Wednesday, 18 January 2012


I have never forgotten, at age 16, seeing the engine bay of a nearly new MK2 Jag, topped off with polished aluminium cam covers, twin SU's and shiny black vitreous enamel exhaust manifolds.  I'd seen a few posh engines before, but those manifolds were different, unusual, an unexpected delight, and clearly left a lasting impression.

Fast forward 44 years - At significant cost, I had my 140 manifolds re-coated by a man in Hampshire.  They were away quite some time but looked fabulous when returned.  The package included detailed instructions on "curing" the new coating by gradually building up the heat with a cool down period between each cycle.  I followed this to the letter, a couple of days before the cars maiden voyage, a trip to the Silverstone Classic.
It was a very warm weekend with the engine still tight, running in, and hotter than I would have liked.  After switching off, due to heat soak, the water temperature gauge (a Smiths unit combined with the oil pressure gauge)would read 95 PSI or even less! (XK drivers will realise this is not a typo or an erroneous piece of misinformation).
The Saturday track action finished with a huge thunderstorm and flash floods.  On the way back to our Peterborough Hotel the 140 never missed a beat, often thrashing through several inches of standing water with clouds of steam pouring from the very hot engine bay.  Great fun. 
Back at Silverstone on Sunday I opened the bonnet to show off my newly built engine with shiny black enamel manifolds, to find most of the enamel had fallen off.  I guess as a result of some very rapid hot / cold cycles.
The man from Hampshire was entirely unimpressed with my protestations.  He'd obviously heard it all before.

It took a while to get over this, with the ratty appearance of the manifolds spoiling an otherwise immaculate engine bay.  Eventually I sent them of to Zircotec for coating with their patented ceramic process, not nearly as nice as black enamel but at least reliable and not effected by alternating temperature extremes.

Zircotec coated 140 manifolds.  I really need to take the rust of
the ends of the studs, but its -6 in the garage so it may have to
wait till spring.
So this brings me back to the 120.  The manifolds are in the usual parlous state with a couple of snapped studs.  Zircotec now have a new process with a smooth black finish but it is eye wateringly expensive.  SNG Barratt have had some re-manufactured at a around £360.00 a pair, and I still see the Hampshire man advertising refurbishment, again at similar cost, but he does include new studs.  
During one of my regular trawls through EBay I find a pair listed as 'New Old Stock' at a starting price of £350.00.  They don't go, so I contact the seller direct, Heritage Jaguar Parts.  We agree a price and I arrange to collect from their warehouse in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. 

I travel down with friend Mike (two E types) Cassidy and we are both stunned at what we find.  Hidden away in a labyrinth of decaying Dickensian mill buildings, just off the Huddersfield Road, is a single large white washed store room with a huge quantity and range of new and used, but all original E type and XK parts, certainly running into tens of thousands of items.  We are well met by Jason who runs this relatively new operation and he explains that it is the direct result of the purchase of several container loads of parts from a single USA source (with more to come).  There are rare and really hard to find parts every where you look, with many boxes yet to unpack.  Imagine going to an auto jumble, but with only E Type, XK and some early saloon parts and mostly without all the usual junk. 

Just one corner of the store - mainly engines, gearboxes
and heads in this area.  Out of camera shot is a small mountain
of pistons and another of con-rods.  Over a dozen pairs of smooth
stud cam covers are on the orange shelf unit.

One of several random boxes of instruments awaiting
identification and labelling.
The only non Jag parts I see are the odd rare MG and Bentley item.  The down side is that many of the parts are still to be sorted and put on shelves, so considerable time needs to spent rummaging.  In a large carton full of original Lucas boxed head light rims and fittings, I find what I believe are two brand new old stock inner head light rims, almost the last of my really hard to find missing 120 parts. 

I am only guessing and hoping that these are the correct inner
rims for an early 120 never having seen an example off a car.
Lovely new old stock Vitreous Enamelled manifolds.
Don't know how long they'll stay like this but I will take
bets it will be longer than a brand new pair made in ?????
The manifolds are found and are exactly as described, in as new condition clearly never having seen the rest of an XK engine.  Who knows, with around 50 years for the enamel to cure it may stay on a little longer than usual.

Contact details for Jason at Heritage Jaguar Parts :
Telephone  01924 430818