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Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required – Upholstery Part 3

When I read about restorations of significant cars by high end shops, there is usually a discussion of the significant time spent on “research”. Typically, the story seems to revolve around some old racecar that has been located that is being restored to a specific appearance it had when it gained its significance on the track. If a target timeframe is involved, say when the car won the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1959, the goal is to establish details, large and small, to present the car how it was raced. In some cases, the story veers toward someone acquiring an old car and realizing that, based on certain unique characteristics, they have not a run of the mill car but a significant car. They do research to establish that their car is significant, and thus much more valuable.

I guess there might still be some significant Jaguars out there, waiting to be discovered. In the case of my “not significant” 1963 Etype FHC project, my goal simply is to restore it to the configuration it left the factory with. Even with upholstery, that can and has required some research on my part. So this month’s article looks at how this research has occurred. It is one example that I promised earlier on how to establish Originality.

In my case, the big picture question was the original color of the upholstery. As discussed in a previous article, this was easily established by referring to the Heritage Certificate, which listed the interior color as Light Tan. Also as discussed, establishing what the correct “hue” of Light Tan should be involved some “tribal knowledge” on the part of the upholstery suppliers. Of passing interest is that Jay Leno recently acquired a 1963 Etype that, from his feature on Youtube, appears to be the same color scheme as mine. Unfortunately, even that car, entombed in a LA garage for 50 years, has suffered some color fade in the upholstery. The real answer is that I will never know for sure how Light Tan presented when new from the factory.

As I got into the installation of the upholstery, certain questions arose. Remember, my car came to me in boxes and although thankfully I had a box with a lot of upholstery pieces in it, it took me a while to appreciate certain nuances. The first question to come up was the upholstery configuration at the base of the rear quarter windows. Most “reference cars” that I had photos of showed a “cantrail” on the lower surface. (A cantrail on an Etype is a vinyl covered piece of semi-circular foam on a metal backing plate) My old upholstery pieces did not include a lower cantrail. I referred to one of my “go to” sources, Original Jaguar E-Type by McKay, which mentioned that in February of 1963 (one month after my car was built), “detail changes were made to the quarterlight latches and all adjacent trim panels”. That is about as close as I could get to a confirmation that my car might be different in this regard. But after some review of “reference cars” built in 1962, I was able to spot the differences that my old pieces exhibited.

So what do I mean by “reference cars”. As I have discussed in a previous article, JCNA judging guidelines stop short of allowing period or modern photos of old cars to be used to prove Originality. That said, I have over the years bookmarked web locations where photos of original cars are found that I can refer to. An example of a good source is the Factory Fit section of www.forum.etypeuk.com. Another is XKEdata.com. You have to be careful. A restored car is not necessarily an authentic car. The Factory Fit forum seeks out correct unrestored cars. With XKEdata you have to read the fine print so to speak to understand what you are looking at.

Another interesting feature of my car is that the aluminum panels used to finish the center console, radio console, and switch console was switched in October 1962 from a “dot” pattern to a “cross hatch” pattern. This difference is pretty noticeable and is actually denoted in the JCNA E-Type Authenticity Guide.

Some changes that my car should not have include covers over the rear hatch hinges, arm rests on the doors, and chrome brackets on the end of the dashboard grab handle. The hinge covers and arm rests are documented in the Authenticity Guide. The grab handle is documented in Jaguar E-Type Six Cylinder Originality Guide by Haddock and Mueller, which is an authorized reference per the JCNA concours rules.

A final example is the configuration of the small storage box that is behind the seats. For this area, I used the Spare Parts Catalogue (SPC) to help me out. It included 3 distinct “generations” of design details, which are identified in the SPC by referring to a range of Car Numbers. My car, 888055, fell into the second generation. The changes were subtle. I won’t go into the details. But suffice it to say that the SPC gets into a lot of detail as it literally lists every thing down to washers that are required to assemble the car.

These are some examples that only become important if you are restoring or judging a car to a certain build date. Frankly, after going through this, I will be the resident expert on cars built in early 1963. Other years, not so much! But it has been interesting to go back and forth between my reference sources and the actual parts I have on hand, trying to determine what is “correct”. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoy it.



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