JAGUAR Sports Cars: making them better…
Once again, we lead off with the sports car segment for JAGUAR cars. Though Swallow Side Car & Coach Building evolved into JAGUAR CARS, the history of this fabled marque and its humble beginnings has only inspired such fantastic automobiles like the SS 100, XK-120, E-Type, and XJ Saloons. Sir William Lyons was adamant about offering elegance, performance, and value for dollar. These cars were never intended to last this long or to have values 5 or 10 times their original selling price. So, with that in mind the selection of a JAGUAR SPORTS CAR restorer is important from several perspectives.
The three most important decisions are, 1. Can you afford to restore the car yourself? 2. Does your budget allow for a professional restoration shop to do the work? 3. Are you keeping the car for fun or are you intending on selling upon completion?
Selection criteria of a restoration shop…
First, make sure the shop has restored more than just one of your models of car. A One Car Restoration does not make a restorer an expert! JAGUAR SPORTS CARS were initially hand built cars by workers who were learning on the job. They had basic skills but at the end of the day, their training was minimal, and their pay was just as bad. Lyons also was a shrewd businessman and was always looking for a deal on available parts for his new cars. It was not uncommon for his parts purchasing department to buy from several suppliers on any given day and sometimes those supplies would only last for a short period of time and they would have to search for other sources of similar parts. This created a frustration in the workforce and lead to inconsistent build quality through a model run. Such was the British Car industry after WW2 when the economy was shifting from making bombers and fighter planes to making luxury and sports cars.
Second, the JAGUAR XK-120 sports car was a test bed for the sedan line of automobiles. Lyons did not anticipate the popularity of the XK-120. A qualified restorer of early XK-120, 40, 50’s and E-Types should have done at least a dozen of these cars to qualify as expert restorer. They should have expert technicians in paint and body to either make new body panels or restore them to the original shapes. They should be well versed in steel and aluminum forming, welding, pre-paint preparation, and painting.
Final Assembly is also a key factor to consider. Visit several shops, ask to see how ongoing projects are progressing. Look for a clean working area, potential scuff areas taped off with masking tape or protective plastic sheeting. Look at the technicians, are they wearing gloves, clean uniforms, floor free of oil and dirt, no food in the work area, NO SMOKING near cars, are other cars covered with protective covers while waiting for work to be completed on them.
Are parts arranged on racks for final assembly, written instructions to where and how they are to be fitted, are they clean, freshly painted, or polished, has the technician pre-fitted the parts prior to final mounting, and are the parts installed and aligned correctly with the appropriate hardware. Overtightening is a common problem with technicians who are not familiar with working with older cars, aluminum, wood, and leather are fragile and require a “soft touch” when installing.
Third, reviewing the restorer’s inventory of completed cars is important because it will describe the breadth and depth of the skills his technicians are capable of and might influence your degree of restoration. In other words, his shop might have an upholstery expert that can produce finished interiors beyond what was installed at the factory, and you might want to upgrade your project to take advantage of that skill and quality. Those technicians are far and few between and when you can get high quality work installed, it might mean the difference of several thousands of dollars when it comes time to sell. In other words, find a shop that offers more quality and has experience producing authentic and accurate restorations, you might pay a little more but the way the market is going your investment will benefit you in the long term with a higher value.
Fourth, decide if your automobile is to be restored to original condition, preserved as an example of a well-maintained original car that left the factory, or you just want the car to be a safe reliable example and requires only minimal freshening-up. These options really are the basis for your choosing a restorer. Your next steps are to find a reputable local independent JAGUAR service shop and have these basic systems checked; suspension, brakes, cooling, carbs or fuel injection, engine, and transmission, and have them serviced.