How to restore a Jaguar E-Type RoadsterSaved from the scrapper Published: 18th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!
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Restoring an E-Type the hard way by JeffBailey
I’d bought a couple of classics from a Welsh bloke living in Miami when one day he phoned to say he had found a good 1970 Series 2 EType roadster for sale in Carmen red. I could have it for $25,000; next week it might be $30,000 – get my drift? The report and pictures sent seemed to show it was sound and so I bought it sight unseen and felt pretty pleased with myself. When it arrived back in England, I instantly knew I’d bought a pup. If it had been a Cortina of the same vintage in this condition, it would have been scrapped right there and then! The paint wasn’t Carmen red, but candy apple and rotten candy apple at that, having started life as Old English White. The seat frames were not original and the bonnet (which makes up some 50 per cent of the car’s paneling) would need replacing… The black cloud hovering above my head started raining – no it was pouring. Oh Gawd! What was I going to do? Out it, that’s what! I advertised the car as a restoration project, but my luck had run out – there were no takers when they’d had the opportunity to actually view it. My forlorn E-Type was not going to find a buyer. It was then that my pal, Pete Smyth approached me, having restored and sold his Triumph TR6, to see if we could get a kind of cooperative going so we could restore the Jag and hopefully make a profit out of it. In our blissful ignorance it sounded like a good idea… It was now a late summer morning and the unsuspecting Jag was sitting on the drive. Little did it know that come dusk, it would be sitting in three different sheds nicely labelled and catalogued. Well, that was the theory. In practice of course, it took several weeks to dismantle the rusting hulk, following regular stand-offs with recalcitrant 20 year old nuts and bolts that did not wish to be disturbed, thank you very much. The engine was particularly difficult to remove as the XK unit is heavier than most hoists can handle, so we had to hire a heavy duty one, at which point it came out and we set about stripping it to see what needed doing. One difficulty was the fact that it was running on twin Zenith carbs, which are smog-controlled for the US market. These went straight in the bin, as did the LHD steering rack, which was in poor condition anyway. The rest of the engine we rebuilt slightly overbored to 4.4- litres, balanced, ported and blueprinted. Yummy! All original parts were thoroughly cleaned before reassembly and the end result was well worth the effort just to look at! Having binned the Zeniths, this presented another slight problem; where do we get some triple Sus? The answer was fairly unpalatable; a reconditioned set with no exchange was a cool grand.
We therefore decided that asthe engine had been tuned, a set of brand new triple Webers DCOEs would be more appropriate. Although these cost the same as the used SUs, they were going to give an altogether harder edge to the cat’s performance. It was then we discovered another variation on US spec cars – the rear axle ratio. As US-bound cars were slower because of all that smog gear, Jaguar thoughtfully lowered the final drive to preserve acceleration. Now, with our tuned engine running on Webers, this axle was to give our Jag awesome acceleration but a crap top speed while screaming its XK head off. Before re-installing the rebuilt engine, it was decided to routinely replace the clutch. The unit we bought didn’t fit and we couldn’t work out why. It was the correct part for a 1970 4.2 for sure, but nothing would get it working. Finally, having spoken to Jaguar’s heritage department, we found that the last few Series 2s (this was August 1970 therefore a 1971 model) had the same clutch as the forthcoming V12s… In turn, we discovered that this clutch assembly is the same as that in a Land Rover, which is half the price! Amazing what’s in a name…
Game for a laugh…
Originally, we had intended to remove the bonnet, replace it with a new one and then get the body sprayed. That one was scotched when the MOT station refused to put it on their ramp, afraid it might damage their garage – a fearconfirmed when the tester probed the floor so hard that by the time he had finished, there were two gaping 12 inch holes. In an effort to introduce some levity into the stunned silence, he opined it would now make ideal transport for a certain Fred Flintstone. We weren’t laughing though. It looked very serious indeed and it was becoming obvious that we wouldn’t be able to just wield a few spanners and give it a quick puffover; this was going to have to be the Full Monty resto. Oh dear: nothing else for it then but a full-on renovation. So, everything that could be dismantled or ripped out, duly was. Isn’t it amazing that although all the bits are labelled, when you come to reuse them, you still can’t fathom how they originally fitted? We really didn’t know what we were taking on although we had a good idea when the body shop boss said, “it will fight you all the way because it’s an E- Type and each one is different”. What could he mean? We soon found out! The bonnet arrived new from Jaguar and did not fit in any plane. It was too long, too high and was covered in micro-dents. It took the bodyshop a week to shave and tease it into submission. You don’t expect that sort of thing after paying £1650 for what should be a perfect part, but apparently that’s how they had to fit them on the production line when they were new… We turned our hand to the structure and after buying floor panels and cross-members, we welded them in place in what was a fairly straightforward procedure. The inner and outer sills were also done, as was the boot floor. Back to the bodyshop and the Jag was primed ready for spraying in original Old English white. The bodywork restoration came to
over four grand alone and so the cost was now mounting up, even though we were doing most of the work ourselves. On its return from the bodyshop, however, the Jaguar was transformed. We could now see that all the effort was paying off, but there was still a long, long way to go.
The turning point?
At this point it was actually beginning to look like an E-Type again and because of that, we fell into the trap of believing the worst was well over. Wrong! The hardest part of any good restoration job is in the detailing. Getting all the trim parts sourced and fitted properly was a nightmare; if these are sloppily fitted, the whole effect is ruined. Fitting the new hood for example, took two long days because of the infinite adjustments needed. Similarly, the new windscreen took the same time and so did the fitting of the bumpers. Apparently on the factory production line (again), if one bumper didn’t fit the chaps would just keep trying others until one did! Unfortunately we didn’t have such luxuries and had to persevere with our single (expensive) item. Our body man was absolutely right it was an E-Type and it was fighting us all the way. Disaster then struck yet again. The old wiring loom proved unserviceable (it’s something many restorers neglect) and so we had to fit a new one. This was not terrifically expensive at £150, but proved to be a week’s graft just working out where it all went. This decision was a good one though as we knew we could now rely on the electrics to perform correctly. The next stage was to wire up the dash and all the instruments. All new dials were fitted as the old ones had seen better days and the right-hand drive dash kit provedeasy to put together. Once the dash was in, attention tuned to the carpets and trim. A total interior retrim kit meant a few days labour but again it was well worth it. Finally, after three years (THREE BLOODY YEARS) of intensive nights and weekends, it was finished. She looked absolutely perfect – as though she had just been delivered from the factory, unlike so many restorations that look overdone. We started her up and she fired first time too, the Webers spluttering and coughing until warm and out on the open road this E was a revelation. Fantastically flexible yet a real beast when required. I don’t think I’ve heard any noises better than this – a kind of ferocious growl becoming a scream as the revs rise and all the time you can hear a devilish rasp from the Webers as they gulp in air and fuel. Fantastic as Murray Walker would say! It could also be driven to work in heavy commuter traffic without the slightest temperament and outpace most of the brat pack with their GTis, too. Ride was quite compliant, but handling being rather soft and prone to float, particularly at over 90mph: all fairly normal E-Type stuff we were told. Being white, Pete used the Etype to drive his new bride from church to the reception. The reception happened to be 25 miles away across the top of the Cotswolds on some fast B roads. In a never-toforget white knuckle drive, I followed in my TVR Griffith and was stunned to find it straining tokeep up with the Jaguar along the straights, although it clawed it back on sharp bends. The end result was too close to call and we arrived within milliseconds of each other at the reception with big grins plastered across our faces. Unfortunately, Pete’s new bride was already consulting her solicitor about divorce proceedings…
And the moral?
The moral of the story for any budding restorer out there is quite clear; like many other classics, Jag E-Types are complex and bodging is rife. Some can be made to look superficially sound by unscrupulousvendors and then cost a king’s ransom to put right – or sell at a catastrophic loss. Having decided to restore our car, we thought we hadour eyes open, but that proved to be far from the case. If we’d taken advice from a reputable specialist, we may have decided to cut our losses, or better still not bought our basket case at all and invested in a properly sorted car from a dealer who has a reputation to preserve. We shared the Jag for a couple of years and then decided it was time to sell. Admittedly it was hard after personally putting so many hours into the restoration, but it was time to recoup some of our expenditure. We’ve never been brave enough to add up the bills, but they constitute a wad nearly two inches thick…So much for a quick buck.
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