Don’t Mistake This 2JZ-Swapped XJS For Your Grandfather’s Jaguar

Photography: Christian Villagran

  • The Jaguar XJS enjoyed a 21-year production run and is known to be a mature, grand tourer with inline-6 and V12 engine options.
  • Unlike many of his young peers, Bryan Pontifes is an avid Jaguar fan and has made a big impression on the automotive industry with his Aristo-swapped XJS.
  • The car was a graduation gift with one major caveat: tout a 4.0 GPA or higher.
  • The 2JZ-powered XJS is highlighted by a custom front fascia, 18” BBS LM wheels, Koyorad radiator, and a tasteful interior and exterior restoration.

Being on the more mature side of 30 now, I can fondly reminisce about test taking, homework, and the familial bribery associated with achievement. I’ll be the first to admit that the tactic worked. I relished seeing a fresh carrot dangled in front of me every new semester, knowing that its reward would be greater than a full week’s effort working my part-time retail job. But after talking to Bryan Pontifes, who is on the verge of turning 22, it became clear that I was selling myself short.

You see, Bryan’s incentive was vastly more substantial than a piece of paper with Benjamin Franklin’s face on it. His prize was the car that you see here — a 1990 Jaguar XJS V12 Rogue Edition — and its keys were the proverbial carrot. The catch? Bryan would have to come home with a GPA above 4.0 to start munching. But that’s not where the story really starts.

BLACK WIDOWS

If you Google “jumping spider macro”, you’ll realize that these eight-legged athletes are incredibly cute and surprisingly hairy creatures. The same sentiment doesn’t apply to the Black Widow; they are as hideous as they are willing to inflict pain. When Black Widow spider eggs hatch, up to 1,000 danger babies are released into the world.

I say all this because the car that created Bryan’s strong affinity for Jaguars, a rusty XJ6 shell, was the hottest Black Widow apartment building in California at the time. It was intended to be a project that his dad and he could work on together over the years, but it was an immense hill to climb. Given its condition, Bryan was relegated to admiring the car for its potential alone. As the story goes, he was able to see past the occupants and it set Bryan on a course that would never be reversed, even after this car was sold.

GENTLEMAN AND A SCHOLAR

It was fitting that the next car that came home — the XJS here — was also black. Having sat dormant for over four years, it too was a long-term project in its own right. Despite the V12 badging, the XJS was already 2JZ-GTE swapped, courtesy of Aaron from Driftmotion. More than the swap itself, Aaron and his team were able to ensure all the gauges and electronics worked as intended. Thankfully for Bryan, all of the Jaguar’s usual gremlins have been fully sorted since and it allowed him to focus on bringing home the magic 4.0 GPA.

His patience and hard work paid off. Soon after graduation, Bryan became the Jag’s newest custodian. As an inheritor of a previous project, however, he was eager to make it his own as soon as possible.

MAKE IT OR BREAK IT

One of the more unique elements of the car is the front fascia. Bryan would be the first to tell you that the factory bumper is “horrendous” and the TWR replacement that came with the car (to match the TWR side skirts, rear bumper, and trunk spoiler) lacked style as well. As luck would have it, a fortuitous pull on the highway caused the TWR one to fall off and his dad and he saw it as an opportunity to make something from scratch. The result is dramatically more sporting in its intent and makes the car appear much more aggressive, even standing still.

A set of 18-inch BBS LM wheels were a timeless choice that make virtually any car look ten times better and Brian’s XJS is no exception. “It took about six months of saving and stock trading to get them but I say it was well worth it,” Pontifes admits. Since his car isn’t exactly new or plentiful as a Honda Civic, Bryan had to exercise patience in hunting down even the most ordinary parts, like a new grille and body badging.

All of this effort led up to a much larger restoration. On the outside, Pontifes had the car resprayed in the original Santorini Black hue while the seats and woodgrain trim received a full refurbishment.

ENJOYED AS INTENDED

After all this work, most people would retire this car to garage queen status, allowing it some brief exercise for a show or cruise. But nothing makes me happier than knowing Pontifes still daily drives his XJS. As a “living” thing, I believe that cars aren’t meant to stay pristine. We are, after all, not unblemished ourselves. While mods certainly communicate something about the owner’s personality, every mile, scuff, and scratch plays an integral role in the car’s story.

“The driving capability of the car is actually fascinating and the power of the turbocharged JZ suits it,” Pontifes says. “It has this swiftness that’s hard to comprehend since the car is so long and you don’t expect an old Jag to move as it does.” While it might not have the overall grunt of his friends’ MK4 Supras, the Jag gets up to speed in a smoother, more elegant manner and Bryan has put in the seat time to understand how to operate the car in order to get it to behave as intended. The XJS has become an integral part of his identity as much as he has become part of the car.

Part of that enjoyment is sharing the Jag with others, too; Bryan has committed several of these encounters to memory. Little kids who have never heard a blow-off valve before ask “make it make the noise again” while more seasoned onlookers say that they have “never seen a Jag like this before” and that Bryan is“ a little too young for that car”.

OLD SOUL

Indeed, Bryan is well outside the typical Jaguar ownership pool. But his age has afforded him the freedom to think differently. His future plans include a SEMA debut and an ambitiously youthful power ceiling which we love to see, but he is exercising some tasteful restraint inside the cabin. He admits that there was a point where he wanted to go all digital, but acknowledges that doing so would delete some of the Jag’s inherent, analog charm. “I’m very fond of the old Jaguar interior, the seats are comfortable, the leather is nice, and the old smell reminds me of the memories I’ve made in a weird way,” he confesses.

Maybe part of this can be attributed to the strong relationship he’s built with his dad. He works alongside him today at his father’s shop, Summers Brothers Racing, which is known for manufacturing racing products across a broad spectrum and the iconic Goldenrod land speed car. As contentious as working with family can be at times, the shop is a place that will further hone Bryan’s taste and understanding. Whatever the result, it’ll be exciting to watch Pontifes grow and I have no doubt that some of that will be injected into the XJS over time.


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