BBC's Top Gear stripped down Jaguar V12 coffee table

BBC’s Top Gear stripped down Jaguar V12 coffee table

On the BBC show Top Gear, they have a table fashioned from a Jaguar V12 engine block that sits in the center of there interview area. After purchasing my house in July of 2011 the first project I wanted to tackle was my own version of this iconic table.

Jaguar engine blocks are not readily available therefore they are not very affordable in this part of the world. I searched Craigslist for an aluminum block V8 and ended up finding the perfect donor.

The complete motor in the back of the truck after the trip to the shop.

The complete motor in the back of the truck after the trip to the shop.

I found a poorly worded ad stating they had a nearly complete “Lexus V8” for sale. I finally got a return phone call and the motor turned out to be a 4.0L aluminum block V8 out of the LS400. I was told the motor ran when it was taken out of the car, which later on I would find very hard to believe, however this was not important to me at all. Four of us jumped in the truck and took a trip to a shady area of southeast Kansas City. I paid the man $200 for the engine and was on my way back to the shop.

In the process of stripping it down.

In the process of stripping it down.



The first task after getting it into the shop was to unload it and start stripping it down to the bare block (thanks Scott). This is when I could really see what kind of shape this “running” motor was in. I’m not sure what anyone who was paying $200 for a Lexus motor would expect though! Nothing was wrong with the block itself that would effect the visual appear after I got it  bead blasted. Lots of hammering, pulling, cutting, wrenching and 3M clean up wheels later I was down to a bare block!



Like a new penny!

I loaded up the bare block into the back of my Jeep and over my lunch hour ran up to Inland Truck parts, a large facility that works on “big rigs”. A friend (thanks Jake) was able to allow me to gain access to their parts washer. We loaded the block in and 5 mins later it came out steaming and looking like new! All of the old baked on oil and dirt residue was completely gone now and would make the bead blasting job much easier, and since I would have to pay for that part I wanted it to be as simple as possible.




The next day over my lunch I headed to Liquid Coatings, not far from my office, and dropped the block off for blasting. This would give me an even texture across the entire block. The raw casting of the block had smooth, rough, shiny and dull areas. They used glass bead to give the block a nice smooth finish. I also instructed them to blast the steel cylinder walls to reduce the appearance of any grooves, which in the end worked out perfectly. Nice and… gray.



More aluminum


In order to get the table top to a usable level (unlike the Top Gear version) I called on another friend (thanks Paul) to turn down some aluminum legs on a lathe. I requested that they be counterbored on the bottom so that I could thread them into the oil pan bolt holes. I had the legs cut to 3″ tall x 2″ in diameter and drilled/bored for a 1/4″ cap head bolt. Finally a simple brushed finish with some Scotchbrite and they were ready to bolt on.


Rod and Piston Cleaned Up

Rod and Piston Cleaned Up


The whole project was finally coming together. The last task was to have four of the pistons and rods bead blasted. These would be bolted to the head surface of the block in order to support the glass top. A little grinding had to be done in order to allow the pistons articulate enough to be level against the glass top. The threads on the rod needed to be drilled out so that I could bolt through the rod and into the head stud holes. This was about the hardest task of the entire project. The hardened steel rods put up a good fight but I was finally able to get the job done.


The Payoff


At last!

The only thing left to do was bolt it all together and migrate the glass over from my original coffee table (which I HATED). The entire project was finally wrapped up and my total project budget came in at $247. I couldn’t have been happier with the budget and how the whole thing came together. I have been offered nearly ten times what I have in the table to take it off my hands. However, this one is staying right here in my living room. I am lucky enough to have a girlfriend that doesn’t mind it either, even though I suspect it is just because of how much I like it!