Restoring a 1962 Jaguar E-Type

March 22, 2008

Luck of the Irish

Filed under: 1962, auto restoration, car restoration, E-Type, Jaguar, XK-E, XKE — Penforhire @ 10:13 pm

Here is the SU carb DVD I bought from Moss Motors.


$40 and worth it for a handful of tips I did not know, such as how to center the main jet without a centering tool. It covers all four types of SU carbs from disassembly to rebuilding to tuning. Amateur “production value” (lighting, editing, lack of main menu) but two thumbs up from me.

Here is what appears to be the ‘standard’ SU tuning kit (looks the same from different vendors).


Unfortunately it does not include Whitworth wrenchs for the jet guide nut or the float shut-off valve. A little research shows me Whitworth tools are awfully expensive, even discounted on e-Bay. Must not sell enough of them. I have to keep my eyes open because there’s just no way I’m spending over $100 on a small Whitworth socket selection!

Here is one of the three SU rebuild kits I got.


Looks very nice. It is not 100% of what I need. I figure to also replace the two butterfly screws, main piston spring (long soft one), and exterior throttle return springs. Note the newer style butterfly screws are not split but rather have a dimple that you centerpunch to expand. One of the tips in that DVD is about supporting the throttle shaft in the carb when you punch those dimples.

Check this out. These are the carb damper piston tops before and after polishing.


That brass sure sparkles but you wouldn’t believe it looking at the corroded one!

Here’s some advice about polishing. If you are working at a particular grit stage stop if you see an imperfection that bothers you. There is no point in going to a finer grit because that mark will NOT look better after you polish with finer grits. All you’ll do is waste time. You have to back up to the grit that removes the unwanted mark or pit. I know that sounds obvious but even after I know better I still waste time working the same grit longer than I should rather than back up.

Look, triplets!


If you have occasion to have your carb bells off like this make sure you do not mix up the bells and the needle pistons. They are each matched pairs and all my repair references have dire warnings about mixing them up because the vacuum-operated tolerances are so close. I seem to be fortunate in that my bell/piston sets seem to fit just right, not worn out. Of course the proof is in the tuning and that is light-years away.

One thing that may be worn excessively on my carbs are the brass bushings that carry the throttle shaft (butterfly shaft). Most references and some of the other E-type owners I contacted say the shaft should be very snug, no perceptible wiggle. I measure about 4 mils total worst wiggle in mine. The steel shafts themselves are unworn. The wiggle does not change if I slide the shaft a half-inch to ride on a virgin section. And my flat-anvil micrometer says the shaft diameters are 0.3105″, also indicating no difference in the wear areas (to maybe 0.2 mil resolution).

The issue is any vacuum leak through the shaft causes idle tuning to be a nightmare. Such a leak will vary and the butterfly itself may not seat exactly the same every time. Given the time and effort I am putting into this restoration why take a chance? I e-mailed Joe Curto to see if he agrees, is there any reason to consider the +10 mil standard over-sizing, and how much he’d charge to rebush. He is one of the top SU repair shops and parts suppliers in America. He must be busy because he hasn’t gotten back to me.

I found some references to the job. The old bushes need to be carefully drilled out. New bushes that start undersize are press-fit. Then they are reamed with a piloted tool to attempt perfect concentricity (one side of carb to the other). This reaming should be slightly undersize, by only 1 mil or so, and the final fit should be lapped in place by the actual throttle shaft. Now if it is done that way I can see why “no perceptible motion” should result.

I am checking out local shops to see if anyone offers this but I do need to re-bush before slapping the carbs back together. As you might imagine, by the time I got to taking apart the third carb I was darn quick. I anticipate the hardest part of reassembly to be the throttle linkages. The carb guts are that simple!

Since I am a stalled on carb assembly I studied the engine to see what else I might like to strip off the top. Right above the carbs is an “air balancing manifold.” This is a tube that links all three carbs after the butterflies, just before the siamesed intakes. It is mounted to those intakes and a vacuum line at the rear of it goes down to what looks like an accumulator (vacuum storage) and then a line goes from there, across the firewall, to the brake servo. Looks like I have vacuum assist on this car. It may or may not have been stock. I see references to a mechanical lever on early cars but the vacuum bellows widget is supposed to be a big improvement.

Here is the balancing manifold (arrow pointing up) and the vacuum accumulator (arrow pointing down, I’m just assuming that is what it is for now).


The upper throttle linkage runs along the top of the balancing manifold, into two manifold bosses. Here is a close up of the center joint.


Here is the front end joint.


Both joints are 3/4″ bolt heads held captive by some sort of fold-over washer-widget. It is easier to unscrew them if you bend the folded piece back to flat. Ah yes, advice learned the hard way.

Here is the rear end of this throttle linkage run. It terminates into a firewall-mounted sleeve. Mine is missing a bolt!


That sleeve has a rubber surround that must be used to take up misalignment or torsional stress. Naturally my rubber is petrified so we’ll need to replace that.

I am spending extra space here (and even more photos on my hard drive) to document the throttle linkages because I have the sense they will be the hardest things to get just right again. Here is the run of linkage along the firewall, from that rubber-sleeved pivot over to the driver’s side.


Here is the throttle linkage over on the driver’s side, just adjacent to the brake vacuum bellows


Here is the linkage section from the balancing manifold, on my bench.


Here is detail on that front pivot. Looks like these pivots need regular greasing but I don’t see any Zerk or similar fittings to make it easy?


Here is detail on the center pivot.


Here is detail on the firewall pivot.


Here is the air balancing manifold on my bench. One of the studs in the cylinder intakes unscrewed (on the left).


This part cracks me up. The factory polished the side you can see here but the other side has a rough porous finish. The vacuum outlet on the left here just seems to be a restriction and the three links to the carbs are relatively big. The carb tuning has to be somewhat linked through this manifold.

Here is the vacuum outlet end a a view of one of the balancing ports.


Here is the vacuum port disassembled. There is another gasket I’ll need to replace. Yep, another stud came off with the nut.


Here is what the intakes look like now. I believe that is a water manifold above them, attached to the radiator.


I expect to pull those off next but I have quite a bit of cleaning and rust removal to do on the bits I just showed you. Not the most glamorous work but it does make me feel closer to this car. Touching, and cleaning up, every little nut and bolt gives me a sense of the machine that you’ll never get if you only drive a working car. It is no guarantee I’ll like the end result but it makes for an unforgettable journey.

And now for this week’s personal buffoonery. BMW Joe and I went of the Saint Patrick’s Day motorcycle ride last week. The start was at Crazy Otto’s in Acton so we figured we’d head over Angeles Crest Highway to Angeles Forest, instead of the droning superslab ride up route 5 to 14 to Acton. Probably the same hour or so to get there but through twisty mountain roads instead of a straight highway. Well, we didn’t figure on the winter conditions up there. We had a week of high temperatures so we figured we were safe. Boy were we wrong.

We got seven miles up Angeles Crest Highway from the 210 exit to Angeles Forest Road just fine. The road was clean and dry. But Angeles Forest was closed. Large barrier signs were dragged across the road just after the turn off. I could have been a landslide but we guessed at ice because it was pretty nippy (I had my electric liner set to “broil”) and it rained the night before. Joe has his GPS working so he says let’s keep going on Angeles Crest. Now my mind wasn’t all there, hadn’t had my coffee yet, so I nod and we head off. See, I know Angeles Crest is not open all the way through Wrightwood to go around the East side of the mountains. There was a sign a few miles back confirming that. So the only turn off that made sense ahead of us was Upper Big Tujunga (yeah, wacky road name) and THAT was just a loop that’d put us down on Angeles Forest, halfway down the mountain. I guess Joe figured maybe the road would be open there but if I had my wits about me I’d have argued for a turn-around right there.

Anyway. We continue up Angeles Crest Highway and some SUV drivers taking bicycles off their trucks give us weird looks as we pass them. What-do-you-know, not a half mile later we hit our first stretch of ice. Not nice white snow and not just a trickle across the road. Actual clear-as-day ice, with a just fine dusting of snow, for a few hundred yards (all the way to the next turn)! We stop in front of this and mull it over. Well, I mull and Joe, who is a child of the northeastern US, just sticks his legs out and chugs up the road. I set my radio to bitch mode. “Joe, I don’t like this! Joe, maybe we should just turn back. Joe, where are we going?” See if Gary or Italian Joe were with us I am certain we would have had a majority wimp-out turn-around right then. Well, Italian Joe only uses race-rubber tires and expensive Italian body panels on his bikes so he’d have turned at the sight of ice.

Sigh. Just before he leaves radio range BMW Joe says, “I have lots of experience riding around with friends on roads like this in Massachusetts.” So I say, “that means you have lots of experience helping pick up your friends’ bikes and calling their wives to meet us at the hospital?” Sigh. Okay feet out, upshift to keep torque low, no sudden moves, and off we go. There are stretches of clear road but as we continue about 13 miles to Upper Big Tujunga, gaining altitude, those stretches get shorter and shorter. Going around turns on ice on two wheels has a real pucker factor. You try to straighten the turn but there’s only so much you can do to straighten 180 degree hairpins.

We arrive at the turn and we look down the road. Upper Big Tujunga looks like a good place to bring a sled. Solid deep white snow as far as we can see! I can tell Joe is mulling now. I’m deranged but not entirely stupid so I turn around. Joe eventually agrees.

You know what has more pucker factor than riding all the way up a mountain on ice-covered roads? Riding back down. It is harder to smoothly maintain your speed. Since you’re idling along in a high gear you tend to accelerate too much just from the slope.

You could say we had the luck of the Irish because we survived without mishap and got to the start of the run, just an hour later than expected and sorely in need of coffee!


  1. Wonderful stuff! I have a ’65 ots. I’ve done the carbs AND the engine (GTJ’s last build) but I have tons more to do. GOOD LUCK!

    Comment by markmcchesney — April 9, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

  2. Just saw your site and am impressed with the enthusisiam. I have a CD that has about 500 pictures of my 1963 XKE which was #3 in the country last year. It might help you idenitify some things and procedures. Will be glad to send you one au-gratis. Just send me your address and I will pop one in the mail. It is a long job to restore one of these but well worth it. Thanks, Dick Maury

    Comment by Dick Maury — July 15, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

  3. Hello Dick and welcome! I tried sending you an e-mail reply but your in-box is full and it bounced! If you have another e-mail address send it to me at –

    Don’t hesitate to post more comments here!

    Comment by penforhire — July 15, 2008 @ 6:17 pm

  4. Eric,
    I am re posting this comment as I think I posted it in the wrong place last time.
    Good project. It will certainly keep you out of trouble for a while. I have a 68′ FHC that I have owned since march of 1981. As this was my only car, I performed a lite driving restoration when I first got it. I put 94,000 miles on it and it now needs a total re-do. The E-Type has been sitting for some years while I was restoring another car. Now I have all the new body panels to get started, all I lack is the time. I hope that as I follow your progress it will give me the motivation to get started on my E-type. I love the detailed photo record that you are maintaining. Good luck and enjoy the process. Sometimes the journey is more enjoyable than the destination.

    Comment by Bill — July 17, 2008 @ 9:22 am

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