All posts by Mark DeLong

May 2017 – Nylon turn signal clip 3D printed and installed

Pretty much, the Youtube video does the trick.

I do think that the process of 3D printing will become increasingly important for parts distribution and replacement. There’s no wonder that UPS has taken big steps to integrate 3D printing into their business, since, after all, they’re into logistics. And logistics can benefit from the speed of digital distribution, so long as the products get made at the endpoint. And the ability to craft parts that are no longer available for old cars will be a boon to the amateur restorer. Right now, only plastic parts are do-able, though the 3D printing field is advancing very quickly, so other media may become more affordable to use in the near future. It’d be great to be able to do metal objects as easily as plastic objects.

I expect that I’ll be doing other 3D printing projects, perhaps to create molds for my little modest aluminum castings. Plastic parts, like the one I did for this fix, are relatively easy. And, for the next guy, it’s really just a matter of downloading a 3D model, and finding a place to print it. (Maybe that’s as close as your local library!)

By the way, my 3D model of the turn signal clip is freely available from Thingiverse:

The video:

Sketchup is a free download (, and if you’re serious about 3D modeling, you can purchase the professional version. For my part, I just used the regular old free version, and it worked great. A very useful Sketchup plugin was “Solid Inspector” that allows you to identify and even automatically fix (sometimes) extraneous lines and surfaces in your model. Those extra things get in the way of having a clean and uninterrupted surface. And if you don’t have a clean surface, you can’t create a model of a solid object. That sounds a bit difficult to understand, but Sketchup just allows you to create surfaces, and in order to have a solid, you have to use the surfaces to enclose an area completely. Sketchup then can calculate a volume. You can then use the tools for your printer to convert the model into something that the 3D printer can use.

For printing, I used 3DPrinterOS (, which has partnered with Duke University. It’s amazingly simple to use. I had no instruction on how to use the tools, and yet I was able to printer my part in PLA (polylactic acid) with only one failed attempt. (See links below for more information on where you might be able to get access to 3D printing services. They might be as close as your local library.)

The nylon part that I printed fit in perfectly, though the little arms were a bit too loose to hold the turn signal post firmly in place. I think I might try reprinting the piece in ABS if the thing becomes too annoying (unlikely, since it’s working all right, if not optimally, and nylon is pretty durable).

If anyone else ventures into 3D printing for parts, I’d like to hear about it.

Some links relating to 3D printing:

Thingiverse ( where you can find 3D models of all kinds to explore and print. (My turn signal clip is there, too.)

UPS’s involvement, and maybe there’s a place near you:

Five Best 3D Printing Services” ( A surprise: your local library might let you do 3D printing

Duke is leading the way among universities in the democratization of 3D printing: “Duke University Churns Out Thousands of 3D Prints per Month with Help from 3DPrinterOS” ( I’m very much indebted to the good and talented staff that support the really impressive 3D printing setup that Duke has pulled together.

December 2015 – Convertible top replaced

People might recall that my canvas top got ripped when I put the top down for the first time — two five-inch rips radiating from the rear corner of the door windows. Clearly, I had done something wrong in the initial installation, and so I did some problem solving and discovered the issue. In essence two things happened:

  • I didn’t pay enough attention to the physics of the matter, since the metal frame and the “bows” fold in a certain way. That moved two points apart in a manner that my gluing job on the top was strained until it failed — in effect removing the stress by ripping the material apart.
  • I misinterpreted the way that tabs on the canvas top were to be used. I figured they were tabs for gluing onto the frames above the door windows, but that was wrong. The gluing actually fixed the two points on each side of the canvas top that the frame moved farther apart when it was folded down. The gluing set the ends of the stress that the folding brought about.

Here’s a video that shows the action of the frame — and why the top tore. Note the way that the top end of the rear-most window frame piece separates from the rear end of the piece over the window. There is a short piece that bridges these pieces of the frame around the window. Initially that short piece separates the parts I glued by about four inches, but when the frame is put down, those pieces set about a foot apart.

Here’s a picture of the fateful tab on the torn canvas top, labelled as “The tab I glued, but shouldn’t have.” I really don’t know why the manufacturer of the canvas top would have included a tab at that position, since it quite obviously fit the frame piece above the window, and it seemed designed to be attached. On the retorn_canvas-151229placement (vinyl) top I got, the area above the window frame was reinforced with a vinyl piece about the size of the tab I had fatefully glued, so it could be that the manufacturer of the canvas top wanted the tab just tucked back as a floating protection for the top above the window.

In any case, there was no arguing with the physics of the thing. It tore. The video and the picture should tell the story.

While I was investigating the reason for the failure of the canvas top, I revisited “andyzaks” instructions that I found on E-type Lovers ( These are good instructions, and I followed them through again — in dry run fashion — to see where I might have diverged and made my error. I came to the conclusion that I was misled by the “fateful tab” that apparently didn’t even appear on andyzaks’ top when he was putting his on. Key thing to note is that the tops on the Series 1 cars are fastened at the front, back, and at the rear of the window frame, where the chrome finisher sits.

I decided to do a video of the process, and it came out pretty well, though I realized after going through the whole exercise that doing a video is harder than writing up a blog post! If you listen closely you’ll probably hear Christmas music in the background at times. That’s a dead give-away for when this top was installed!

The car is going on the market in late January 2016, very likely. I have been planning for this, and I’m getting to a point where I think I have a realistic plan in mind. I do wonder about selling it when I take it on my little drives around Rougemont, but I think I want a new project to sink my teeth into.

Oh, I think I’ll do a few more videos as time goes on.  Videos are an interesting medium, even though they are a little more tedious to put together.

August 2014 – On the road again

Yes, it’s been a long, long time. I had been so good about recording things on this blog. Then, when the car came darned near completion … well, I pooped out, preferring to sit in the old thing and tinker or just listen to the engine and watch the gauges. The restoration journal never got an update.

Well, I’m back now. The interceding years — it’s been since June 2011! — won’t be covered in much detail, but I’ll do what I can do.

A first trip? To the gas station, of course!

The big news is that the car is on the road, fully licensed and insured (I went with Hagerty). It’s been legal on the road for over two years now, and I’ve driven a grand total of 110 miles. The initial voyage was about a mile up the road to the Rougemont BP. Arlene came with, and the car ran … horribly. It sounded like a tractor (related details below) and it had very little power. It also sucked gas, so it was fortunate that we went to the gas station.

In a restoration, you always do some things twice and a few things more than twice.

In the last (now ancient) update, I mentioned that I had installed the convertible top. It fit snugly and well, I thought. But I must have done something wrong, since the darned thing ripped at two symmetrical points when I retracted the top. I still do not exactly know what the problem was, except perhaps that I had installed the top too snugly or that I had attached the top to the frame pieces inappropriately. The tension points appeared in the upper rear corner of the retractible door window frame, and I suspect that this area may be installed loose? I notice now that there was a cord sewn at the end of the rain trap immediately above the window frame, and I wonder if that was actually supposed to be the attaching point for the top at some point. I have to re-read the instructions I used to see if there was something I missed or misunderstood.

I did try patching the tear, but it was not suitable, and in any case the patch came off the first time I retracted the top.

At any rate, a new top is in order, and I think that I will probably go with a vinyl top — which, I am told, is more original. My eldest son, Derek, has a Honda S2000 (very nice car, by the way, and one that I have autocrossed), and it has a vinyl top. It is quite nice — and actually much nicer than I recall my older vinyl top was on the MG I had in college.

Doing things over is all part of doing a restoration, either because things don’t go back together as you’d think or because, well, Stuff Happens. People might recall that Bill McKenna began his restoration about when I did and also chronicled his progress for all to see on the web. (He finished his car quite a while ago, and it is marvelous.) He had redos and mishaps just as I did (as with the doors). I think you have to be a bit Stoic if you’re going to take on a restoration and actually complete it, since progress gets interrupted and sidetracked.

Then, there are the torsion bars on these cars. They are the best instructors of patience, persistence, and fortitude.

Mo-Ma comes through for another delighted customer

Mo-Ma Manufacturing in Albuquerque, New Mexico ( was my choice to get the old tachometer upgraded. I had removed the tach generator when the engine went in. I recall discussions on forums about the “dog” that drives the generator being flimsy and breaking and then falling into the oil system, threatening to jam pieces of itself into the oil pump. That didn’t sound good to me. Besides, the technology has improved quite nicely, so that driving a tech off a coil is simple and accurate. Mo-Ma has a great reputation for workmanship and, as I learned, for customer service. I can’t recall the lady’s name I talked with, but we had a delightful and wide-ranging conversation. She has been in this business for years, starting off being the Smith’s representative for the Western United States.

(I did follow up a few months after I got the tach back, only to learn that Margaret had died.)

I sent the tach in, and I promptly got it back, all cleaned up and beautiful. It works beautifully.

The business of restoration has a few characters who stand out, and I have to say that the woman who I talked with at Mo-Ma is among them. I recall Mike Moore (the one in California who’s an enginer, not the film-maker) reporting that he had a nice telephone conversation with her, too.

Exhaust pipes. Mufflers. Nicely chromed resonators.

From summer 2013 to early 2014, the exhaust “system” consisted of a pair of Cherry Bomb glass packs and 2-inch conduit I had bought from Lowes and bent into shape in the old cramped garage. Or there was nothing at all from the manifold back, since I tired of the rudeness of the noise and removed the improvized exhaust system. I was set to get the Real McCoy. And so the car sat, sadly, waiting for a refresh. I bought the paired mid-car mufflers (Walkers, for those who are interested) and the resonators along with mounting hardware. I installed the mufflers and had the resonators ready, but I still hadn’t acquired the connecting pipes. I even ordered them, but found out in a phone call that they weren’t on hand. “Really,” the fellow said, “just go to a custom exhaust shop and get some made. They’ll cost about the same.”

Made sense. I cancelled the order. But … I procrastinated.

I had the fellows at REMCO Muffler Shop in Roxboro, North Carolina, do the pipes, and they did them well and with care. I actually made the decision to go with them after I learned that they had done work on an old ’50s-era DKW. I figured if they would do that well (and the customer was very satisfied), an old Jaguar might be interesting to them and that they knew how to treat on old car with respect. They did a beautiful job, and they were great fun to work with on the project.

And now there is a Garage Mahal — and maybe time for a different project?

Most of the restoration of this 1963 roadster happened in pretty cramped quarters, made even more cramped by my inherent resistance to putting things away. Of course, there wasn’t much space to put things away in! Fixed that.

We built a three-bay, high-ceilinged, well outfitted garage and kept a journal of the building on my tumblr site. Garry Whicker from Hillsborough, North Carolina, was the general contractor, and he ably rounded up the talent and efficiently executed the construction. It was great fun to see going up! And it has been a great thing to see how well it’s been used by my now grown-up sons and their friends. We have fixed our cars, we have done major work to “Maximum Oversteer” the now-junked Chump Car, and the young men (calling themselves Beast Mode Racing) have started a new Chump Car to debut on track next year. (See a Youtube video of Aaron driving Max at Watkins Glen.)

So now we have ample room, even for the dogs.

Bringing this car back from the brink has been enormously gratifying (at least when it’s not been enormously frustrating and challenging!). I now have a very fine car that still needs a tweak here and there, and that still requires some fettling now that it’s on the road and I can gauge performance under “real conditions.” I still have a couple of things to hook up, like the windshield wipers — which are, of course, useless anyway since the car never goes out in the rain now.

But I find that I’d like to start a new project and find a new challenge. I am nearly committed to selling the Jaguar E-type that I’ve had such fun with over the years. I wanted one of these cars since I first put together a model of a coupe when I was in fourth grade, and now having it, I find that perhaps my interest is really in the putting together and not in the possession. (Haben oder Sein, Erich Fromm once asked.) As a matter of fact, that little discovery may have been the most profound over the years.

So, who knows what will happen in coming months.

May 2011 – Top and seats


David Boger (proprietor of got a convertible top frame in a deal for some old Jaguar parts back in fall 2009. I picked up the frame from him on my birthday in October, and I fetched it months later (the end of March 2010, as a matter of fact). His business and his place have really expanded, so the XJ6 crowd is now especially well served. He had (and still has) some E-type parts, too. I picked up the frame with the understanding that it was lacking one of the bows, the front one specifically — or so we thought. Since I had pieces of the original top frame, I figured that I would be able to fashion a new bow or otherwise get one. However, it turned out that the top frame was intact and was merely an early example. The early top frames didn’t have three bows, but rather just two. I’m not exactly sure when the third one was added, and Thomas Haddock is silent on the additional bow, as far as I could tell — which makes me a little wary of the truth of the matter. But on this top frame, there was no means of attaching a front bow, and there was no violence done to the tubing where a bow would have fit. The front pan-shaped metal edge of the top frame fit perfectly, and so the whole kit must be there.

I removed the old Jaguar grey and resprayed it, cleaned up the chrome bolts and supplied the few that were missing, and then I set it into place. Tops are easy to get, and I got mine from an eBay vendor. I decided to go with the canvas-like material called “Stafast.” Instructions for installation are on the web, and I went with the ones that were put together by “Andyzak” and published on E-type Lovers ( at Follow the instructions and everything goes fine. The only trouble I had was affixing the front chrome trim at the ends, where the curve of the front seemed to work against the clips. It took some wrangling, but I got it on.

Interior (including heretical seats!)

The interior project has gone on for years, and I have an entry that goes back to “Fall/Winter 2005/2006” when vinyl and moquette were applied. As with everything in this extended restoration, I have thought and re-thought, decided and re-decided (and then decided yet again!). The interior probably best exemplified the consideration-reconsideration dynamic. Some, I suppose, would call it waffling.

I waffle on leather and commit heresy.The car seats are a case in point, and the waffling arose from the greater context of this restoration — a couple other cars. The old E-type wasn’t the only Jag in stable, so to speak. I owned until recently an XJ8L, and my daily driver is an XK8, which of course, I bought because it takes design cues from the E-type. Both have leather pretty abundantly. I found that I am not a really big fan of upkeep of leather. The XJ8L interior was nice, and the leather was supple and soft, but I noticed over just a few years that it discolored in wear, probably because colors or dyes wore off? The driver’s seat got a bit of this crumply look, too. And the interior seemed to need babying that we frankly couldn’t easily do, since our vehicles have to trek off to the barn and suffer from the insults that just come with living out in the toolies. The state of the leather in the XK8 is, to put it in a word, awful. (Now, admittedly, this is a daily driver that sometimes hasn’t had the leather conditioner applied as often as might be necessary.) I have gotten to the point that I have re-dyed the front seats, after making an attempt to repair cracks and holes in the driver’s seat cushion. The repairs have held up, mostly, and the color is … er, OK. But, in fact, I hate the leather seats in the XK8, and they’re coming out for a recover when I retire the car from daily use. My wife Arlene thinks I should just get rid of the XK8, but I have grown fond of it despite its deficiencies.

As an aside, I note, with some dismay, that the leather interior of my eldest son’s VW Passat (an older car with higher miles) is in great shape. I don’t think that’s all a matter of exquisite care, either.

This is all to say that I was less than enamored by leather due to my experience with other cars. The original plan was to get leather seats for the E-type and have them installed by a professional. I got shaky on that decision, though. I don’t want to futz with leather and just watch it degrade pointlessly, as seems to have been my experience. And, though many people get all Ricardo Montalbon about leather, I have no trouble at all with good vinyl. Not the chintsy brittle stuff, mind you, but the “pure Corinthian vinyl” that graces luxury cars — and holds up better than the leather.

So, yes, the seats are heretical vinyl. Not leather. Thank God, I might add.

A second consideration was that my seats had to be special, with green piping. This is actually not too much of a problem, it would seem, since the leathers are not mass manufactured and then piled up in some warehouse somewhere as inventory. They are cut and sewn to order. But the piping issue introduced a level of complexity to an order that wasn’t welcome — at least as I interpreted the conversations I had. And, when I broached to topic of would-it-be-possible-to-use-high-quality-vinyl … well, that was too much. One well intentioned seat provider said, “No.” That was the end of the matter.

Now, I might be demanding, but I do strive to be courteous. I didn’t get the feeling I could get what I wanted from the Usuals on the West Coast. At least my interactions didn’t inspire confidence. So, I figured, I’d go with the locals. There are two promising upholsterers in the area, and I visited them both. One has a great reputation for late model cars. Aaron highly recommended them, saying that they were quick and the work they did met or exceeded expectations. Probably so, but there was no enthusiasm for doing seats on an old beast like a 1963 Jaguar E-type. Kits only, the fellow said, and be sure that you show up with molded seat cushions. Otherwise, no go. No cutting, no sewing. The other upholsterer had done 1950s and 1960s American cars, and his work seemed quite good. I met him in front of his shop, and as he emerged from his car he carried a large pot pipe, which didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Still, he and his group seemed competent, and they were working on the Saturday I visited. We went through vinyl sample books together, and I thought there was a possibility. Alas, things moved toward the nebulous, and I didn’t want to be stuck with an unending job and interminable waiting. I’d gone through that kind of thing before.

So, I asked myself, what about doing it myself. I had most of the templates, the seat cushion notwithstanding. I never done this kind of thing before — heck, I’ve never run into trouble with this kind of project before. What could possibly go wrong?

Seat cushion templates and “visual aid.” Actually the seat cushion was a problem, since I really had little idea how the pieces all fit together. That problem, of course, was resolved with a faint and flexible cousin of the cardboard used to template many of the body parts that had rusted away. Regular old “craft paper” from the paint section at Lowes served as a template substitute for the vinyl. Certainly the stuff isn’t as flexible or forgiving as quality vinyl, but handled with care it does the job. I took a bunch of the stuff, after having built up the foam I felt was appropriate, and a little duct tape (it does everything that WD-40 can’t!) and fashioned rough panels that served well as templates for the vinyl pieces.

It was a matter of slicing up the paper after the fit was about right, and then using the paper pieces as crude templates for the pieces. Now, I wasn’t that confident that the process would actually work. (At the time I was doing the craft paper work I had expected to ship off the templates to the upholsterer who was then going to be the pot smoker.) In order to see that a real cushion would come from the templates, I used some old black vinyl to create a cushion cover that would show the viability of the templates. I had intended to deliver the vinyl test to the upholstery shop, as a matter of fact. It worked quite well — better, in fact, than I had expected. I had not put in the piping, though I drew in the seams where piping would be placed. The key question in my mind was the method of separating the front foam bulge from the back part of the seat foam. There is this piping that runs laterally about midway between front and back, and it is slightly lower than the face of the cushion. A depression, actually, running along the offset join of the two levels of the cushion’s plywood frame. I accomplished that by creating a tab that could be stapled to the plywood, drawing the lateral lower. I had split the cushions in my design into a front cushion and a back, so attaching the tab was easy.

The chintzy black vinyl model was actually a nice visual aid, but it also turned out to be a good dry run. As time went on, and my doubts mounted about upholsterer option number two, I pondered doing the work myself. My wife and I were talking about the next steps with the seats one evening, and I told her what I was thinking, half to test the thought with her. She said she was wondering the same thing, especially after she inspected the cushion I had hand-sewn as a test.

So, I dumped upholsterer option number two, and took the task on myself.

Back arch foam and the back inset piece. My original plan was to deliver the raw vinyl material and the two seat shells completed with wood strips. Foams for the cushions I had planned to do, but the foams on the seat backs I was going to leave to the upholsterer. I used the remnants of the wood strips on the old seat shells as a guide, and I fashioned the strips out of 1/4-inch plywood. I glued and riveted the strips onto the shells. A piece of cake. Foam for the cushions and for the arch on the seat shell was fashioned from two-inch foam, with the cushions made from a stack of two of these for a total of four inches of foam. I used batting material as a cover over the foam, which makes it easier to get the surface of the vinyl smooth — besides adding a bit of comfort. The foam arch that I took off the old seat had been curled over a felt core that was laid in the center of the arch on the seat shell. Basically, the foam was glued on each edge, and the edge had been tapered so that the face of the foam arched over the felt core. Looked a little putzy, I thought. I just used contact cement to glue the square-cut foam to the seat shell, and then I cut an angle off the outside edge along the seat shell’s arch. The foam was thus crudely tapered toward the edge. Batting and the pressure of the vinyl rounded things out in the end. The back insert that fits behind the cushion uses one-inch foam.

The back insert piece has a plywood backing to which the foam and vinyl or leather is attached. The “skins” are stapled into the wood with the foam pieces floating beneath them, unglued from the wood. I riveted an aluminum tab at the top that slips between the moquette and the felt behind the seat. The tab holds the top of the insert in place. I believe that people must have attached the low end of the insert as well — probably to the curved piece of wood that is behind the bottom part of the insert. I chose to let the cushion hold the piece in place, so for all practial purposes it’s “floating” in place. I believe Classic Jaguar uses a plastic sheet of some sort for the backing, and that makes some sense. The inset has to be somewhat pliable, since it curves on both sideways and vertical axes — a bit tough to accomplish with plywood, since the laminations are grained and will complain one way or another. I ended up cutting three slits in the lower half of the plywood backing, and that allowed the part to conform to the shapes more easily.

The other stuff. I deviated a bit from the layout of the wood strips that are at various places on the seat shell, too. The lowest attachments on the seat shell — basically, anything attached to the inside of the seat shell that was below the seat cushion — I glued. So the curved wood strips along the inside bottom edges of the seat shell are absent. The strips there didn’t seem to have much of a point in my view, and contact cement is easy to apply and use.

Assembly is quite easy once you figure out how everything fits. I think a few pictures will do most of the explanation.

I got the vinyl from World Upholstery again. Although they offer leather that is Connolly-like in grade and feel and match with suggested Jaguar colors, I didn’t go that route. I chose instead a Mercedes-Benz vinyl, number 349 in their catalogue. Once again, the World Upholstery folks have been helpful and responsive. Here are the codes, but note thatn the “dark green” didn’t come from World Upholstery. I got it locally, and I suspect it’s a regular old whatever-is-in-the-warehouse brand.


Vinyl (Jaguar or Porsche, width 60″) Tan 4004
Vinyl (Mercedes-Benz, width 60″) Bamboo 349
Moquette (body cloth) Tan 262
Vinyl Dark Green unknown


Piping is actually interesting stuff. For the core of the piping on the aluminum console, I used a stiff polyurethane product — basically, weed-eater cutting line. For the seats I used the Real McCoy that I obtained at the regular old fabric store in Durham, nearby. It is just loosely braided cotton rope, specified to width. I got the quarter-inch stuff, and it was very easy to work with.

February 2010 – Driven

Look! No leaks! And it moves!

The alteration of the timing chain cover water inlet seems to have done the trick. The old thing has retained coolant where it should, and we’ve run the car many times without the horrible froth of contamination surfacing beneath the valve covers. Finally, we have a moving and well running car! Aaron took it out on a maiden voyage in the middle of a cold day, so the earmuffs felt good, I’m sure. This has been a cold and wet winter, and I’m afraid the yard has taken a beating (not to mention that there’s all sorts of crap out back by the garage and shed, now preserved for posterity on YouTube).

We have fastidiously checked and rechecked the oil to see if any wiff of water is leaking through, but so far there’s not been any coolant. We’ve run the car fairly frequently since, and I have been incrementally working up the electrics and getting it to the point where a car safety inspector could smile and hand me a sticker. Since the car predates emissions inspections — and perhaps any North Carolina inspection at all — I don’t expect trouble.

Home-made solid state 10-volt regulator

The water temperature, fuel level and (perhaps?) oil pressure gauges use 10 volts, not 12-or-so volts. Smiths did this in order to keep the gauges fairly accurate — or at least try. My regulator was shot, and it was interesting to do the research on the device. In effect, the old fashioned regulator was an electro-mechanical device. It basically created a quick oscillation of 12-volt power to approximate 10 volt steady power. I didn’t bother to do a post mortem on my old Smiths regulator, but I would guess that it was hopelessly corroded or seized.

I could have bought a solid-state replacement from CoolCat (here). However, Doug Lawson put together some instructions on making your own replacement of the Smiths voltage regulator, now no longer available on the web. The parts are easily acquired, and I figured it was worth doing something ingenious. I got the resistors and the LM317T chip from Parts Express, and I think shipping ended up costing more than the components. For the case, I used a housing from a discarded horn relay. It was actually too big, but I had it on hand, and I wasn’t planning on putting it where the original Smiths unit went so it wasn’t going to get in the way. Twenty minutes of soldering and a little fuddling around was all it took.

I ended up fitting the revised regulator behind the glove box. It works quite nicely, it seems. Lord knows if the gauges are actually true (I think not), but they are probably close enough. I have not yet hooked up the oil pressure gauge for the interior, since I have a mechanical gauge in the engine compartment that is easy to see when working under the hood. I haven’t yet decided to fit an electric sender unit, either. From what I can tell, they are not at all accurate. I can probably pick up a mechanical Smiths unit from somewhere, and just watch for leaks.

At any rate, I have working gauges.

The tachometer and speedometer need attention. I will be retrofitting and upgrading the tach, and I have yet to look at the speedometer. Those seem to be details for later.

Aluminum center console

I had only a few parts of the original aluminum center console with the original “dot pattern.” They were not in great shape, and the run of the original part was so brief — I think only in the 1963 model year — that replacements are pretty darned rare. (Raw aluminum with the correct press pattern is available for a dear price from Aston Martin Heritage. See the “Crosshatch aluminum” section on a previous entry.) I considered machining my own raw stock, but I figured it wasn’t worth it, especially after I had played around with some aluminum just to see what it was like to work with. Aluminum has this rich and deep shine to it, once it’s been polished, and the metal can have a lot of interesting characteristics. I made a couple of pieces of the console using a “brushed” aluminum finish, and it, too, would be good. I eventually figured that a somewhat polished finish would be really nice.

The plywood for the original center console was totally rotten, and so I had to make another one, and I used the original aluminum part to create a “buck” out of a hefty piece of plywood to make the new replacement part. Since the plywood serves as the means of attaching the aluminum to the metal/vinyl console frame, I went ahead and inserted machine screws in holes run through the plywood and countersunk. Number 6-32 machine screws went into the holes, and those went through the metal console frame. It’s sturdy, and removable, too. I did run into a problem with the console fitting onto the tranny tunnel, though, and so I had to grind off the screws that I had placed down the middle of the console. Those screws met the highest part of the tranny tunnel, making it impossible for the console to go down entirely.

I used “Goop” to glue the aluminum to the plywood, and of course the tabs folded over to make everything stable. Clothespins have been useful, though also they’ve been a bit of a problem with holding vinyl in place. As Bill McKenna noted, clothespins can leave dimples. I found that the way around this is to buffer the pins with short pieces of cardboard laid along the surface that’s being held in place. Of course, aluminum is less pliable and impressionable than vinyl, so the clothespins just fit onto this piece. A bag of a hundred pins has served me well over the years.

The aluminum was regular old flat sheet 0.032″ “5052” grade. I got a 24″ x 48″ sheet for under $20 USD, and I didn’t bother shopping around. I tried out some thicker stock, but it gave me trouble on the curves, such as where the parking brake lever goes through the console. The thin sheet worked fine with a little (gentle) convincing and pinching. Polishing took just a little elbow grease and rubbing compound. I found that Wright’s Brass Cleaner was good for the final polish, followed by a little wax to hold off oxidation.

There it is, all well fingered and smudged! I think this center piece will take a little attention now and then to keep in decent shape. I will be redoing the radio section of the console, since it doesn’t fit the shifter cover part. I have plenty of aluminum sheet left so that’s no problem. And, of course, the voltmeter is completely non-standard, since it replaced an ammeter. I figured I’d much prefer a voltmeter after the alternator replacement I did, and ammeters seem to be a bit hazardous in a cockpit to me. At least what I have does the measuring, even though it looks a little odd with the rest of the instruments.

December 2009 – Reason for coolant leak discovered

This one is for Derek, my eldest of sons, kind and level-headed. —Also more reasonable than I am, probably. It has been a great blessing to have the children Arlene and I have raised, and we both know that our lives together have been a matter of luck and work, however mixed. We count our blessings, and the first among all of them are our children.

It moves on its own, at last

I was talking with one of my colleagues at work, and he recalled when he started working with me — it seemed long ago, four or five years — and this old car was still in the garage. Actually, long in the garage, being putzed with and pampered and fixed and prodded. But it’s right on the edge of moving out to a new life on the road. Or at least that’s what I hope.

It seemed interminable, this long wait for the car to move. Here, too, there was an interruption, since my fix of the coolant leak was in fact no fix at all. But after Aaron returned from NASCAR Technical Institute in November and his tools started to pile up in the messy garage, there was in fact little choice but to get cracking on the last bits — the clutch hydraulics and the setting to rights of the brakes. Since Aaron came home, brake bleeding was not the chore it was before, but we discovered that the front brake master cylinder needed some fettling, since the play of the piston was not sufficient. I had a spacer for the master cylinder (from an old XJ or early S-type, I believe), and we installed it on the front master cylinder, which is fitted topmost on the pedal assembly. Works great now. Remember, this is due to the non-original Wilwood master cylinder conversion.

The clutch hydraulics were simple. And Aaron pushed a little by pushing the old car out into the elements so that he could fit his tool cabinets into the garage. I was not pleased that the car was under a tarp outside, but we got it done in part because I wanted to get the thing moving and back into the garage.

All was installed, and so coolant and oil went into the engine. It fired up great, and it moved on its own the forty-some feet into the garage (which by now had been cleaned). We ran the engine a few times thereafter, basically checking out the movement of coolant, the operation of the thermostat, the idle, and the like. It looked good.

I figured it was all downhill from there. It wasn’t. The coolant leak revisited the car, like some unwelcomed haunt.

Aaron called me one afternoon and told me that coolant was again in the oil, so the shade-tree mechanic “fix” wasn’t working. He had removed the oil pan enough to be able to locate the area of the leak, pressurized the cooling system, and discovered that the inlet from the water pump through the timing chain cover was leaking somewhere. A dribble of coolant was coming down the left side of the timing chain cover and into the oil pan. There was little to do but take the cover off.

It took only a few moments of looking at the inlets on the 3.8 and 4.2 liter timing chain covers to understand where things had gone awry.

Another difference between the 1963 3.8 liter and the 1979 4.2 liter XK engines

I’ve done some comparisons of the two engines that we’ve taken apart for this car: the differences of the cylinder heads and the blocks. I missed a rather important difference in the timing chain covers, though, and that was what came back to bite us. The 4.2 liter engine eventually had a better water pump installed and the passage through the cover into the block was slightly bigger and shaped to allow better flow of coolant. It was the difference of the inlets and the areas where the inlet passages were mated that made all the trouble.

Why not use the 4.2 liter engine cover? I didn’t have a water pump to fit. The XJ6 water pump I had would not clear the front of the engine bay, since it went forward beyond the “picture frame.” I couldn’t locate a new water pump either, since everywhere I looked, the water pumps were available only with core exchange or were “R&R” serviced.

A quick glance at the images that compare the 3.8 and 4.2 liter cover inlets shows the true source of the leakage problem. When you compare the two inlets (note the grey area to show the overlap), you can see that the curved sections end up severely narrowing the “kiss” of the cover to the block. And in fact the shape of the coolant inlet on the 4.2 liter engine block is even more pronounced than the cover’s inlet. Although it’s a little fuzzy, the photograph of the block inlet has “points” rather than curves at the upper and lower edges. If you look carfully, you might be able to see the place where the old 3.8 timing change cover (mis)matched the block inlet. I would bet that the leakage we saw came from the lower edge of the inlet, and that it arose only well after we had run the engine for a while, making it possible for the low pressure hot water to push the RTV out of the way.

Now the question was what to do. Obviously, the option of fitting the 4.2 cover would have been best, and I even toyed with the option of arranging a remote electric water pump. The prospect of begging for a 4.2 water pump was wholly unappealling, but was an option (and in fact still is an option now). The last option was to alter the 3.8 cover so that it would at least provide a more ample mating surface to the 4.2 block, in effect following the squared outlines of the 4.2 inlet. This was the option that we chose. The real debate was how to go about making the alteration. The initial approach was to build up the surface by welding aluminum and then machine the surface flat. I was very near pulling the trigger on that option, but the very real possibility of warping or distorting the cover made me hesitate. We could well end up with an unusable part, and we were throwing ourselves on the mercy of welding shops that would make no guarantees. The alloy of the cover was also an issue, I suppose. Lord knows how close a match the built-up metal would need to be.

Of course, there wouldn’t have been a debate without another option, and that was J-B Weld, I’m afraid. Now, I know that the stuff is broadly ridiculed, but I suspect that it’s also used more than people will admit. I’ve used it as an adhesive and filler on knobs and decorative parts of things. The bad reputation comes from people who use it idiotically, and I think that the J-B Weld marketing doesn’t help — engine blocks being “mended,” testmaments that the stuff is “better than baling wire” for farm implement repair, and the like. (As an aside, I have to hand it to the J-B Weld marketing people since they pitch their product to those who will actually buy the stuff — that is, the people who wander around Lowes and farm supply stores. They’re not pitching their product to machinists or welders.)

The stuff is tough, and J-B Weld claims a tensile strength of 3960 psi, adhesion of 1800 psi, flex strength of 7320 psi, tensile lap shear of 1040 psi, and shrinkage of 0.0%. It can handle temperatures up to about 600° F. These measures are of course less than aluminum, but they’re certainly within the range required for an area of little stress and reasonably low temperatures like where we needed to make changes. My main concern — and the crux of the debate — was adhesion. A J-B Weld alteration might hold up, but if a failure occurred it would probably be when a chunk would let loose from the filled area. A chunk falling into the oil pan or timing chain would be quite enough to ruin an engine in no time. The question of using J-B Weld has to do with where one draws the line between good use and idiocy. The application on the timing chain cover would not be stress bearing, though the area would experience temperature changes. As is the case with most adhesives (all of them?), surface preparation is the key to good adhesion.

No surprise here, I guess, about which way we went. The probability of immediate damage from welding and hypothetical (and, I think, remotely likely) failure of a J-B Weld application tipped the decision in favor of J-B Weld. Since the timing chain cover was out and easily cleaned, I went at it with all sorts of cleaners. I roughed up the area to be covered with coarse sandpaper and then scored the surface with a sharp probe tip. A final cleanup of residues and oil was all it took before I set up a dam made of masking tape. Then it was a matter of putting the J-B Weld into place. Twenty-four hours later, I brought the epoxy bumps down flush with the cover, and it was done.

By now, we have removed the cylinder head twice in search of coolant leaks. The oil pan was dropped once. The timing chain cover came off once. I sure hope this is the final chapter on this issue. It is interesting (at least to me) to reflect on the process of fixing up the old car. It is a mixture of physical grunt work, much cussing, posing hypotheses, scratching them off or confirming them with observation or test. This episode with coolant leakage was in fact as much an intellectual exercise as it was mechanical work on the car. The fact that it occurred shows the importance of documentation and keen observation, since had I just looked carefully at the differences in timing chain covers the issue would have been resolved the first time. Much oil and antifreeze would have been spared. And, more importantly, I’d be doing something more close to the finish line for this car.

On my birthday, by the way, I got a convertible top frame that David Boger located. It needs a little work, but I think the pieces I have at hand might do the trick of mending. I can hardly wait until I can put that on, toss in some seats, and drive the car around!

January 2009 – Setback and brakes

I have to apologize to the many good folks who have contacted me wondering where the restoration stands. It has indeed been a long time since I have updated the web site, though I have intended to do the work often. A mixture of other things to do and some technical difficulties (a new computer and lost digital camera, mainly) conspired to keep this year (!) of work on the car more or less secret. But things have indeed been progressing. It is likely (and a little weird) that this entry will be the only one in the sixth year of restoration.

Coolant leakage

It has been some time since the triumphant first start back in September 2008, but the time was not without events or work on the car. It turned out that somehow coolant leaked into the oil, a fact that I discovered to my horror when the oil cooler circuit broke and I saw oil squirt out with the color of well-creamed coffee. It looked luscious and rich, and it meant nothing but trouble. The first thing that I did — after cleaning up the considerable mess — was remove the oil cooler. I suspect that the lines were insufficient for the pressure, and they were going to cause trouble anyway.

But the cooler setup was not the cause of the leak inside, and so the weeks and months that followed meant considerable speculation and telephone calling. I was skeptical that the issue was a head gasket — the thing was brand new, after all — but the fact was that there had been occasion enough for something catastophic inside. The mistaken wiring caused a good deal of explosion (when the effect wasn’t just straightforward flamethrowing). And there probably was high oil pressure due to the craptastic oil cooler. So, I took off the head after many weeks of trying to avoid the job. The gasket was in fine shape, and I replaced it nonetheless. So much for premature head gasket failure.

How about the truth of the head and the block’s deck? The head was newly reconditioned, but the block was not. Both looked fine when tested with a straightedge.

Then I remembered, very vaguely, seeing a silicone worm around the timing chain cover. A search of my photographs came up with nothing, an obvious failure of documentation at the tear-down.

So, the water pump came off, and I probed at the interface of the timing chain cover and the block. I did find a point where the probe was “sticky” — as though it was poking into a very small hole. This hole pretty much corresponded with my memory of the worm. The fault must be in the timing chain cover, since I have a new block on which I fitted the original timing chain cover. I was of course presented with a situation of having to tear off the head yet again to remove the timing chain cover, or I could do what a previous owner had done. I chose to recreate the silicone worm. Next time the engine comes out I’ll be better about it.

I’ve not yet loaded up the car with fresh oil and new coolant. Who knows, I might be removing the head again anyway.

Front brake calipers and master cylinders

Assuming that the engine goes, I have to worry how to stop the rolling car. My initial plan was to recondition the original Dunlop master cylinders and front caliper setup (the original rear calipers are in place already). I had already cleaned up the originals, and I’d even plated the front calipers in anticipation of having the cylinders redone and new pistons installed. I was intrigued by the Volvo caliper upgrade, even though it went a bit against my desire to keep things pretty standard. The more I looked at it, though, the more it made sense to use the Volvo system. There is plenty of evidence that the upgrade works, there are some rather obvious advantages to it, and there is plenty of instruction on line.

“Sin boldly,” Martin Luther said, assuming that sin was inevitable anyway. So I sinned against the spirit of authenticity and adopted the Volvo brake calipers. I’ve done it boldly by painting the transgressions yellow. These calipers won’t hide, I’m afraid. But I do think they’ll stop better than the originals. The surface area of the pads and the pressure from the dual pistons will surely outmeasure the originals. It isn’t really all that bad, either, since these Volvo brakes were made by Girling, and Girlings were originally installed on many of our old E-types (just not these Girlings.)

Why yellow? Well, I’d seen a Porsche with yellow calipers and I liked it, and I do think the color makes no apologies for my “error.” I might be accused of being unrepentant!

I got “loaded” calipers — pads, retaining pins, everything — and they cost about $120 (USD). There is a bit of fuddling that is required and you have to make a decision about whether to “split” the caliper halves or not. I chose to split them and use the drill-between-the-pistons approach to unify the brake fluid input. There was no forcing required, and the caliper halves came apart quite easily. I don’t really understand the worry that some people have about splitting the calipers. As David Kerr puts it in his step-by-step instructions: “I think a lot written about brakes is folklore, people will not touch brakes simply because they are afraid of the consequences. The faces of the caliper are machined flat, as long as the matched pair are reunited, there really shouldn’t be a problem.”

There isn’t much reason to present yet another step-by-step instruction set for the Volvo caliper conversion, since this road has been well travelled before. See the following:

  • “XKE Brake Upgrade using Volvo Calipers” by Brian Ternamian [PDF] uses a “T” to distribute brake fluid to the two fluid inputs. No splitting of the calipers is necessary.
  • “XKE Brake Upgrade using Volvo Calipers and the Drilled Split-caliper Single-line Method” by David Kerr [PDF] uses the method specified in the title.
  • Modifying Volvo Brake Calipers” by an anonymous Nova Scotian presents another method, though I worried a little about narrowing the pad retaining pins.

In short, there is plenty to read and learn before even ordering a part.

The Dunlop master cylinders were pretty rough when we pulled them off the car. One had already been resleeved and the sleeves were in pretty decent shape, but they were rusted and ugly. The rubber parts needed a refresh, of course. Over the years, I’ve read about troubles with these cylinders leaking, with the rubber rebuild parts being suspect of either premature deterioration or being ill fitting to begin with. In short, I wasn’t particularly wild about putting the old ones on even after a careful rebuild. I moved from an initial plan of rebuilding on my own to sending them out for a complete and professional redo. So, I did what everybody does. I googled.

There wasn’t a straight swap for the Dunlop master cylinders, but I ran into some decent specification for a Wilwood master cylinder that could be “drop-in” along the lines of the Volvo calipers. The lines wouldn’t work without some fiddling. The mount into the pedal box required a minor swipe or two of a grinding wheel to open up the hole to accept the mouth of the cylinder. The “plunger” that attaches to the pedal assembly also required a fair amount of work — basically, the plunger for the adjustable fork had to be tapped further, and the other plunger from the original Dunlop needed to be used on the other master. This meant removing the circlip and making the swap. I bought two of the Wilwood 3/4 inch bore “compact remote” aluminum master cylinders (P/N 260-6089) from JEGS (

The Wilwoods are aluminum, so they’re lighter than the Dunlops and a bit stouter. The orientations of the inlet and outlet are also different. Where the Dunlop has the inlet coming straight out the back, the Wilwood orients the inlet vertically. The outlet for the Wilwood is shifted to point 45° forward. The threading is the same, however, so you can reuse fittings. Also, the Dunlop master cylinders orient the outlet vertically once they’re installed in the pedal box; the Wilwoods point the inlet and outlet 45° towards the center of the car. It’s worth noting that the Wilwood master cylinders are very similar to the standard-issue Girling clutch master cylinder, with the exception that the Girling is a bit shorter.

This tilt of the inlet and outlet makes for some interesting line-bending maneuvers. I decided to send the brake lines low — obviously, the line heading aft had to go low in any case, but the line heading forward could have been kept above the master cylinders. Sending it below, I think, allows more flexibility and provides some measure of vibration absorption. This meant that all the lines — inlets and outlets — had a bit of crowding beneath the master cylinders. Accommodating the inlet lines from the brake fluid reservoirs turned the lines into a well tied knot, it seemed at times. But they finally fell into place.

So, with the master cylinders in place and the Volvo plan, what’s left? Due to another unfortunate event, my air compressor needed fixing, and so the installation of the the left-side caliper was stopped. I still have to run the lines for the clutch hydraulics, too. But when those are done, the thing can run down a back road, even though it’ll be loud without an exhaust system. I told Neil Purves that they plan was to get the old car moving before the summer ended. It will run up the gravel road behind my place up to “Froggy Hollow” and back.

I just need to cordon off the time to get the last bits in place.

Buck for rear windshield

In the earlier part of the year, I finished making a buck for making a Plexiglas rear windshield for my hardtop. I haven’t tried creating a windshield yet, but Ray Livingston suggested that I use an infrared heater and heat slowly. My impatience with the process has made my initial experiments little bubbly disasters. I suppose I’ll give it a go this fall. I just have to make a wooden support for my heater. That’s about as fancy as I’ll get with the windshield. If this doesn’t work, I’m off to the store to buy one. Enough fiddling.

I’ll try to be better about updating, though I know I’ve said that before. Thanks to all of you for your emails over the past several months.

September 2008 – Engine runs!

The old beast runs!

This one is for Aaron, who is now off on his own in Mooresville. And this is the last web entry for the fifth year of restoration; the next entry will start the sixth year! Maybe the sixth year will be the year of driving the old beast.

If a picture is worth a thousand, words, I thought, why not try a video? Well, I’m sure it’d be worth another 10,000 words or so, but the camera we have is very, very old. Fifteen-second

videos is about all it can handle, and that doesn’t quite cut it. However, take three 15-second videos, and maybe you’ve got a shot at, say, the equivalent of 2,500 words. So that’s what we’ve tried here. A before the start video, a start video, and an (inadvertent) after-the-start “Woo-Hoo!” video. The actual start video, as you might note by the absence of ear protection, doesn’t quite fit the sequence. It’s actually the second start, not the first — a historic recreation, as it were.

But this was really, really fun! More fun than we’ve had with the car in ages and ages. More fun than … even spraying color (as we did almost exactly four years ago)!

There were some extraordinary requirements for this start. First, the starter button (charming thing), still won’t play well with the solenoid. I believe this is a matter that has more to do with the starter solenoid setup than the starter button. I checked out the button and all is well. The wiring diagram for the solenoid seems straight-forward enough, but I have to wonder about the “downstream” things like the coil and the mysterious distributor. It could be that the poor solenoid is expecting some downstream happenings that, well, just aren’t. The result of this confusion was that I couldn’t just press the starter button to have the engine come to life. I had to hotwire it. A simple matter of taking the starter wire and bridging the solenoid leads manually.

It works just great, and should be a lesson in how easy it is to steal a car like this. Thirty-seconds under the hood and you’re driving it.

There are also some very loose ends — quite literally — that have to do with the wiring. As the good XJ6 folks on Jag-Lovers told me, I needed to fit an amplifier to the distributor in order to get spark. I figured that it was best to make sure the system worked before making the necessary fittings for the amplifier, and so I have temporary wiring in place for the amplifier. On an XJ6 from the late 1970s and 1980s, the amplifier was grounded to the body, and I’ll need to make sure that the grounding is suitable for this piece. The wiring from the distributor to the amplifier is fairly short, probably about 10 to 15 centimeters, so the fitting needs to be in close proximity to the distributor. The leads that run to the coil are not that long either. I haven’t done it yet, but I am going to fashion a metal bracket that will hang on the left subframe forward, near the picture frame junction. The bracket will be partially obscured and hang on the engine side of the frame. It won’t be up to concourse standard, but the engine will work (and reliably, I hope).

The video of the actual start makes it appear that it was just a matter of doing the hotwiring, and after things were set that was the case. I was amazed at how quickly the old engine came to life. (The cylinder head redo probably had some influence on that, of course.) Getting to that point was a bit painstaking, since Aaron and I wired the distributor badly. We consulted the shop manual that showed the old 22D distributor in its illustration, and we took the illustration a bit too literally. We identified the wrong connection on the AB14 cap as belonging to cylinder number 6 — the frontmost one. The confusion had to do with the different orientation of the vacuum advance on the 22D and AB14 setups.

The result was that our wiring was off by one. And the result when I tried to fire thing up was a bit disconcerting. Instead of a popping, exploding coming-to-life, the engine became a several hundred pound flamethrower. Flames poured out of the exhaust manifolds, sometimes mustering a bit of an explosion. But, alas, no joy. I managed to singe the hair off my right arm in my starting attempts.

In order to set things to rights, I focused first on the carburetors, since the thing seemed to me to be set extraordinarily too rich. They seemed OK to me, though I know they’ll need tuning. Manipulation of the distributor timing just didn’t work. I then did things the right way, and turned the engine to 12° to 14° before Top Dead Center (TDC) markings on the crankshaft dampner. That orientation should point the distributor rotor toward the setting for cylinder six. And when I looked, the error was immediately apparent. We had the wires offset by one plug. Fixing that was as easy as moving wires over.

With the wires in the right place, the engine immediately came to life. Totally amazing. Wonderful to witness.

The thing is loud without an exhaust system coming off the manifolds. I can hardly wait to fit that, so the characteristic Sir William’s Six Symphony can ring around Rougemont. But the exhaust system will need to wait for a bit. I’d first like to set the things straight that are dangling on wires. There are also a couple of coolant leaks that need attention.

I wish that Aaron had been able to be on hand for the initial start, but he was able to hear the engine via a telephone connection. He’s moved to Mooresville (north of Charlotte) to attend the NASCAR Technical Institute. He said he could tune the carbs, and I believe he could, especially after he has that training behind him.

More on the ignition system

Peter Crespin mentioned on the Jag-Lovers XJ forum that he likes the AB14 distributor, and now that I’ve looked at it and read a little about the physics behind it, I think it makes sense, too. There really isn’t much to go bad — at least as far as moving parts are concerned. Aside from the parts that spin (and do so deep within the engine), nothing touches enough to do anything counting as friction. I’ve reused the picture from the previous web page to illustrate this. The star-shaped round thing spins, of course, but it doesn’t physically touch anything to its sides. The influence is little more than a purturbation of, well, mysterious tiny things or, as the physicists would have it (at some times and other times, not), waves. I don’t know, as I suppose it matters which way you’re looking at the thing … so Professor Heisenberg. The main thing is it causes spark. (If you’re interested, head to the prevous web page and click on the links associated with “reluctor” and “Hall effect.” Probably read the Hall effect article first, and don’t sweat the mathematics.)

Spark was a bit elusive, simply because I hadn’t a clue about what I was dealing with, except that the innards of this distributor didn’t look very familiar. I needed another part to complete the setup — an “amplifier” that sits between the distributor and the coil, with the two leads from the distributor heading into the amplifier and two wires out heading to the coil’s positive and negative posts. David Boger had the piece, and he shipped it to me pronto.

Sure enough, the system is the AB14. The Lucas label proclaimed it.

I hooked the amplifier up by just plugging it in, and I hoped for spark. But, nope, there was no joy, not even a little cold burst of electricity. A little study of the amplifier itself was instructive, though. The mounts on the back are quite purposeful; they’re little triangular outcroppings that convey solidity and contact. So I figured that the housing and the little triangular mounting parts were intended to serve as grounding points as well. A quick grounding wire attachment was all it took. I had ground and spark.

This was one time when I think reading the instructions would have been nice, but I got by with good counsel from the folks at the forum and a little critical thinking. I have gathered enough little bits of evidence to lead me to believe that the engine was a late 1979 year product, very likely an engine that would also have a home in a 1980 model year car. I recall that the donor car was a model 1979, but the build date might have been late. It might have sported some features that would be common in the following model year. Peter Crespin wondered out loud whether the setup I have was an early AB14, and I know when I got the replacement distributor cap, the NAPA fellow told me that it was “actually” a 1980 model cap. I suppose I could investigate with a little bit of work.

But, heritage questions of a replacement engine are much less important than the fact that the thing turns, works, and is loud without an exhaust system!

July 2008 – Miscellaneous since February

What we’ve done since February (!) 2008

This one is for Dan.

Just under a year ago, I said I was looking for a double-groove crankshaft pulley. I published a humorous email exchange at the time, and I had resolved to get a new pulley from Classic Jaguar. Funny how time flies — I had no idea it’s been a year since that time until I fished around on my website for that link. People ask me how the car is coming, and I think how leisurely the pace has been, punctuated by flurries of great activity. I have taken Mike Moore’s advice, given a few years ago on the Jag-Lover’s forum, to do something every day, even if it only amounts to cleaning tools. Sometimes, I’ll have to admit, I have been content to gaze upon the car — as if looking constituted work.

At any rate, I did get my pulley from Classic Jaguar, but I got a used part — my preference actually. And Dan Mooney was gracious, since I didn’t need the accessory pulley and bolts that he offered on his used parts listings. Dan has always been gracious and supportive through the course of this restoration, and I have used the Classic Jaguar website a lot over the years to watch the pros at work. I like to think I’ve been able to take cues, at least, from what happens in the CJ workshops, but I don’t think my toolsets quite match. Neither does my talent, alas.

I went ahead a few weeks later to pick up a used low brake fluid level switch from CJ’s used parts collection. One of the two that came with the car broken too badly to repair; the other seems workable until I get around to replacing it or can figure out how to mend it. That is a challenge since the things were put together in a way that defies taking apart, and I ended up breaking both of them utterly when I was struggling to get the aluminum canister off. See the used replacement’s innards in the picture below.

Aaron has been involved with this restoration over all of the years, and he leaves to NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina, at the end of August. He told me that he wanted to get the engine running before he left, but it looks as though that’s probably not going to happen. We have gotten the major pieces in place, and in fact we have turned the engine over for a period to see the oil pressure pop up. (It went to 60 pounds in very little time, I’m happy to report.) Getting the ignition system straight has been a little bit of a challenge, mainly because I didn’t take the time to actually look at the distributor insides. I was expecting to hook the thing up like the original 3.8 liter engine, but the new engine has an electronic ignition, so the setup is significantly different at least at the distributor. (See the pictures below for comparisons of the original distributor and the newer one.)

The fuel pump is in place, but I haven’t connected the run of wire from the “rear” harness to the cockpit harness yet. (Remember, I modularized the wiring harnesses a bit more than they already were.) The fuel tank filler hose is in place, too. I had to buy one of those little pieces of rubber from a Jaguar vendor, because I couldn’t find a hose with the right inner dimension. Not even McMaster-Carr had something suitable. But I did some searching after I got the hose and could use the printed numbers on the rubber. Goodyear offers “Fuel Fill Hose SAE 30R6” in various inner dimensions. I believe an inner dimension of 2 1/4 inches would do the trick.

Various pictures collected over the months

The fuel level sensor. Essentially, it’s a rheostat. (Er, maybe a potentiometer, but I think not. The thing has two, not three, leads.) The whole thing is quite delicate, so if you go the route of cleaning it, be very careful. The brass float that dangles into the fuel drives the blade. There are two “switches” so to speak — one that signals the variable level (the rheostat) and the other that is on-off that signals low fuel. The lid that’s removed in this photograph plays a role in completing the circuits, too. When I opened this little box up, it was quite encrusted. Cleaned up pretty well, though.

Looking down the XJ6 exhaust manifolds. I used the XJ6 manifolds that came with the engine I got from David Boger. Rather than heading straight down, the lower pipe slants backwards just slightly, and the manifold include a bolt-like bung hole plug. That plug makes it much too tight a fit against the left subframe, so I cut off the plug. The picture shows the front exhaust with plug and the rear exhaust with the plug cut off.I like the XJ6 manifolds for another reason: they include a heat shield setup that would seem to reflect heat downward. With all of the work on the paint, I really don’t want to have heat damage around the left louvres as I’ve heard some people have seen. Of course, the change in design means that the exhaust will have to be specially crafted, at least from the base of the manifolds to the front of the muffler section. I don’t think that will be too much of a challenge, though.

The engine compartment. Yes, please don’t pay attention to the mess. One of the thing I could do (but, apparently don’t) is take time to clean up the garage. It is shared, for the time being, with son Aaron, who also leaves his junk around. Working on my car includes quite frequently asking Aaron where tools are. But, aside from that, the engine compartment is coming together nicely, creating a sight that offsets some of the garbage in the background. Notably absent are the brake and clutch hydraulic fluid reservoirs and much else on that side of the engine. Since the time this photograph was taken (early July 2008), there has been some additional progress. A battery has been fitted, the heater fan assembly has been more firmly put in place, and a new starter solenoid (which still hasn’t worked right) is set up.You can see the oil cooler setup quite plainly, of course.

The rusty brake rotors need calipers fitted — and to be used — to get them clear of the red iron oxide. That, too, will come.

Lucas 22D distributor with condenser and points. This is the inside of the distributor that came with the 3.8 liter engine. It’s a Lucas 22D (note the marks) and it’s what I’m familiar with — mechanical and old fashioned with points and a condenser. I suppose I could use this one, as Glen Jarboe has on his 4.2 after he went through his engine rebuild. I’ll put this one aside, though, in favor of the distributor that came with the 4.2 replacement engine (below). If that one needs replacement, I might go with a Pertronix.

Lucas AB14 distributor with sensor. This distributor came with the engine I got from David Boger. People on the Jag-Lovers XJ6 forum seemed to think that this distributor is the Lucas AB14. It’s got a “CEI” (Something Electronic Ignition, probably) that has a sensor instead of the more mechanical approach that I’m familiar with. Peter Crespin, who knows a lot more than I do about these things, explained that the star-shaped center portion is a “normal six-point reluctor for the Hall effect pick-up coil at the side of the base plate.” This setup requires an amplifier, and David will be sending one to me. If the old electronic parts don’t pan out, I could install the mechanical 22D or put in a new Pertronix. My thanks go to Frank Anderson, Al McLean, Peter Crespin, David Boger and the Jag Lovers’ XJ6 forum.

A handy mechanical oil pressure gauge under the bonnet. I’m not terribly impressed with the track record of the electronic oil pressure gauge. People seem to think that they’re maybe accurate to within 25% (and I believe that might be half in jest). With the two oil pressure sensor possibilities on the 4.2 liter engine I got, I went ahead and installed a mechanical gauge next to the windshield washer bottle and above the fuel filter bowl. The copper tubing goes to where the on/off pressure sensor used to be. I believe that the XJ6 had an oil pressure sensor there that was attached to an engine cutoff. The electronic sensor for the gauge was broken on this engine, and so I might attach the sensor from the 3.8 liter engine. It’s old, but it might work.Then, again, I might just stick a non-standard mechanical gauge in the cockpit. Lucas ones are available, I believe, though they display a different range of oil pressure than the electronic gauges do. Having an oil pressure gauge in the engine area is really nice. I’m considering installing a tachometer nearby, too. I believe they come in the two-inch form factor

Insides of the brake fluid level switch. Both of my brake fluid level switches ended up being less than desirable. Both of them cracked when I tried to remove the aluminum canister that protects the cork float. One of them is more-or-less intact and still sits atop a fluid bottle, waiting until I replace it. The other broke into small pieces, and so I replaced it with a used part from Classic Jaguar. The replacement was really nice, and when I removed the aluminum canister, the top part came off. I took advantage of the inadvertent disassembly to clean and photograph it.The thing is dead simple. Simple enough that you’d think replacements would be cheaper. I just wish there was a way to replace the top cover and the canister without having to replace the whole part. The inset photo shows where the two contacts are hit by the metal disk that’s attached to the rod and float. One thing that might help others trying to replace a besotted cork: There is a hole near the top of the canister that is slightly pressed into the plastic of the assembly. If you take a knife and remove part of the aluminum that’s pressed into the hole, you might find removing the canister easier. It worked for me.

February 2008 – Alternator bracket

Alternator bracket and alternator installation

This one is for Glen.

The XJ6 engine I got of course didn’t have the exact same places to mount the alternator and other engine-driven parts (like an air conditioning compressor). This meant that I was pretty stuck when it came to mounting the alternator, since the original 3.8 liter engine had a very different mount for its generator, and even the mounting holes on the 3.8 differed from those on the XJ6 4.2 liter engine. I had to get a later mounting bracket and fit an alternator.

I could buy a mounting bracket, and indeed I searched around for one. The only one I could find came with extras for hanging an air conditioning compressor. I wasn’t really interested in paying the premium for a new part (which may or may not be quality). So, it was time to fabricate.

I knew that Glen Jarboe was putting his 1969 4.2 liter E-type restoration to rights in Texas, and I suspected he might even have his alternator bracket accessible. He and I had exchanged emails on a couple of occasions, most recently to discuss the way that the E-type oil dipstick fit. So, I decided to ask him a few questions about the bracket.

Glen’s Real Bracket. This photo was taken by Glen Jarboe to help me out with the fabricating project. (He graciously let me use it!)

After a couple of emails, I had a scanned template in hand and good pictures of what the 4.2 liter E-type alternator bracket looked like. (Two of Glen’s emailed photos appear here.) He scrupulously described the original bracket in his car this way: “The bracket is constructed of three pieces … a front plate that attaches to the water pump and timing housing. A large plate that is bent at a 90 degree angle to form a large flat base and a vertical face that attaches to the block. A strengthener plate, oriented vertically, 3 3/8″ back from the front plate and welded to the base plate. This should correspond the distance between the alternator mounting arms.”

Glen’s Real Bracket. A second look from a different perspective. Glen’s help with this fabrication was essential, and I am grateful to him.

Of course, I didn’t have a means of bending the plate very easily, so I’d piece it, just as Glen also suggested. I could get the fabricated bracket pretty close to the original, but whatever deviation from the original wouldn’t be devastating. This was a job that could do well enough if it was executed close enough. The placement of the holes was the least forgiving of the entire fabrication job.

I used metal from an unused XJ6 bracket — just cut it up to get the flat pieces. I had the front part of another XJ6 bracket (one that I believe was originally used for the XJ6 alternator, as a matter of fact), and that one I pressed into service as well. The metal sometimes needed a little filling or extension here and there, but overall did the job. The vertical “strengthening plate” was made of metal I salvaged from a cast off angle iron. (I keep most cast-off metal, since it seems to come in handy sometimes, though it’s easy to have the shop descend into even greater messiness.)

The actual fabrication was pretty straightforward. I spent more time arranging to get time to do the job than actually to do it. Aaron did the best welding. I managed to blob welds pretty nicely, but they won’t move, I can tell you. The pieces of metal I cut generously, meaning that I eventually had to grind out a fair amount of metal to get it to looking more like Glen’s original. One thing I did not do was worry about the threaded fitting at the front plate of Glen’s bracket. I used a nut instead, and I didn’t weld it to the bracket.

The actual alternator instructions come from Ray Livingston, who documented his installation of a Hitachi alternator for E-type Lovers ( His PDF is available through that website. I haven’t gone through the entire process of altering the Lucas regulator yet, but Ray’s instructions were pretty much on target. I got my alternator online, so I wasn’t able to double-check the fit of the original fan and pulley, but they were exact fits in any case. The PDF explains the alterations with care. Now, Ray was interested in upfitting a 3.8 to an alternator set up, so his mounting bracket was a special one he got from XKS Unlimited. It used the 3.8 liter generator mountiing holes to fit the bracket, and those holes were utterly lacking on my “new” 4.2 liter engine block. The choice of a new Hitachi alternator worked nicely, though — at least as far as fit goes.

I’ll do the electrical alterations at a later date.

Other stuff

I have been collecting parts with a focus on getting the engine running this spring. Since Arlene reported today that the daffodils are beginning to come up, I’d better get going.

Facet fuel pump 40105. Just a little thing, this pump. The entire thing fits into the palm of my hand, and it will have plenty of room to go into the lower trunk compartment without getting in the way of the spare tire. I need to get some fittings for the input and output.

I decided to go with an external fuel pump. I have two of the originals, one hopelessly corroded and the other a bit gunked up. These are submerged pumps, and for some reason I can’t get myself used to the idea of putting a forty-some year-old Lucas fuel pump into a tank of gasoline. So, I took the pump off the mounting plate, and redid the fuel intake arrangement. I’m going to use a Facet pump that I got from Aircraft Spruce and Specialty Supply ( The Facet pump is model number 40105.

Of course, there are new submersible fuel pumps available, but the size and simplicity of the Facet pump was quite appealing to me. Yes, the whole pump fits into the palm of my hand, as shown in the picture, and it delivers about the right pressure, so I shouldn’t need to install a pressure regulator upstream from the pump. I’ve seen discussions of this pump in various car forums, and it seems to get good reviews. For me, the size is a real benefit. It will easily fit in the lower trunk/boot compartment, though I’ve not yet mounted it. Besides that, it will easily fit into a tool box, and it wasn’t expensive, so having a spare on hand makes sense. I think I spent maybe around $40 USD on it.

I also set up an oil cooler, since the oil filter mount on the XJ6 engine I used needed some rethinking of circulation to the sump in any case. I don’t have any pictures, but I will get some and post them sometime. I do wonder about the airflow restriction that might come about by having a small and narrow oil cooler radiator in front of the engine cooling radiator. It could be that the additional cooling of the oil will be offset by lesser cooling of the block, but I think it’ll be all right. Something to watch, I guess, and if it’s not working out, I’ll simply remove the oil cooler.

From an XJ6 mount to an E-type mount, step-by-step

This is some bracket from the XJ6 engine I used. It may (probably not) actually be for the alternator on the XJ6, but it’s used at a much lower mounting point — the one used for engine mounts on the E-type. This piece provided most of the raw metal for my alternator bracket.

Glen Jarboe was working on his 4.2 liter engine at the time, and he had an original mounting bracket for the 4.2 liter engine. With a quick email exchange, he provided me an outline of the piece, templated from his part. A couple of pictures gave me a pretty good grasp of what the finished product would look like. He scanned his template with some measurements. He sent the scan as an email attachment. Hooray for the Internet!

I did have a piece of another XJ6 bracket that mostly conformed with the front flat that I needed. I traced Glen’s template of the piece, and then cut the outline as best I could. The picture shows the partially cut piece. The missing metal and the misplaced hole required some deft welding.

The template an the metal outline is complete. This piece is virtually finished. All I had to do was drill the hole for the bolt that attaches the part to the front of the engine. My bracket did not have the large hole of the original piece (see the large black circle on the template), because my plan didn’t require using that kind of hardware or adjustment plan.

Tacked together, the bracket is mostly in shape. The front piece is tacked on very loosely in this picture. I attached the front piece to the from the other engine (two bolts that go through the water pump housing), and then I clamped the angled piece into place after sliding it against the side of the engine where it would attach. After checking the tack welds against the place where the piece would go, I let Aaron do the final welds. (I was good with blobs of metal, but he’s got MIG welding down better than I do.)

I loosely set the rear part of the bracket after setting the alternator onto the mount. It turned out that I should have put this piece forward about a quarter- or half- inch forward (10-15 mm), so that I would have more forward adjustment possibility. Bolt spacers are easy to use, but you need to have some room to play with. You can also see the holes for the bolts that attach the bracket to the side of the engine block. I located these holes by covering the bracket with masking tape and then circling the bolt holes with lipstick. Then I set the bracket in the right place, removed it, and then put the holes where the lipstick markings indicated. The lipstick marked the “kiss” of the engine block against the masking tape. Romantic, I guess. Lipstick is a useful tool in my shop!

The Duralast rebuilt alternator for a 1980 Nissan/Datsum 720 2-wheel-drive pickup. It cost about $55 USD at Auto Parts Warehouse ( There are lots of choices for this alternator. I chose to use the web, because it was easier.

The Hitachi alternator comes with a fan and pulley that won’t work (they’re on the left). I took the pulley and fan off the original generator. The new alternator accepts the fan and the pulley exactly, though there is some fettling required. I had a devil of a time getting the pulley and fan off the alternator. I had to use my air impact wrench to remove the nut, which probably had some sort of LocTite on it.

Between the alternator body and the fan sits a spacer. This is about twice as thick as it needs to be for the Jaguar fan, so I cut it in half. Adjustments in the line-up of the pulley can be done by shifting the alternator on the bracket either fore or aft. I found that the place I put the rear part of the bracket holder was a bit too far to the rear. I didn’t have much room to adjust the alternator forward.

There it is! The curved alternator adjustment bracket was a regular old off-the-shelf bracket from AutoZone, and it was designed (I think) for GM engines. I cut off just a little more than half of the length of the piece, and drilled a hole. It’s chrome plated — I’d prefer regular old Jaguar drippy black, but this will do. It’s worth noting that the Hitachi alternator uses metric threads. The adjustment bracket used a 8.8 metric bolt (though I have to admit I don’t know what the 8.8 stamp on the bolt head meant).