Category Archives: Taking apart

May 2003 – Bonnet, part 5, etc.

Bonnet disassembly (again!) (24 – 26 May 2003)

I completed the body filling on the front section of the bonnet, and so it was time to take the various pieces apart once again. You might recall that we inserted thin cardboard strips between the sections before bondoing (more details here near the bottom of the page). Now that we needed to take it all apart again, it was just a matter of removing the hardware and tapping the pieces with a rubber mallet. The two wings came off with a little tiny tap, and the lower section dropped from the center section without so much as a wiggle or twist. The parts look good. (The pictures to the right are small because the originals were very fuzzy. Making them smaller at least shows the gross results a little more clearly. Next time, I’ll look at the picture on the camera before continuing!)

Once the various sections were apart, we could move them around more easily, making it easier to smooth the parts that were harder to access, such as the bottom of the lower bonnet section and the inside parts of the bonnet mouth.

One thing we ran into that sapped several hours was bad behavior of a “sandable” primer made by Rustoleum. We applied some sandable primer over well cured “regular” primer (also a Rustoleum product), and the sandable primer formed cracks before our eyes as it dried. We were dumb enough to try twice, thinking we hadn’t prepped the primer surface, but the same cracking occurred. Then we gave up, and the bad Rustoleum primer went on the shelf. I’m thinking it would work fine on clean metal, but over primer it will not do.

We wanted to use the sandable primer to take out some of the irregularities still hiding on the nose of the bonnet. We’ll do the best we can without it at this point, and pay special attention to the area when we use the “Tie-Coat” primer over the POR-15. It, too, is sandable.

We focused effort on the bonnet’s center section and the lower section. We were able to get the front of the center section in good shape and prepared for POR-15. The “mouth” section of the bonnet still requires a bit more work, especially since the left and right sides of the center section don’t seem quite symmetrical. One thing about working on the mouth with disassembled pieces: it is easier to get at areas and to compare the two sides of a part from different angles. That ability alone has speeded the process.

The plan now is to complete the little metal work (mainly grinding) that is left on a few of the tabs of the bonnet, reassemble the pieces using cardboard along the top seam between the two wings and the center section, and then smooth that seam as we did the others in front. The next time we disassemble should be the last (except, of course, for some adjustment as will probably be required). After this “cardboard” treatment, the bonnet will be ready for final smoothing and application of POR-15. Then reassembly with adhesives and all the parts!

A little chrome buffing (17 – 18 May 2003)

Since it was raining, a little inside work was in order. I took out the buffer and grabbed the left front bumper. The chrome was obscured by lots of dirt and what may have been oxidized chrome. But after some quick buffing with cleaning grits the old luster came out. The plating looks pretty good from a few feet, but at close range you can see how thin the plating is in some areas. Although the chrome isn’t blistered or grossly pitted, there are very small, almost pore-like, holes in the plate. These are visible only up close.

The bumpers are good enough that replating them would be a waste of money, and I’m hoping that a high-gloss clear coat will obscure the small imperfections. Even without the coating, the bumpers wil be fine from a few feet distant, and that’s good enough. The clear coat is another POR-15 product. I’ll be applying it to all polished metal areas of the car.

Rainy eyeball repairs

The weekend was rainy, on and off, so the bonnet was frequently hidden beneath plastic sheeting to protect the bare metal from the elements. I did do some repair to the right headlight area of the bonnet, though. In our enthusiasm to remove the dents, we were a bit overzealous, and we banged out a “dent” that was actually supposed to be there. On the side of the headlight hole that is toward the center of the bonnet, there is a crease that extends from the back of the bonnet to a point nearly two-thirds of the way down the headlight hole toward the front of the car. We flattened a good portion of that crease, and we discovered the asymmetry by running our hands on each side of the bonnet.

Fortunately, the left headlight area is in very good shape, untouched by collision damage. It provided the details of the correct shape, and a few pictures on the web really helped (notably some of the closeups in the “workshop” area of Classic Jaguar’s site).

That small repair pretty much characterizes what lies ahead for us on the bonnet. It’s a matter of getting the details as right as we can. It is this kind of work that makes the body repair so slow and tedious, but this kind of work is also something that can’t be hurried along or ignored. The details are exceptionally visible.

So, a weekend means repair of a little part of a headlight. Scary to think how many hours might go by working on this important part of the car!

March 2003 – Right door cleaned and fitted, right front suspension disassembled

Right door cleaned and fitted

Removing the guts of the right door was considerably easier than doing the left door, since I had already been through the process once. In a nutshell, this is the process: 1. Remove the window crank and the door latch handle by pushing the escutcheon away from the handle and pushing the lock pin through the hole. Remove the door panel 2. Remove the lower door hole access plates by drilling out the pop rivets that hold them in place. Scrape off the rubbery weather seal with a knife. 3. Remove the hardware attaching the chrome window rails from the top section of the door and from the two tabs inside the panel assembly at the bottom of the door. 4. Slide the window rails out through the top of the door carefully. 5. Remove the bolts and screws that affix the latch mechanism and the window crank mechanism to the door panel assembly. 6. Carefully pull the window glass through the top of the door and, after the glass is completely free, remove the window crank mechanism. You will have to adjust the crank mechanism to pull the glass free without binding the mechanism in the door panel assembly. 7. Remove the bolts that hold the exterior door latch handle. This is done inside the door panel. Then unclip the door latch mechanism from the inside of the latch handle. 8. Remove the handle from the outside of the door and then the latch assembly through the access holes in the door panel assembly. (You can remove the anti-drum material any time you can get a hold of it.)

By the way, the right door was in better shape than the left. There were no rust holes, and what rust there was stayed on the surface. It hung a little better than the left door, too. We did a little channel work on the left door, but the right door didn’t really need anything. I’ll probably get fussier, though, and mess with the fit a little bit.

Right front suspension partially disassembled

We removed the right front suspension intact a while ago, but it became time to disassemble it. I would like to have the wishbones, the fulcrum shafts, and other parts nickel plated, so we needed to completely take the thing apart. Also, many internal parts will need replacement, such as the brake cylinder rings and rubber parts and the wheel bearings. We were able to get much of the assembly apart, but I decided to bring the tough-to-disassemble parts into a local British automobile dealership and service shop. They had the tools and the experience with the items to take them apart completely, and I didn’t have to puzzle over it.

I have already the retrieved the disassembled parts from the shop (I’m writing this on 23 April), though I haven’t looked at the work yet. We have another suspension assembly to take off the front frame, and I’d like to get it into shape for plating. It’s still not clear to me how much nickel plating will actually cost. This is not super smooth chrome plating for a bumper but much rougher, and I’m hoping it won’t cost too horribly much.

March 2003 – Right upper wishbone removed, other smallish stuff

Right upper wishbone removed (02 – 03 March 2003)

Things have been getting too clean with the floors fitting and being sealed with POR-15. This weekend I turned to the front frame that we had removed long ago with the front suspension and steering mechanisms intact. The entire structure needs to be completely taken apart so that the steering, the suspension assemblies and the three-part frame itself can be thoroughly cleaned and, as the case may be, renewed.

I focused on the right suspension system. Actually much of the work consisted of spraying penetrating fluid on the nuts and bolts that needed to be removed or loosened. These nuts and bolts have been painted the body color, and as a matter of fact the shock absorber (the original Girling) and the upper wishbone itself were the body color of the car. That’s a very good indication that the car had been painted, since the original shocks were “Girling blue” and the upper wishbone was plated. I’m going to carefully remove the paint on both of these items to see what lies beneath the paint. To tell the truth, I have no idea what “Girling blue” really looks like. On all the photographs I’ve studied, I’ve never seen it. Depending on the shape of these shock absorbers, I might keep them and reinstall them. When I took ownership of the car, I did bounce it around a bit. The rear shocks were shot, but the front shocks seemed good still.

By the way, the English call shock absorbers “dampeners.” I was a little confused by the term when I was going through the shop manuals for guidance, and “dampeners” cause me to scratch my head a bit. But, of course, the name itself tells what the part does: dampen motion and “shock.”

I followed the shop manual instructions for removing the upper wishbone, since I have never done this kind of removal before. The instructions were quite good, but there was one problem with access to a bracket that holds the “fulcrum” of the wishbone onto the frame itself. The front bracket lies behind the shock absorber, and I found that I had to remove the upper shock absorber fastener in order to gain access to it. This fitting had three very stubborn bolts that took a great deal of penetrating fluid and many taps on the wrench to remove. I was careful not to be too free with my hammer, since replacing these pieces could be a real challenge. All the hardware is grade 8, however. And so, it is quite tough. The bolts themselves look untouched by the forty-some years they’ve sat. I’m guessing the a coating of paint may just have given them some extra life.

It would have been nice to remove the entire suspension assembly on the right, but some of the nuts and bolts are very much stuck. I figure I would treat them with penetrating fluid over the week and see if they will loosen up.

Smallish stuff

I am anxious to flip the car back to its normal state, since seeing the floors now has become tedious. I did some preparatory work to sealing the floors with POR-15, and this has required a bit of an adjustment in timeframe. I was hoping to get the entire floor coated with POR-15 this weekend, but the problem was fitting the rear floor stiffener. This piece covers an area of the floor that I definitely want to coat with POR-15, but that section becomes inaccessible once the stiffener is in place. As a result, I have to POR-15 the section before placing the stiffener. This takes planning — and time. Everything is now set, and I am planning on having the entire floor sealed by the end of the week.

The front end of the inner sill (the piece that is part of the front bulkhead) still needs to be fabricated. Today I found the template I used for the corresponding piece on the other side of the vehicle. With a simple flip, the template works for this side as well. I fitted the cardboard piece to the area to see what adjustments might need to be made. None needed. I can cut this piece and fit it sometime this week in the evening.

I’ve thought about calling one of these little chapters “The Car That Was Made Of Cardboard” — appropriate, since without cardboard from pop containers, the metalwork would have been much harder!

October 2002 – Right inner sill

Fixing the Right Inner Sill (19 – 21 October 2002)

I mentioned evil rust. Well, we found plenty in the inner sill on the right side of the vehicle.

Apparently, the right outer sill had been “repaired” by a previous owner, whom we shall call the HVAC Man (thanks, Mark O’Neill, for coining the name). Some of the cosmetic fixes consisted of attaching 26-gauge galvanized sheet metal (the kind used in heating and air conditioning ducts) with pop rivets and then bondo-ing over the lumps. This was done on the right outer sill, right over a rusted out (probably original) outer sill. That ancient outer sill had been ingloriously spray-painted a candy apple red, so it was probably a relief to cover it up.

Anyway, little, if any, attempt was made to arrest the development of rust inside the sill itself. The inner sill (which is the part of the sill visible from inside of the vehicle) was badly corroded along the bottom and especially so in the rear section. A picture shows it well:

To find where the corrosion stopped and where good metal began, we removed the rust with an angle grinder along the length of the inner sill. We found that sound metal was consistent about 1″ below the bottom of the reinforcement bend located along the sill, about halfway up. We marked a line at one inch below the bottom of the reinforcement bend, and cut the sill. Then we carefully cleaned the surface from the cut to the bottom of the bend. We would use this area to attach the newly fabricated lower part of the inner sill with spot welds (spaced about a centimeter apart) and lap welds both on the inside of the sill (as shown) and on the other side (facing the interior of the car). We fabricated the part from 18-gauge sheet metal — a little thicker than the 20-gauge that was originally used for the Jaguar’s monocoque body.

Here’s what we’ve ended up with thus far. It’s pretty much done, though we’ll do a little more grinding and perhaps some cleanup welding once we flip the car over to install the floors. Then we’ll have easier access to the sill. Also at that time, we’ll attach the front and rear sill “stiffeners.” I’ll probably fashion another stiffener to fit mid way between the front and back. Another stiffener won’t hurt. Of course, the front and rear sill terminating walls will be replaced.

November 2002 – Frame removed

Frame Removed (9 November 2002)

The front frame that holds the engine, the front suspension, and the bonnet was removed. Overall it was No Big Deal, though bolts on the left (driver’s) side were rusted tight and had to be drilled off. The heads of the bolts had fused, though the threads apparently are loose. I can move the cut-off bolts with my fingers now. I suspect that I won’t even need to worry too much about the assembly that attaches the frame to the “tub.” Although much of the hardware is in decent shape, I think I’ll be replacing all of the hardware when I reassemble the frame.

I took the frame off with the front suspension intact. I have to admit that I’m not thrilled with the prospect of dismantling the front suspension. But I did have to remove the frame in order to free up the body shell and make it easier to flip the entire body to fit the floor panels. The picture shows the front bulkhead half stripped. Over the course of the weekend, I managed to strip and sand most of the piece. I’m hoping that the weather holds so that I can prime the bulkhead and get some more POR-15 to lay over the primer as a sealant.

I had other things to do than work on the car, but the removal of the frame didn’t take very long.

Footwell Repair (10 November 2002)

I took on more rust repair. This time it was the left side footwell cover that makes up part of the front bulkhead. (This section appears on the right side of the bulkhead picture, since the picture is taken from the front toward the back. Thus, the directions get reversed. You always refer to the sides of the car as though you were in the car seat, looking forward.) The piece was bent on the bottom, and corrosion had significantly weakened the metal up a little less than an inch. The picture clearly shows the bend, and some rust is visible, though much of the rust is surface rust and not a concern.

The fix entailed cutting out the section of the footwell that was damaged, spot welding a panel behind the front side of the piece, and then attaching a new lower section of the footwell with spot welds and lap welds. This lower section has a tab that angles out from the front, and it is part of the way that the floors are attached. As we did with the left inner sill, we used 18-gauge steel to fashion the pieces. It’s not too tough to cut, but it is stiff and resists the bending. To make it easier to grab and bend, I made the tab about three-quarters of an inch big. Although the final product doesn’t need that big an angled tab, we can cut or grind off the excess after the floor panel is in place, too.

Perhaps I’m doing something wrong with spot welding, but I find that I often have a lot of grinding to do. And then sometimes I have little indentations or voids where the metal seems not to have stayed. I chalk it all up to the poor visibility. Put a welder’s mask on and see how much you can make out, even with blinding lights. But after the grinding and some touch-up welding the piece seemed pretty presentable. I used an angle grinder to do the smoothing, but of course there always are imperfections and ripples. A light coating of bondo smoothed out the surface.

It is perhaps a realization that creeps up on all car restorers: Bondo seems less and less despicable stuff. I suppose that’s healthy, so long as I don’t fall to the Dark Side, and start doing everything with bondo.

The footwell repair took the bulk of the day. Now I can see why this piece is bought and replaced rather than fixed. A replacement costs about $45 (US) or so, and I’ve seen them go on ebay for $25 (US). What’s my time worth? Well, at least this footwell is original, mostly.

It’s worth noting that the main rust damage on the front bulkhead was in the vicinity of the battery. As a matter of fact, I’ll have to build the battery compartment pretty much from scratch, since the HVAC Man did his trick with 26-gauge sheet metal and pop rivets on the area holding the battery. Also, we noticed that a diagonal slit was made along the left outside sill to insert more of the chintzy sheet metal — mainly on the front third of the outer sill. More pop rivets covered with bondo, too. What a treat! We were going to take off the left side outer sill, but we never got around to it. That can wait for another weekend. I do not believe the left sill will have as much corrosion uniformly along the bottom, though the front end of the sill has some damage.

November 2002 – Basic body repair, POR-15

Basic Body Repair, POR-15 (2 – 3 November 2002)

Although I’ve categorized this as happening over the period 2-3 November, it’s actually been a longer haul. But, it’s been a longer haul over very short periods. Doing bondo work isn’t exactly time consuming, though it is putsy. I probably worked in half-hour periods at various times over the past ten days or so on the body work. Derek also did some of this work. The most challenging (but only because it required a certain amount of planning) was the application of the POR-15 over the surface of the car. Of course, there was bondo on the body when we got the car, but we stripped the bondo off when we stripped the paint. That way, we could see the extent of the damage that was “repaired” by the bondo application. We still have areas that need metal work that were obscured by bondo applications — sometimes quite thick bondo applications!

What we’ve got is finally beginning to look like an E-Type. It’s worth noting that I’ve chosen to use the POR-15 as a rust-protective sealant and not as a primer. As a matter of fact I brushed it on, since spraying was just too much for the product as far as I was concerned. So, you do indeed see imperfections in the body work, though these will not be apparent at later stages. The irregularities are in fact very minor and will need little more than a good attentive block sanding after priming the surface. POR-15, for all of its virtues in protecting metals, is not a particularly wonderful primer surface (at least for those of us like me: roughly experienced car workers). It’ll need a bit of reworking. The POR-15 folks have developed a good primer called Tie-Coat. It takes out much of the work of applying topcoats over POR-15, and it seems a pretty good product. I’m planning on using it on the car to prepare for painting over the POR-15.

The right rear view:

The left rear view

A note on the POR-15: I used the “silver” color of the product, since it is designed for metals that may need reinforcement. The POR-15 people add metal to this version of the product, evidently. I do not believe that the Jaguar I have “needs additional strength” but I figured that some additional metal wouldn’t be that bad after all. The trouble with the “silver” product seems to be that it is harder to apply. It dries to a less than smooth surface, so you have a bit more work to do in smoothing everything out. In the case of this restoration, I wasn’t too worried about smoothness, since I have some work yet to do on the body, so reinforcement sounded good.

I also removed the radio antenna hole and repaired the areas immediately in front of the doors. Evidently, the doors lacked stop straps at some time (I can’t recall if these hinges came with straps, as a matter of fact), and they dented the body between the front of the doors and the rearmost section of the bonnet. I gather from what I’ve seen that this is a fairly common dent in this series E-Type. The lower section of the top part of the bulkhead cover — that is, the area where the outer sill meets the body panel — I have left alone. I am concentrating on the upper sections of the body, since it will be easier to do the lower “hemisphere” of the body when I have flipped the body over. I will do the body work in the lower section after the outer sill on this side is installed (and on the other, most probably).

The rear bulkhead is pretty much complete, with the glaring exception of the very ugly hole that was carved out to accept a stereo speaker. This Jag came with no radio, and the speaker was absent. Just the ugly hole remained. I will have to cut out the hole and the reinforcing bends and weld in a panel. I was wondering how I could fashion the reinforcements, but I’ve given up on that. At least this will be metal, not air … or bondo!

October 2002 – Right “B”-pillar

Right “B”-Pillar (5 – 6 October 2002)

The “B”-pillar is where the door striker is located, and the right-de “B”-pillar on this care had some rust damage that was cosmetically repaired, although not as badly repaired as the inner sill. The original fix did nothing to the internal corrosion, but the plates that were added to the outside of the “B”-pillar actually had some structural impact. Unfortunately, the way to obscure the fix was to apply bondo, and so the structural repair was apparent in a large lump of bondo about five centimeters from the base of the pillar, just under the door striker.

We removed the bondo and cut out the reinforcement plate, which seemed to be small gauge sheet metal (though perhaps not the 26-gauge that we’ve seen elsewhere on the vehicle). Then we cut out the area that was apparently replaced before — well, not exactly replaced … more like just slapped on and welded into place.

The piece that was cut out was in places three thicknesses deep, probably because of a tab that was initially in the “B”-pillar assembly. The process of replacement was quite straightforward. We spotwelded tabs into place at the perimeter of the hole. This was of 16-gauge steel (tough to bend but nice for welding). Then we measured the hole carefully, cut it out, and welded it into place. The tabs themselves were spot welded, and then along the perimeter we used a regular old butt weld.

Then we bondo-ed — that is, we used bondo as it was meant to be used.

It might be of some historical note that I was interested in learning how to “lead-load” (or is it “to load lead”?), and I visited the discussion area on Classic Jaguar’s very fine web site ( to pose a question. How does one really load lead? The answer was that lead loading is a practiced art and you might as well use bondo, since it doesn’t deter from a restoration if it’s used as it should be. That is, sparingly. However, for those who really want to learn the dark arts of lead loading, there is apparently a kit that’ll help. One thing about lead loading is that you’ve got to get it right from the first. Unlike bondo, you can’t just decide to add some lead to an area. The whole thing needs to be reapplied. And from what I learned from the forum, the area where you want to load the lead has to be exquisitely clean. Don’t try to do this with acid flux solder.

Lead loading, by the way, was the common practice in the era when the E-Type Jaguars were produced. When you remove the paint and primer from the body, you can easily see where the lead was used. Basically, it obscured the seams of the quarterpanels and the sills. The joke was that Jaguar used an awful lot of lead to get the panels to fit together nicely. Things were not, shall we say, exactly manufactured for the E-Type.

But then, I’ve heard the same thing said of the Ford Mustang of the era.

The picture of the “completed” repair, by the way, was taken after a layer of POR-15 was applied (see the entry for 3 November 2002). This is actually good, since it shows that there are still some imperfections in the bondo application. You can easily see where the weld line was done (it’s a lump on the bondo). The final repair will require sanding this surface and (perhaps) adding a layer of bondo to minimize the lump-effect.

September/October 2002 – Sand play and evil rust

Sand Play (29 September 2002)

We were quite industrious the first week, and we stripped most of the “tub” (the name given to the basic body stripped down to essentials). We used aircraft stripper, old wood chisels, putty knives, and rough scrubbie pads. Because rust reappeared in several areas overnight, I used some WD-40 (you can do practically anything with it!) to seal the metal from the air. That did the trick, though we will have to be sure to degrease the surface before painting.

A bit of paint remover is just fine, but it leaves paint residues in lots of tough-to-get-at places. So we’ll be using a sandblaster to get rid of the paint and coatings in those areas. A sandblaster also preps the metal for the sealant I’ve chosen (see “A Little on Rust Protection” below), and cleans everything right down to bare metal. Sandblasting is really dirty work. As a matter of fact, you haven’t felt grime, ’til you’ve blasted some sand around. Sand gets everywhere: your hair gets encrusted to the roots and your underwear proves to be more permeable than you’d think. A shower never felt so good as after a sandblasting session.

We found sandblasting “media” at the local Home Depot, though it seems to be little more than what you get with “Play Sand” at your lumber yard. (Play Sand is the stuff suburbanites use to fill their kids’ molded plastic sandboxes.) Play Sand might be a little less fastidiously dried and screened, but it’s pretty similar to regular old blasting sand. Overall the sandblasting was most successful with parts that you could easily handle, such as fittings and small pipes that were taken from the frame. The blasting was less efficient on the body itself, even though the body paint was fairly removable. There was simply so much acreage to blast!

So, for large areas without too radical curves or angles, we fell back to using a disk sander with 60 grit sandpaper. It cut through the residues nicely. For areas that were more curved, I restripped them, using a tough 3M scrubber after the paint was mostly scraped with chisels. With a final application of aircraft stripper and a couple of wipes with the rough scrubbie, the metal was pretty clean. We sanded those areas as well after they had dried. The sandblaster worked very well in less accessible areas.

Sandblasting and finish removal reveals all of the areas of hidden rust and ancient repairs. For the most part, we had already identified areas requiring repair and had figured out what would need to be done. However, paint removal from under the rear tail section showed some unexpected rust below the gas tank and along a couple of the stiffeners inside the “boot” (British English fortrunk). About a quarter of that section of the body skin will have to be cut out and replaced. Fortunately, it won’t require any fancy manufacture: it’s pretty much flat metal.

By Sunday evening, the rear section of the body — roughly from the rear cockpit bulkhead to the taillights — had been primed with rust preventative paint, except for the areas that would be removed and replaced with metal. This primed area will require another coat of preventative primer (after wet sanding) before we will be able to concentrate on the finish. But, then, finishing is still a long way off, so we won’t need to dread wet sanding in the near future!

Evil Rust (1-2 October 2002)

We managed to cut out an area at the base of the “B” post on the right side of the body. This area is where the door striker is located. The E-Type is pretty much built around its doors, and so this area is of critical importance to get the body straight. Thus far, this Jag is pretty straight, despite its age and disabilities with rust. However, the “B” post on this side was showing some deep rot, which was visible through one of the structural holes in the body after we had removed the interior parts covering the body sides and the rear bulkhead. This area is also atop the rear portion of the outer sill that I had already written off. It was not surprising that the section had deteriorated. (The picture shows this section from the outside of the body. We also cut away a portion of the badly rusted rear “stiffener” so that we could see the damage behind it. It is as bad as it looks, too.)

Elements of the “B” post here, the “stiffener” inside the sill structure, and the lower section of the inner sill will need either removal and repair or replacement. The lower section of the rear bulkhead — the section immediately behind the right side seat — also need replacing. This section apparently was under some significant corrosion pressure, since a stabilizing bar from the rear suspension was the only part the we actually had to cut out because of rust fusing the bolts to the body. The picture below shows this section of the interior, with the rear bulkhead plainly visible and the rear portion of the inner sill showing some significant corrosion. The rectangular hole in the floor panel was cut out to remove the rear suspension.

Fortunately, all of these parts are available (such as the entire “B” post structure) or they are easily fabricated (such as the read bulkhead center section).

We removed the right side door to get better access. A next step will be to shore up the “B” post with reinforcement pieces installed for the duration of the body rebuild. I’m thinking it might be good to repair this section of the body first and then move to the inner sill.

A Little on Rust Protection

Search the web for car restoration web sites, and you’ll get a whole bunch. The pages will often be devoted to rust removal, rust repair, and rust protection. This is the common theme: your car will end up as a pile of iron oxide unless you do something.

Unfortunately, the E-Type is a victim of its own success when it comes to rust. So-called “restorers” scoop up the cars, slap some bondo on them, spruce them up for a good show, and sell them. They’re interested in the sale, not the car, and so the underlying rot lurking in the the most obvious places ends up obscured by fibreglass and a cheap paint job. The car is weakened and soon headed for the scrap pile.

That scenario needn’t always be repeated, and for this car, it won’t be. I don’t intend to sell it, for one. I plan to drive it regularly. And, above all that, it just seems right to repair the rust and boo-boos as well as we can.

Of all of the rust treatments I researched, a product called POR-15 got good reviews. I ordered samples of the product and was impressed enough that I’ve decided to coat the entire car (wherever possible) with the stuff. It isn’t exactly easy to work with, though it does coat nicely even with a brush. You do have to think about things like surface preparation and even the timing of your paint job — topcoats of POR-15 products need to be done when the POR-15 primer product is as a certain point in the curing process. The end product is comparable to “powder coating”: it’s tough, it’s (probably) very durable, it looks good and stays that way. The POR-15 primer itself is available in colors (grey, black, silver) and in clear, but the manufacturer doesn’t recommend using POR-15 primer in places exposed to sunlight. The product discolors if exposed to UV light, so you have to use a top coating.

Uh, it ain’t cheap, either. But when you figure the math out, you see that spending some money on coatings wlll prevent expensive rust repairs in the future. I like doing the restoration, but I’d like a child or grandchild to do the next restoration of this Jaguar!

September 2002 – Fetching and dismantling

We’re off! (13 September 2002)

1963 Jaguar E-type on car trailer with family posing

Wouldn’t you know that this adventure in car restoration would begin on an auspicious day: Friday the Thirteenth. This follows a revered tradition (well, perhaps it creates a tradition) in Jaguar restoration by transporting on auspicious days. The restoration of the “first” Jaguar E-type, known by its UK registration number “HD9600,” began on April Fool’s Day 1999 (see Philip Porter’s The Most Famous Car in the World). Sons Derek (the big one) and Aaron (the one near the front of the car) travelled with me to pick up the car from a farm near Suffolk, Virginia. We rented a U-Haul auto transport trailer and used Arlene’s truck, which was itself a special event.

With a few pushes, some consultation and hammering, and a come-along borrowed from Mark O’Neill (the photographer of this family picture and former custodian of this Jag), we were on our way to Rougemont.

Dismantling (14 – 22 September 2002)

OK, just so you won’t have to scroll down the page — here’s what the old thing looks like after we pretty much took everything off of the monocoque body. The thing is virtually ready for sandblasting with just a couple of parts yet to be removed. (This was my goal for the week, and I took time off from work to do it. The boys, and especially Aaron, put in hard hours to make this dismantling happen as quickly as it did.)

The E-type learned lessons from its successful racing predecessor, the D-type, which won the Le Mans in the late fifties. That car was of tube construction. The E-type we are familiar with is partially tube construction (the area in front of the “bulkhead” which begins in front of the dash) and partially structural sheet metal construction (everything else behind the dash). This is an enormously strong construct.

The two concerns I had with this forty-year-old monocoque structure were

  • the integrity of the tubular steel, especially around the battery area (left side) that has a reputation for rusting due to battery acid leakage and
  • the state of the inner sills, which form about a half of the outer edge structure from the front bulkhead toward the rear wheels.

Even before I purchased the car, I had already written off the outer sills — the section from the front wheel wells to the rear wheel wells that people see on the lower sides of the car below the doors. These were “replaced” with galvanized sheet metal and were too small a gauge for a structural component. (The outer sills were but one of the strange fixes done to the car.)

The front tubular steel was intact and in good shape, thank God. Those parts are not reparable, and the replacements are pricey.

I suspect that the repairs made to the car were largely cosmetic. The outer sills got rusty, so they were replaced. The trouble was that the areas behind the outer sills and internal to the sill structure overall were (probably) ignored. Because the inner sills lay behind coverings of the interior or were less easily accessible, they were ignored. In short, the trouble is there, but it’s harder to see and harder to repair. Deterioration of the inner sills became apparent after we removed the interior trim — the carpeting (such as it was) and the felt padding. Rust damage was especially bad in the front left foot well inner sill. It’s not clear in my mind whether the entire inner sill on the left side will need replacing. I am now thinking that it will not, though repair is required. The final verdict will be clear after sandblasting.

We removed the two seats. They were not attached to the floor, and they were not of the original Jaguar style for this model (and they might not even be Jaguar make at all). The front parts of both sides of the cockpit floors were carefully replaced with plywood. They had rusted out. However, when these were installed, the center steel reinforcements that follow the drive shaft tunnel were retained, so the structural integrity of the body was aided in some measure. These floor panels will need to be entirely replaced, from the front bulkhead to the rear bulkhead.

The rear of the body is actually in pretty good shape. Some minor dings and bumps have been bondo-ed up, but nothing appears particularly badly done. I will need to replace both “fillets” (sections are the rounded corners of the back section of the cockpit, where the convertible top attaches). These were rusted through and repaired with bondo. We’ll fashion a metal replacement, of course. Other rust damage in the rear was related to the deterioration of the sill: the rear quarter panel on both sides were bondo-ed — perhaps the most shameful of the early repairs, since the bondo hides a multitude of sins. The areas immediately behind that bondo were in bad need to replacement. We will tear that bondo out (as we will do with all the bondo) and probably open up the rear quarter panel in that section. This will allow us to replace the internal structure.

Overall, I am pleased with the state of the body. There is nothing that is particularly daunting at this point. I suppose that the repairs will be challenging, but they are well within our abilities.


I was told that the engine turned when I first began seriously looking at the car. We removed the engine from the bottom (contrary to the shop manual instructions which say remove from the top). We had a bit of trouble with a pesky bolt holding the cylinder head, though we finally removed with with some crafty use of a high-speed drill and a cutter. We had trouble loosening the top two timing chain sprockets, but we circumvented that by removing the cam shafts. The cam shafts look quite good, and their bearings look practically new. The valves show some normal wear and tear, but none is compromised with a blow hole. Pistons are blackened, but everything moves nicely in the cylinders. We haven’t removed the oil pan to look at the connecting rods and the crank shaft.

It may have been a while since I’ve taken apart an engine, but the gasket cement that was used on this engine seems a bit unorthodox. It looks like silicone glue or rubber cement. I’m used to something more substantial and gooey. We were able to remove the cylinder head without damaging the gasket, but we’ll probably replace it with a new one anyway.

I’m not worried about the transmission on the car. It came out. It looked OK. The Moss transmission had a reputation for being durable. I suppose that this one will be good.

The independent rear suspension (IRS) came out well. Only the hand brake connection was feisty and we had to work around a big black spider until we could wrestle enough room to remove it. (This was one of two big black spiders we ran into.) It dropped like a charm. Read the shop manual instructions carefully to get the details on easy removal.

I don’t foresee problems with the IRS either. We’ll replace seals and bushings and such, and I believe it’ll be good as new.

Indispensible things

We used a good amount of penetrating oil to loosen the bolts and nuts. In general, these were sprayed a few times, often with the applications spread across many hours. We had only a couple of bolts that we had to break or cut out, and we removed scores of bolts and nuts.

A good digital camera sounds like a frill, but it will no doubt prove invaluable. Over the course of the first week we took about 200 photographs to document the way that things fit together and came apart in stages. Initially, the photography seemed a bit of a hassle, since we constantly had to retreat into the house to download photos. But looking at the photographic record after the dismantling reveals many of the details that will be important to building it all back up.

We suspect that reinstalling the wiring harness (which we removed intact with some effort) will be eased by the photographic record. But that wiring is fearsomely complicated and it will be tough nonetheless.

Decent tools are a must, of course. Our collection has been very adequate thus far. We have a pneumatic tool set, including impact wrench, air hammer, sandblaster, and curious blowing tools; a complete set of English measure wrenches and ratchet set; screwdrivers, chisels, and putty knives (great for paint removal); and hammers of various sizes and shapes (ball pein, regular old nail hammers, and a rubber mallet).

A useful system to organize and store removed parts is an absolute must. — That and a very large store of Zip Lock bags (freezer size and sandwich size). I’ll detail our parts organizing system later, when we put the entire thing on the web. Basically, the system I devised locates the part to a section of the car and records the approximate order of its removal. This should greatly increase the likelihood that we’ll know what part goes where, and this will be especially more likely once we have the photographs organized in a similar fashion.

Lots of space to store parts. A given. We stuffed bagged parts into my old chicken coop office, and a couple of boxes rest beneath the back workbench in the shop. It’ll do.