It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a full 4 months since we began work on Project Utah, our plan to turn the already lovely Mk2 Jaguar into something altogether sleeker, slipperier and unique. You can read more about the aero-focussed concept underpinning Project Utah here and here, but seeing as we’ve just reached a key point in the build, we thought it a good time to take stock.

Custom metalwork was always going to be fundamental part of this build, what with our plan to completely re-shape the front of the Jaguar. Those of you who follow our social media channels will already be aware that Stu, our resident panel beater par excellence, has been immensely busy in this regard, making a bespoke bulkhead with associated heater system, as well as a one-off front valance.

Utah’s custom bulkhead and heater assembly begins to take shape

At the sides, Stu has painstakingly re-made a pair of sills for Utah, both with a stunningly radiused curvature more in keeping with the project’s salt flat-style ethos. Despite the fact he’s already completed re-making the Jaguar’s boot skin there’s still plenty of work for Stu to tackle at the rear, not least the removable wheel spats, but we’ve opted to crack on with the front end first so as to work out how much or little clearance we have to work with. 

Hard won experience has taught us the worth of a dry build phase for every project we undertake. It’s by far the best way of working out how much space we’ll eventually have to work with, as well as heading off any potential issues before they arise. And in any case, it’s far easier working on solutions for said issues when the car in question is little more than a bare shell, with no worries about chipped paintwork or dinted bodywork! 

Stu begins the painstaking task of shaving away metal from the Jaguar’s chassis legs

To this end we’ve begun working out how best to locate the Toyota 2JZ-GE engine within the bay, which is actually a tighter fit than you might have first thought. See, while the Mk2 Jaguar is a fairly large car it’s also a decidedly old one, and as such its engine bay is oddly shaped – long and narrow, and therefore ill-suited to swallowing mid ‘90s Japanese six-pots. Stu has therefore had to bust out the grinder to shave off a small section from either chassis leg, giving us just enough space to locate ancillaries and, in time, the exhaust manifold. We’re also sourcing a front bowled Supra sump to enable us to clear the front cross-member.

Jaguar metalwork has made way for BMW around the transmission tunnel

It’s a similar story behind the front bulkhead, where Stu has been forced to chop a large portion of the OEM transmission tunnel away in order to even begin to work out how best to mount the BMW gearbox. A custom fabricated replacement is therefore on the cards.

We’ll be sure to keep you up to speed with Utah-shaped developments, especially as the Jaguar project will be documented in minute, Murray Escort-style detail. You can watch the first episode right now.

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