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Current Restoration

1: The Beginning

My first E-Type, a 1967 series "1 1/2" 2+2 version.

This is the first article in what hopefully will be a series regarding my efforts to restore a 1967 Jaguar E-Type. Books, magazine articles, web sites, and TV shows abound these days regarding the hobby and/or business of car restoration. I don’t think I can improve on the excellent job that some of these sites do in illuminating the finer points of old car restoration. What I hope to do is to add some of my own “color commentary” as they say in the broadcasting business and to of course point out any particular idiosyncrasies that the E-Type has that may be of some benefit to our club members. Additionally, I have been a member of the Carolina Jaguar Club for several years and have yet to participate in a single event. This is my way of starting to participate in the club.

The car that we will be following is a 1967 E-type which I acquired several years ago. To back track a little (quite a bit actually) I was the typical teenager, smitten with cars of all sorts. My first project was a 1957 Chevrolet 4 door sedan. I believe I paid $150 for it. For that price, I’m not convinced that it came with piston rings because it burned about 1 quart of oil every 25 miles! So my first job was to pull the engine and tear it down for a rebuild. Fortunately, my father knew his way around cars and our next door neighbor worked at an auto parts store. So I was able to rebuild the engine, which also helped build my confidence.

This is not my original car but a similar example that I spotted recently and photographed.

The excitement of having my own car began to wear off and I realized that an American sedan with a 6 cylinder engine and an automatic transmission wasn’t a real rocket ship. At some point in my junior year in high school a friend of mine spotted a Porsche roadster sitting under a tarp in a backyard in the neighborhood. He approached the owner about buying it and was told he would let it go for $400. I think that was about $350 more than my friend had but since I had an after school job, I was able to scrape up the cash and bought the car. The Porsche had a good engine, as the previous owner had had the engine rebuilt a short time before he quit driving it. But it came blessed with the curse that I thought only the British had perfected: pervasive rust. But in my eyes it was a stray dog needing a good home and I went to work with sheet aluminum, roofing tar, and pop rivets and patched up most of the major openings. I then proceeded to apply copious amounts of body filler (bondo) to the exterior and did the prep work for a paint job. A local paint and body shop took pity on me and put a coat of bright red enamel paint on it. I then cut out carpeting for the interior and even sewed up some seat covers. With this car finally roadworthy, I proceeded to take it out and thrash it along the twisty roads of central Virginia. Its amazing I didn’t wrap it around a tree but it survived to be sold to an unsuspecting man in Atlanta when I needed cash to continue at college more than I needed a sports car.

After I left my parents house (and my dad’s garage) for college I never really had a suitable place to work on cars in any significant sense. Then came marriage to a wonderful girl and we were quickly blessed with a son and, surprise, twin daughters. My car fiddling days were well and truly over.

Guido, the mafia staff car. Photographed at the infield at Virginia International Raceway.

Now we get to fast forward 15 years. My three teenagers each have a Volvo 240 to drive, just like the Car Talk guys recommend. And I of course am laboring mightily just to keep them running when the twins spot a 30 year old Volvo on the cover of a parts catalog and exclaim How Cool Is That! Well, the old urge is still there and for Christmas in their junior year in high school I present them with a 1965 Volvo PV544. It’s rough and is rolled in on a trailer on Christmas morning but they love the look of the old thing and I’m thinking Father/Daughter Bonding Project. As with the Porsche, it desperately needs body work but I now have a garage in the basement of my new house and we get to work. The Volvo is kind of nice because you can unbolt most of the major body panels and work on them one at a time, so we spend many hours
adding metal repair panels, body filler, and sanding. This time I paint the car myself, which is a skill that I will discuss in future articles. We get the car into a presentable form and the twins are the talk of their school as they begin their daily commute in the old Volvo. The twins name it “Guido” because they think it looks like a Mafia staff car.

Being an engineer, I keep track of all my expenses and am dismayed to find that I have already invested over $5,000 in a car that I probably couldn’t sell on its best day for more than $2,500. This is a recurring theme of the car restoration hobby!

I ponder this state of affairs and while I am musing, an ad appears in the Raleigh paper for a 1967 Jaguar E-Type. Boy, I sure remember those cars from when I was a teenager but they still must be incredibly expensive. No, the fellow selling this one only wants $7000! Now that sounds like it’s in my price range so I head out to see the car. Man, I turn into the driveway and I am smitten! I made a perfunctory inspection and the owner tells me that the brakes don’t work so we can’t do much more than start it up. Well, that set the hook. The sound of that engine just put me over the edge. I pretty much offered to pay him his price on the spot and several days later a rollback delivered it to my driveway.

Now that I had made my acquisition, I began to bone up on the E-Type in general and my car in particular. I have to admit that my employer at the time probably didn’t get a full days work out of me because I was secretly surfing the internet all day at work Googling Jag websites. I learned that I had a transition car known as a Series 1 1/2. There still rage many a battle in the
Jaguar Forums about what a Series 1 1/2 really means. My car has toggle switches on the dash and triple SU’s but was lacking covered headlights, which pretty much defines Series 1 1/2. I also found that some consider the 2+2 to be rather the ugly duckling of the breed. All I had to do was get those brakes working and I would be cruising down the highway.

Did I mention that the clutch was frozen too? Apparently, if you don’t exercise your Jag often enough, it will reward you by fusing the clutch disc to the flywheel and/or the pressure plate. One cure for this is to jack one of the rear wheels off the ground, start the engine in gear, warm everything up really well, and then stand on the brakes. Most folks report that the heat and the torque of the engine against the brakes will pop the clutch disk loose. But my brakes didn’t work so I needed to come up with another method. Next month we’ll tackle these problems!

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