bellhousing and custom converter, it is possible to mate a JZ to a TH- trans. This being Michigan, old GM parts grow on trees, and I could probably find a couple old Turbo-Hydromatic transmissions for sale without leaving my neighborhood. With a cheap and reliable automatic sorted out, this means that you can buy a JZ swap without a transmission, a huge relief, as this opens up your options considerably. From the looks of it, a rear-sump motor is needed for the conversion.
As we all know, JZ swaps can be made to run once you connect about four wires into the engine harness, and a car of the vintage that we’re talking about should neither know nor care what engine is inside it, wiring wise. Presumably, a solution to the speedo cable has already been sorted out for a TH400 swap, and the tacho from an XJ6 should be looking for six sparks per 720* of revolution, although an MSD adapter may be required for it to see the spark from coil-on-plug ignition. Running a new fuel pump and dedicated relay with new wiring would be required for the swap, and could eliminate some potential headaches with the ancient British Leyland wiring. Charging and starting systems are relatively universal, so replacing the Jaguar plugs with the appropriate Toyota ones should be the extent of the work required on that front.
From the looks of it, such a project is definitely possible. The owner of Driftmotion appears to have built an Aristo 2JZ powered 1990 XJS Coupe. Fortunately, talk is so cheap it’s probably all I can afford at the moment, until I get the S14 out of my driveway at least, and I’ve made some headway with the Cressida. But now I know where my heart lies, and I can keep an eye out for deals to pop up.