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Current Restoration

43: On the Road Again!

Article 43 On The Road Again!

It had to happen eventually. The big event. The payoff. I finally was able to start the engine and take the E-Type for a drive!

But I get ahead of the story. I had a week during the Christmas holidays where I was able to devote substantial time to pulling together loose ends. I put together a punchlist of things I needed to do to allow me to start the engine. The list was short enough that it fit on one page! Items included: Complete installation of carbs and associated fuel lines. Complete installation of distributor, Unilite wiring, spark plug wires, and spark plugs. Hook up battery. Check out electrical systems. Add oil. Add water. Add gas. Flush fuel lines. Check for obvious leaks. Hand crank engine. Bump starter.

I did check with Dick Maury regarding priming the oil system. Dick told me it wasn’t necessary, as every moving surface had a good coating of assembly lube, which stays in place indefinitely, or at least until the first start. Dick also suggested starting with regular oil, rather than synthetic.

As it turned out, my children were all home for the big event, having returned to the homeplace from the four corners of the US for Christmas. I gathered together a small contingent for the big event. One had the video camera. One had the fire extinguisher. One was assigned to push the starter button while I handled chores in the engine compartment.

Checking that the fuel enrichment lever was in the Cold start position, the moment came and I instructed for the ignition switch be turned on. The electric fuel pump was heard and after giving it a moment to fill up the chambers in the carbs, I called for the starter to be engaged. She cranked but would not fire. Expecting this, as setting the timing on a Mallory Unilite unit is inexact, I reached in and slowly rotated the distributor. I was rewarded with a very rough idle but it was running. I gave a quick visual and audible check and identified nothing too alarming. In a short while the idle smoothed out a little as I tweaked the timing and the carbs. I hopped into the seat, put it in reverse, and engaged the clutch. The car slid backward gently, to the limits of my parking area. Then I put it in first and went forward a similar distance. No bad noises. Unfortunately the first start had to be cut short as a major water leak showed up. The header tank. My patch job with epoxy hadn’t lasted 20 minutes! I called Terry’s Jaguar and ordered a replacement.

A YouTube posting of my adventure is available for viewing at the following link:

Of course starting the engine was one thing but what I really wanted to do was go for my first test drive. That involved another list of things to do. I needed to install rear and front turnsignal lights. I needed a seat to sit in. I even had to install the steering wheel. After getting most of the items in the car I checked the front and rear ride height. To my surprise the front was close and the rear ride height was high. I made some inquiries and most folks felt that it would settle lower after some driving. So I quit thinking about the suspension and turned my thoughts to other issues. That would turn out to be a mistake.

On New Years Day, actually, I thought I was ready to go. This time it was just me, the family had left. I get settled in, started the car, checked for leaks, and gingerly headed up the driveway. I have a long gravel driveway so I went slowly out to the paved road. As soon as I had gone100 feet down the paved road I knew something wasn’t right! The steering response was all over the place. Totally loose and sloppy. I went down the road a short ways, turned around, and headed home. An investigation revealed 2 problems. One was that I had not tightened up the front suspension rubber bushings, which must be left loose until the car is fully loaded. These were tightened in short order. I decided to check basic suspension settings such as would be checked during a front end alignment. Camber and caster were fine. The toe-in was way off. I got this worked out and called it a day.

The next day I was ready for another attempt. Much, much better this time. After I got over my fear that some part was going to fall off the car I was able to enjoy the experience. A big grin began to creep across my face as I picked up the pace and listened to the cat roar. It was a great feeling!

Since that those first drives I have been gradually identifying various niggling problems and dealing with them. And I have been gradually extending my driving distance from the home base as my confidence grows. I am by no means done with the restoration effort but getting on the road has given me a tremendous boost. It’s onward to the finish!

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