‘There were sev­eral bul­let holes. We still won­der what hap­pened’

This Jaguar E-type had suf­fered a rollover, be­ing shot at and left in the el­e­ments for 40 years. A brave restora­tion then

Classic Cars (UK) - - Epic Restoration - Words NIGEL BOOTHMAN Pho­tog­ra­phy LAURENS PAR­SON

Some­thing hap­pened to this car in the moun­tains of New Mex­ico in 1971. Some­thing bad. It prob­a­bly in­volved eva­sive ac­tion, a ter­ri­fy­ing skid and then a sick­en­ing rollover. The roof col­lapsed on the right-hand side, pil­lars fold­ing like bro­ken twigs, the tar­mac bat­ter­ing the wing tops as the car slowly came to a halt.

Once it was righted, the ex­tent of the dam­age clearly put off any ideas of fix­ing it. By this point, this Old English White Jaguar E-type FHC was nearly ten years old hav­ing been im­ported new in De­cem­ber 1962. Who­ever took own­er­ship never got round to scrap­ping it, but in­stead the years took their toll via 40 years of out­door stor­age.

‘The paint had been blasted off by the desert sand,’ says Richard Feather. He’s the man who bought this car as the re­sult of a bold mo­ment on­line on New Year’s Eve 2012. ‘There were some bul­let holes too, and they looked like a pretty large cal­i­bre. We still won­der what hap­pened.’ He later found an on­line ar­ti­cle writ­ten about this E-type at the time it was ad­ver­tised, de­scrib­ing it as ‘one of the most thor­oughly thrashed ex­am­ples we’ve ever laid eyes on’.

Richard had never owned a clas­sic car be­fore, never mind re­stored one. Nonethe­less, he had a clear vi­sion to re­build his E-type for the best driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. ‘That meant be­ing faith­ful to its orig­i­nal de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing,’ he says, ‘but it also meant adapt­ing it for 21st-cen­tury driv­ing and cor­rect­ing its known foibles with, for in­stance, bet­ter cool­ing and brakes.’

With­out a rec­om­men­da­tion for a de­cent Jaguar spe­cial­ist, he was re­duced to check­ing out dif­fer­ent op­tions thrown up via a web search. His search ended with Adam Booth of ATB Clas­sic Car Restora­tions.

The state of the car as it was bought says a lot about Richard Feather’s per­son­al­ity – he comes across as buoy­ant, cheer­ful and op­ti­mistic. As you would need to be if you clicked ‘buy it now’ on a car like this. Not ev­ery re­storer would agree to take on such a job, but in Adam Booth, Richard had stum­bled upon a kin­dred spirit. Adam works alone in his work­shop in South­west Wales, sub-con­tract­ing cer­tain jobs but do­ing the bulk of them him­self. ‘So we em­barked on this huge restora­tion,’ says Adam. ‘I be­gan strip­ping and re­pair­ing the car with Richard sourc­ing the parts as and when I re­quested them.’

All of which re­quires re­source­ful­ness, con­fi­dence and a can-do at­ti­tude. What­ever ar­rived on that trailer, what­ever state it was in, was go­ing to be fixed. In the event, it needed work just to get it into the work­shop.

‘I had to change the wheels while it was still on the trailer just to get it to move,’ says Adam. ‘After that, I could start hav­ing a proper look at it. It was full of holes, apart from the bits that were full of spiky tum­ble­weeds and dead mice. The cylin­der head was off it, the in­let man­i­fold and car­bu­ret­tors were wedged in the boot and the in­te­rior trim had mostly been eaten. But the big­gest prob­lem was ob­vi­ously the roof.’

Lift­ing the lid

Be­fore any fur­ther struc­tural work could be­gin, Adam needed to es­tab­lish just how bad the dam­age was. ‘I ob­tained a body jig some years ear­lier for an S1 E-type,’ he says. ‘Once I’d stripped ev­ery­thing off the car – all the run­ning gear, driv­e­line and so on – I could mount the tub on the jig and to my re­lief it showed the car wasn’t twisted.’

Adam’s plan for the roof was to jack it up and push it back to a re­pairable state, but found it wasn’t pos­si­ble to undo that amount of de­struc­tion. ‘The roof and tail­gate were be­yond re­pair,’ says Adam. ‘Richard found a guy in Amer­ica who had a roof panel and a tail­gate spare. So I ex­posed the fac­tory joins in the C-pil­lars, sweated out the lead and then drilled through the spot welds. That got the old roof off.’ Adam was able to mea­sure an­other E-type to con­struct an in­ter­nal jig that gave him a good idea of where the new roof should sit on Richard’s be­headed car.

‘There are in­ter­nal pan­els in the C-pil­lar as well as what you see from the out­side,’ Adam says. ‘I straight­ened the orig­i­nal ones both in­side and out and then slowly po­si­tioned the new roof, screw­ing it in place to check ev­ery gap be­fore I started weld­ing.’ Be­cause new glass was re­quired all round, the new screen would de­fine the front edge of the roof, leav­ing Adam to get all the spac­ing cor­rect fur­ther back. ‘The new roof was very slightly big­ger than the orig­i­nal, but I got it ex­actly where it needed to be. Then I could repli­cate the fac­tory spot welds.’

Adam’s re­source­ful ap­proach came to the fore again when sup­port­ing the roof at the front. ‘I could only buy E-type road­ster A-pil­lars,’ he says. ‘I had the orig­i­nal brack­ets in that ru­ined roof so I could copy them in new steel and turn road­ster parts into some­thing suit­able for a fixed-head coupé.’ It still left a great deal of work to do. Adam worked me­thod­i­cally from one area of the sill and floor to the next, brac­ing what was there be­fore cut­ting out the rot­ten steel. His de­ter­mi­na­tion to keep what­ever he could use was not just about the in­tegrity of the restora­tion; there was a prac­ti­cal side too. ‘A new cowl panel is £1000… if the old one can be saved, let’s save it! I un­picked the se­cur­ing welds then re­moved it, re­paired it and straight­ened the bulk­head while it was off.’

Lat­eral think­ing

‘The boot floor was too rid­dled with pin­holes to re-use.’ says Adam. ‘I let in a new sec­tion made by the Hut­son Mo­tor Com­pany.’ He then be­gan knock­ing out the ex­ten­sive dents to the right-side rear wing, us­ing a ham­mer and dolly to drift the bent panel back towards its orig­i­nal con­tours. At the same time, he ad­dressed the near­side’s bul­let wounds by tap­ping the split points flat from in­side, touch­ing them in with a welder and grind­ing them back.

Low point ‘The gear­box fail­ing when a bear­ing gave up. Very frus­trat­ing to hear it had hap­pened, es­pe­cially as it was due to some­thing out of my con­trol - it’s a part you fit and just have to trust’

‘As well as straight­en­ing the bit you can see I had to sort out a lot of rust in the in­ner whee­larches,’ he says.‘with that done, it was time to move on to the en­gine frames.’

It’s such a crit­i­cal area that the only safe so­lu­tion was to buy a pair of new ones from E-type Fabs in Dar­ling­ton. ‘They’re stiffer than the orig­i­nals but look iden­ti­cal and fit re­ally well,’ says Adam. This left one of the big­gest de­ci­sions of all – what to do about the bon­net. It’d been ex­ten­sively dam­aged; crushed as well as twisted. Any­thing can be fixed – given time – but Richard stepped in with an­other so­lu­tion, find­ing an alu­minium bon­net in Poland. ‘At the time, it was the only place sup­ply­ing it,’ he says. But it wasn’t per­fect.

‘I think it had been made by two dif­fer­ent peo­ple and welded to­gether down the mid­dle,’ says Adam. ‘I had to re-work the head­lamp ar­eas be­cause the cap­tive nuts were in the wrong place, as were the in­di­ca­tor holes and the bumper mounts. I needed to fold the flanges at the rear and at the bot­tom too.’

A break from the metal-bash­ing

While the seem­ingly end­less bat­tle with the bodyshell con­tin­ued, the en­gine was also be­ing re­vived. Adam re­moved and stripped it – or at least he tried to.

‘The cylin­der head had been re­moved years be­fore, and with the red dust from the desert in the bores com­bin­ing with mois­ture, ev­ery pis­ton was rusted solid. I re­moved the crank­shaft and then we had to sac­ri­fice the con-rods to push out the pis­tons from be­low with a 40-ton press at the lo­cal ma­chine shop.’ The team at the ma­chine shop also took care of bor­ing out the dam­age to the cylin­der walls.

‘It needed to go 0.040in over­size,’ says Adam. ‘With new pis­tons and con-rods re­quired, I was re­lieved the crank­shaft sur­vived, al­beit with a grind and pol­ish.’

With the bot­tom end sorted, at­ten­tion turned to the cylin­der head. ‘The wa­ter­ways were cor­roded,’ says Adam. ‘The ma­chine shop welded in new metal and skimmed the mat­ing face. They also fit­ted new valves, guides and springs. I re­placed the cor­roded camshafts with new items.’

New tim­ing gears and chains also seemed a wise in­vest­ment, as did a pro­gram of up­grades in­clud­ing a Rob Beere high-flow oil pump and a light­ened fly­wheel from the same sup­plier. What of those car­bu­ret­tors, dan­gling out of the boot on their furred-up man­i­fold?

‘We could save two of them,’ says Adam. ‘The third was so cor­roded we had to buy a new body, but I re­built all three so you’d never know the dif­fer­ence.’

Adam also re­built the car’s Moss gear­box, one of the few jobs that seemed straight­for­ward at the time. ‘There were no ma­jor is­sues,’ he says. ‘At least, not then. Those came later.’

Ma­jor mile­stone

‘The re­pairs to the bodyshell seemed to go on for a long, long time,’ says Adam. ‘You keep plug­ging away and some­times feel like you’re get­ting nowhere, then one day later you’ve fin­ished.’

The shell was fi­nally as sta­ble as it could be – ev­ery panel had been fixed, the roof and pil­lars com­pleted and the door skins re­placed after the frames had been straight­ened and re­paired. Adam was able to move the body tub to JC Shot Blast­ing in Car­marthen for sur­face prepa­ra­tion.

‘Ceri Richards at JC did it very gen­tly so even thin pan­els like the roof were at no risk of de­form­ing,’ says Adam. ‘Ceri is the painter too, so he was able to con­trol ev­ery part of the process from key­ing the bare metal to lay­ing on seal­ers, primers and even­tu­ally top coat.’

The re­pairs to the shell had taken Adam from Fe­bru­ary 2013, when the car ar­rived, to March 2014. Dur­ing the work, he’d taken a break to strip and de­liver the en­gine to the ma­chine shop, who re­turned the parts in April 2014. Around this time, the prepa­ra­tion for the paint­work be­gan, with Ceri Richards fi­nally re­turn­ing the re-fin­ished car in the first days of 2015.

Through the sec­ond half of 2014, then, Adam had plenty of time to re­vive the run­ning gear. Here, as in other ar­eas, Richard Feather’s phi­los­o­phy for the build was about mak­ing it a driver’s car to be en­joyed while tour­ing, mostly on the con­ti­nent. ‘That’s why I was happy to leave it with left-hand drive,’ he says.

Richard bought a dif­fer­ent crown wheel and pin­ion to lengthen the back axle ra­tio from 3.54 to 3.31 for more re­laxed tour­ing. Adam also fit­ted ad­justablebias Coop­er­craft brakes front and rear. He as­sessed the wheels and hubs that came with the car but felt such safety-crit­i­cal items could not be re-used, so he sourced four new hubs while Richard bought a set of 6J wire wheels from MWS in Slough. ‘We could re-use the orig­i­nal wish­bones but fit­ted up­rated tor­sion bars,’ says Adam. ‘I also added an ad­justable re­ac­tion plate. It re­ally sim­pli­fies the process of set­ting the ride height.’ A fur­ther aid to speedy set-up was the fit­ment of ad­justable cam­ber bars in­stead of shims to set the cam­ber of the front wheels. With all bear­ings and bushes re­newed and a great deal of blast­ing, prim­ing and re-paint­ing, the run­ning gear was ready to meet the painted bodyshell.

A fast fin­ish – at first

Adam tore into the build-up of the car with im­pres­sive speed. After tak­ing de­liv­ery of the painted bodyshell in Jan­uary 2015, the as­sem­bly work was com­pleted by April, in­clud­ing the added fea­tures for an im­proved driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘I knew it would need air­con,’ says Richard. ‘It’s vi­tal for com­fort­able use in the sum­mer when driv­ing in South­ern Europe. Adam was able to

High point ‘It’s a tie - ei­ther get­ting the car back from the painters after all that work to the shell, or the first fire-up of the re­built en­gine, which is al­ways a great mo­ment’

find a home for it in a box in the pas­sen­ger footwell and he turned the heater switch into an on/off con­trol, so now I just use the slid­ers for hot and cold air.’

Next came elec­tric power steer­ing, handy for other Feather fam­ily driv­ers with­out Richard’s shoul­der mus­cles. This kit, sup­plied once again by E-type Fabs, can be set to add heft as speed in­creases, so it’s never floaty-light. Adam and Richard agreed that halo­gen head­lamps would make a big dif­fer­ence to vis­i­bil­ity for night driv­ing, which just left in-car en­ter­tain­ment. ‘The orig­i­nal ra­dio fas­cia is a dummy,’ says Richard. ‘In­stead, you can stream mu­sic from your phone to a Blue­tooth re­ceiver hid­den in the pas­sen­ger footwell.’

Re­plac­ing the orig­i­nal loom meant Adam had a chance to wire in all these fresh ac­ces­sories – plus the haz­ard light cir­cuit from an S2 E-type – leav­ing only the trim to do be­fore the car was fin­ished. Says Richard, ‘I thought it was so close by April 2015 that if I just got the front seats done, we could MOT it and start the shake­down process.’ So Carl Stan­ley of Stan­ley Trim­ming in Som­er­set fin­ished the seats and sent them to Adam to fit. By the fol­low­ing month, the car was road le­gal. Richard promptly set off on the Mendip Tour – a clas­sic rally – and then crossed the Chan­nel for a first trip to France, all in a largely un-trimmed car.

De-bug­ging and per­fect­ing

‘It ac­tu­ally went re­ally well,’ says Richard. ‘There were a few is­sues, like dis­cov­er­ing fuel slop­ping around in the car after the old tank, sealed by an­other com­pany, sprang a ter­ri­ble leak. I bailed it out and car­ried on.’

Need­less to say, a new al­loy tank soon re­placed the orig­i­nal. By July, with the French ad­ven­ture over, the car was re­turned to Stan­ley Trim­ming to be fin­ished off. That took un­til the win­ter, so it wasn’t un­til the fol­low­ing year that the shake­down process could con­tinue. A lengthy run in the fully leather-lined Jaguar took Richard through France and into Italy, where the fi­nal phase of ‘de­vel­op­ment’ be­gan…

‘The gear­box in­put shaft bear­ing melted,’ says Richard. ‘The re­cov­ery driver who col­lected us had also res­cued Daniel Craig and his As­ton Martin from the same place, so we felt in good com­pany.’

‘The Moss gear­boxes aren’t as sturdy as the modern equiv­a­lents,’ says Adam. ‘Richard pre­ferred a fivespeed any­way so I fit­ted one from E-type Fabs.’

One fi­nal tweak gave the car a unique touch. Says Richard, ‘The speedome­ter’s face is a cus­tom job, show­ing both km/h and mph. It looks fac­tory but isn’t. It makes things eas­ier when driv­ing in Europe.’

Richard’s restora­tion has led in an un­ex­pected di­rec­tion. Since the E-type was fin­ished, Adam has re­stored E-types for other cus­tomers but also two MGAS and a Citroën 2CV for Richard. These now form part of his clas­sic rental fleet in the South of France, while the E-type has cov­ered more than 8000 miles al­ready. What started as a bold, im­pas­sioned mouseclick one New Year’s Eve has grown into a sus­tained work­ing re­la­tion­ship and a busi­ness of its own.

Ever thought a restora­tion is just too hard, too much to bother with? Maybe Richard and Adam’s next pro­ject to­gether could in­volve mo­ti­va­tional speak­ing. Thanks to Provence Clas­sics (provence­clas­sics.com), ATB Restora­tions (at­brestora­tions.co.uk, 07754 712737)

No it’s not a road­ster – the coupé roof was flat­tened in a 1971 rollover

This S1 went from ‘what have you done?’ to ‘how did you do that?’ in fewer than three years

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