Tuesday, 17 September 2013


Well, it would seem that I'm just about there and would have to say that I've enjoyed the journey and also enjoyed writing this up a couple of times a month.  This started out as a simple solution to store pictures and notes related to the project and really only for my own use.  It finished up as a fully blown blog with in excess of 60K views over the duration of the restoration and regularly hit 4000 views a month which was surprisingly satisfying.
It has also had some interesting side effects.  The Jaguar Drivers Club discovered it and asked me to produce a series of articles to run in parallel with the blog, the final part being in last months JDC magazine.  This led on to the XK Gazette asking if I would do a much longer series, perhaps over 24 months, each with around 10 pictures and 1500 words.  The fourth part of that series will be in the October Gazette.  I suspect to encourage me onto greater things they also suggested that the Gazette series could be the basis of an XK restoration book to be published by Porter Press and sure enough that did appeal to my vanity but I really would expect some proper remuneration for my efforts if that most unlikely of events ever actually occurred. 
The blog was of course written in real time and I only really needed to remember what I did last week or so. The Gazette series is about 20 months displaced and I would have to say that without the blog, it would be an impossible task.
I have also had many interesting email discussion on many aspects of the project.  It was just a shame that the comments part of the blog proved unworkable and had to be turned off due to the continual stream of totally unrelated rubbish received.
The benefits of retirement are very slowly starting to materialise.  For the time being I will hopefully retain my workshop at my old business premises but as the months go by I seem to start later and finish earlier and because today was wet and cold, I decided I would just take the day off.  Disgraceful!

For years I've looked for the ideal receptacle for the tools and spares that really need to be carried when your out and about in a fifty year old car.  I've invariably finished up with some horrid plastic B&Q tool box which has absolutely no place in the boot of an XK or any other respectable classic for that matter.  I was therefore quite pleased to come across an almost ideal old leather bag with all the right bits inside to retain safely and accessibly everything I normally carry.  It needed a bit of work and a few alterations to make it perfect and I lent it and its contents to a stranded C type replica owner at a recent show.  Upon its return he commented that more people asked about the bag than the car!  It goes into production in around a months time and with any luck I might even have the first batch available for Christmas.  So if you see a super posh and brilliantly practical tool bag advertised in the classic car press late this year or early next, you'll know the story behind it.

As I've said before, I will write up the full explanation and outcome of the electric water pump conversion, the totally outrageous but well hidden audio system and any other items of interest that occur during the winter months.  All will eventually, god willing, appear in the XK Gazette and I should think that a fair proportion of you who follow this will also take that publication.

So that it for now.  No more regular fortnightly updates.  Only an occasional post when there really is something worth writing about.

Sunday, 1 September 2013


The UK classic car rally scene is in full swing with quite literally a choice of events every weekend and for once, the weather has been glorious, almost every day since the beginning of July.  The 120 has won some sort of prize wherever its been in spite of the fact that my list of 40 plus jobs to totally finish it has not really diminished.  Of course, these are all quite local shows where cars are judged on their appeal, for example a vote by the public for the car they would most like to take home.  With no hood, spare wheel and original tool roll, a proper concourse judge would have dismissed it out of hand.  Unfortunately the change to non optional wire wheels (in 1950), lack of spats and a plethora of stainless fasteners will still exclude it from real concourse competitions even when the job list reads zero.

JDC member Nick Evans snapped me arriving at Raby Castle and couldn't resist putting the picture forward for a caption competition.  My entry is:

Mr Magoo senses he may be getting close to the rally location

With something approaching 800 miles completed, I'm pleased as punch with the way it drives, the engine and drive train are super smooth and having finally sorted the wheel balance issue (I think more by chance than science) makes it a very relaxed high speed cruiser.
It's always difficult to establish just how good a home-built car actually is because we work mainly in isolation.  I suggested to fellow 120 roadster owner Tony that we swap cars for a twenty mile thrash over the North Yorkshire moors and he agrees that it would be an interesting exercise. 
Arriving for lunch at a remote country pub located at a not very busy road junction (we saw one car and two tractors in ninety minutes!) we sat outside in the sunshine and compared notes or rather we didn't.  It transpires that neither of us could honestly differentiate between cars,; they felt virtually identical.  All the more remarkable because Tony's has a rack and pinion conversion and mine a disc brake conversion.  Very gratifying.

See :-             http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OasawZjeRM

Tony finished his 120 a few years ago, has spent quite some time refining it and I've been lucky to benefit from his experience.  

Tony in his very well sorted 120 at the spring Croft Track day

It recently dawned on me that I haven't  posted any proper pictures of the car in its 'cosmetically' finished state so here's the usual selection.

 I do have one problem which may be resolved in time.  It makes me feel dreadfully ostentatious; possibly down to the the really shiny white finish coupled with the white wheels.  Oddly, the 140 fixed-head has always felt like a cool car but the 120 feels so much different.  My daughter who is usually right about such things tells me I'm simply too scruffy and ancient to be ostentatious and should stop worrying about it.

I know I've mentioned before that back in the late seventies we lived next door to the Mooney family in County Durham and their son Aidan (now just Dan) moved to Texas in 94 and now runs Classic Jaguar in Austin. We've remained firm friends throughout so it was great to have Dan and wife Justine stop with us for a couple of days.  It did turn out to be a bit of a bus-mans holiday for Dan as we did a tour of the area looking at various Jaguar and XK related projects.  

One port of call was the result of a most remarkable series of events.  A former business partner took six months holiday a couple of years back to ride his BMW bike from Alaska to Argentina.  A year or so later he attended a reunion in the Midlands and in conversation it emerged that another biker (from a different trip) was the owner of an un-restored XK120 roadster.  It further emerged that he apparently lived less than three miles from me - ridiculous!  Unfortunately the exact detail was lost in  the usual alcoholic haze of such events and after a while I did wonder if he'd dreamt it.   At our JDC annual event in mid August, (see first picture) the owner of said 120 introduced himself and sure enough lived just up the road.  You couldn't make it up!

Yet another very local 120 roadster emerges

Dan and I took the opportunity to call by and I took the liberty of inviting the other two very local 120 roadster owners, Andy and Tony,  This makes four cars, all within a few miles of each other; possibly the highest concentration of 120 roadsters in the world?  This particular car came from the states and had already had a good amount of work done when Ed bought it around 10 years back.  Looking after his collection of other cars and bikes has taken precedence to date but now encouraged by the newly formed North Riding of Yorkshire XK120 Roadster Owners Club it may finally be the 120's turn.

Next port of call is longstanding friend, marine artist Pete Baker.  Pete has owned his Alvis for more than forty years and I vaguely remember assisting in the fitting of its ex Bentley body just after he bought it.    Dan as ever is immensely enthusiastic about this wonderfully patinated old war horse of a car and is treat to the customary jaunt around the North Yorkshire dales.

Pete Baker and Dan enjoying the best driving roads in the world
Whilst on the subject of things you couldn't make up, here's another.  I attended the two day Croft Revival meeting at the beginning of August and on the first day met a very tall and dignified gent by the name of Jimmy Blumer.  Jimmy was a local 50's and 60's motor racing legend competing in Le-Mans, the Monte etc and raced with all of the glitterati of the period.  He told me he had once owned, raced, hill climbed and rallied a 120 roadster from 1954 to 1957 and only sold it because it was completely knackered (worn out).  He easily remembered the registration number and that evening I put it into the XK Data web site.  Not only was it still around but had recently been for sale, with the comment that it's history prior to the last two owners was unknown !!!
I actually found and printed off a copy of the add and met Jimmy the following day.  He was most perturbed that the original silver metallic light blue colour had been changed and was puzzled that it's early competition history meant it would actually add a premium to it's value, commenting  "to get the best possible price, we always sold our cars with the strap line never raced or rallied"
In spite of some extensive research, it seems that this car has gone to ground again, but it would make a great next project if I could locate.  This time I would resist the temptation to change anything and really would restore it to its precise original condition, spats and all.
Jimmy Blumer with BRDC cap and 50 plus years membership pin
I'm very sad to report that Jimmy passed away on August 24th 2013

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


My list of jobs to do to completely finish the 120 seems to alternate between forty and fifty items.  Just as soon as I knock one off the list, another appears.  This of course is the result of me taking every opportunity to drive the car rather than concentrating on tying up the myriad of loose ends. The other thing responsible for such slow progress is the long overdue need to spend some time on the 140 fixed head and Frogeye Sprite.
Amongst other niggles, the 120's water temperature gauge has stopped working.  Its the type with a copper capillary tube from the gauge to the radiator and is a specialist repair job.  As it's also the oil pressure gauge I can't really do without it so I'm on the lookout for a replacement to send off for reconditioning.  I think the capillary tube for the XK is a bit longer than the standard item so it needs to be a gauge specifically for a 120.  As I really need to know what my engine temperature is, especially at this early stage of running in, I temporarily fit a modern gauge.  Interestingly, it agrees exactly with the typical running temperature of 80 degrees recorded by the original before it stopped working.

Temporary Water temperature gauge attached with Velcro

This is considerably cooler than the 140 when it was running in, which occasionally went off the clock.  Also, it doesn't have anything like the 140's heat soak problem which leads me to wonder if the 140 engines reconditioning done a few years back by VSE actually included a very thorough block clean. It's only around six weeks now to the time when the 120 will be taken off the road for the winter and then all these outstanding jobs can be attended too.  Now I know that the original cooling system is working to spec, I'll also finish off the conversion to the electric water pump over the winter.  This will no doubt generate a post in it's own right.

The 120 motor continues to run superbly, very quite with loads of torque.  The only criticism would be a very light tappet noise which is intermittent and cyclic, most noticeable at around 75 degrees. At 700RPM it will go from silent to ticking and back to silent every fifty seconds or so.  I can only guess that its an out of true bucket which changes the valve clearance by a few thou as it is rotated by it's cam lobe.

I was initially concerned about oil pressure which was between 20 and 50 PSI hot (85 degrees).  This is around 20PSI lower than the 140, but as its remained constant I have now put this down to the earlier gear type pump.  Every expert I've consulted to date tells me I've nothing to worry about and it's fairly typical for an early 120 so it probably is OK.  My initial concern over this led me to have a full oil analysis test done at 100 miles.  This involves sending off a small phial of oil to a lab where they look for any traces of stuff that shouldn't be there.  Tin, lead, Iron, silicone etc. recorded in parts per million; it all adds up to give an indication of whats happening inside.  As my main concern was oil pressure, I thought the oil may have been contaminated with fuel, reducing it's viscosity; possibly caused over rich running and plug fouling problems, due to the otter switch holding the starting carb on longer than necessary (resolved with a manual over-ride switch).   The oil analysis showed nothing unusual, no trace of fuel and the viscosity was also correct for the Millers straight SAE30 running in oil.  For complete peace of mind, I will however invest in another analysis 500 miles after the next oil change.

You may recall in previous posts that I had twice checked speedo accuracy with someone following and it was hugely incorrect reading approximately 20% less than it should.  It also seems that the mileometer is incorrect by a similar percentage.  Is this something to do with the drive from the new five speed box?  My 140 speedo and mileometer are unbelievably accurate (same box but from Classic Jaguar in Texas) so it's a bit of a puzzle.  An additional puzzle is that at 2500 RPM the cars following, on both occasions recorded 80MPH, 9MPH more than my calculations indicated if fifth gear ratio is as I thought - 0.79

Back in May I had attempted to connect  the rev counter drive but it didn't feel right.  Fortunately I checked that the input to the rev counter was free but it was actually seized solid in it's bearing.  I would guess that whatever lubrication it had, had changed it's consistency to a sort of varnish, gluing the surfaces firmly together.  A little heat and some WD40 soon had them apart and after a thorough clean and light oil all back together as good as new. 

Rev Counter input shaft was seized solid in its bearing

Before checking actual speed with a Sat-Nav, I checked the rev counters accuracy against my Gunson test set and at 1000RPM and 2500RPM it was absolutely spot on.  The Sat-Nav then recorded 77MPH at 2500RPM.  This would indicate that the cars following previously were both 3MPH optimistic which is believable and interestingly, the same error I see in my Audi.  To achieve 77MPH I would need a 5th gear ratio of around 0.73.  An optional ratio for the Tremec box is 0.72, so I can't help wondering if that's what I've got.  In any event, it's an ideal 5th gear so whatever the reason, I'm more than happy.

Back in the thirties, the quality and smoothness of a Rolls Royce engine was often demonstrated by standing a coin on its edge, on the top of the engine.  Yesterday a friend showed me a Seismograph app he had just down loaded onto his Ipad.  I made the point that there's not a lot of call for detecting earth quakes in Yorkshire but you can no doubt guess where I'm going with this.
My feeling is that because of the great care I took building and balancing the 120 motor, it feels smoother than the 140.  Is it really, and also how does it compare to say the 4.2 V8 in my Audi.  Could this free Seismograph app be the ideal instrument to record exactly how smooth an engine is?

XK140  700RPM

XK120  700RPM

Audi 4.2 V8  850RPM

Difficult to say really.  The 120 trace seems the most regular but I had expected the Audi to be far smoother.  In this mode the seismograph is only showing the up / down acceleration (actual movement of the engine) which I thought most relevant.
Probably more interesting is the difference between what it would feel like sat on the engine rather than the seat.  The above two traces were taken with a different much more expensive (69p) seismograph app which simultaneously displays all three dimensions of movement.

three dimensions of movement of engine

and on seat cushion
Needs some better analytical skills I think before it becomes meaningful, but nevertheless I would think some clever lads could come up with an automotive application.

Of course, should fracking become commonplace in this 'desolate' North East part of the UK, then according to those green guys, we'll be detecting proper earth quakes left right and centre - I don't think so.

Next Post early September

Thursday, 8 August 2013


A whole series of events, family happenings, holidays and deadlines for various publications have conspired to slow down this post.  Consequently it's going to be a couple of weeks late, but will definitely appear by latest Thursday 15th August.  My apologies if you've spent time checking if its up.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


Back in January 2012 (Post 21) I moaned about the problems I've always encountered getting wire wheels balanced and on that occasion it was my Frogeye Sprite causing me the usual grief.  I have copied the relevant part of the post below:

Throughout my ownership it has always suffered to some extent from wheel balance problems and try as I may, I have never found a tyre depot that filled me with confidence; with endless attempts to get the wheels balance correctly.  I am pretty well barred from a couple of my local depots due to my insistence that they do a second check after achieving the usual 0-0 on the balancing machine first time round. Always, and I mean ALWAYS it no longer reads 0-0 when they very reluctantly put the wheel back on the machine. The reason, I'm sure, is that the cones are not designed specifically for wire wheels and the wheels fit on the machine slightly differently each time. That's why, when you take them back to the tyre depot you always hear the guy say "don't know who balanced these mate but they're a ******* mile out" Actually, it was you, last week, and you charged me twenty quid, is a not much appreciated response.

So here I am again with the problem of sorting the XK120’s brand new 16”x5” 60 spoke wires and Michelin Pilotes.  But this time things should be different – I saw a set of wheel balancing cones, made to precisely resolve the problem of fitting the wheels to the machines, advertised in JDC magazine.  The kit sold under the Cutteridge brand name comes with a 50 degree cone to fit both large and small spline wheels e.g.  Jag and Frogeye, plus outer 20 degree cones which effectively replicate the spinners for each of the two sizes.  Additionally there are 3 sets of inner spacers which will allow the kit to be fitted to most types of balancing machine.  Cost £180. With a total of 14 wire wheel, If it works it will be a worthwhile investment.  If it doesn't it'll still makes a great Chinese puzzle figuring out how to get all the bits back in the box.

Cutteridge cone kit for wires
First stop is a local depot with an excellent reputation, (and they don’t know me).  Problem is, its a brand spanking new machine and has some fancy pneumatic locking device so it’s one of the few machines the kit won’t fit.  Second stop is a garage that's had a fair bit of work from me so might be prepared to go the extra mile – Brand new machine with same Pneumatic gadget. 
Third stop is part of a National Chain doing mostly commercials but they have the right sort of machine.  Hoping to motivate the fitter I explain that if he can achieve a satisfactory outcome with my cone kit he’ll be inundated with wire wheel business. I could see by his expression that what I should have said of course was – If he can achieve a satisfactory outcome I promise not to tell anyone.
 The cone kit needed a spacer on the spindle to stop the wheel hitting the machines flange before it bedded onto the 50 degree cone. 

50 degree cone ready to accept wire wheel

The wheel and outer cone went on and it was all tightened up in the usual way.  It all looked good and away we went.  Alas, the by now familiar routine followed, once I had persuaded the guy to take the wheel off and put it on again.  A typical variation from the initial 0-0 would be say 15-30.  All four wheels produced similar results. Weights were moved around, different types tried, the machine switched off and on, re-calibrated and all manner of buttons pushed but to no avail. 

And outer 20 degree cone fitted which replicates the spinner
Eventually the gaffer appeared to see what was going on and proclaimed "it’s bound to be different if you put it on in a differently!” (experience will out!) After 2 hours of head scratching and a good deal of cussing we all agreed the exercise was a failure.  No charge, sorry about ******** up ye powder coating, now **** *** and don’t come back. Great thing about North East England – no ambiguity.

Discussing the problem with an acquaintance, he suggests I try a mate of his who owns a tyre fitting business and is possibly a little more analytical than the average employee.  He has a very new but non pneumatic locking type machine and I feel a little more confident that I might get to the bottom of this. 

I initially take in two wheels, first thing in the morning when hopefully the day’s pressures are minimal.  The cone kit requires a spacer as before and the previously semi balanced wheel now shows 45-60.  Very quickly this is adjusted with weights to 5-0, by now a more than acceptable result.  Then the acid test – off and back on - 30-20  I ask the operator to check the machine with a normal wheel and surprisingly he agrees.  Its a 14” alloy with brand new low profile tyre.  0-0 with around 70 grams added.  Then the acid test – off and back on – now 15-20.  The guy looked genuinely perturbed. 
So what’s actually going on here?  As far as I can ascertain the machines all work in a similar way.  I've come across all manner of complex explanations but in essence they all seem to boil down to this.  The spindle that the wheel is fixed to extends into the business part the machine.  The shaft is rotating in bearings set into ‘soft’ housings allowing some movement.  Transducers on the bearing housings measure shaft movement and another on the end of the shaft measures lateral movement.  I would guess that some form of rotating disc on the shaft, indexes / informs the programme where the movement caused by imbalance is occurring and the programme then calculates the most likely location of a given additional weight to correct the imbalance.  This is all purely conjecture as I've yet to find a satisfactory and simple explanation of the process.
I would guess that when a wheel is perfectly in balance all transducers register zero (0-0 on the machine) – Why wouldn’t they?  This is interesting (if correct) because it means that the wheel must be in balance at that point in time.  It can then only be down to the precise re-fitting of the wheel on the machine in order to re-create the same result.  Even with the special £180 mounting cones the consistency of attachment may not be sufficient to produce an absolutely consistent result, but I suspect it's a lot better than it might otherwise be.  The only other explanation is that all the machines I’ve tried over the years are randomly inaccurate.  Possible but unlikely.   
Another interesting thing is that all machines appear to have self calibration programmes, I suppose negating the requirement for an independent check.  Try googling 'wheel balance calibration services' – clearly not a popular business.  One of the depots even volunteered the information that their two machines always give different results!
The company that supplied and balanced my 140 tyres (also Michelin Pilotes) on a static balancer assured me they would be fine but they absolutely weren’t.  Again I tried two other companies with dynamic balancers, the second spending some time and getting them almost spot on but there was still some slight vibration around 75MPH I borrowed a static balancer which had been modified to specifically accept the larger hubs on 15 and 16” wire wheels.  It’s a very simple piece of kit and will certainly get you in the ball park but how good can it be when it relies on your perception of when the bubble is in the middle of the circle.  I put one of my newly balanced (dynamically)120 wheels on it and it did look spot on with the bubble almost dead central.   

Fresh from the Dynamic balancing machine - looks spot on

Then I added 3 nuts each weighing 17 grams – 51 grams in total to the rim – I barely saw it move and had a couple of mates verify the result just in case it was the previous night’s gin and tonic making me a bit cockeyed and upsetting the outcome. 

And with 50 grams added (3 x 7/16 nuts to the right)
 The single most frustrating thing in all of this is that I have never been able to establish how far out of balance a wheel needs to be in order to create some vibration.  Problem is, I would think there are a good number of other things involved that might exacerbate even very small vibrations caused by an out of balance wheel.  Worn suspension bushes, resonant frequency of suspension, wheel run out, tyre flat spots etc. etc., but I would have thought someone would have a rough idea.  My guess, is around 30 grams. (1 ounce).  Doesn't sound much but with a 30 gram weight whizzing around on a big XK wheel revolving at 750RPM (around 70MPH) I would guess that centrifugal force will multiply that many times.

The point is, the machines are designed to balance a wheel to within one gram.  Given that the most likely cause of vibration is wheel imbalance; naturally this should be the first thing to be ruled out for certain.  If you’re trying to locate a vibration but it persists even after you've seen 0-0 on the machine and been relieved of some hard earned, it seems you still can’t be absolutely certain that it’s not a wheel balance issue that’s causing the problem. 
So – next time you get your wheels ‘balanced’ stand well back then ask the operator to take the wheel off and put it back on to verify the 0-0 result – best of luck.  And I bet the parting words are “give it a run and see how it feels”.   

To be fair I haven't given my 120 a run since the wheel balancing saga so I might well be crying before I'm hit.  This weekend it's the big classic show at Newby Hall near Ripon which requires a drive up the A19.  A section of this road was re-surfaced a few years back and it must be one of the smoothest ten miles of dual carriageway in the country so ideal for a test run.  I'll let you know the outcome.

If anyone out there can throw any more light on this conundrum, add anything or just generally confirm my findings or otherwise perhaps you could email me at :

Next post beginning of August

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


This post will be in two parts, this being the first. The second part will be completed on my return from Poole, Dorset to finally get to meet the cars first owner.  All being well this will happen on Thursday 4th July and I'll write up the visit over the coming weekend if not sooner.

My original plan was to make the 700 mile round trip the cars first major outing but a few well chosen comments from trusted associates made me think again.  The one that brought it home the most was to do with the point where bravery becomes foolishness.  I can't afford to miss this opportunity of meeting up with first owner Vernon Maitland OBE and with just 200 or so virtual miles on the clock (actually the speedo doesn't yet work because the cable end wont fit into its drive) the likelihood of having a trouble free drive down to Poole is probably less than 50%.  It still feels to me like a cop out but I must say that since taking the decision to trailer it most of the way my stress levels have reduced significantly.

As to the future of this blog now that the project is virtually complete, well, I still have a good deal of stuff to finish off, in particular the electric water pump project and some further work on the indicators and other electrical odds and ends.  The only difference is that the pace will be a little more relaxed but I still expect to be putting up a fortnightly post probably until autumn.

With an intended ETA in Poole of noon it meant an early 5.00am start for the 340 mile trip from North Yorkshire to the south coast.   I had driven the car over to friend Geoff's home the previous day, a distance of around 20 miles and even on this short trip a few gremlins appeared.  The drivers side rear corner seemed to have dropped an inch or so.  The gear lever had developed a sort of rubbery feel and in spite of great efforts to balance the wheels a distinct vibration could be felt at anything over 55MPH.  In some ways this was good as it validated the idea that driving around 700 miles without a few advanced shakedown trips would have been foolish.
Knowing that we could unload the car next to Vernon Maitlands home in Poole I was not too concerned about these minor problems so drove the car straight in to Geoff's very posh car transporter.  Worth mentioning that on the way over, my friend following in his BMW was showing 80MPH when I was showing 2500RPM  It will be interesting to see what the satnav says when I get around to checking.  My calculations indicated 71MPH at 2500 so either the Beemers speedo is wrong or my calcs are.  I'll let you know.  Also worth an article in its own right is the wheel balancing saga but as it is not yet fully played out, I'll save it for a future post.

By 11.00am we were about 18 miles from our destination with the Land Rover Discovery passing a string of HGV's on a fairly steep motorway gradient.  With cruise control engaged and the whole caboodle weighing I would guess around  four tons it proceeded to rapidly change down through the auto box in order to maintain its cruise controlled speed.  The rev counter whizzed round with each down change, then a warning light flashed and it went into limp mode.  We made a few attempts to un-crash whichever processor we had so badly upset but it would have none of it so we limped the final few miles to Vernons where the Land Rover Service man would meet us and hopefully sort it out.

Well met by Vernon's wife Monika and newly wed daughter Amber and Husband, Vernon quite a tall chap and very sprightly for I would guess 87 years had no problem climbing in and re-acquainting himself with his car (oddly I do still think of it as his car)

Vernon quickly at home

It was extraordinary to hear Vernon recall so many details about the car, how he came to buy it, with a good friend Alec Anderson buying one a little earlier, and registering it as KRU500, but it had to stay in Henley's showroom for quite some time because it was the very first one delivered to that branch.  Exactly what strings were pulled to extract a pair of early RHD 120's from Browns Lane I never did establish.  Vernon and friend Alec spent some fun time driving round Silverstone and from my initial searches on the cars history I just happen to have a fabulous photo of KRU500.  Its actually got a note on the back saying  'Happy Christmas - Silverstone 1950 - 100MPH - What Ho'  Does this car still exist - it's not on any XK data forum as far as I know. KRU600 was sold a year or so later generating a significant windfall profit, apparently due to a massive increase in vehicle purchase tax.
KRU500 - Alec Anderson - Silverstone 1950

KRU600 - Vernon Maitland - Exeter Trial New Years Day 1951

And zoom in - note hand position on steering wheel

4th July 2013  -  An amazing sixty plus years separate these two photos

Vernon with wife Monika

And finally a rare picture of a normally camera shy me with Vernon
Vernon and Monica live in Florida and only spend a few weeks each summer in the UK.  They will be leaving early next week and as Vernon says, as an octogenarian it becomes increasing difficult to look ahead, hence the need to ensure my commitment to meet up was discharged.

Fantastic view from Vernon,s balcony overlooking Poole harbour
Geoff signs off the warranty repair which mainly involved telling it that it only thought it was broken
The Jaguar / Land Rover service guy eventually arrives and plugs in his lap top.  Apparently the problem lay in some previous hiccough coupled with today's mishap.  He clears the fault, downloads a software upgrade and we're good to go.  I try to get him to pose with his laptop appearing to be plugged into the XK, it is after all a Jaguar, but he declines.   The irony of using a new Jaguar Land Rover product to get us there, as a pose to a rather older one, in order to mitigate the need to call for assistance is not lost on this very courteous and professional representative of the brand.

On the way back to my workshop, son Dan followed me in his Aston Martin Cygnet which he tells me he's pimped up and converted to a ''duckling' by fitting a Toyota iQ grill and binned the leather seats in favour of cooler cloth.  Trouble is, they won't let him join the AM owners club now.   In 5th gear I raise my hand at 2000 and 2500RPM and he tells me I was doing just short of 65 and then exactly 80 so I need to look again at my gearing calculations spreadsheet. This super high 5th gear felt perfect for dual carriageway cruising and had no problem whatsoever coping with any of the typical main road gradients encountered.

Next post mid July

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


When I started this project in April 2011, it seemed perfectly normal to spend some time estimating how long it would take and then to extrapolate a finish / completion date.  After all, that is exactly what I had done for numerous work related projects for the past twenty odd years.
Having fully retired at the end of January and with goodness knows how many potentially empty days ahead of me, it now seems like not such a good idea.  But I had made a point over the past couple of years that completion was scheduled for my 65th birthday on June 16th this year.  In addition to this, I now have a firm date of July 4th to get the car down to Poole in Dorset to meet up with it's first owner, Vernon Maitland.  This is such a incredibly rare opportunity that it must not be missed at any cost, so the last couple of weeks have been hectic.

Start and finish dates with schedule and reminders in between
The door gaps had been set up about a year ago, first with the body on a jig / frame then with it on the chassis on axle stands.  After a short run up and down the estate road it was clear that it had settled from those initial positions and the gaps had closed a little .  Putting it back on axle stands, each pair intentionally well in from the wheels, the door gaps were again correct, or even a little wider than required.

Door gap with chassis on axle stands well in from wheels

and with car back on it's wheels
I had already had the maiden voyage planned as a short trip of around ten miles to Autob-bodycraft to resolve the problem of the damage caused when I fitted the windscreen, so a re-shimming exercise was added to the list to correct the door gap issue.

The only other items to be sorted before the inaugural trip were the windscreen wipers and security bonnet catch.  I had pondered the possibility of a leather bonnet strap but was undecided about how they look.  One thing is certain though, with a strap over the front, there is absolutely no chance of the bonnet misbehaving so pragmatism wins out.  I order one from Guy Broads; its the type with two buckles which means that if you undo them both, you don't have the problem of the metal bits scratching the paint.  I'm also told that they are lined with soft Elk Skin which is less likely to scuff. Really?

With the central bit removed - no buckles to scratch paint
The car actually came with a pair of wiper arms and blades but the way the blades were attached to the arms was unusual and certainly not as original, but the arms looked to be of super quality and stainless so worth using if at all possible.  Fortunately I have an arm off my 140 as a pattern for the spoon bit that slips into the blade.  I manage to remove the strange clip affair which leaves a dimensionally correct straight end that just needs bending to the correct shape.  After heating to cherry red its bent round an old socket and after a bit of tapping about it looks pretty good and slips into the blade just as it should. 

140 arm end          120 pre mod              120 post mod
 After a few more very short runs I felt sufficiently confident to go for it, but only with my Audi following, full of tools and various get you home odds and ends.  I can remember every single first outing I've made with cars I've restored in the past and in particular driving a Morgan rolling chassis from Faceby to Stokesley (about 7 miles).  The seat was an orange box and it went and stopped but that was all.  To avoid capture by the local constabulary the journey was undertaken at round 6.00am in summer.  This felt very similar but it looked a good deal more legal.
Its always a bit scary to think of the great number of fasteners that have been removed and re-fitted knowing that some are crucial to the avoidance of pain and expense and it usually takes 500 or so miles before I start to relax and stop listening for unusual noises.
Anyway, the first 10 mile trip went very well except that half way the heavens opened.  With no hood or tonneau all I could do was to stop and take off my coat to cover the passenger seat.  (what greater love etc.)  Once moving again most of the rain went straight over the top so no great problem; a good test for the wipers which worked tolerably well.
Once at Auto-Bodycraft, the door gaps were easily sorted, and Alex came up with a solution for the nasty bit of damage I had incurred when fitting the windscreen.

A great deal of debate went into what should be done about this.  Alex wanted to repaint the whole front of the car but I wanted a very small localised repair.  This he politely refused to do saying it would always show, especially after some time.  The compromise solution was a 'patch'.

Note colour coded ground plane for DAB aerial
Now I know this sounds a little odd but it totally works, simply because, apart from it being hardly noticeable, it looks as though it should be there.  Why is it only on one side - well since you ask, actually its the ground plane part of the DAB aerial, carefully colour matched - well it could be!  I have no doubt that at some time in the future I will find a few more reasons to re-paint the front; then it can be sorted to Alex's entire satisfaction.

A great number of other small jobs including the fitting of a  tonneau cover from Aldridge Trimming occupy the remaining week which takes me nicely up to Saturday 15th June. This was always planned as it's very first show outing, I know it's a day earlier than the scheduled finish date but what the hell.  This Classic Car show is in my home town of Stokesley and less than a mile from home which even meant that I could pop back and bring the 140 along for company.

And I said I would never take it out in the rain!

So, more or less cosmetically finished, but I still have a huge list of jobs to complete before the trip to Poole.

You may remember that last year we did the Beamish Run in the 140, a 144 mile trial over some fairly testing moorland roads for pre 1955 cars.  It was a great day, especially as we were the overall winners out of 150 cars.  'We' in this case included passenger and friend Tony Firth who was solely responsible for our victory.  In the 140 again this year, alas Tony could not join me as he is recovering from an operation.  The results aren't out yet but I would guess that without Tony, it'll be only slightly better than a DNF.  Get well soon mate.

The following pictures were taken during the lunch stop at Bainbridge, North Yorkshire with the cars and bikes assembled on the village green

Next post early July