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Last Update 8-20-23

1999 Vanden Plas Conversion with 2002 Camaro LS1/4L60E

This is one of our latest projects and has been a lot of fun to build. As the second XJ8 style sedan to be built in house, we’ve been able to incorporate all of what’s been learned on the previous 98 XJ8, and also much of the XK8 knowledge into it. That will all make for a cleaner, simpler conversion. The car itself was a good buy- 110,000 original miles, nice body/paint/interior, and had recent major work like a new fuel pump, new brake pads/rotors all around, ABS module rebuild, and more. But unfortunately, the transmission was dying, so it was a perfect car for a conversion. The (good running) original engine and related parts were sold and the project was off and running. For a new power plant, we bought a (lightly) wrecked 2002 Camaro Z28 with 85,000 miles. The car ran/drove perfectly, but was too damaged to repair, so it became a donor. As a part time project over the next several months, we did the install of this engine package into the VDP, using all of our own conversion components and format, just as a customer might do in the field. More details on the build will come later. Attached are some photos of the car as it arrived, and the donor Camaro before it was pulled apart


And here is an underhood shot of the conversion. At the time of this writing, the car had over 1000 road miles and is FANTASTIC. It runs and drives beautifully- has good power and balance, is reasonably smooth, and the 2 1/2" custom mandrel-bent exhaust makes for a nice tone. Also, It recently passed the California BAR Referee emissions inspection so it is now fully OBD2 emissions legal. The last work to do is complete the AC installation and then tend to some small projects here and there (like new shocks, adding a set of 19" wheels/tires I have tucked away, etc.,.). This was a very basic conversion overall and any customer could easily duplicate it on his own car with our kits.

One interesting side note on this build is regarding the differential. All of the 98-03 XJ8 models use a 3.08 open differential, and there are no additional ratios available, even from the high horsepower XJR models. However, these cars are very similar to the earlier 95-97 XJ6 sedans, and those models do come with a variety of different axle ratios, some even with positraction. So to enhance the performance potential of the car, the original 3.08 ratio was exchanged for a 3.58 ratio unit from a 97 VDP. Due to the way we handle the driveline for the conversions, this swap is possible. However, this could not be done on an XJ8 with the stock Jag V8 drivetrain, and that has to do with the differential input being off center on the early unit, but centralized on the later one. Using the corresponding center bearing and rear drive shaft section of the earlier car, the older diff will work in the newer car. Other than the difference in the input location of the differential, the suspensions between the earlier and later cars are the same, so everything interchanges easily. And the earlier suspension has a provision for a rear sway bar which was also included in the swap. Attached are 2 close up shots of the original suspension unit (differential flange in the center) and the earlier style (differential flange offset to the right)., and shot of the rear of the assembly with the sway bar installed.

(Update: After driving the car for a few weeks I can report the change to this higher (numeric) ratio is very noticeable- this is a heavy car, but it pulls like a train from a standing start.)