HCOTY Nominee: ’67 Jaguair
Nominated by: Han Solex
As Seen in the Post: This Corvair Has a Secret, and it Ain’t Vicious Oversteer
Rarely has a bone-stock-looking sleeper concealed such audaciousness. A V-12 Jaguar motor crammed into the front, radiators out back, and in between are several bushels of a master’s touch – all with a Corvair as Jay Eitel’s canvas.
The Motor – The easy choice here would be a SBC or even a Ford smallblock, compact motors with proven swap potential. But it’s been done over and over in the Corvair, in front and rear engine placements. It’s hard to be truly unique when you’re limited to a small workspace not originally designed to house an engine, let alone a stroked 347 CID (5.69 liter) Jaguar V-freakin’-12. Eitel then ditched the carburetors for a backyard EFI system derived from two Buick V6 systems. It made 370 HP and 380 ft-lbs of torque, a healthy increase from the 95 HP a ’67 Corvair made stock. If that doesn’t already speak to the madness that the Jaguair embodied, read on.
The Drivetrain – So we’ve established that the motor was an inspired choice for front-mounting in the General’s first-and-only ass-engined import fighter. Of course, Eitel rightly decided that sending power south from the V12 through a conventional transmission out to a rear differential not only presented packaging problems, but it simply wasn’t unique enough for ol’ Jay. So he rummaged through GM’s box of misfit toys and sourced a Pontiac Tempest transaxle – nice and heavy, slung out back, helping with weight balance as well as street cred. Of course, it’s not like it bolted straight in – that’s not Eitel’s style – so he had to seriously futz with it using some secret inside information gleaned from GM engineers who’d developed modifications to the Tempest transaxle for drag racing.
The Fabrication – It’s not just the parts Mr. Eitel used for the swap that are impressive. He also fabricated almost everything that he needed to make the monster engine fit from scratch. For example, the front suspension? He threw it away and designed an all-new setup. Exhaust headers? Yeah, no way any stock or aftermarket parts were going to do the job, so it’s totally custom. The best part might be the cooling system – instead of cutting some ungodly holes in the front fascia, Eitel plumped the system to rear-mounted radiators sitting in what used to be the engine compartment. With the fans running and the quiet nature of the V12 up front, the Jaguair evens sounds sort of like a stock Corvair. That level of detail is simply incomprehensible.
The Audacity – If there’s one thing that I like, it’s a sleeper. Usually “sleeper” means cramming a 427 Cobrajet into a stock-looking Falcon Ranchero and calling it a day. Bonus points if it looks like a monster with Brillo pads for teeth was chewing on it for a bit. That’s cool and all, but the paradigm has shifted with the advent of the Jagvair. It’s has an artisan’s touch, not all that different from another HCOTY nominee, the Dodge Diesel Rat-Rod. But while the rat rod is outrageous inside and out, hiding the Jaguair’s naughty bits from prying eyes is the epitome of brilliance.
Conclusions – This car is the unexpectedly great offspring of two diverse schools of automotive thought. The General’s beancounters let the import-fighting Corvair through their greedy little hands, as opposed to the over-the-top luxury of a V12 from the brand known for buttery-smooth performance. The combination is far greater than the sum of its parts: a stump-shattering torque monster hiding in a meek domestic sheep’s clothing, fabricated with unmatched precision and ingenuity. That’s why the Jaguair is my nominee for HCOTY.