What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 5
Thursday, 3 October 2019 | Admin
PART 5 - A STEP FORWARD
It is said that a journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step. The problem is taking that initial pace forward. I had been putting off the mammoth task of replacing the rotten front subframe for some months, more in trepidation of what might follow than lack of time.
Eventually I could delay no more. The first job was to build a cradle to support the 1/2 ton engine and transmission to allow us to extract the front subframe complete with the steering rack and all the front suspension and brake components. Dire stories of injury and death surfaced from internet searches with warnings to use only the official Jaguar workshop equipment. Putting these worries to one side, I decided that four lengths of 4" x 4" timber, some custom made brackets and 4 x 2-tonne ratchet straps would be more than sufficient to hold a half-ton weight. Backed up with some sturdy supports under the transmission for extra security and after some hours struggling with nuts and bolts that had been untouched for 30 years, remarkably, the complete assembly glided slowly and steadily from under the body shell. We had taken the first step. Now we just had the remaining 1000 miles.
The next stage was to dismantle all the components from the subframe. I had read that removing the pivot rods from the front wishbones is the most difficult part of working on this model. I had two of them to deal with. However, before that was the thorny problem of removing the front coil springs. Of course there is an official Jaguar tool for this (as normal coil spring compressors don't fit), but finding one or hiring one is next to impossible. Turning once more to the internet, many suggestions can be found, nearly all of which actually do risk life and limb given the potential energy held in these heavy duty springs. Luckily I found a resourceful Canadian who described a method I found sensible and safe: Akin to an external metal brace around a complex fracture, the method carefully and slowly released the compressed spring using four high tensile steel rods and nuts until the spring pan could be safely removed. Slow and steady, but after some hours, ultimately successful. Luckily I'm not billing myself for my own time!
Now for the pivot rods: I knew I wanted to re-use the pivot rods, if at all possible, as they are no longer available from Jaguar. When new, they should slide in with a light tap from a hammer, but 30 years later that same light tap achieved nothing. After around four hours of increasing force and desperation nothing had moved - it was seized solid. A few days of liberal application of releasing fluid followed and eventually the first pivot rod was extracted in more or less a re-useable condition (although I was not that confident that it would be good enough). Another day of frustration followed attending to the second pivot rod, ending with the application of a very large sledgehammer to the offending rod. Extraction was successful, but the rod was unusable.
Many hours of cleaning and painting the suspension components followed over the next few days whilst I waited for a new pivot rod to arrive from a specialist. Re-assembly should be a relatively easy job - just like Meccano - so with everything ready, I set to work one Saturday afternoon, showing my eldest son how clever and quick I could be....until one small bracket did not fit...that's strange, perhaps I mixed up the left and right brackets when I was cleaning them. I re-traced the assembly steps and found to my dismay and embarrassment, that the very first component I had fitted was in fact the incorrect item....the wishbone secured with the pivot rod. No matter, I would simply disassemble and start again - a wasted afternoon, but no damage or extra cost. The left and right wishbones are mirror images of each other, however, the difference is quite small and in my hurry I had fitted the left hand wishbone to the right hand of the subframe and vice versa. Small the difference might be, but hugely significant when it comes to removing the pivot rods (again).
The slight change in angle of the wishbone meant both the old and the new pivot rods were stuck fast. Another wasted day ensued: No amount of force (including the very large sledgehammer) would move them. In my research I had dismissed advice from enthusiasts in the USA that the best way of dealing with the privot rod problem was simply to cut through each rod twice with a reciprocating saw. This would release the wishbone and the pivot rods in one go, albeit with the destruction of the pivot rod. This had seemed an unnecessary waste, but now seemed the only solution. I picked up a nice new reciprocating saw from my local tool company and within five minutes both wishbones had been removed. I doff my cap to the American owners....if I had not been so dismissive, I would have saved myself four days of sweat and toil.
I commissioned two more pivot rods from the specialist (having to wait a few weeks for a new batch to be manufactured). This time, assembly was slow, deliberate and successful. We had a fully restored subframe, refurbished front suspension, new front brakes and a steering rack ready to fit back into the body. The whole assembly went back into the body shell without further incident. The engine cradle removed, fluids were added, brakes bled and the car lowered onto its wheels for the first time in six months. She started on the button and everything looked rosy!
Next time: An Unexpected Journey
What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 4
Tuesday, 1 January 2019 | Admin
Part 4 - Work Begins
The long hot summer of 2018 was coming to an end, but there were a few weekends before the frantic part of our business year when free days are few and far between. We started work...
My eldest son, Max, had just passed his driving test and was eager to help. Being a sensible type, he had read and digested the Haynes manual before diving in. We decided to start with the basics: New air filters (easy), check the specific gravity of the anti freeze (easy), replace 12 spark plugs and HT leads (ridiculously complicated) and replace the four accessory drive belts (unbelievably frustrating).
Max volunteered to re-build and adjust the throttle linkage - I lost count of how many parts there are, but on the way he fixed the seized kick down linkage and replaced all the missing and broken bushes. He then moved on to the temperature sensors: The air temperature sensor disintegrated in his hands, so he rigged up some resistors to send the ECU the correct ambient air temperature. A replacement sensor was added to the parts list!
In the meantime, I set about the distributor cap: A PO (previous owner) had decided to seal the cap with a bead of silicone...but unknown to him/her had managed to smear some on the rotor arm. The wet silicone had subsequently been flung round the inside of the distributor cap when the engine was started, effectively insulating 4 of the contacts - hence the misfire. Further Inspection of the engine bay, revealled a couple of wires disappearing into the trumpet on the right hand air box. Pulling gently, revealed a large round electrical connector had been sucked into the inlet, very efficiently blocking 90% of the aperture - hence the rich running and petrol heavy exhaust. Now carefully strapped in place, but still not connected to anything, perhaps we'll find a use for it in due course.
We started the engine, which ran beautifully smoothly - no misfire and a great pick up. We were elated with our day's work. Win No.1.
Now to get under the car,,,
Checking the notorious over-complicated transmission mount, I could see that the spring was coil bound and the rubber bush had deteriorated to the consistency of a sponge. Despite warnings of doom, gloom and bodily danger on the internet, it was with great joy, that this proved a cheap and relatively easy repair with a 79p bush and a new spring. Win No.2.
However, getting to that point had taken the best part of whole day, mostly taken up by trying to remove the 30 year old exhaust system. We wanted to re-fit it, so simply cutting it off was not an option. Eventually, after grinding off all 12 bolts and much penetrating oil, twisting and turning, it was off - and just as well, as we were faced with a number of broken and bent mounting brackets needing repair.
It was time to break out the welder from the back of the shed (the first time in 30 years). The last time I had successfully welded anything was my Mini in the 1980s...and those welds were not a pretty sight. Luckily none of the exhaust mountings would be visible, so I could use them for practice.
I suspected this would be the start of many hours cutting, grinding and welding metal over the next few months. We were not going to be popular with the neighbours!
The exhaust system was in reasonably good condition, but appeared to be a mix of stainless steel and mild steel components. Both front pipes were corroded in one small section, so a short repair section was ordered to link up with the front silencers. I had double checked the OD of the pipe before ordering but the new sections did not fit. At first I put it down to incompetence on my part, but it was at this point that I discovered that the system was made up of three different diameters of pipe. I don't know if this was because of the odd mix of parts, but it went a long way to explaining why each slip joint was blowing. Another set of repair sections was ordered in sizes that would hopefully mate these disparate pipes.
Whilst waiting for these to arrive, I cleaned the rear stainless steel silencer boxes and exhaust tips - both came up as new. On careful inspection both front silencers were blowing along the longitudinal seam. A failed attempt at welding and then brazing just confirmed that there wasn't much solid material along the seam, so I settled on Holt's Gun Gum for a temporary repair. A couple of days later when I checked them over, the repair had taken well and set rock solid. My intention is to replace the front silencers with straight through pipes, but that can wait until the car is back on the road. There are a number of other hurdles to cross before that!
Previously I had found an alarming amount of corrosion on the front subframe (especially on a car that had a valid MOT) so I had been checking Ebay for a repacement. Almost every subframe I came across looked no better than the one already on the car. I had already decided that this was a make or break issue for this car: If I could not replace the front subframe reasonably economically, getting this car to completion was going to be near impossible in my timescale of 6-8 months.
In the first few days of ownership and in a flurry of excitement, I had been in contact with Andrew Harvey of JustXJS for some advice and a spare set of alloy wheels. Having found nothing suitable on Ebay, I contacted Andrew again who agreed to sell me the subframe he had set aside for his own car! A few days before Christmas, a sparklingly clean and refurbished subframe arrived chez nous. I intend to stay happily married so I am not so foolish as to spend Christmas under a car. The subframe replacement would have to wait a while.
Obviously it makes sense to refurbish the entire front suspension and brakes at the same as replacing the subframe, so attention turned to other issues that don't require crawling around in the cold underneath the car: First thing to be tackled was the headlining. Having replaced this on a couple of other Jaguars, I knew this was within my capabilities. Unlike the other (more modern) Jaguars, the backing board seemed to be comprised simply of compressed glass fibre which disintegrated into clouds of itchy particles when disturbed (just like old loft insulation). There was nothing to salvage except the steel cant rails and the fibreboard rear quarter panels. This was a blessing in disguise as the replacement pre-trimmed fibreglass panel was far simpler to fit.
Before we got to that point, the rear view mirror and sun visors had to be removed. What should have been a simple job eventually required drilling out of all the screws (carefully - so as not to puncture the roof). Every one was solidly rusted in place. The poorly painted underside of the roof panel was also covered in rusty pox marks. These were rubbed down and treated with rust converter before the new headling was fitted.
The waterlogged carpets and soundproofing had been removed weeks before for a thorough clean and dry, but years of damp had caused most of the stitching to deteriorate. Nevertheless, the carpets were still in good condition, so rather than replace, I decided to re-stitch the binding. Turning to YouTube for advice and to our local habadashery for heavy duty needles, thimbles and thread, the next few weeks found me sewing in front of the TV using the original needle holes as my guide. Oddly satisfying!
More in part 5.
All the best,
What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 3
Friday, 30 November 2018 | Admin
Part 3 - The Long Journey Home
I had bought a 1990 Jaguar XJS with a 5.3 litre V12 engine for cash behind a strip club and now had 120 miles to drive in an unknown car. Apart from yearly trips to the local MOT station the car had been standing for over a decade. In 11 years only 400 miles had been added to the odometer. We stopped at the first petrol station to check oil, air, petrol and water. Remarkably, the oil was pristine, the coolant was clean and full and the tyres had air. I added some fuel injector cleaner to the petrol and set off.
The car smelt and sounded awful: Petrol fumes mixed with the smell of wet carpets and mould, the exhaust was blowing everywhere, the engine was definitely not running on all cylinders, there was an almighty clanking from the front suspension every time we hit a bump and a knocking from the rear on all but the gentlest acceleration. I put a brave face on, but I felt as though I had made a big mistake.
It was raining and we were on the M6 with the lorries in lane one, driving gingerly. Ahead the traffic started to slow. Braking gently, the pedal sank straight to the floor without any retardation whatsoever. (Un)luckily this has happened to me before, so I realised instantly that one of the brake calipers had seized and overheated, boiling the brake fluid. I knew that if I just kept pumping the pedal, eventually something would happen. Happily the left hand front caliper decided to lend a hand and we pulled over to the hard shoulder to let everything cool down.
After a suitable interval, we made our way to the next service station where I assured my passenger that everything would be OK - we only had another 110 miles to go.
With the exception of the lights, the indicators and wipers, very few other electrical switches seemed to work: Windows - No, Central Locking - No, Air-Con - No, Rear Demister - No, Instrument Lights - No, Radio - No, Courtesy lights - No, Heated seats - No. For me, these all seemed minor inconveniences, but for my passenger (my youngest son), they were simply further pointers to the fact that we were doomed. He had already texted his mother that the car had no brakes and that we were about to die. I re-iterated my confidence in this marvelous piece of British Leyland engineering and told him not to worry. After a bite to eat and a coffee to allow for further cooling of the brakes, my confidence was rewarded by brakes that worked(ish). We pressed on.
Although at first glance the car looked fairly reasonable from the outside, the inside had not been cleaned in many a year. Yet despite the smell and grime, the soporific character of a Jaguar in cruising mode soon enabled my exhausted son to dift off (we'd had a very early start for a teenager in the middle of school holidays). As the miles passed and I felt more confident in the car, I was able to up the pace to match the average motorway speeds on a Friday afternoon without him noticing.
There were no further surprises but as we pulled onto the drive at home, the expression on my wife's face said it all: In her opinion the car was a P.O.S. Better to sell it now and cut your losses. It's going to be a money pit.
Of course, I had to justify my purchase: That would simply be admitting defeat too soon. Surely it would be better to carefully inspect and assess first. So began a long list of to-dos. The first thing was to get the car up on a ramp to see the extent of the problems.
I made an appointment with Vince, our local bodyshop for the following Saturday. My mood was elevated as the car looked fairly good in the summer sunshine. Once the car was up on the ramp, Vince and his father carefully probed the areas of corrosion whilst I inspected the exhaust and the subframes. Vince said they would get back to me with a price. That call never came...and when I checked, the answer was "We would rather not touch it, thanks". It was an answer I had expected: Working on a complicated 28 year old car is very different from their normal diet of Golfs, Focus's and Corsas. Feeling slightly downhearted, I decided that I needed to get fully up to speed with the model and it's common problems so that I could make an informed decision on what to do next.
They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing...and reading the scare stories on internet forums is enough to put you off buying any car, let alone one approaching its 30th birthday with little or no history. Nevertheless, with many decades tinkering with cars under my belt and having thoroughly read the Haynes manual and numerous blogs, I could see that at one time the car had a very caring owner who obviously knew how to keep the worst ravages of time at bay: The car had been thoroughly undersealed and and waxoiled, any chassis and suspension component that could be protected by grease had a thick layer of the stuff. There had been a good quality respray at one point in the past and the car was fitted with an expensive set of wire wheels and Pirelli tyres.
On the down side, there was a goodly amount of filler in the top of the wheel arches (a standard form of repair if you read the contemporary Haynes manual published in 1992). Both sills needed work, the bottom of the rear quarters needed repair and the front quarters were quiety rusting away. Unfortunately nearly every panel with the exception of the roof had some bubbling paint pointing to more extensive problems lurking below the surface. However, for me, the big issue was the front subframe: Perfect in every way except the area above the spring seat on one side, as I discovered as my fingers sank through the surface crust into thin air. I knew that all rubber bushes suspension bushes would need to be replaced, but I had not counted removing this very large and heavy component to do so.
Pushing all this bad news to the back of my mind, I decided to concentrate on a the large part that was easily accessible: The massive V12 engine. If this was sound, I would feel better about tackling the body. Happily, my eldest son, with a penchant for all things mechanical, decided this was too great a challenge to miss. We set about tracking down the misfire and the source of the petrol fumes.
More in part 4.
All the best,
What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 2
Wednesday, 28 November 2018 | Admin
Part 2: Finding the Ideal Car?
The Jaguar XJS has been on the cusp of classicdom for years. Classic car pundits have been speculating that it is the next big thing for longer than I care to remember, but the reality of rusty British Leyland era bodywork and massively complex mechanical and electrical systems seem to have always suppressed prices.
Naturally, just as I have come round to the idea of finding a Jaguar XJS, prices for good examples have been climbing steadily out of my budget range...so the hunt began for a suitable project vehicle. As we all know, Ebay holds an ever revolving repository of cars better suited to the junkyard than cruising intercontinental highways, but I was convinced there was a car out there waiting for me. The problem was that money burning a hole in my pocket, urging me on, like a little devil on my left shoulder. The little angel on the right shoulder knew this whole escapade was a bad idea, but then a promising advertisement appeared:
A 1990 V12 coupe with issues but crucially holding nearly a year's MOT. Unfortunately, it was on the other side of the country with just a day left of the sale and there was simply no time to go to see the car before the end of the auction. Nevertheless I made a note to check the final selling price to give me a guide for the future. The auction got the heady heights of £2000 but had not reached the reserve price and remained unsold. I contacted the seller to ask if he was going to relist the car - he answered in the affirmative, also mentioning that he would be reducing the reserve. True to his word, the car was relisted and I kept a watching eye on the auction, not ready to take the plunge (the angel was doing a good job). A few days later my mobile phone pinged to remind me that the auction was ending...I just had to take a look.
Again, the price had got to £2000 and stuck. With just a few seconds left, it was now or never. I took the plunge and placed a bid. I was certain not to win the auction, but there was a certain frisson in taking part. I still had not been to see the car, so I wasn't that serious- there would always be another one. I resolved to get on with my day.
My 'phone pinged a few seconds later. A message from Ebay: Congratulations on winning the auction. No! That wasn't meant to happen. Oh well, it must be fate. I convinced myself that it was worth a punt, and in any case, I was bound by the auction rules. Things were about to get a little odd. I contacted the seller who requested payment in cash. I arranged to pick up the car in a few days. On the way, the seller contacted me to say he could no longer meet me, but a friend of his would be there. "There" was at a drinking den, next door to a strip club on the wrong side of town. The car would be in a yard behind the building. True to his word, the friend was there, the car was there, locked in a yard bounded by a high steel fence.
So here I was buying a car I had not inspected, behind a strip club on an industrial estate with a wad of cash in my pocket. Was I mad? The car started, but boy, was it rough. Running on about 7 cylinders, a blowing exhaust and a mouldy headlining that I had to keep up with my head. VIN numbers checked, the paperwork looked fine, so I signed, handed over the cash and made my escape feeling that I might have bought a load of trouble. The driver's window did not work, the door mirrors were frozen and it sounded like a bucket of bones. Nevertheless, as it was running, I decided to head for home, 120 miles away.
Would I make it? More in Part 3.
All the best,
What Have I Done? Tales of a Jaguar XJS - Part 1
Tuesday, 13 November 2018 | Admin
Part 1: The First Stepping Stone.
It started with a conversation about rallying historic cars and ended with cash changing hands behind a strip club in the West Midlands.
For some months my good friend and navigator, Graham, and I had been trying to find an affordable but challenging form of historic car rallying. In this search we came across a European car rally called Monte Carlo or Bust. It looked like a lot of fun driving across Europe, raising money for your chosen charity, and ending in Monte Carlo where you had the option of seeing your car crushed! The only entry criteria was that the car should cost less than £500 (and by the way, there is no technical backup on the trip for your banger). With this in the back of my mind, I took to Ebay and lo and behold, an advertisement jumped out at me: An early 2000s Jaguar saloon that had reached the dizzying heights of £200 with just a few hours left of the auction. Not only that, but I recognised the house in the background of the photograph as just a few minutes walk away. I had to take a look.
The car had corrosion worthy of an MOT failure, but under the grime I knew there was a great car, if only I could devote some time to it. The main problem was a potentially life threatening problem with the accelerator: Once pushed down, it was very reluctant to come back up...which caused consternation on the test drive. Nevertheless, a deal was struck and I was the proud owner of a long wheelbase Jaguar XJ 4.0L V8 saloon. Honestly, Darling, I hadn't meant to buy it....it just felt like the right thing to do.
I should mention that I am a life-long Jaguar fan and have owned a few models over the years. In fact I learnt to drive on my father's Jaguar XJ6 Series 3. Can you imagine the insurance cost for L-Plates on a Jaguar XJ these days? My father had a fear of flying, so business trips and holidays to continental Europe were undertaken by car. This meant his XJ6s were well exercised on Autoroutes, Autobahns and Autostradas right across Europe: Travelling as far East as Austria and the Czech Republic, as far North as Sweden, West to Spain and South to Italy and all points in between instilled in me the virtues of travelling by Jaguar. People are always pleased to see a Jag!
As you will know if you've spent any time around old cars, there are always a few surprises, but luckily nothing that could not be fixed relatively easily. Once back from Vince the welder, (and now knowing the rear suspension was not going detach itself from the chassis), work on the interior and exterior started in earnest. Bumper scuffs removed, chipped paintwork rectified, a small dent or two filled and the car began to look much better. Small but vital bits of missing trim were tracked down and ordered, tyres replaced and nearly two decades of grime removed. After three months work and now mechanically sound, the car looked as new inside and out. It was a remarkable transformation from a neglected commuter car into a sparkling Jaguar limousine.
Feeling very proud of my handiwork, my navigator and I decided we needed a couple of shakedown events to test both us and the car. A local navigational rally was despatched with ease and some longer trips (needing to ferry my eldest to view universities) confirmed this was indeed a wonderful vehicle. In fact, so good we decided to change plans and head for Le Mans in the Jaguar for the bi-annual Le Mans Classic, a celebration of historic racing cars. The car fulfilled the Jaguar promise of grace, space and pace taking the Route Nationals across France in great comfort despite the heatwave. Naturally, my hands were kept cool and dry in a pair of Tom Dick and Harry driving gloves. My fearless navigator, Graham, expressed his delight that this was the most comfortable vehicle he had ever sat in, (Mind you he is used sitting in noisy, bumpy rally cars).
Nevertheless, this lovely car did not fulfill the requirements for a historic rally car, so reluctantly it was put up for sale and was quickly snapped up by a Polish enthusiast who was more than delighted with his purchase. With the money burning a hole in my (virtual) pocket, I set about identifying a suitable replacement. Whilst my navigator friend is keen on 1980s hatchbacks, they are now surprisingly expensive, so I started looking at another 1980s icon, the Jaguar XJS....a road that led me to a strip club in the West Midlands.
Read more in Part 2.
All the best,
Why Choose Driving Gloves?
Friday, 10 February 2017 | Admin
Why Choose Driving Gloves?
Driving gloves are a great combination of form and function: Not only do they look good in and out of the car, but they do provide functional improvement at the wheel.
The key advantage of using gloves for driving is comfort: They keep your hands warm in Winter and keep your hands dry in the Summer.
That is the logical reason, but there are also the intangible advantages: They give a greater feeling of control at the wheel, if you will, a more heroic feeling of man and machine in harmony against the elements. They hark back to the earliest days of the motor car, when the driver was at the mercy of the weather (ask any Morgan or Caterham driver for a contemporary account). A pair of driving gloves makes driving an event once more.
The very act of slipping them on can be part of your mental preparation to for the road. We asked a journalist at on-line motoring magazine MotoVerso to let us have his comments on two different pairs of gloves. One pair made him feel as though he was driving a classic Ferrari through the Alps, and another pair evoked US muscle-cars...it's amazing what a pair of gloves can do!
As with anything slightly unfamiliar, more experience will help you find your favourite. Deerskin or Cabretta leather, perforated palms or not, full gloves or delta cut-aways, full finger or fingerless. There are quite a few permutations to bear in mind.
If you want them to match the upholstery in the car, that's fine too, and normally the best reason! Our most popular driving gloves are a classic 1960s design with a delta cut out on the back of the hand, together with knuckle holes and perforations to aid breathability. In our opinion driving gloves should be unlined on all but the very coldest days.
If you prefer a full glove, the Dents Officer's gloves is very popular with professional drivers as it doesn't look "Sporty" (which might convey the wrong impression in a funeral cortege). A stylish alternative are the Dents Skyfall driving gloves: Hand made in the UK, they were created for Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall, when driving the famous silver Aston Martin DB5.
Gloves should be snug to start with as they will naturally stretch across as they accommodate the shape of your hand. Well made gloves will not stretch in length, so as long as the fingers fit well, do not be concerned if at first the gloves feel tight. Take a look at our gloves sizing guide for more information.
For whatever reason you try a pair of driving gloves, we're sure they'll become a firm favourite.
After all, they are why the glovebox in your car exists.