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