Recently I had a chance to visit John Farrell Auto Parts at his shop on Long Island, NY. I have known of John for many years as a go to source for hard to find parts for the Jaguar E-Type. What I found there in his shop is both fascinating and a tribute to a genuine American craftsman and entrepreneur. First, to get a gist of what John provides to the E-Type restoration craft, I will quote from his website bio:
As owner of John Farrell Auto Parts I’ve been involved with supplying a full line of new, used and high quality reproduction Jaguar E-Type parts for about 35 years. I now manufacture about 450 high quality reproduction parts for Jaguar XKE’s and other models here in the states.
The pieces include many parts that were not available from other sources, or the quality and/or demand did not make them practical to produce. I make most of my own tooling and die/punch sets in house and can produce small quantities and keep the cost to a minimum while maintaining the use of high quality materials and workmanship. Other pieces were available from sources not of the high quality I felt my customers could appreciate as the fit, materials and the quality fell short of what we would expect to install on our cars! I make every effort to use the correct materials and in almost all cases I copy from only original Jaguar part samples. I do not change any details from the original pieces. Most pieces are plated in clear zinc or primed.
I’m always open to your suggestions to manufacture items that are no longer available.
It sounds simple enough. John manufactures about 450 high quality reproduction parts. But I had no idea how that really happens! John regaled me for several hours with his story. Stay tuned and learn about a master craftsman.
John told me about the tough old times of E-Type restoration. That period when they were no longer the hot new car and yet to be recognized as a design icon. Parts were becoming difficult to obtain through the dealership network as Jaguar moved on to newer models. John and a friend decided, through desperation, to travel to England and see what they could turn up. They scoured the auto jumbles and contacted dealerships to see what they could obtain. In many cases they were able to obtain NOS (new old stock) parts for pennies on the dollar. They brought these parts back to the US and sold them at places like Hersey for dimes on the dollar. The seed for a way to make a small profit in the Jaguar restoration parts business was sown. John told me that eventually other folks saw how this worked and started to compete for the few remaining parts. Prices started to rise and it was no longer cost effective for John to travel to the UK. So he decided to take the next step and become a manufacturer.
John started out with simple components. The following sequence of photos shows how he built a simple fixture to bend up a brake cylinder crossover pipe.
John is also well known for his stainless steel brake caliper cylinders. John’s locale on Long Island has many machine shops who can handle the higher volume piecework such as turning these parts on a lathe. So when he can, John let’s out this type of work to local shops.
Have you heard that E-Types are prone to rust? Many restorers are faced with panel repair to get their E-Type body shells back in a fit condition. John developed an ingenious “small is beautiful” approach to fabricating small replacement panels. He makes a male and a female die. A flat piece of sheet metal is placed between the dies. John’s 20 ton air operated hydraulic press is used to force the 2 dies together. What emerges is a perfect panel, the same every time. Think of a waffle maker and you’ll understand the concept. The following sequence of photos shows how he makes up the panel at the end of the footwell.
As you can see, John is no spring chicken. But he told me that he loves his job and looks forward to coming in to work every day. As you might expect, he spends a fair amount of time on the phone. I have always found John to be easy to talk to and he is always helpful with a tip or suggestion. My time at his shop flew by. I found his work to be thoroughly fascinating. So if you ever find yourself in West Babylon, NY be sure and stop in to say hi to John. While you’re there, you’ll probably find more than a few hard to find items that you have been looking for.