Restoring a 1962 Jaguar E-Type

April 26, 2008

One of the good guys

Filed under: Uncategorized — Penforhire @ 2:18 pm

Back when I was restoring the BMW motorcycle I came across some of the best people running businesses that service that market. Ed Korn, for example, sent me some of his custom tools before he even received my payment! I thought perhaps that sort of highest-level business ethic was unique to the classic BMW bike community but I am pleased to report that is not the case.

I failed to locate any local vendor to re-bush my SU carb throttle shafts. Oh at least I made contact with several but they admitted to not having the right tools to work on SU carbs. ‘Merican carbs? No prob! I struck out as badly as Nolan Ryan pitching me a fastball. Fine. Hat in hand, I called Joe Curto in New York. With the three hour difference it never seemed convenient to get ahold of him. Then just last week I made contact and had a nice chat with Joe C himself.

After describing the 4 mil maximum slop I measured, Joe was very clear on saying I didn’t need to do anything other than replace my cork seals. He turned down the work! How outstanding is that? That is a man that apparently deserves the good press he gets from the SU carb owner community. Heck, I’m singing his praises and he didn’t do a thing for me. He said that when he re-bushes these carbs that his typical as-new slop is around 2.5 mils and that my 4 mils wouldn’t cause me any grief in tuning. He was not surprised my steel shafts show virtually no wear.

So now I just need to buy some small carb parts before I slap ’em back together. I’ll be replacing the piston return springs, throttle return springs, throttle plate screws, and one mixture screw (showed you the choppy tip on that before).

One of our readers, Ron, e-mailed me a tip on using molasses, cut 2:1 with water, to remove rust if you have months to let it work. I’d never heard of that before but some quick research revealed it is a well-known technique, usually more dilute (I found as low as 9:1 recommended). Maybe that’s why Ron said it took paint off too (most references said it was paint-safe)! Anyway he only paid $8.75 for 2.5 gallons of agricultural molasses. He diluted that into a tub with his rusty heater box and an aquarium heater to keep everything warm. He waited a few months and now has a clean box! My references suggest sugar beet or black molasses works best. There is at least one commercial formula based on it. See Price was $46 for 5 gallons when I checked so I wouldn’t call that a huge bargain. Huh. I learn something new every day. Thanks Ron!

One more contributor note. Patrick McLoad started a blog to track his Venus restoration. See . His updates might be less regular than mine but he’s aiming to finish his car sooner than me. Seeing his E-Type work I’d say the smart money’s on him to succeed.

Back to my garage. Here is the contrast between the semi-finished right side valve cover and the as-removed left side.

Here is the oil fill cap after starting to sand it.

I notice the lettering appears to painted black. Naturally my paint is crumbling so I worked to clean the letter out more after this photo. I’ll have to paint it later.

I spotted something odd on the left cover as I was cleaning it with Simple Green.

Hmm. That looks like some over-tightening cracks filled with epoxy. And on the interior side —

Yep, someone welded it up. Now what I don’t really understand is the valve covers are just sort of a splash retainer for the oiling of the top end. They only have to hold a seal against splashing, not any real pressure. So what monkey would overtighten one nut so much as to crack the aluminum?! Sigh. I scraped off the epoxy to take a better look. I am thinking that I can make a more invisible top-side repair by sandwiching some JB Weld under aluminum foil fitted around the cracked area. The foil might match the polished aluminum.

Anyone have a better idea or materials to suggest than that? I can’t see scrapping the whole cover for what amounts to a small cosmetic defect.

I started hand sanding the whole cover just like the other side but it occurred to me that there HAS to be a better way to do the job. BMW Joe had recommended those Scotchbrite-like surfacing pads. These are usually abrasive-coated nylon. I didn’t think they had the coarseness to cut aluminum like 100 grit sandpaper but it was worth a try. Off to Lowes. 3″ coarse pad onto my pneumatic drill.

Surprise surprise. It cut aluminum just fine. But at 1.8K max RPM it was prone to wobbling and dancing on the surface uncontrollably.

Hmm. I stepped down a 2″ pad mounted to a pneumatic die grinder (25K RPM). Nirvana! That gave much better control, not to mention a faster cut. Maybe too fast. Did I mention there seems to be a learning curve to every tool I use?

I went from coarse pad —

To a medium pad —

To a medium-fine pad —

I finished with a fine pad. These pads are neat. Even after all this surface area they are each still working fine. I went through several sheets of sandpaper doing the same work. But at this point I could clearly see that my coarse work was, well, coarse. I did not keep the surface grinding even enough. So I went back to sand paper and, as I write this, I need to work the entire surface again. See the mottled area near the red arrow in this photo.

That is the start of my hand sanding in that area. I have to work it until the surface is even. Oh I tried jumping to the emery polish wheel but the surface waviness is obvious. So back to elbow grease. I’m sure my next polishing effort will go smoother (get it?) but the left cover is taking longer than the right cover. I have no doubt it’ll look better than the right when I’m done. Actually that scares me. If it looks too much better I’ll have to slave over the right side again. Sigh.

I like to finish what I start before moving on so I’ll be completing the valve covers before I return to the carbs. Maybe in the next post. We’ll see.

Just a heads-up. My internet connection is DSL now and I’m lucky if I get 700K BPS down and 150K BPS up. I’m getting Verizon FIOS installed in early May. I’ve heard some installation horror stories but Bob at work says it went smoothly for him. Anyway if my home connection goes down for a while my posts will be more irregular than usual. But I sure am looking forward to 5/2 MBPS (Bob says he gets that rated speed). I’m picking up their Triple Play service and dumping DirecTV. My monthly cost will be about the same as I’m paying now for phone, ISP, and TV combined but all those services are upgraded in different ways.

I’m looking forward to a car show at the Muckenthaler Museum ( in Fullerton May 17th & 18th. The Los Angeles Jaguar club is advising their members to compete in the concours on Sunday. Maybe I’ll get to crawl around a working Series 1 E-Type! I haven’t joined the Jag club yet. Their $70 annual membership fee keeps riff-raff like me out I guess. I can’t quite see what is worth THAT much coin to be a member. I mean, that’s about twice the typical dues for every other vehicle club I ever joined, and I’ve joined a bunch, excepting maybe the AMA or SCCA which are larger organizations that clearly do more. Any Jag club members want to make a case for their value here?


  1. Penforhire: First and foremost, thank you for the kind words and for promoting the link to my blog. I expect to make a new entry sometime this week.
    In regards to the cracks in the overhead cam covers, this is a malady that almost all XK engines suffer from, partly from Jaguar making them so darn thin, the other from heavy-handed mechanics and owners. There is a secret to keeping these from leaking oil while keeping them original.
    First of all, people need to realize that the purpose of the nuts is simply to seal the gasket between the two machined surfaces of the cover and the head, and it doesn’t take a lot of force to do this. Second, the engine designers at Jaguar had a problem of how to seal these hole(s) on top of a very hot engine. Rubber would degrade very quickly, and you would have thought that fibre washers would have been a suitable solution, but again, fibre washers are quite hard. But they chose copper. Why? Because copper is soft and will conform to the surfaces of the nut and the hole in the cover. If you take a look at one of the used copper washers, you will see indentations on both sides. I finally came to the realization that you cannot re-use these copper washers. Once they are indented for a particular hole, stud, and nut, they will not mate precisely if re-used anywhere else, and thus, will never seal correctly ever again. But because the copper washers were re-used, they would leak, and naturally, someone came along and tightened down even harder on the nut thinking that would stop the leak, and thus, cracking the brittle cast-aluminum around the hole. All that is needed is to hand-tighten and one-quarter turn with a wrench.
    When I remove my OHC covers, I always install new copper washers and I have never had a leak at the acorn nuts since starting this practice. These washers are so cheap and plentiful; you can get them at a nearby ACE hardware store as opposed to ordering through a Jag parts vendor. I don’t need fibre, nylon, or rubber washer backup. Turns out the Jag designers had the right idea after all. One other tip, and I know this will sound crazy, but before installing the copper washers, hit one side with the buffing wheel. Try to hold them with a pair of needle nose that are flat at the jaws otherwise the teeth will indent the soft copper. But man-oh-man will your cam covers look great with the polished copper washers!! The wax in the buffing compound will keep them from oxidizing quickly as well.
    In regards to your covers, all that is really needed is a bit of epoxy to seal the underside cracks of the cover, or even a dab of Permatex. Must have been a fairly substantial crack to require welding. This problem was solved (I think) with a re-design of the cam covers in the Series 2 E-Types, which in my humble opinion, aren’t nearly a nice-looking.
    I certainly urge you to attend as many shows as possible where there might be a Series-1 3.8 lurking around, and take lots of detailed photos if you can get close enough; especially of the wiring and resistor under the fan, and what is coming out of the firewall and where.
    Besides the social aspect of being a member of a Jag club is to have access to other members with similar cars for questions and the like, but the Internet has changed all of that. Part of the $70 is about 20 bucks for membership into JCNA (Jag Clubs of N. America). Our Houston dues are still only 50 bucks. You do get a subscription to the “Jaguar Journal” magazine, for what that’s worth. It’s not a bad little publication (an unbiased opinion even though my Series-1 graces the front cover of the current April issue 😉 . One option you might explore is if you can be a member of your local club without being a member of JCNA, or, you can be a member of JCNA without committing to a local club (it’s called being a member at large and should only be 20 bucks or so). But you’ve been a member of enough car clubs to know the ins and outs. Once your car is finished, I suspect you might become interested.

    Comment by Patrick McLoad — April 28, 2008 @ 5:40 am

  2. @ Penforhire:

    I found out about Joe from reading your blog and bought a part from him about 2 weeks ago. He refused to sell me the part until I went home and double-checked the part number on the piece that I broke. A great guy, really knows what he’s doing.

    I also recommend finding a similar car near you to take pictures of, be it at a show, or whatever. The local Jag (Tata?) dealer has a 67 roadster that I go take reference pictures of about once a month. While it’s not even close to a perfect car, it’s better than nothing.


    Good tip on the copper washers. If I’m ever in Houston, I’d like to check out your car!

    –Mike from El Paso

    Comment by Mike — April 29, 2008 @ 7:56 am

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