Saturday, 31 December 2011


New to Blogs?
If you're reading this for the first time, you might want to start at the beginning.  You can use the "Blog Archive" list to the right to quickly navigate around.  To find the start, click on 2010 (1) to go to the First Post.  Use the "Blog Archive" list again (2012) to return to here or anywhere in between.  Sorry if this is a little confusing but its just the way that blogs apparently work.  The last post is always the first post you see.

With just over one year elapsed since purchase, the work schedule is still reasonably in tact but will need to be improved on, to win back some of the built in contingency.  The Christmas break has seen nothing more than a bit of a "dabble" with the odd inevitable hangover not exactly helping things. 

For Christmas, my daughter bought me an Idiots Guide to Blogging which says that I should be producing between one and three posts a day to be successful. So hey-ho, I guess Ill just have to settle for failure with two a month.  If progress picks up, I could possibly stretch it to one a week!

Anyway, back to the job in hand.  How often have you seen the phrase in Classic Car adverts "bare metal respray" and wondered just exactly how bare was the metal at its very "barest" stage?   Back in August, the front and rear body sections and other assorted bits were taken to Dave Ferguson at Hutton Rudby and media blasted in every nook and cranny, with not a vestige of anything other than clean metal and lead remaining.  After this somewhat brutal process, the body was immediately etch primed to prevent the formation of any surface rust on the now spotlessly clean steel.  Dave had purposely picked an ideal hot dry day to complete the job, and then trailered the bits five miles back to Auto Body Craft at Stokesley.

The wooden temporary chassis had done sterling service up to this point, but in order to ensure an absolutely precise re-construction of front section, doors then rear section, it was decided that the chassis proper, currently also in etch primer, should be utilised from this point forward. 

Picture taken just before the trip to Dave's for media blasting, and
a reminder of the reason for removing the side of the wing.  Its the
 only way to gain full access to the nasty bits which invariably rust,
and reside behind it.  Although only the bottom of the side frame
 was rusted out, we decide it would be altogether better to replace
 the whole frame on each side.

After blasting and etch priming, with the new side frame from
Contour Autocraft in place and now sitting on the proper chassis.

New sill with B post, tacked in place for first trial fit, with the original
number of packing pieces on the chassis outriggers.  The steel
triangulated braces also fit exactly as before which all bodes well.

Lots of other detail bits are being attended to.  Alex just didn't like
the look of these flange plates, or the way they were fitted so
decided to replace them. 

Wing back in place after much seam sealing and wax-oiling of
the bits behind it.  The decision on the colour (previous post)
was essential because the door hinges needed painting and
fitting before the wing was welded back in place.  Door fit looks
pretty good and rear section first trial fit also looks promising.
Once Alex is happy with the way the whole car sits together on the chassis, it will have all the new parts properly welded back together.  A slight change of plan is to solidly brace the body with steel box section and adjustable threaded rod, so that it can be safely lifted off the chassis in one piece.  I then need to fabricate the rear part of the chassis in ply, to form a complete temporary base for Alex to sit the whole body on in order to start the bodywork in detail. This will free up the chassis for me to start re-assembly back in my workshop, hopefully around mid March. 

Back in 1996 a bought a Frog Eye Sprite (Bug Eye in Americana's)  I spent three years restoring it and another three making it go like stink, handle even better, and eventually stop.  This involved various hair brained DIY add-ons including Turbo Charging, Nitrous-Oxide and eventually after a few engine mishaps and detonations, a Supercharger.  I still have it, and use it for sunny days, the occasional hill climb and track days.  I usually drive it like a demented teenage delinquent and it scares the crap out of me.  It will I think, one day be responsible for the onset of an adrenalin related coronary incident.  Just a matter of time.

Somewhat crowded engine bay of Frog-Eye with ad-hoc additions
and associated plumbing, bit like a V12 Jag engine bay in that respect.
Through out my ownership it has always suffered to some extent from wheel balance problems and try as I may, I have never found a tyre depot that filled me with confidence, with endless attempts to get the wheels balance correctly.  I am pretty well barred from all my local depots due to my insistence that they do a second check after achieving the usual 0-0 on the balancing machine first time round.  Always, and I mean ALWAYS it no longer reads 0-0 when they very reluctantly put the wheel back on the machine.  The reason I'm sure, is that the cones are not designed specifically for wire wheels and the wheels fit on the machine slightly differently each time.  That's why, when you take them to the tyre depot you always hear the guy say "don't know who balanced these mate but they're a ******* mile out"  Actually, it was you, last week, and you charged me twenty quid, is a not much appreciated response.

So whats to be done?  Browsing EBay a few weeks back after yet another wobble issue, I happed upon a proper adaptor for balancing wire wheels, bid on it and amazingly won it for £26.00.  Its designed to fit a "Sice" balancer, so all I have to do now is find a Tyre Depot out of the area that has such a machine.

Adaptor for Sice wheel balancing machine  - after a little TLC.
The very fact that such an accessory exists must mean that
there is a need for it!
Next job starting 2nd week in January will be re-assembly of rear axle and one half of front suspension.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


With my proper job occupying a good deal of time at present, not a lot has happened in my workshop, but quite a lot elsewhere.  The body is starting to take shape at Auto-Bodycraft with endless trial fittings of various bits, until they are happy that it will all go back together properly, before starting work in detail.
The block and head are at AMAC Northallerton awaiting the arrival of pistons, valve guides and a rear oil seal conversion from Classic Jaguar Texas, due any day now.
The rear axle is being re-assembled at Gearbox and Diff specialist Lagonda Garage Billingham with all new bearings, having had the axle casing soda blasted and re-painted.  Lots of assorted brackets plates and suspension parts are being powder coated at Romax in Stockton and a big box of fasteners have been cleaned and zinc plated at Cleveland Chroming. 
I have however, managed to find time for a trip to Coventry to collect my bonnet from Leaping Cats who have pressed in 48 louvres.  At the same time I called in to see Stuart at Coventry Auto Components who did me cracking deal on a front disc brake conversion, T5 Gear Box conversion and a couple of hundred other assorted bits and pieces. 

In addition to the front disc brakes and five speed gearbox, its time to start thinking about other alterations and additions.  Driving a fairly broad selection of old cars over the past 45 years has given me a reasonable insight into whats generally lacking in terms of comfort, reliability, usability and safety.  Being an inveterate tinkerer, I've added all manner of gadgets and upgrades to past cars, some awful and pointless (at seventeen, a set of Colonel Bogey Horns were the ultimate accessory) but equally, some, really worthwhile.  I am aware that at 63 I ought to be subscribing to the "original is best" school of thought and enjoying the contrast with modern cars - baulking gears and misting windows, but if I can improve on things without it being too obvious then I will. 

Performance and handling mods are generally well known in the XK fraternity and are often a question of what can be afforded, from super spec motors to all manner of handling and transmission upgrades.  What is more interesting I think are the little things that can be easily added at relatively small cost.  They can enhance daily usage but also make long distance trips much less wearing and consequently safer.  Many involve alterations and additions to the electrical systems and can be Incorporated into the existing (in my case new) loom or added and powered by an auxiliary loom, all totally concealed.

A good example of such an addition is the Mazda (yes - Mazda!!!) MX5 Heater blower installed under the nearside wing of my XK140 FHC where one of two six volt batteries previously lived.  This feeds huge volumes of air into a modern heater matrix (Mazda again), with the original XK heater front cover concealing the dastardly deed.  Total cost didn't exceed £85.00 with the bits coming from EBay and RS components.  It took three attempts and countless hours of enjoyable fiddling to get it right, with the big pay off coming from almost instant window de-misting and if required, more heat than even I can handle.

Mazda MX5 modified blower unit ensconced under wing.  Will
disappear from view entirely once the inner wing panel is fitted.

Original XK Heater front cover re-finished in crackle black with
small panel where control paddles exit to direct air flow.
 My wish list of electrical alterations and additions seems endless, even excessive, but almost all exist in some form on my 140 Fixed Head already.  Unusually, some were genuine period accessories fitted when I bought the car, with the rest added during my 3 year "rolling" restoration. 

1950's style accessories in 140 as bought - all quite ergonomic
but not very pretty.  Extra gauge is oil temperature.
After restoration.  Only additional gauge now is voltmeter.
Face changed by me to match other gauges.

Even more accessories and knobs - as bought.  One very handy item
is the rear screen demister in the form of a long heating element at the
bottom of the rear window.  Takes a while to work, but very effective.

Again, after restoration and back to factory original including
steering wheel.  Radio Head unit sits behind dummy draw front.
Centre arm rest now contains some badly needed lockable
storage space, plus an IPOD connection, USB 5Volt charger
and switch to disconnect fuel pump.  Also essentials for JDC
steak & kidney pie monthly meetings - indigestion tablets.
First owner of my 140 was Sir Robert McAlpine but it was mainly driven by his brother Kenneth who was a works driver and financial backer of the Connaught Racing Team from 1949 to 1957.  In the history file is a letter from Kenneth to a previous owner warning of brake fade "if one needs to stop quickly from 100MPH"!
The old wiring for all of the additions shown in the pictures of the car "as bought" was contained in a properly made PVC covered loom and I would say it was mostly installed at the same time and most likely by Coombes, who supplied the car new.

So, whats on the 120's electrical alterations and additions wish list.  To start with, the usual major items: Conversion to Negative earth, an alternator or possibly a "dynonator" - apparently an alternator which looks like a dynamo, high torque starter motor, Facet fuel pump, electric fan and electronic ignition (123).

A single 12 Volt Battery re-located under the off side wing, with cut off switch and charge socket (for winter storage).

Lighting upgrades to include halogen head light bulbs with relays to switch a heavy feed cable direct from the battery.  To avoid lots of arm twirling I suppose indicators are essential but will need a loud bleeper to ensure they are not inadvertently left on.  A super bright LED brake light incorporated into the reversing light might be sensible if the rear indicators are somehow incorporated into the tail lights.  It would be good to somehow fit front indicators into the existing side lights - possibly very bright orange LED's - needs some research.  A map reading light under the dash also sounds handy.

To slow down any opportunist car thieves and reduce my insurance premium, a high tech Immobiliser will disable the fuel pump and ignition. 

I'm not really sure about Radio's in open cars. The cacophony of wind noise and exhaust note usually negate the requirement.  But just in case, it may be sensible to include basic wiring for a radio head unit with IPOD connection, audio Amp / 4 speakers and an aerial possibly located in the windscreen surround rubber.

The one additional gauge which I would find very useful is a voltmeter, to monitor Alternator / Battery performance. Question is, where would it live?

Minor but essential details would include an ancillary equipment fuse panel, relay switched ignition feed, starter solenoid and ammeter wiring re-configured, a modern horn relay located in the original housing, manual switch disconnect for the choke (starting Carburettor) and a windscreen washer pump. It would also be good to have the dash and ancillary switch panel on modern connectors for easy service / removal.

The correlation between classic car breakdowns and flat mobile phones is well known, so a 5Volt stabilised USB socket in the arm rest storage box, is I think, the most likely and obvious way to avoid them.
Likewise, a 12V socket behind the seats to provide power for a cool box full of beer will make the wait for the breakdown truck that much more enjoyable, especially as you won't be driving anywhere for a while.

One other upgrade I would like to play with is a Davies Craig electric water pump with Electronic Control Unit.  It seems to me to be such an obvious solution to absolutely control and optimise all aspects of engine temperature.  Conversely, it may be a total waste of time and money, but it does sound interesting.  I will cover the installation in some detail when I get around to it - I would estimate July / August 2012, and eventually report on the effectiveness - or not.

I will hopefully have some real progress to write about at the beginning of January 2012 having had a few days to "get properly stuck in" over the Christmas break.

Just been to collect my suspension bits from the powder coating company to assemble over the hols - Sign on the door says - Closed until Jan 3rd !!!

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Choice of colour has been an ongoing consideration since starting this project in earnest in spring.  Although many months away from painting the car, I need to make the decision now so that the door hinges can be painted prior to the wing sides being re-fitted.    Main contenders being British Racing Green, (BRG) Metallic Silver and White.  Each has its plus and minus points:

British Racing Green
Definitely my favourite classic car colour.  After a nut and bolt 3 year restoration of a Healey 3000 around six years back, I thought it looked fabulous in BRG but strangely, I didn't really enjoy driving it.  After all that work this was a bit of a disappointment.  Very subjective, I know, but I can only deduce that Big Healey devotees have never tried XK's!
Ralph Lauren had a early works aluminium 120 OTS in BRG in his L'arte De L'automobile exhibition in Paris this summer  and it easily held its own in the style stakes in the company of multi-million pound Bugattis, Ferraris and Alphas.

My gorgeous looking but disappointing to drive Healey 3000
BRG scores a big minus however, because apart from it not being the cars original colour, it was not available until March 1952 so effectively a non original colour for any 1950 XK120. 
Also, I already have an XK in BRG all be it a rather unusual shade and referred to by our local Jaguar Drivers Club Chief, Mr Geoff Mansfield as DMO (Drab Military Olive)  However, this BRG/DMO 140 FHC, unlike the Healey 3000 makes up for any cosmetic shortfall with its superb performance, handling and amazing high speed - easy 90MPH - cruising ability (considering its 1955 build date)

The ultimate classic touring car.  In BRG or DMO.  I doesn't
really matter.  If you want to get places quickly, in relative
comfort and subtle style , this is THE car to do it in.  
Final nail in the coffin for BRG however came from wife Angela who simply proclaimed one old green banger is already one too many!   Many years ago, I was confident that I'd won her over on our first (blind) date, after arriving at the pub in my newly restored (BRG would you believe) flat rad Morgan, looking like a total prat, replete with flying helmet and goggles. Could it be that she has never forgiven me after the oil pressure gauge quietly dripped black oil onto her new white pleated mini skirt.  At the time, I saw the oil stain as an appropriate initiation into my old car world, but I am starting to wonder if after 37 years, this was a youthful misjudgement.

Metallic Silver.
It took a while to convince Alex, from Auto-Bodycraft that metallic paint even existed in 1949. Obscure plus point but curiously satisfying.  It was a factory option standard colour from the launch of the 120 but was discontinued in November 1952.  I wonder why - lack of orders, difficult to get right perhaps?

Silver 120 takes on a strange hue under the lights of the NEC
Body may actually be sterling silver at this price!
It seems there are literally hundreds of versions / hues / tints / shades of metallic silver.  It doesn't help the case for silver that it apparently accounted for 26% of all cars produced in 2010

White / Old English White / Cream
The Heritage certificate lists my car as cream, but the old brown log book says white.  The first owner, Vernon Maitland (See Post 12) in an email to me says the Heritage certificate is incorrect, and states very positively "My car was not cream, it was white"
According to some knowledgeable sources these are simply name variations for one and the same colour but they do look different to me from period pictures.  This could of course be down to photographic processing or  fading of white / cream to another shade or even variations in factory paint.  I guess after 60 plus years  its difficult to be sure.  What is certain is that it would be good to retain the original colour.  This is further enforced when respected XK expert Ian Mills of Twyford Moors tells me that White (Cream) with red upholstery is the the top spec when it comes to selling 120 OTS's.  - Executor take note!

Then I come across this picture. Decision made.

I don't know why this is so intrinsically right, but it absolutely is!
And this is exactly what I hope to achieve.
Image from XK Data
Post script.  I have since discovered that this is the car once owned by Daily Express cartoonist Giles.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


Encouraged by almost three thousand views to date, from December this year I am going to try to post around the beginning and middle of the month, so by say the fifth of each month there should be a couple of posts to view.

Due to pressure from my real job, I've had very little time in the past three weeks to do much XK stuff.  If I was starting over in business, I would definitely consider the relatively hassle free and predictable world of classic car restoration as an alternative occupation.
So - following are a small selection of "hinge" related items, completed in past months, but not previously mentioned.

If you've ever wondered what exactly goes wrong with XK hinges making
doors drop / sag then this picture will help explain.  The hinge pin rusts and seizes
in the hinge arm causing the pin to rotate between the upper and lower
plates making them oval.  This picture shows the arm hole enlarged with a brass
 bush fitted. The worn oval plate holes have been taken out to 1/2" I/D

Top Hat shape washers have been made to interference fit into the
1/2" I/D holes, effectively creating new hinge pin locations in the plates.
The new pin has a nipple to allow grease into pin / bush bearing and is
an interference fit into the top hat washers.

Hinge assembled.  The important bit is to ensure that the arm rotates
on the pin and that the pin does not rotate in the top hat section washers.
 This is all well and good, as long as you can actually access and remove the hinges, which is only really possible in most cases by cutting away some part of the wing.  I am told that there is however an alternative solution (bodge)  to stop doors dropping / sagging due to oval hinge plate holes.  Before trying this, make sure you read and fully understand the last highlighted sentence of this section!  Also be aware that unless your very lucky or very clever, it will probably alter the original shut lines / panel gaps.
First try to get some easing fluid into the hinge pin.  Then with the door not quite fully open, jack up the back edge to the correct height / position.  With extreme care and much difficulty, weld the top and bottom of the hinge pins to the hinge plates to prevent them moving in the worn oval holes. 
The next part of the operation depends on your religious leanings but should certainly involve prayers of some sort before proceeding. 
The door is of course, now stuck open.  The hinge can't move because the top and bottom of the pin is welded to the plates and the centre part is seized in the hinge arm.  Gently rock the door too and fro (a lullaby might help in easing the stress at this point) and hopefully the pin will gradually free in the arm and rotate as it was designed to.  If it doesn't, then your well and truly buggered.

120 / 140 modified bonnet hinge
When I restored my 140, I had endless problems getting the bonnet to fit, until I realised that one worn and one almost seized hinge made the bonnet twist and and finish up in a different place every time I closed it.  The solution, whilst a little time consuming was actually very straightforward.  Flushed with my 140 success, I decided not to prat around with the 120 hinges and give them the same treatment. 
I drilled out the ends of the stepped pins which hold the two halves together and binned them.  Next I took out the worn 1/4" holes in the assorted remaining bits to just under 8mm to make them a nice fit for the shank of a stainless 8mm allen head bolt.  I had eight new stainless spacers and 32 x 1.8 mm thick stainless washers made up, then using lots of grease re-assembled each hinge.  I used nylocks (sacrilege !!!) to get an exact and equal amount of friction into each hinge.  The result is a really nice smooth movement with zero lateral play making bonnet alignment much less of a hit / miss affair.  Lots of minus points I should think, if I ever consider joining you concours nutters!  I will eventually paint the stainless spacers and fasteners black.

Another interesting little job.  Around 48 parts make up the door catch
assembly.  I always restore pairs of parts one at a time to save remembering
how it all goes back together.  After fully dismantling, cleaning, painting,
lubricating and re-assembling, the whole mechanism worked beautifully.
Jag Lovers Forum recently had a post from a bloke from Monaco asking about accommodation for the Goodwood revival next year.  All the usual and expected answers re. Posh Hotels at £300 /Night, Sailing Clubs, B&B's etc. so I couldn't help posting my genuine "recommendation"  Interestingly, UK readers will probably "twig" where it is before the link, whilst none UK readers will see it as the bargain it actually was.
Anyway, my reply to the question was :

This may be an interesting alternative to the usual suggestions and will also allow you to experience a far broader and possibly more typical insight into the average Englishman (and Englishwoman) than you will find at the Revival meeting. 
A few years back we stayed at a complex close to the seaside (like Monaco) within a small town with many Royal connections (also like Monaco.) It was around thirteen miles from Goodwood, had a choice of eateries, adequate parking, spa, swimming pool and a very large nightclub. I seem to recall that a four bed apartment within the complex, booked at quite short notice, for 3 nights cost around £250 – Just over £20.00 / person /night.  Beer was very reasonable, but choice of wine somewhat limited.  It was an interesting weekend and you should try everything at least once in your life.

Saturday, 5 November 2011


A few "sub projects" are required to keep me busy whilst the engine bits are away at the machine shop and the rear springs seemed a likely first candidate.
The easy route would have been to simply purchase a new pair for around £150 but that seemed like a bit of cop out.  The car as purchased sat very nice and square, if a little low on its old springs.  Closer inspection on dismantling showed them to be almost certainly original, with stamped Jaguar part numbers, beautifully made with tapers in both planes at the ends of each leaf.  One side still had its leather gaiter in place.

Research into bringing them back to their original condition throws up some interesting information.  Over time, the steel starts to lose its temper (spring) causing a change in "set" - they sag.  The spring rate is mainly determined by the number and dimensions of the leaves, but also to a lesser extent the quality of steel and the tempering procedure.  They need to be set back to their original shape and re-tempered to put the spring back in.  Further digging turns up Brost Forge, a long established business in North London with an outstanding reputation.  They specialise in spring re-tempering and have the original manufacturers specs on a wide range of leaf springs.  The cost including new bushes is around twice that of a new pair from goodness knows where, but I guess that's the premium for originality.

They come back looking a little more curved and covered in a nasty sticky tar like substance. I put them on the lonely shelf for finished bits and give them a disdainful glance every time I pass. After a few days, my resolve to consider them finished weakens and I dismantle them and send them to my friend Max to blast off the gunge.

Further trawling of the Internet and the recollection of a conversation with an XK owning acquaintance about the cure for squeaky springs results in the following, totally ridiculous, massively time consuming, very satisfying process.
Each leaf is linished on both sides, then sanded smooth (allow on average half an hour per leaf).  Clean thoroughly and apply two thin coats of Acrylic paint.  Next you need a large sheet of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) cut into strips to fit between each leaf.  Rub copperslip into all surfaces and re-assemble.  You have now virtually eliminated friction between the leaves making for a super smooth and silent action.  As the spring pack height has increased by up to 6mm a new centre fixing bolt and new guide brackets are made to measure.

Final job is to carefully record all dimensions and send of to Wefco in Yatton to have a new set of leather gaiters made.

Dismantled after tempering.   Assembled spring had been
 "painted" or possibly dipped in some nasty tar like substance

After initial shot blasting - Original Jaguar part numbers
clearly visible but different although actual leaves are identical

After linishing, final smooth finish created with sander.
Very time consuming job but quite satisfying

Leaves painted with thin coat of acylic matt black.
High Density Polyethylene 1mm strips between leaves.
Very thin coating of copperslip rubbed into all surfaces before
final assembly.  New guide brackets made to accommodate
 additional thickness of HDPE inserts

Finally assembled and looking more like it should.
Just needs gaiters fitting - awaiting delivery from Wefco.
Shame to cover it up!

Detail showing nicely tapered ends of leaves.  HDPE can just be seen
between each leaf
So - one spring done and one to go!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


My initial intention was to send my engine to Dan at Classic Jaguar in Texas for the full CJ works and initially it looked as if shipping costs would be reasonable.  A basic quote to ship from here (Middlesbrough) to Houston docks and return came out at less than £1K but when all manner of other charges were factored in, including shipping from Houston to Austin, the price more than doubled.  This coupled with the satisfaction I derive from mechanical things in general made the decision for a carefully planned and executed home build easy.

My Valve spring compressor wouldn’t look at moving the caps off the collets so an alternative design was called for which resulted in this Heath Robinson affair – inelegant but with the shock of a 12lb hammer, very effective.  A chamber shaped block of wood stops the valve from moving.

The original compression ratio was 8:1 and I would prefer something between 8.5 and 9.0 but I need to know if the head and block have been previously skimmed, so knowing the current actual ratio is essential.  A little research on google comes up with a process which involves measuring the volume of the cylinder head chamber using very cold ?? liquid paraffin and a syringe.  (The lady in the chemists clearly didn’t accept my explanation when she helpfully enquired as to the intended application of these items)  Also included in the calculation are the swept volume, gasket thickness, piston at TDC to deck measurement and volume of the piston dome.   Only the piston dome calculation (volume of part of a sphere) complicates things but I get there in the end.  Chamber volume averages out at 0.016 Litres (6.469 Cubic Inches) After transferring the calculations to a spread sheet, and a little creative manipulation, miraculously it averages out between all cylinders at 8:1
Calculations show around plus / minus one percent difference
in compression ratio between cylinders.  Does this matter? 
 I have absolutely no idea - Any comments appreciated.


Largest syringe I could find on a Saturday morning was 5 mL but a 150Ml
 baby milk bottle measure plus the specific gravity of cold liquid paraffin
and letter scales all combined to hopefully give me an accurate result.

It always amazes me how simply warming pistons in a bucket of hot water expands them enough for the gudgeon pin to easily punch out.  More with an eye on protecting my new forged pistons when I need to re-assemble, it seemed like a good idea knock up a simple wooden jig to sit them in.  If you’re wondering, the metal contraption adjacent is part of an old machine press tool and just comes in handy.  

Engine broken down entirely into its comonent parts

With some more help from Dan I have produced what I hope is a fairly comprehensive list of work for the machine shop and email this to a few likely candidates.  They’ll probably read it and think – now this lad looks like trouble! 

Bores currently +15
Chemical / vat clean
Crack test deck surface
Check alignment of main bearings and hone as required
Fit new liner to No 3 (small “ding” in cylinder wall)
Bore to Circa +30 and hone to match individual pistons supplied
Skim deck

Con Rods
Crack test
Check for alignment
Re-Size & Re-bush

Crank Shaft
Existing – Mains are standard.  Big Ends are -10
Remove plugs
Crack test
Machine to correct Main and big end bearing clearances most likely -10 and -20
Balance with Flywheel, clutch and pressure plate

Weld up “cruddy” water ways and machine
Pressure Test
Replace Valve seats and cut as req.
Replace Valve guides and set stem to guide clearance

Allow for full recording / documenting of all measurements / outcomes.
Initial costing to be based on all parts to be free issued by me
Crankshaft rear oil seal conversion – exact spec requirements TBC

Monday, 3 October 2011


If you're reading this for the first time, you probably want to see the blog from the beginning.  You can use the "Blog Archive" list to the right to quickly navigate around.  To find the start, click on 2010 (1) to go to the First Post.  Use the "Blog Archive" list again (2011) to return to here.  Go to the bottom and work your way back up again.  Sorry if this is a little confusing but its just the way that blogs apparently work so, that the latest post is the first thing you see.

I was just turned seventeen when I first dismantled an engine.  It was from my newly acquired 1934 Singer.  Nothing much wrong with it, but it just seemed like an interesting thing to do.  My automotive engineering experience at that time was limited to watching an agricultural engineer take apart a Ferguson Tractor Engine.  Looked quite simple really.  You just take everything to pieces and throw all the bits in the sump.  It didn’t occur to me that he’d done this dozens of times before and  I can clearly remember him saying that you don't need to make notes because an engine can only go together one way, but my engine must have been the exception that proves the rule.  Fortunately my £35 outlay for the car included enough bits to almost build another, including a spare engine which was also then dismantled to see how the first one went back together.  The only bit leftover was a small bronze bush which turned out to be the gearbox end shaft bush.  I still have it.
Doing the 120 engine is for me the highlight of the restoration.  I’ve not done an XK engine before but have read a good deal about them and never missed an opportunity to discuss the detail with the many knowledgeable enthusiasts I’ve met since getting into XK’s generally.
It all comes apart fairly easily considering the time it's been standing.  Everything looks pretty much as it should until I remove number three piston.  It looks different from the previous two and closer inspection of the bore shows a small “ding” in the front face around two inches down.  Looks like it could have been caused by the end of a broken valve.  Examination of the Head also shows some valve head shaped marks in number thee chamber.  Measuring the depth of the “ding” as best I can shows it to max out around twelve thou.  Its already bored fifteen thou oversize so it won't be possible to clear the problem by taking it to thirty (the max size for forged pistons I believe).  Perhaps it won't be a problem at all, not being on a thrust face of the bore.  I whizz off an email to Dan in Texas with the question and get a very quick and definite "your divot is not acceptable" response.  He says It will be quite straight forward to install a single liner to resolve the problem. 

Spotless engine oil - could it be that it had an oil change
back in 1965 when it was taken off the road?

I guess the answer is yes, and a filter change.  This filter has
 never had oil throughit but has obviously been fitted a very
 long time.
First discovery - end of timing chain spring tensioner broken
off.  A dig around in the sump with a magnet finds the missing bit

I really didn't think that my engine stand would be up to the job,
but it was more than adequate once I'd modified the four fixing bits.

Ding (divot in USA parlance) can clearly be seen.  Also some
rough areas below.  This bore looks generally different to the others.

Number three piston also looks quite different from the rest.
Could it be that its been replaced after a dropped valve and
has done relatively few miles since?
All I need to do now is to find a machine shop that I can entrust the work to.  Sounds simple enough but I've heard far too many horror stories, usually involving lots of expensive damage, invariably in the middle of the night, always in some foriegn part, followed by endless recriminations and costly litigation.  Strangely, its the journalists who report in the "our cars" sections of classic car magazines who seem to be singled out for dodgy engine jobs, or are they just the ones we actually get to read about?

Thursday, 15 September 2011


Interesting series of photos occupying around five months in time.  Progress has slowed somewhat lately as my business partner Andy, disappeared in August to ride his motor bike from Alaska to Argentina.   Consequently, my previous 3 day week is now back to 5 and will continue so until he returns in January next year.  This was factored in at the outset so should not alter my June 16th 2013 completion date.
May 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011
Empty floor space but full shelves

Chassis after media blasting and etch priming as delivered to Auto Bodycraft
and in unbelievable condition with only one very small area of corrosion on
the top of the rear most nearside box section.  Will be cut out and new metal let in.
Silver tongued Alex has convinced me that the chassis should be finished to
the same standard as the body.  I suppose it would be a shame not to.

 I guess I'm so used to producing plans and schedules (didn't get the "Fat Controller" nickname for nothing) that it seemed natural to create one for the 120 restoration.  Confusing I know but GRE (see boxes below left) is my usual work appendage.  Christenend George Robert but generally known as Bob except in Newcastle where George was the norm.  My wife Angie calls me Rob usually and Robert when I'm in trouble, my Grandchildren call me Bobsy and my dad always called me Jim - no idea why.

GREPre StartAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecJanFebMarAprMayJun
Other outside Contract
KPI / Target date
Establish missing parts and start searches
Establish Body work requirements & source parts
Split body, remove, blast, etch prime, repair doors
All Body Parts to Alex
Chassis  -  Strip  - Sand Blast - Etch Prime - Repair
Rear Springs to Brost Forge for re-set & Temper
Bare Chassis to Alex
Alex - Build body on chassis, align, brace, repair and start prep
Strip Engine and establish exact requirements
Rear Axle refurb  - Eric Batelle
Cyliner Head to Dan with Engine parts list required
Engine Rebuild - Ongoing - Allow 6 Months
All remaining Chrome to STD Bristol
Front & Rear suspension build up.
Steering Box build
All other chassis bits re-cond.
Swap chassis with wood frame and return to W-shop
Alex - Continue Prep on Wood Frame
Gearbox - Decision, re-con or order 5 speed
Engine & Head Complete / reassembled
Chassis - Paint in POR15
Build up Chassis, Engine, Transmission, Suspension, Steering, 
Engineer new Cooling System
Engine Run up 
Engineer new Braking system
Wire Weel Conversion & Rear Shock Mod
Rolling Chassis Test Drive 
Built up Chassis back to Alex
Alex-  Fit body to chasis, mask up and Paint
Alex - Finish - All back to Bobs W'shop
Make up interior trim panels / re-con other interior parts
Decide on seats / trimmer / contract out upholstry - TBA
Decide electrical mods and Install new wiring loom
All other electrical bits / Dash board / Instruments
ICE / Speakers /Phone / IPOD as req.
Fit up - Lights, Chrome, Handles, Catches etc
Sort Tools / Spares / Jack etc
Initial Shakedown run / MOT