Shipping a sixty year old Jaguar to foggy old England, with plans to drive it probably 5000 miles in six months through mountain passes and on twisty coastal roads……what could possibly go wrong?
Needless to say, even for my multiple Concours winning 1958 XK150, a lot. So to minimize the probability of missing some adventure due to “car down”, some months ago I embarked on a comprehensive maintenance and upgrade program that is just now (with ten days to go before shipping) finished. I hope…..final test drive this Saturday.
Despite having lots of TLC lavished on it over the years, time takes a toll. The car was originally restored between 2005 and 2007 by XKs Unlimited. They treated it to a full, nut and bolt, body off restoration to the highest standards. Virtually everything was new or rebuilt. The transmission was upgraded to a modern five speed and the suspension got poly bushings and Spax shocks, but otherwise the car was returned to original.
Now ten year later, while the car has been unbelievably reliable and has covered thousands of miles, it’s just time. The tires are ten years old, as are the hoses and belt. I faintly remember changing the coolant about five years ago! So I started “the list”. Maintenance items first, then upgrades.
First up, a cracked exhaust manifold needed attention, so a new ceramic coated pair was ordered. But while they were off, may as well pull the carbs and send them to Joe Curto for a rebuild. Now with good access to the cams, the valve clearance can be reset while all the aluminum goes out to Bud’s for a polish. Half the hoses are off already so may as well replace them all along with the thermostat. Where did that month go?
Then it’s off to XKs for a fresh set of Vredestiens and truing the wire wheels. Oh and how about converting the car to negative ground so I can plug my Garmin into the cigar lighter? That requires swapping out the Pertronix ignition, so may as well give it a full electrical tune up too.
Well when she came back she was purring and driving nicely, but what about the brakes? They were working fine, but ten years on the pads and hydraulics without even changing the brake fluid. Of course I have the early round pad brakes, so what would usually be a two hour job ends up taking two weekends. Rebuild the front calipers, new pads, and new fluid, check the rears and adjust the emergency brake. Now we go and stop!
Change the clutch fluid, adjust clutch, fix rattle in front door, wash, wax, clean wire wheels, lube everything, etc., etc. All done, now time for some fun!
First up was the addition of electric power steering. A great kit, a great outcome, at least 40 hours invested and a LOT more cutting than I expected. But the car now handles like a dream and I can park anywhere. But with my very much improved cornering ability, I (and especially wife Cindi) were sliding all over the front seats even with the belts tight. Solution: Aldridge Trimming in the UK makes bucket seats upholstered exactly as the original bench seats. Order ‘em up.
Soon (like ten weeks) they arrived and looked and smelled wonderful. A perfect match to the rest of the interior color and grain. But not one to leave well enough alone……. These seats have no adjusters. They are intended to be installed for the size of the owner. Can’t have that, so it’s off to the fabricator to duplicate the adjusting mechanism of the original seats. May be the only adjustable buckets in captivity. But they are sweet in the turns and if my legs ever get any longer, I can move the seat back!
Of course, with power steering I no longer need the huge 17” school bus steering wheel rubbing on my legs. But the replacement has to be period correct. A Moto-Lita 15” wood rimmed and polished aluminum spoked wheel with polished growler horn button…..just the trick.
Now we can go, we can stop and we can turn and we have 12v negative ground, so what other fun can we get into? I like to use a Garmin when travelling and my little Nuvi fits perfectly in the open cubby hole in the dash and is very stable when mounted to a chunk of Lucite. Of course we have to provide power to it, no dangling cables will do, and so a dedicated power lead is fabricated and fed through a small hole in back of the cubby.
Lastly I took a deep dive on the lighting. With negative ground, a lot more options were open. I hooked up with Gil at www.bettercarlighting.com in the UK and got the works. LED headlamps (easy), LED brake lamps (easy), LED turn signals and third brake light (not so easy). Further work included upgrading the bulbs on the dash and turn indicators to LED and adding a flasher “sounder” to replace the click of the old mechanical turn signal flasher.
Now we go, stop, turn, know where we are going and can be seen getting there.
So what have I forgotten?