Tuesday, 16 April 2013


From the moment the car came back from the body shop, it's been swathed in sheets.  So many, that the lady in our local general store must think I have some weird thing about flannelette, or maybe am incontinent and have a broken washing machine.  Never the less it's been worth the effort.  In the best part of six months, it has suffered not a single mark, scratch, or chip of any sort until .............

After a considerable fight with the windscreen and it's various component parts, I finally got it to fit really well.  All that remained was to re-fit the two pairs of large bolts / nuts that hold the bottom part of the windscreen side pillars to the bulkhead.

Windscreen finally in place and looking good
On the last of many trial fits, I'd worked out how to get washers and nuts onto the ends of these bolts in an extremely confined space by sticking them onto a finger with thick cavity wax and working my hand up inside the bulkhead.
With three down and one to go, I'd really got the hang of this quite difficult process.  The final washer was slipped over the end of the fourth bolt and then I managed to turn the bolt into the nut by a single thread.  It's not easy to explain this, and I can only guess at whats going on in this dark recess as its impossible to see into, but the nut must have gone on cross threaded.  Unaware of this, using a half inch ratchet I then wound the bolt in, through the pillar and bulkhead panel.  I met a little resistance at first and then it went tight sooner than expected.  Something was clearly amiss.  I realised what had happened even before looking around the windscreen to see the result.

If I was employed by me, (or Alex) I would have been sacked for this.
The nut had been effectively pushed into the underside of the body, distorting it and cracking the paint.  Now I have to face Alex at Auto Bodycraft and explain how I managed to ruin his beautiful paint job.  I will no doubt get a well deserved bollocking for being careless, and quite right too.  Just how he sorts this will be interesting, challenging and most likely expensive. 

The short term outcome was that I was left in no doubt that had I been in his employ, my trial period would have ended abruptly.

Talking of Alex, I mentioned in passing that I was about to send my steering wheel to Myrtle Productions in Kent to be re-furbished.   Some years ago, they did a superb job on my 140's steering wheel but at £340.00 so they should have.
120 Steering Wheel - Picture taken two years ago - April 2011

The 120 wheel looks virtually identical to the 140's but is of an entirely different construction, actually making it a little easier to restore to its original finish.  The rim and boss appear to be castings of some type of non ferrous / non magnetic material, but the rim in particular seems heavier than aluminium.  The spokes are steel, so how they are attached to the boss and rim is a puzzle.  The 140 rim by contrast looks like resin laminated onto a steel former.  It eventually de-laminates and I guess it's refurbished in some sort of mould.

The finish on both wheels appears identical and very specific.  Not quite gloss, but a little more shiny than satin black with a very deep sheen, similar to a glass fibre gel coat.  Alex felt sure, he could achieve this, so I left it with him on the basis that the 140 wheel would be the only acceptable (read chargeable) standard. 

Start of prep on 120 steering wheel
First off Alex ground out the cracks, then filled them with Q Bond adhesive / filler followed by an unlikely named product called 'Upol Fantastic Filler'  This was followed by three coats of 2K primer with lots of rubbing down between, then finally five coats of Mipa 2K Acrylic Super Black. Time consuming and not cheap, but still quite a bit less than Myrtle would have charged, plus the finished article was certainly equal to, if not better than the 140 wheel.

Ready for a final polish

And finished product - Refurbished steering wheel looks superb

140 FHC - interior starting to look a little worn but is very well used

My Great Grandfather, George, was born at Tanton Hall (two miles from my home) in 1869, to a housemaid, Annie Elizabeth Hugill.  She was listed on his birth certificate as a 'Spinster of this Parrish'.  In the box for father, it simply said 'unknown'.  George was adopted in 1870 by a local Publican called William Exelby.  His second son, my Grandfather, was one of four brothers, all born between 1894 and 1897.  From that point, the male offspring expanded rapidly over the next generation, but then through various mishaps, war and an unusual profusion of daughters, the male side of the line gradually diminished.  With a relatively unusual surname, (the last time I checked in the London Phone book, not one Exelby was listed) it didn’t take a great deal of effort to establish exactly how many male cousins, half and quarter cousins were still around and if they in turn had any male offspring.  The surprising answer was none.  I have a daughter and son, so the continuation of the male line and family name rests squarely on my son Danny’s shoulders and of course his wife Laura.  So what's the relevance of this preamble?

Dylan Robert Exelby - Born 7th April 2013
Strange to think that Dylan Robert could feasibly see the family name into the twenty second century.  I can't help but wonder what on earth he would make of this blog if he read for the first time when he is say 80.  Conversely, not even Jules Verne, if he were still around, could I think come close to predicting what life will be like in say 2093.
To give this even more context, going back rather than forward 80 years, below is the last page of a letter from my father, post marked 1935, to his mother.
Aged just fourteen, and with a shilling (5p) in his pocket he was sent to work at a farm at Barnard Castle, some forty miles away.  Written a few days after his arrival, he asks for some more 'cash'.
Having spent his shilling and accounted for it, he nicely emphasises how broke he is with his post script - "I have no ink so I have used pencil" 

Next Post early May

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


I’ve been putting this off for at least a year but knew that sooner or later I would need to commit my invoices (which I leave in various places but rarely lose) onto a spread sheet.  With the car being at the trimmers and not much to do in its absence, coupled with outside temperatures rarely exceeding zero degrees it seemed to be the ideal time to stay at home in front of the fire and PC and punch in the numbers.   I had a pretty good idea of what I’d spent so far, but it still came as a bit of a shock to see it on the page. 

Car away at trimmers so empty workshop - all set for the final phase
 XK prices in general have been doing quite nicely recently so this is not too much of a worry, good fortune, rather than good management on my part.  I've had a very enjoyable hobby for a couple of years and depending on a realistic valuation on completion, probably at little cost.
I am however, very much aware that by mid June I will have spent something approaching 2,000 hours of what would have been‘chargeable time’ if I had simply given the job to one of the several specialists in the area.  I must have also spent maybe another 1,000 hours generally (but enjoyably) pratting around.  Even allowing for the seriously better work rate of a restoration pro, I reckon I would have been billed for 1500 hours at say £35.00 an hour making a VAT inclusive additional cost of £63,000 !  I guess it just depends on which way you want to look at it. 

Once the invoices were committed to a spread sheet, it was a relatively easy step to allocate nominal codes to each area of the work, then sort the columns to give a breakdown of costs.  The most interesting result, I think relates to the engine rebuild.

Comprehensive cylinder head re-condition £1,730.33 inc VAT
Block re-condition £3,321.88   Grand Total £5052.20 inc VAT

Back in July 2009 VSE re-built my 140 engine at a VAT inclusive cost of £3,800 including a rear oil seal conversion.  I did have the additional cost of delivering and collecting to mid Wales, (twice as it turned out due to an oil leak - "pop it back and we'll take a look"), a round trip of some 450 miles.

My VAT inclusive cost for the 120 engine is just over £5,000 - doing almost all but the machining work myself.  Allowing for inflation and travelling costs, not too different to the VSE job.  I suppose the benefit is that I know exactly what has gone into the 120 engine and I have taken great care at every stage of re-assembly.  It also benefited from some superb quality forged pistons, valves, guides and rear oil seal from Dan Mooney at Classic Jaguar in Austin Texas.
For anyone considering a DIY engine build, the above costs make for interesting reading.  If your doing it for satisfaction and a sense of achievement, fine.  If your doing it to save a few quid, forget it!
Thank heavens, it seemed to run superbly in the three hours of effective bench testing (in the chassis) but I won't feel totally confident until I've got a couple of thousand miles on the clock.  I think I used this picture in a previous post, but it's such a lovely thing, it deserves a second look.

Hope it goes as well as it looks.
 The car came back from the trimmers exactly on schedule on March 21st and it all looks pretty good. The first job to complete is the assembly of the side-screens.  These can then be fitted to the doors and this in turn will allow me to get the angles of the windscreen pillars exactly right.  Trimmer John has not finished the front edges to allow a little lee way between them and the pillars.

Initial trial fit of side screens - New trim now in place

Assembling the side screens was challenging.  The frames and perspex edging were all original, just re-chromed or powder coated, so they should have gone back together easily. An estimated couple of hours turned into a good days work but they did look pretty good once finished.
With perspex and chrome trim in place
 Next up was fitting the chrome edging to the windscreen.  The screen glass is quarter inch (6.3mm) and the channel is between 8.2 and 8.5mm wide so I ordered some 1mm rubber strip from Woolies.  Even with lots of lubrication, it was clear that it didn't want to go together and something was going to get bent or broken.  Checking the strip thickness it turned out to be 1.2mm as did another 1mm x 25mm x 5Mtr roll from COH Baines.  You wouldn't think 0.2mm would make much difference, but try as I may it refused to cooperate.

An alternative solution was required.  My 140 Fixed Head Windscreen was expertly installed by Paul from Windscreens Northern, an independent fitter who specialises in Sports / Classics.  After an initial look at the problem, he arrived a few days later with the correct sealing material and with the assistance of some ratchet straps soon had the problem licked.  There are some jobs best left to the experts (if you can find one).  Fortunately I surrendered before the inevitable disaster occurred.

Component parts ready for assembly

Closed cell foam unlike rubber will compress and cushion
Ratchet strap solution to gently pull it all together

All done, with thin bead of sealant to finish off
I now have absolutely no excuse for not fitting the windscreen pillars and carefully aligning them to accommodate the side-screens and hood frame and I just know it's going to be a horrible and exasperating sort of job. I wonder how it would look with aero screens instead?

Next post mid April