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Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required – Part 2

When I left off in Part 1, I had just made an appointment to view a 1963 Jaguar E-Type FHC for my potential purchase. The owner was a busy executive in a firm in Charlotte that I understand did a lot of hospital design. He gave me directions to an address north of the Charlotte city center that turned out to be a warehouse. His “warehouse man” met me at the door and led me to a room in the warehouse. There it was! A body shell for a Fixed Head Coupe (FHC) on a rolling cart. Surrounding it were shipping pallets with more sheet metal body parts, the engine, transmission, and many many cardboard boxes. The ones I call Banker Boxes, used to store documents. The car, for all intents and purposes, had been fully disassembled by someone previously. The body shell was painted only with a grey primer. Much to my surprise and delight, there was no evidence of rust or collision damage.

After some time, the warehouse man offered me a tour of the rest of the warehouse. He allowed that the owner did a lot of work in the UK. He said he was in the habit of buying stuff while he was over there and having it shipped back to the US in a shipping container. Apparently he was partial to Triumph. Triumph cars. Triumph motorcycles. Triumph bicycles. Everything Triumph. There was also a lot of general UK stuff like those red phone booths. I was told that there were over 75 vehicles in the warehouse. As far as I could tell, very few of them looked to be in running condition. Apparently the one they were currently most proud of was a Triumph Spitfire that had run at the 24 Hours of Lemans. By the way, if this story rings a bell with anyone, I would be interested in contacting this gentleman, of whom I have since lost track.

The next day I was contacted by the owner and we closed the deal. The deal was that I take everything associated with the E-Type and there was no guarantee that everything was there. Spoiler alert – Everything was not there! As I recall, $5000 changed hands and it was mine. I was beyond thrilled. After all, who hasn’t wanted a “kit car”, just to keep oneself busy? Very busy!

The next week I brought my ancient Ford pickup truck and trailer to the warehouse and we loaded everything up. And off to New Hill we went. I was in the process of building a garage and workshop space next to my house. The construction of the garage is quite interesting but that is another story. You can read about it at tinyurl.com/umvy53h9

For the time being, the large parts went into the workshop and the boxes went into the garage attic. At that time, I was fully engaged in the restoration of my 1967 E-Type 2+2 coupe. More importantly, at that time I was entering a phase in my engineering career where I worked for a company in Charlotte that did very large scale upgrade projects to nuclear power plants. Charlotte, a 2 ½ hour drive from my house, was my default workplace but really, this job took me all over the US. For the next 15 years I was travelling constantly. I do not regret this at all, conversely I got to see and live in a lot of places on the “company dime” that I would never had experienced otherwise. And it paid quite well. But the upshot was that the restoration of the 2+2 took almost 10 years and the restoration of the 1963 FHC was put on the back burner. Way back.

One thing I was able to do was take a few of my Banker Boxes with me each week to my apartment in Charlotte and I was able to inventory their contents. I used the Jaguar Spare Parts Catalogue (SPC) as my guidepost. The SPC is a 400+ page document that literally lists every part, down to the nut, bolt, and washer, needed to build a Jaguar car. They have wonderful old school illustrations, which they call Plates, which show a 3D exploded diagram of subsystems of the car.

Example SPC Plate drawing

Key parts are assigned a number, starting at 1 for each plate. With each Plate, there is an associated list of each part, with the longer Jaguar part number (typically “C” followed by a 5 digit number. There is a description of the part, the quantity required, and Remarks. There is also a very detailed Table of Contents. Just to give you an idea of the scale of the problem, I added up the total number of item numbers on the 55 plates. When multiplied out, that number came out to 2165! But wait, there’s more. When you go to the detailed listing of each part there is quite often more parts listed that are required to install the part. Typically a bolt, washer, and a nut. Maybe a gasket. This is of course very helpful but it only means that the number I calculated above is conservative. Maybe it was not a good idea to write this number down. It can be a little intimidating!

That said, I gradually went through my boxes and filled out my spreadsheet. The good news was, when I was done, there were really no “show stopper” issues. Some parts on an E-Type are difficult, if not impossible to obtain. Finding that one of these parts was missing would not stop the project dead but it would mean I’d have to somehow find this part in order to move forward. But again, I didn’t find anything of this nature. Mind you, there are plenty of items from the SPC that were not in my boxes. For many of these missing parts, I referred to the aftermarket Jaguar parts network to identify ballpark prices, which I entered in the spreadsheet. I also noted the condition of the parts I had and made notes like Paint, Replace, Chrome plate, etc. My initial estimate of parts purchases required to complete the car came to around $30k. Not an insignificant figure but in light of the final value this car would hold, it indicated that it made sense to proceed with the project.

After I complete this inventory, the project went back on the back burner. There were a number of reasons for this but in the back of my mind I was beginning to think “Retirement Project”. As we will see, this became a self fulfilling prophecy.  

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