Rescuing A Derelict E-Type

Donald and I are now members in the OJOA, having joined in May/79. Our only regret to date is that we were unaware that such a club existed in Ontario before this spring. Full credit must be given to Bob and Judy Smith whom we met early this year and who invited us as guests to an OJOA meeting.

The Jaguar that we own is a 1962 E-type roadster. What I would like to share with you in a typical “learn-tha-hard-way” enthusiast’s approach to acquiring and restoring an E-type. As few as three years ago my entire knowledge of Jaguars was of one car–my cousin’s 1963 Mark X. I could not have identified any other Jaguar even if one would have parked in front of my house for a week. While I realized the Mark X was no ordinary sedan, the Jaguar fever had not taken hold yet. I passed up a chance to own the Mark X simply for lack of storage space when he sold the car in good shape for $1500. Our knowledge of Jaguars was so limited that for four years my brother and I passed a blue E-type “permanently” parked on someone’s driveway as we went to and from work, without a clue what it was. Finally, we found out that cars that look like that are Jaguars and that a V-12 engine must certainly be housed beneath that long hood. It was only upon closer inspection and the counting of spark plugs that we realized it was only a six cylinder engine. We determined then and there that the performance must be very anemic and we walked away in disgust, Only the style of the car maintained some flicker of interest and that lasted until I chanced upon a book which revealed the true nature of the E-type and the six cylinder performance. (This is embarrassing but it was only by leafing through pictures that I identified the Jaguar as an E-type.) We were hooked and nothing could stop us from owning that car.

We bought the E-type in October 1977 having determined that the “frame’ Was still strong enough that the rotted out sills, doors, door posts, and sagging doors would be nothing to worry about. The fact that it did not run-all the spark plugs were just sitting in the wells, and a carburettor cap and needle were gone The fact that the bonnet was rusted and pushed in at the front and the rear overriders were pushed part way into the boot; And the information from the brilliant owner that it never could exceed 115 mph, it never started very easily, and compression in one cylinder was 25 pounds in 1975 when he last had it on the road! — All never deterred us for more than a moment.
We started working on it the very night it was towed home (how it failed to break in two when it was dangling from the hook, we’ll never know), The complete restoration stretched between October 1977 and the end of May 1979. In that period, hardly a bolt anywhere was left untouched.
The engine was the first item to receive attention, It along with the transmission were lifted out in November 1977 and muscled into the basement for disassembly. Twin City Auto first hot-tanked the block and hand, then installed and seated exhaust and intake valves. They also honed out and scuffed the cylinder liners slightly so as to seat in new rings. The E-type did not require oversize pistons. When the block and head returned to our basement, we installed new rings, now main and camshaft bearings, and all now gaskets. Of course minor disasters were encountered such as one mistake which left us fishing numerous needle bearings out of the gearbox. After installing a new pressure plate, driven plate, release bearing and a resurfaced flywheel, the engine, clutch, and gearbox assembly was set aside.
Spring 1978 and the rear suspension and axle unit was due to receive its share of attention. A large side to side free play in one rear wheel was a good indication that the hub carrier to wishbone pivot bearing was destroyed. As a result, the entire suspension assembly was dismantled in the basement and all bearings, rubber parts, and universal joints were replaced. Much to our surprise and financial delight, the four springs and shook absorbers did not require replacement. The limited-slip differential unit was left virtually untouched with the exception of now oil seals. The differential was the only major part on the car that good judgment told us to avoid at all costs. As was similar in the case of the engine, all rear suspension components were cleaned, sanded, and painted before assembly.
By the time summer arrived, everything from the gas tank at the rear to the steering rack at the fronthad bean removed, only the empty body shell with the attached engine compartment framework remained. Thanks to a reprinted EJAG article by B. Worsley, we discovered the truth about E- type’s “frame”. Panic was the first motion felt when we realized the extent of the structural corrosion which we had casually disregarded when the car was bought. Every test for strength mentioned by Mr. Worsley failed badly. There seemed to be only one cures For the next several weeks , pieces were tediously cut from sheets of 18 gauge metal and shaped to replace the rusted out areas.
Fortunately, an acquaintance of Donald’s was a retired welder and volunteered to do the necessary welding for virtually nothing, provided the car could be brought to his large and well equipped garage. With the combined efforts of seven fellows, the E-type body was lifted into the box of a half-ton pick-up truck and hauled across town. The welding continued for several weeks as the patches and new sills were attached. The previous owner had included one sill with the deal, however, we discovered that this sill was not the proper size so two sills had to be bought anyway .
(Does anyone need a passenger side 2-plus-2 sill?)
After employing the same seven guys and the pick-up truck, the car returned to our garage in stronger than original condition. The metal used was heavier than original and up to now we have not detected any scuttle shake , door gap change, or other symptoms of a weak monocoque – despite the penalty of additional weight. Next, the body was completely rustproofed. The boot and underside received two coats of Tremco rust paint. The inner monocoque received three coats of Tremco. The engine compartment framing was high pressure spray painted with rust inhibiting paint. All of the enclosed box sections, including the sills and door posts, were drilled with access bolas and injected with commercial rust proof paint, Tremco, undercoating and old engine oil, in that order, Despite draining moot of the oil from the box sections, some still seeps out from certain areas months afterwards, (Our Jaguar is more typically English than can be imagined. It not only leaks oil from the usual drive-train locations, but also from the sills.)
Finally, now by late summer 1978 re-assembly could begin, The front suspension was installed complete with new rubber bushing shock absorbers and ball joints. The some engine hoist, used ten months earlier, was rented again and the engine/transmission assembly was shoehorned in. The typical problems of trying to raise the car so that the transmission clears the floor and trying to line up the bolt holed in the torsion bar reaction plate area were patiently overcome.
The rear suspension / differential assembly was installed next, followed by the drive shaft, (which sported two new universal joints) and the gas tank complete with one gallon of gas. Would all of the hundreds of didassembled and reassembled pieces do what they were supposed to, or would the entire drive-train seize into a solid mass? After several back-fires caused by our only assembly error (the distributor drive was installed 180′ out), the engine sprang to life.
With the arrival of autumn, brand now brake lines and calipers bad been bolted on ($60 per caliper and we needed four!). Next, we discovered that the original aluminum radiator actually had more leaks than the header tank, which necessitated having a brass red custom built. The steering assembly was attached employing now universal joints, bushes, rubber mounts, and bellows. A flow-through Ansa exhaust system from Imparts arrived and thus completed the underside work.
By the time the first snow fell, all of the engine compartment items were connected and functioning. Some items such as the water control tap, battery, washer bottle, voltage regulator, and all coolant hoses, were new while all of the rest inculding the heater and air intake assembly, were reconditioned and painted.
During the winter months our attention turned to the bonnet assembly. The original bonnet was badly rusted and dented. The center piece, both wings, the under-panel, the lower air duct, four chrome strips, and both hinges, were bought from Kitchener British Cars. The left and right rear diaphragms were unavailable and had to be home-made. Only the left and right valances, atone guard, and front diaphragms, were in good enough condition to be reused. Disassembling the old rusty bonnet and bolting together the new pieces involved many long cold winter nights in an unheated garage. To preserve our growing investment, roofing sealer was spread on any connecting surfaces before attachment and for extra protection, silicon seal was run all along the seams after assembly. Now with the advantage of hindsight, we would recommend to anyone needing to replace as many bonnet pieces as we did to order a complete bonnet fully assembled. The cost is higher, but by the time the labour and foul language is applied to modify and connect the poor fitting pieces, it is a relative bargain.
It was now February 1979, and we were ready for a body and paint job. The Jaguar was backed onto a rental truck and we carried it tan miles to a professional body shop. The paint chosen matched the original carmen red almost exactly. Since we decided on the durable though reactive Imron paint,all of the old paint had to be stripped off–both the original red and the repainted blue. The paint stripping Donald and I did ourselves to save costs. Despite a new bonnet and sills, there was still substantial bodywork needed. Both doors had to be virtually reskinned. The outer sheet metal covering the door-post area was non-existant and, if you recall, the rear overriders had been pushed slightly into the boot.
The painting procedure involved spraying the inside of the bonnet and boot lid, attaching and aligning the two, and finally, spraying the entire body. The body shop owner mentionned that despite being in business for over 25 years, this was the first time that he needed a hoist in the spray booth. This was the only way that the sheet metal beneath the boot could be painted We also had the optional hardtop, which was on this car, painted black. After curing for about seven days, the E-type was brought back home in the same manner as it was taken away — onboard a rental truck.
On March 11, we set out for Welsh Enterprises in Ohio to obtain the parts still needed and no longer available from a British Leyland dealer. Despite having catalogues and ordering from most of the large American Jaguar parts supply firms, I highly recommend Welsh Enterprises. If he hasn’t got a part in stock, no one probably has it. With wide eyes we got carried away, We recrossed the Canadian border with new parts ranging from an ashtray to a windshield, Between Welsh Enterprises and Kitchener British Cars we had bought almost everything needed that bolts on the outside of an E-type. One door handle, one glass headlight cover.and its chrome retaining ring, and both front sidelamp housings, were the only original items in worthy enough condition to be reused. Even the door windows were replaced, but at $19 each it was a bargain that could not be overlooked.
The interior was next on the agenda and that kept us busy right to the end of May. All of the trim items including the dashboard, the instrument and glove box facia, the sides of the center console, the door panels, etc., that were originally covered with “plastic leather”, were recovered with genuine leather. For a small car it is amazing how many hides are needed. Most of the rear trim panels had to be home-made since the old ones were badly rusted and whole sections missing in the door post area. The instruments, glove box, heater hoses, mirror, bonnet latches, etc., were all cleaned, painted, and installed. All twenty-some carpet pieces ordered from R. Woosley in California arrived and were fitted in place. Finally, the seats were reupholstered in leather by Spaetzel Upholstering, a local firm.
At this time Donald and I attended our first OJOA meeting and during the break, we heard mention that installing a soft-top on an E-type is something even the pros curse. The following weeks slightly deterred but still gung-ho, we made the attempt. The painted framework was aligned and attached. The brand new Amco top bought through Imparts kept us struggling for an entire day but we finally merged victorious. Considering the time consumed and the fact that at least two people are required it is dubious whether much is saved by doing the job yourself.
The polished wire wheels carrying now Michelin 185-15 XVS tires were attached with a new set of knock-offs, and away we went for a safety check and a license. With the exception of a short drive by Donald in Bob Smith’s 1968 XKE, this marked the first time that we could actually put an E-type, or any Jaguar for that matter, through its paces. Call it blind devotion or craziness but for one and a half years of hundreds of man hours and thousands of dollars, we toiled on a type of sophisticated machine of which we had no prior driving experiences. The body style and reputation lured us in, but finally driving an E-type clinched us as Jaguar fanatics for goods. We had planned to be ready for the June 10 OJOA concours but that left us only two weeks to test drive the E-type and uncover any bugs that were sure to crop up (remember Murphy’s Law?). Sure enough, June 4th and the Lucas electrical system (Lucas-the company that invented darkness) stopped charging. A mad dash home and a couple quick checks revealed a badly burned up generator. June 6 and we’re back in business with a Canadian Tire exactly-as-original generator. By the way, for lucky people with later E-types, that is not a terminology error, we do have to put up with a generator and not the infinitely better alternator.
June 10 arrived and ready or not we made the “long and dangerous” 65 mile journey to the Inn of the Park. The trip was uneventful with the exception of a nuisance which still plagues us now–the boot lid periodically pops open. We fully intended to enter the “club members only” class since we had no idea what to expect. However, friends who came along with us, talked us into the JCNA judging category. When the dust and the blue haze settled that afternoon, we found ourselves sitting in second place with an 86.9 score in Class V. Our delight in placing the way we did was further heightened when we discovered that our first, and third place competitors had trailered in their precious E-types. Receiving acknowledgement from passersby on the streets is gratifying, but the response and attention we got at the concours certainly makes the whole effort worthwhile.
On the way home from the concours we ran into a vicious storm which taught us where E-types tend to leak from. Between the concours and now (early August), we have put on about 1200 miles and almost everything that wasn’t replaced originally has broken down. Low oil pressure has been remedied by replacing the oil pump and sender unit. We knew that the water pump was in marginal condition when the engine was overhauled, but a loud squeaking noise several weeks ago confirmed it — in goes a new water pump. Recently the starter switch solenoid shorted and the starter would not disengage. Since the engine would not shut off, some wild scrambling followed to disconnect the wires before the starter turned red hot — in goes a new solenoid. The next problem can be predicted.Our header tank is so full of patches that we are searching for a replacement already.
I have rambled on long enough at this point, but it is difficult to condense two years of complete restoration experiences into a couple of pages and still adequately portray what was involved. In retrospect, we now realize that the E-type that we bought and restored was, for all intents and purposes, a parts car. Despite it being quite costly, there is a certain measure of pride in saving one of the world’s best sports came from the scrap heap and ultimately place in a JCNA concours. If for no other reason, I hope this article will give renewed vigor to those fellow Jaguarites who are either contemplating, or are in the midst of, a restoration job. Believe me, if we can do it, anyone can, and the final result is worth every minute and every dollar put into it. Now then, is there anyone out there with a 1965, 1966, or 1967 E-type roadster for sale? We must surely be crazy!
Allan Lingelbach.