Spot­ting the rot

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying Guide -

An S-type that looks sound can be rot­ten un­der­neath, so scru­ti­nise the two lon­gi­tu­di­nal chas­sis legs which meet a cross­mem­ber be­neath the nose, adding essen­tial strength. Ex­pect prob­lems where the chas­sis legs join the cross­mem­ber and the ad­ja­cent ‘crow’s feet’, which tie the front wings to the cross­mem­ber. Cor­ro­sion is com­mon in the jack­ing point be­low the A-post, so look for dis­tor­tion of the metal and poor-qual­ity plat­ing. This area is of­ten bodged, as it’s com­pli­cated. In­spect the base of each front wing, look­ing for cracked paint; proper restora­tion here re­quires a jig for strength­en­ing, and all rot­ten metal cut out. The usual give­away is un­even door shuts, the lower front cor­ner stick­ing out while the win­dow sur­round is in con­tact with the door jamb. Other rot spots in­clude the floor­pans, whee­larches and back of the sills, along with the spare wheel well’s cen­tre sec­tion and the two fuel tanks. The trail­ing edge of the boot rusts, as do door bot­toms.

En­gine exams

Of­fered in 3.4- or 3.8-litre forms (S-type) or 4.2-litre (420), the XK en­gine de­mands reg­u­lar main­te­nance. Make sure the en­gine doesn’t sound hol­low or rat­tly and that the oil is clean. With a cast-iron block and al­loy cylin­der head, an­tifreeze lev­els must be main­tained to stave off in­ter­nal cor­ro­sion. A healthy en­gine will show 40psi at 2500rpm, al­though senders and gauges aren’t al­ways ac­cu­rate. Lots of smoke on the over­run or when the throt­tle is blipped sug­gests worn valve guides. A light metal­lic tap­ping on tick­over could be tap­pet buck­ets lift­ing. Spe­cial­ists charge £1500 plus to fix things, but com­pli­ca­tions such as cor­roded wa­ter ports in­flate the bill. Oil weeps are nor­mal, but if it’s a tor­rent the rear crank­shaft oil seal has prob­a­bly failed, sig­nalling a com­plete re­build. Spe­cial­ists charge £4500 plus, or you could do the work your­self for £800, but it’s an in­volved job that re­quires a spe­cial tool plus knowl­edge to fit the rope-type oil seal.

Into gear

Un­til Septem­ber 1965, man­ual S-types fea­tured a four-speed Moss trans­mis­sion with­out syn­chro­mesh on first. It’s a strong unit, but ex­pect some wear on hard-driven, abused or high-mileage cars. Parts for this gear­box are scarce, so re­builds are pricey. Later S-types and all 420s came with an all-syn­chro ’box that’s also tough, but much harder to find on a used ba­sis. Which­ever is fit­ted, make sure it doesn’t jump out of gear and check that you can se­lect ra­tios eas­ily. It’s pos­si­ble to con­vert to a mod­ern Borg Warner five-speed man­ual gear­box, but the parts alone cost £4000. Over­drive was op­tional for all S-type and 420 de­riv­a­tives, and most cars came with it; prob­lems are usu­ally down to clogged fil­ters or dodgy elec­tri­cal con­nec­tions. Also check for slip­ping of the clutch, as fit­ting a new one means re­mov­ing the en­gine while a three-piece re­place­ment kit is

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