As we went to press, we received the sad news that Andrew Small had passed away. This inspiring story of his E-type project is our tribute to him
Andrew Small’s epic E-type project came to fruition just in time thanks to a little help from his friends.
IIt’s hard to accept that Andrew isn’t around any more. He was so full of enthusiasm and energy when we met earlier this year that surely the best way to hear this story is in his own words. So here’s the tale of a remarkable team effort, as told by those involved.
‘I was diagnosed with myeloma at the end of February 2014, and I soon had to leave my job at the Nissan plant in Sunderland,’ says Andy. ‘I started chemotherapy and it just about lays you flat.’
Andy was well used to the camaraderie of the large engineering office at Nissan, but he had no idea it would extend beyond his forced departure. Then one day in May 2014, the doorbell rang.
‘It was a pal of mine from the office, Steve Clare. He said “We’ve had a chat at work and we’d like to help with the E-type.” It was quite a surprise – I was choked up.’
Back to the beginning
Andy bought his 1964 E-type roadster in 1994, as a restoration project. He paid ‘the price of a Fiesta’, as he puts it, but even that might have been a bit high for what turned out to be a basket case. The car was an American import but this hadn’t saved it from rot. ‘I gave it to Eagle Racing to do the majority of the metalwork, including a new bonnet. I wasn’t happy with the state of the spaceframe so that was replaced, too. Then life started getting in the way.’ Andy got married, had children and worked for Nissan in various roles, including long stints in Japan that halted any E-type progress. Sporadic steps forward were made whenever time and money allowed, so by the time Andy fell ill, he had a car that was at least halfway there… or so it appeared. ‘The bodywork was completed but not painted, the interior was bare and while the rebuilt engine was in place, it had never run,’ says Andy.
But who better to help you build a car than a bunch of automotive engineers? Steve Clare’s expertise is towards the electrical side, while Simon Lunn started off working with plastics before moving to trim and assembly. Peter Dive is a specialist with front-end fit. They’ve all known each other for ages, but could they adapt to working on a 50 year-old British sports car? ‘It did need a different mindset,’ says Peter. ‘We knew it wasn’t going to fit together like a modern Nissan.’
The gang started regular shifts on Fridays. ‘We’d do 3pm to 7pm, sometimes a bit longer,’ says Simon Lunn. ‘We soon found out something about E-types – if you buy original or specialist parts, they fit. If you buy cheaper remanufactured ones, they don’t.’
The first milestone would be a morale-boosting start-up for the straight-six engine. Andy had it built by a specialist, VSE, in Wales but that was in 2009. Since coming back, it had rested entirely static for five years. Now, only a few weeks into the work, the gang knew they had a couple of good reasons to make it go. First was the car’s 50th birthday party, something Andy was planning for November of that
year. Steve explains the second, much more important reason.
‘We really wanted to get it running so Andy could see it and hear it go, in case his treatment didn’t work.’ Through these first months, Andy was in poor shape, as he admits – too ill even to lift a spanner, and project managing from the sofa. He did draw up a schedule – half a day for this job, half a day for that – but it was wildly optimistic, as all four confirm with a smile.
‘There was a lot of time-consuming wiring to do,’ says Steve. ‘But once we’d got the electronic ignition working and the fuel flowing, it started up on the third kick.’
Andy had the inside surfaces and engine bay painted some time before so he could begin assembling the car, but the exterior wasn’t completed until 2015 when the car went to a local paintshop. By this time, Andy’s chemo had ceased and he was starting to feel better, but the team effort to finish the car was just getting started. The scope of what these four new-car engineers did to improve a Sixties Jaguar is intriguing.
There are LED sidelights within the headlights that run as driving lamps, plus a high-level red brake lamp within a within a wind deflector fitted behind the seats. The standard brake lamps have Bosch bulbs with normal filaments, but are fed via a relay and 25A cable so more current reaches the bulb.
‘I fitted a bus bar to supply relays for the headlamps, brake lamps and fuel pump,’ says Steve. ‘It was a pain to do but it’s tidied things up and the high current is now away from the dashboard – only the larger ignition relay rests behind there.’
It’s all fed by a small, powerful modern alternator – a Nippon Denso, of course. For security, there’s a removable steering wheel and a tracker. Simon and Peter fitted larger Fosseway front brakes and a stainless exhaust, then persuaded the Tremec five-speed gearbox to work with the clutch. A new screen from Pilkington Glass was a perfect fit but a new hood canopy was a disgrace, with mounting holes shrouded. So Andy set about making one
‘This one old Jaguar now represents friendships that won’t be forgotten’
with Simon’s assistance. The interior came together with the original seats recovered by Aldridge Trimming but later replaced by Mazda MX-5 seats retrimmed by the Furniture Clinic, as they slowly got closer to completion. Delays cropped up continually, such as the strife Simon endured with the engine.
Breaking the cycle
‘The original cylinderhead turned out to be cracked and leaking between a core plug and a spark plug,’ he says. ‘A repair didn’t work, so Andy bit the bullet and sourced a brand-new one, which we then managed to damage – twice!’ The problem both times was a ticking noise, traced to a bent valve. So Simon took the head home with him and did everything methodically. ‘I discovered that during assembly, a valve under compression had flicked one camshaft round and put it slightly out of position,’ he says. Andy’s desire for everything to be right postponed the MOT until September 2017, which as Steve says, was quite a moment. ‘There was a little bit of apprehension there. We’d done our best and it had to be bulletproof.’
It was, of course, and the splendid summer of 2018 saw Andy enjoy a revived car that his pals must have feared would never carry him down the road. At the time of his passing, Andy was planning to join a round-britain drive in the E-type to support another cancer charity, Prostate Cancer UK, but he was obliged to hand the keys to his pal Ian Ferrier. This one old Jaguar now represents friendships that will never be forgotten. As Simon Lunn says, ‘It’s the people that are the key, not the parts.’
LEFT That problematic cylinder head is perfect now.
BELOW Fast car! It’s hard to keep up.
This racing mod is for security rather than a quick driver change.
ABOVE Back in the Nineties, the first phase of bodywork is completed.
What it’s all about – open car, open road.
Our restoration band of brothers (L-R): Simon Lunn, Steve Clare, Peter Dive and – the owner of the special E-type in question – the late and much-missed Andy Small.