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Current Restoration

7: The Rust Worm

Restoration Article 7:  The Rust Worm

As we ended our previous article, I had removed the engine and engine compartment framework from my 1967 Jaguar E-Type 2+2 as part of a general refurbishment. Next I turned to removal of the rear suspension assembly.

In previous articles in this series, you might remember that I felt that the rear brake calipers were probably frozen. The rear disc brake assemblies on the E-type are mounted “in-board” in that they are much closer to the differential than they are to the wheels. Due to the complexity of this arrangement, most repair manuals recommend dropping the entire rear suspension assembly before attempting any work on the brakes. The rear suspension assembly is an independent limited slip arrangement with 2 pairs of coil over shocks on each side, all mounted on a sturdy framework. Forward positioning of the assembly is provided by “trailing arms”, which in this case are linkages that attach forward of the framework to rubber bushings on the underside of the passenger compartment. I had managed to disengage most of the structural connections of the suspension assembly. Remembering some discussion on the Jag-Lovers Forum about problems with the removal of the trailing arms, I did a search of relevant postings and found that on most cars, the rubber bushings typically had to be destroyed to get them out. This involved drilling holes around the perimeter of the bushing and then completing their destruction with a hack saw. I proceeded in this manner and felt that the bushings were free. I then set up my jacks and jack stands in preparation for lowering the rear suspension assembly. But as I lowered the suspension, there was a shower of red dust and a rusty chunk of the body pulled away with the trailing arm. I had found the home of the “rust worms”. Finding rust in this car did not come as a total surprise. According to the inspection sticker on the windshield, it had last been inspected in the State of New York. I had given it a pretty good going over when I bought it but clever work with body putty can hide rust in the short term. Still, this was not good news, as the area where the trailing arms attach is key to the structural integrity of the car. It looked like my intent to work on just the brakes had been dealt a serious setback. Well, if they were all rust free cars from Arizona, where would the challenge be?

I decided it was time to divide and conquer. Many amateur restorers can become overwhelmed by the shear magnitude of their projects and give up. A good approach is to work on the project in logical subgroups, where completion can be obtained in recognizable phases. I decided to proceed with the front engine framework and suspension components as a subgroup that wouldn’t be too difficult to complete.

As I mentioned previously, the E-Type is a “monocoque” or “unibody” construction from the firewall back and has a tubeframe construction forward of the firewall. The tubeframe consists of left and right subframes, which serve as mounting points for the engine and the suspension components. There is a rectangular structure just forward of the engine affectionately known as the “picture frame” which serves to join the two subframes and serves as a mounting point for the radiator. Finally, there is a bonnet support frame attached to the front of the picture frame, off of which the E-Type hood is hinged to allow the classic front hinged arrangement. Preliminary examination showed by bonnet support frame to also be suffering from an attack of the rustworms, my picture frame being somewhat squashed due to improper placement of floor jacks, and my subframes to be in acceptable condition. All of these components came from the factory painted the same color as the body but it was apparent that whomever had painted the exterior of the car “re-sale red” had not bothered to repaint the engine compartment. Regardless, I had plans to paint the car a new, different color so it was time to decide how to get these pieces back into shape with my new color.

Initially, I was under the foolish impression that I might be able to salvage the picture frame. It is made up of a series of channels shaped out of sheet metal. The key elements of the structure were sound and rust free. But the legs of the channels extend straight down across the bottom member and are typically crushed when the unaware mechanic places a floor jack at this point. Eventually, after some twisting and bending with the tools I had at hand, I decided the end result would still look pretty sad. At this point, I decided to investigate the purchase of a new part. A web search determined that there are only two firms in the world that actually make this part, with the rest being resellers. I discovered E-Type Fabs (www.etypefabs.com) in the UK on the web and after reading their literature and several independent endorsements, decided to make a purchase. I entered into this transaction with some trepidation, not being experienced in the world of overseas commerce. But Uryk Dmyterko, the proprietor at E-Type Fabs, made the process very painless and I had the part shipped from the UK to my doorstep in New Hill by UPS International airfreight in less than a week. My initial inspection of the part revealed outstanding workmanship and attention to detail. I was so pleased with the quality of this part that I placed an additional order for a bonnet support frame. Again, the process was painless, with this part arriving from the UK in just 3 days. The workmanship on this part also was outstanding. As I will discuss shortly, I removed the primer on both parts to reach a bare metal condition. The welds on the bonnet frame were so well done that I felt it was a shame to have to cover them with paint! E-Type Fabs also fabricates engine subframes, although with these having a substantial price tag, I was still interested in using my existing frames.

At the end of the day, mechanical drivetrain work aside, restoration is about the removal of old coatings and finishes and replacing them with new equivalents. The three basic finishes are paint, plating, and upholstery. If you aren’t willing to tackle some or all of these areas, you are missing out on a large part of the restoration experience. And frankly, if earning some sweat equity in your project is your goal, it doesn’t get any better than doing body work. Much of the cost of a paint job is in the prep work, which is tedious but has to be done right. Spraying that final coat of paint is just the icing on the cake. Many folks are intimidated by paint and body work but I have done it and want to tell you that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. There is really no screwup that you can’t recover from. And I bet you won’t make the same mistakes more than twice! Another thing is the E-type has a lot of body colored surfaces, including the entire interior sheet metal surfaces as well as the aforementioned engine frameworks. What this means is you get plenty of hidden parts to practice on before you get to that all important exterior finish. So bear with me as I delve into the mysteries of paint and body work, at least enough to hopefully whet your interest.

Next month we will discuss the stripping and painting of the engine frame members and possibly there will be time to get started with nickel plating of the suspension members.

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