Friday, December 15, 2017

What would we do without internet Enthusist forums?


My favorite site.
I had been well aware of the presence of automotive forums for quite some time. I discovered that there were forums available for just about any vehicle that the hobbyist might own. I remember frequenting the Ford truck enthusiast, the Datsun 510 and Z, and the Mustang forums. I was even on the Antique radio forums.

Jaguar Forums.com has been my trusty road map on my journey into the land of Jaguar. After I bought my XJS I started looking for a source of info and advice on repairing and maintaining my car.  There was a lot of information available and the tone of the conversation was always that it was quite well possible for the hobbyist owner to successfully work on their own car.

Forum users form an online community and the posters become as well known as your actual friends. I soon became acquainted with several very knowledgeable posters. These people have contributed so much to maintaining a vigorous enthusiast base for their chosen marque. Like any group of people there are often some that are quick to take a negative or pessimistic view of any particular topic. The forum moderators have done a good job in eliminating obvious trolls, but some negativity is just due to some posters just being crabby old men.

For the most part, the general atmosphere is very helpful and supportive. Much like Jaguar Magazine this is a safe space. As we Jaguar folks well know, the general uninformed public is eager to weigh in with their Lucas "Prince of Darkness" type of comments. The weaknesses and failings of the marque are well known and documented by our community. We chose these cars because they are beautiful, distinctive and unique.


What we are looking for is advice and support, not a scolding.


Their is an enormous amount of content in their archives, and taking the time to do a proper search will reward the seeker with plenty of previous posts, stickies and links. Thanks to Youtube there is a lot of video that can not only entertain us but also assist us in our problem solving.

Being one of those crabby old men myself, I have been known to complain about how much trivial content is continuously devoured by my young co workers. I will admit that the presence of these online forums and Youtube have been a tremendous boon to the old car enthusiast. Anyone reading this blog is probably well versed in navigating the cyberworld, but the occasional old guy like me is constantly amazed.

I can't imagine finding other Jaguar enthusiasts in the real world as easily as I do online.

The listings of events will occasionally draw us together for different events. Car shows, swap meets, drives and tours. The Jaguar forum has members all over the world but several are in my own backyard. I met some of these  members on that group drive and lunch event last year. It is nice to put a face to the posts. At that event I got to meet and speak with Rhett Rhedelings, who runs the blog, "My Jaguar Experience." This is a well written and produced site, one that I highly admire.



A nice logo can go a long way.

Jag Lovers makes no excuses for it's affection for the marque. They also have a huge a huge archive of material. They have changed the organization of their site, but all previous content is still accessible. I just visited their site and the renovation is a complete make over. Very attractive, modern and sleek.


One of my favorite things about this forum is that they a site store. Featuring different products emblazoned with their logo. My favorite are these grille badges, as well as key chains and such. Fly your colors!


Very nice.


JaguarForms.com logo design by Hicherazza


The third forum featured here is one that I don't have much experience with. It is well executed but it appears to me to have a more international base. This logo was part of their design contest.

We are very fortunate to have so many resources available. Print magazines are very helpful, and I have quite the stacks of them piled up in my library, but they do not offer the flexibility of access that the online forums provide. They are expensive too. Club newsletters can contain some info, but they usually just chronicle the "who was there" of their local events. Club membership can be quite expensive and time consuming also. The online resources are like a smorgasbord of content, free and available at a mouse click. My thanks go out to everyone that maintains, moderates and contributes to our online community. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.






Saturday, December 9, 2017

The elephant in the driveway, and other cautionary tales for children (and adults who should know better).


My Mark VII looks a bit like an elephant from this angle.


Like Rip Van Winkle it continues to sleep, but it's not dead!


If you invite an ailing elephant into your driveway it's going to sit where it damn well pleases, and it isn't going to move until it's good and ready!

Driveway car.

The ultimate blue collar neighborhood front yard fixture. While these can be found in any neighborhood, I once even encountered a legit Ferrari Testarossa in a guy's driveway, most are found in the land where the owner is "gonna fix that up someday." A well known place where hope and wishing form the magical thinking of car repair. It is a place that anxiously invites those stricken pachyderms with the evangelistic fervor of future possible restoration.  Unfortunately these aspirations  often fall short of reality. The elephant dies and the car sits.


photo source: countryroadphotos.com
All makes models and years.

If you drive out in the country you will likely pass many a homestead where a collection of moribund automobiles will be visible from the road. Usually they will be stationed out next to the barn or outbuildings. a herd of rusting old field trucks or dusty cars of any description. Oh, to have the luxury of so much space! With all that extra real estate, the urgency of eventual repair is lost, and the car's situation can settle into the ebb and flow of an agricultural existence.



photo source: vagabondjourney.com
These don't look like they are going anywhere too soon.


Is this such a a bad thing?

Out in the country there won't be much pressure from your neighbors, they've probably got a few field cars of their own. In the city there may be some that dislike seeing a dead car on display. Then there are various city ordinances that can be brought to to bear upon the hopeful owner.

We all know that many automotive projects are by their nature a long term process. First, there is the acquisition phase of just getting the car. This is the fun part. This is followed by the exploration phase of evaluating your purchase and the realization that the thing is a lot worse off than you thought. This can be the sobering and sometimes disappointing stage. The saving phase follows, not saving the car, but saving the money to finance the project. Patience is required. Now the work begins, or doesn't. This can and will morph into the frustration phase. Hopefully the complete procrastination stage won't take over.

Sometimes Life just gets in the way and derails all our careful plans. Family needs, heath issues, job responsibilities increase, and oftentimes interest and enthusiasm just wane.  The elephant sits down and never gets up again.

Is this such a bad thing? Maybe not.



image from the Wizard of Oz.


"For to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive,"  Robert Louis Stevenson

Sometimes just owning the car is enough of a triumph. To possess a car that you have dreamed about and wanted for so long has it's own satisfactions. Walking around it and taking it in from all angles. Sitting behind the wheel, inhaling that peculiar mix of funky old car smells. So particular to each individual car. Gazing over the hood and dreaming of all the roads and highways that you'll see and travel over . If you start making those vroooom vrooom sounds then you may have regressed to your inner six year old child!

Just holding on to the old thing is the next hurdle. If the car can be coaxed into a carport, garage, or fenced in side yard, it will have a better chance of being retained. It might also have a better chance of being ignored. An elephant is a bit easier to ignore when you don't have to look it in the eye when you walk out of the house.

Will you make any money on your "investment" over time? Depends. We might have told our significant other that the old beast was a veritable gold mine waiting to be tapped. In my own experience I've never made a nickel on any old car that I've owned. My usual tactic is to minimize the amount of money that I will lose. I keep my expenditures down through careful shopping for used parts and the copious application of elbow grease. I suppose if the object of your obsession was an old Porsche, Jaguar E type or rare Muscle Car, the possibility of portfolio growth might be more assured.

Be like the sculptor that crafts the form of a delicate angel from a solid block of granite. Chip away a little at a time. In other words keep at it, even one little job at a time.


Like any piece of art, at least you got the opportunity to enjoy just gazing at it and contemplating the possibilities. Also like any artwork, you have to protect and preserve it while it is in your stewardship, until you can pass it on to someone else. (Good luck with that!)

My own elephant is still taking it easy under that cozy blue cover. There hasn't been any progress since I disassembled those front wheel cylinders. Slow progress is being made in getting the garage emptied out, and my two other Jags are still waiting for their suspension work. The '96 Mustang still needs that manifold leak addressed, and the Holidays are upon us. But I'm still thankful for where I'm at, and I'm holding the line, still travelling along that Yellow Brick Road.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Welcome to my world, Jaguar World that is.



I first dropped in to look for info about my XJS.


This magazine has been a treasure trove of information and enthusiasm for me. In this world the Jaguar lover can feel that he is in a "safe space." Forget all the cheap shots that are lobbied at our beloved marque by the writers of those other heathen magazines. Here is Jaguar Love twenty four seven! There is never any need to feel embarrassed or to make any apologies for our fascination with this mechanical jewel of the British isles. One of the things that I really like is that every generation, every model, is treated with respect.


There is a well balanced editorial content, vintage models like the XK120 and XK140 and Mark 2 are celebrated alongside the various classic series of the XJ6, XJS and the XK8. While the iconic E types  get a lot of attention, affordable, later model cars from the '80's, '90s and 2000's are given extensive coverage




Due to reasonable values, there are a great many models that are attainable.

This magazine offers a lot of valuable and sound advice to the budding enthusiast. Buying guides for many different models detail the particular problems that can be common to each model family. Recommendations are made for the best values in each model range, based upon price, desirability and ease of maintenance and repair.



Rust never sleeps.


Technical articles cover areas of extreme importance, such as highlighting areas that are susceptible to rust on a model to model basis. For some reason modern Jaguars are still quite susceptible to the ravages of the tin worm. I do find it kind of strange that Jaguars come from a foggy, rainy island and that the factory hasn't found a way to provide proper corrosion protection.



Every issue is chock full o' goodness.

Another favorite feature are the model to model comparisons. Prior models are compared against their successors based upon aesthetics and performance. Seeing the cars side by side can give you insights into how the newer model was developed and also an appreciation for the earlier design. For example the issue pictured above contrasts the X300 model XJ6 against the X308 XJ8.

The X300 was a resounding success. It's styling was a nod to the series three XJ6, with a more curvaceous form than the preceding XJ40. It also featured a new design for the straight six engine. A totally new and final update for the '95 -'97 model years. This car is highly regarded by Jaguar enthusiasts and it is considered one of the most reliable and easily maintained models.

The X308 XJ8 not only had a new name, it had a new engine, the same V8 motor that was used in the XK8. Because of the huge acceptance of the previous models's design, the exterior styling remains very similar, but the interior was treated to an upgrade that features a new, all wood instrument panel design. The V8 powertrain offered increased performance, but was hobbled by some mechanical problems during the first years of production. Cylinder scoring, cooling issues along with timing chain tensioner failures were not uncommon.

Presenting these facts to potential buyers gives them the information to choose the model that they prefer. Many, like myself, have chosen the X300 because it combined the ultimate incarnation of the legendary Jaguar straight six motor with the sleek classic proportions of the styling that both cars shared. Now that the problem areas are well known and can be addressed, others will choose the more powerful V8 equipped sedan.

Also included in this issue is a feature on a series 2 E type coupe and a manual transmission equipped XJS. Something for everybody!

But wait! That's not all!

The top header proclaims a story of an XKR that has amassed over three hundred, ten thousand miles. This particular car was purchased used by it's current owner with approx. 36,000 miles.  He ran up an additional 160,000 miles, than swapped in a good used engine when the original failed. (That's 196,000 miles on the original motor!) He is also on his third used transmission! This is the owner's daily driver and he uses it in touring all over Europe. I love hearing about Jaguar owners that get a lot of use out of their cars and then keep them on the road with a quick component swap.

The editorial staff understands that a large number of their readership are dedicated Jaguar enthusiasts, but they are not Jaguar affluent. They are not in the financial position  to make the purchase a brand new car, but have to wait for depreciation to allow the car to drop down to their financial level. These cars are cherished objects for their owners. Regardless of the age, desirability, or value of their chosen machine.


Which would you choose?

Jaguar has always produced a range of performance models over the years. Some were meant as pure sports cars but the majority were designed as GT cars. In this field Jaguar excelled. This issue concentrates on these sporty models. An E type buyers guide. Following the E type the introduction of the XJS was controversial. The most luxurious, pure GT model ever offered, it was decried as a misstep, a mistake, and not a true successor to the E type's legend. But those same people forget that the E by this time, was already past it's prime, and new challengers such as the Jensen Interceptor were riding the edge of the new wave. Jaguar responded with the brilliant XJS, twelve cylinders of glory. Finally, years later the XJS has received the appreciation that it was due. How does it compare to it's replacement, the curvaceous E type inspired XK8? Jaguar World reports.

Most general interest auto magazines only cover a specific model while it is in production, and then only the latest iteration. Jaguar World satisfies it's fans by focusing the spot light on past models.


The XK8 is still abargain.

Several issues each year are dedicated to a specific model range, the XK8 above, and the XJ40 below. Current models like the F Pace, F type, and the XF and XE are not ignored. The magazine keeps us fans appraised of upcoming new models.

Even the XJ40 is given the Star treatment.

They dutifully report on the mechanical downsides of Jaguar ownership. However they don't take a gleeful pleasure in doing so.

Turning wrenches is part of the Jaguar experience.


There are plenty of technical articles in the magazine. There is a dedicated segment, "Hands On; Our Jaguars"  that covers the specific vehicles that are owned by their writers and editors. These cars are followed through the year as maintenance and repair work is performed to bring the cars into good order.

Photography is also excellent.

There is plenty of coverage of vintage models, as Classic vehicles make up a large part of the Jaguar mystique.

For the dedicated Jaguar fan, or someone who wants to learn more about these fine vehicles before taking the plunge into ownership, Jaguar World offers information, advice, and encouragement. I've always felt that a magazine's main mission is to build and maintain the excitement of the automotive hobby. And to keep the enthusiasm of it's readers fired up. Jaguar World delivers on all counts.


In further praise of Petrolicious. The articles.








Typical of their beautiful photos.

I was introduced to the video site by my Son, and it has since become a source of tremendous satisfaction. Their videos are fantastic. I filled out a survey that was sent to me by the company in which I rated them highly. There was an inquiry about their articles, which until recently I had not taken the opportunity to explore. Many of the articles are the backstory to the video shoot, but most cover other subjects with excellent links to related stories in their archive. And is it an impressive archive! I have surveyed  60 pages of articles and I don't think that I've reached the end yet. All are well written and of course, beautifully photographed.

The subject matter is heavily Euro- centric and especially heavy on Porsche and Ferrari. Not that I'm complaining! There is a comment section which is used sparingly, but I don't know if Petrolicious wants to start and run a complete forum site. Either way,  I thank them for making all their wonderful content available to me and all other auto enthusiasts.  Read and Enjoy tastefully.


There is just something about a Jaguar.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Turkey and left overs.


photo source: ginamote.wordpress.com
There's always something left on the platter after the meal.

What am I waiting for?

I got the chance to drive my Mustang enough to chase down the source of the coolant leak, sort of. I finally saw a small drip running down the right rear side of the intake manifold. After closer observation I saw that the right rear manifold bolt had coolant flowing around it. I could see that there wasn't any coolant flowing down into the engine valley. Could the manifold have loosened up enough to permit a leak? Is anything ever that easy? I checked the manifold  bolts and found that the torque reading was within specs. The manifold must have a little crack, the heater hoses connect to a boss at the rear of the manifold that contains the hose fittings. That could be the source of the leak. I guess I could put some sealer into the system to check my hypothesis.

The intake manifold is made of plastic, and they were known to break down and leak around the thermostat housing, among other places. Sometimes they suffered a catastrophic failure that erupted into an under hood shower of green coolant. An updated design used an aluminum coolant cross over pipe which was supposed to alleviate the problem. The original manifold in my car lasted for 175,000 miles which is pretty good service. I replaced the manifold in my car about three and a half years ago. Could the replacement have failed so soon?

I was successful in removing the pistons from the front wheel cylinders of my Mark VII. I need to replace some parts that were damaged: I need the internal cylinder spring for one cylinder, the crossover pipe fitting refused to loosen and the pipe was twisted and broken when removing the fitting from the other. I would also like to replace the brake shoe return springs

My plan is to clean, rebuild, and remount the cylinders, reassemble the brake shoes but not connect the brake hoses, yet. Then I will move back to the rear brakes to repeat the process. If I could get the hand brake to work, I could use it while moving the car, if it was running. Of course I need to remove and rebuild the master cylinder and blow out all the brake lines.


The oil filter canister top cover gasket didn't fit properly and needs a better design. I have to repair the end fitting to the add on oil filter canister and secure the mounting.

The carbs need to be cleaned, the broken bushing housing replaced and the assembly mounted to the head.

I have to clean out and check the integrity of the fuel tanks. I also have to devise a gravity fuel feed directly to the carbs. Not that I'm forgetting the dual fuel pumps, but I would rather concentrate on getting the motor started.

The vacuum advance assembly on the distributor needs to be replaced.  I saw one for sale on Amazon but it cost 80 bucks!


The registration on my XJ6 was due this month. It also needed a smog check to complete the process. I misplaced the renewal notice and when I checked the actual registration document I found that it had passed a week earlier! I went to Triple A and paid the registration, plus fees. I only had to pay a penalty of an extra thirty bucks! I've done much worse. The CEL has been on for a long time, but the car runs really well.  Still, that will have to be dealt with before it's gets the smog check.

The front suspension really needs to be rebuilt, I mean REALLY needs to be rebuilt. The steering is sloppy and it pulls to the left constantly. The last time I drove it to work it had developed a really bad oscillation that was felt in the wheel.  No more driving it to work.



This is the official Jaguar tool.


The homemade tool is on the left, threaded rod, nuts, washers, and a piece of pipe.
The tool on the right is for the rear spring units.


This is going to be a difficult job so I've even toyed with the idea  of buying the actual Jaguar spring compressor. Jagbits offers the tool for 500.00. That's a chunk of change so I started building the homemade job like I've seen on the forums. I have several additional compressors that I can use in conjunction with the DIY tool to ensure a level of safety. This is more in keeping with my driveway mechanic ethos, except that I don't want to do the job in my driveway.

The shed is in, and my Wife has started the process of clearing out the garage.

My goal is to be able to park two cars in the garage, while still housing all my necessary tools and equipment like the tool chests, jacks, and air compressor. I would like to be able to keep my workbench and some of my steel industrial storage racks, but nothing is written in stone. I graciously decided to set aside some space along the wall for my Daughter's small business stuff.

The XJS needs the same front suspension rebuild that the XJ6 does. Still, it is running and driving. At least all my cars except the Mark VII are driveable and I can easily move them around. That makes huge difference.

Am I buried alive or just slogging through ankle deep mud?

Last year I posted the following quote: "The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the most of everything that comes their way." Karen S. Magee

That's an attitude that I've tried to embrace and it leads me to be appreciative of everything that I have been able to enjoy in my life. Cars are important to me, but there are things of greater value. I have responsibilities towards my Wife and family first. I am blessed that the important things  are going well enough to allow me to have a little fun with my old cars. I hope that you have an enjoyable Thanksgiving.

And now, for something completely different.

Just something I can kick around in the back of my mind.

My 1970 Mustang hardtop.

Thinking back about my '70 Mustang coupe I'm left with mixed feelings. On one hand I was kind of glad to get rid of it, on the other hand I thought that it was a pretty good looking, just a right sized, fun to drive car.  It was a project car, and it was built to suit my design. On that point I think that it was a success. I built it with the look I wanted.

On the other hand I found myself with a car that would need a pretty big expenditure to bring it up to the technical specs that I wanted. While I really didn't have a beef with the straight six, it was the biggie after all, displacing 250 cubes, it's just that the fuel economy was so poor. Any equipment to improve performance and economy was scarce and very expensive. The braking system, though it was the same five lug wheels and drums as on the small block equipped car, left a lot to be desired. My experience indicated that a power boosted disc brake system at least on the front would have been a much better set up.

Sure, all kinds of upgrades are readily available, they just cost money. Add up all the upgrades; V8 swap, disc brakes, and adding a/c and the price tag turns out to be prohibitive. I guess that I should have started out with a better car! I know, I know, it didn't take a genius to figure that out. I started out trying to make an end run around the high price of a ready to go V8 muscle car. It didn't really work out.

I did that like that '70 Mustang, it really is my favorite model classic Mustang, but I don't think that I will try to find another one. If I go for another Classic Mustang it will be better equipped, but not one of the more expensive models. My choice would be the much unloved '71-73 Mustang coupe.


I actually like the sail panels of the C pillars.You can see how the level the roof line is,
if it would have tapered at the rear it would have been a much sleeker design

Why? Well because they are unloved (even in the Sportsroof version), and they are therefore cheap. Most are equipped with the standard small V8, usually an auto trans, power steering and often power disc brakes up front, and even a/c. All he basic building blocks are already there. Since they are pre '75 no smog test is required and I would be free to modify the motor and make some real improvements.

Some say that they are too big, ungainly, even ugly. I used to think so too.


This is the look I would try to avoid.

The rear of the roof is pretty tall and there are those roof sail panels. I think that the stance is very important. having a jacked up rear just makes the car look too tall. A lot of guys add the Mach One wing which doesn't help the profile any, in my opinion. I think that it should be lowered slightly, maintaining a level stance. A front spoiler would be okay, keep the tires and wheels within the fender contour, no big meats hanging out! I would build a custom front grille and tailight panel like I did on my '70. And it would also be Highland green, if I'm going to have a classic Mustang it's gotta be Highland green! The wheels would be wires. My favorite pick would be the Mark VII alloy wire as used on the Bill Blass editions. If that can't work, then maybe some other type of OEM alloy wire. If all else fails, GM wire hubcaps as used on the Buick or Olds models would be an option. Cadillac caps have too big a center section.




These are alloy wheels with actual spokes laced in the front.
I guess the center section is kind of big, too,


I've been reading Octane magazine for several years now, and what I'm going for is a kind of Euro vibe. A clean look that would stay away from overused muscle car cues.

photo source:Stephen Alfon
In this shot you can see that the design is well proportioned. 
The large wheels fill out the wheel openings without having to lower the car excessively.


This is a 1977 Aston Martin DBS coupe.
I do love a green car!


I think that the Aston's fastback roof treatment is better than on the '71-73 Sportsroof Mustang, but the coupe looks better than the Aston convertible with the top up! The cars do have a lot of similarities in their profiles and even in the front appearance. Am I saying that the Mustang is the same thing as an Aston Martin? Of course not. But they ARE both large V8 powered GT cars, and they can be put to the same uses. I've always believed that the Mustang was the "Everyman's" Aston.



You won't find many pictures of the car with the top up, now you can see why.


Am I really going to buy a '71 Mustang? Maybe someday, but I think that I'll just keep my eyes open for a set of those Lincoln wheels!








Thursday, November 16, 2017

Engines. Sometimes you just dig them. The motor is the heart of an automobile or motorcycle. It can also be be the primary focus of the vehicle. Especially if it is the product of a famous manufacturer and is heir to a long history of racing success. Opening the hood can provide a world of satisfaction.


The Vincent.

What else could this be but British?

The Vincent was the World's fastest motorcycle during it's production run. It's all alloy construction and novel frame design kept the total weight of the motorcycle down. There were two carburetors fitted, and with the superior porting it allowed breathing at high rpm. The use of an advanced cam and follower design allowed the motor to achieve much higher operating speeds than it's contemporaries.




It is also the look of the engine which makes it so appealing to me. So very "busy" in appearance, with so many bits and pieces bolted on here and there. So very very British in it's visual complexity.


1936 Harley Davidson EL
Looks a bit cleaner than the English V twin.


Compare that with the Harley Davidson EL of 1936. In 1936 it set the World speed record for motorcycles at 130 mph. Real world performance was over 90 mph, this was at the time when your average Ford Model A would be hard pressed to hit 60 mph. With a single carburetor it was designed for reliability and longevity. The alloy valve covers identify this as the legendary "knucklehead." It is a feast for the eyes.


Bentley Pre War Six.

This is the motor that powered the racing machines of the legendary "Bentley Boys." The Twenties and early Thirties were the glory days of the marque that achieved it's greatest success before being bought by Rolls Royce.



The straight six configuration was the favorite design of the premium British marques. An overhead cam design was employed with a novel cam drive tower located at the back of the engine. Multiple carb set ups were determined by the state of tune and expected use of the vehicle. One of my favorite features, (shared with both of my six cylinder Jaguars) ts the use of a dual exhaust manifold. Straight sixes were never treated like the poor relation here, unlike in the U.S.




Even before the era of American V8s, inline engines never received highly developed manifolding or multiple carburetor set ups. Most inlines were flathead designs that were developed to provide low end torque as well as run on the low octane fuel available at the time. There were a few exceptions. The Buick  OHV inline eight of the late 1940's showcased a progressive dual carb "compound carburetor " set up that pre staged the use of four barrel carbs on V8s. The "Fabulous Hudson Hornet" sported "Twin H" twin carb set up and was NASCAR champ for a couple of years, owning to their competitive power and superior handling.

Aston Martin.

David Brown, a British industrialist purchased the faltering company for 30,000 dollars after the war, also picking up the ailing Lagonda concern. David Brown manufactured tractors, so he knew how to run a successful production company. Aston Martin enjoyed their finest era of racing success and produced some of their most memorable car designs during the David Brown years.  "Shaken not Stirred" Right?


This engine was designed by W.O. Bentley, and was the reason that David Brown
bought Lagonda.


The all alloy engines were powerful and like the Vincent, and are known for their eccentricities of construction. It is British, after all. One interesting feature is the presence of "weep holes" in the block to drain the area around the cylinder liners. Aston Martin did not produce a V8 engine until the 1970s.




The Jaguar XK Six.

The story of how Jaguar engineers developed this motor while on fire watch at the factory during WWII is a modern legend. They discussed the new motor that they would hope to build after the end of the hostilities.



William Lyons tasked his engineering crew with developing not only a technologically superior motor but he wanted it to look good also. Mission accomplished.



The engine enjoyed a notable run of success in multiple types of competition during the 50s and early 60s. Notably five wins at Le Mans. The XK powered Mark VII sedan finished second in the Monte Carlo Rally of 1952 and overall winner in 1956. (This could be the reason that I bought one!)





Jaguar V12

This was the most successful passenger car 12 cylinder ever, well over 150,000 units were produced. It was the sole powerplant of the Series Three E-Type, and of the XJS during fifteen years of it's run. The 12 was also used in three series of the XJ12 sedan. The 12 cylinder XJS was the fastest four passenger vehicle on the market for many years with a top speed of almost 160 mph.




It is a very large engine and it was a tight fit in every model car that it was installed in. The above picture, though a bit dirty illustrates the size and density of the unit.



The motor was renowned for it's smooth turbine like delivery of power.


Buick Nailhead

This is the motor that replaced the straight eight. It is quite narrow and compact. The story is that it had to fit in the existing inline engine  designed frame. The  design features horizontal valve design which results in the valve covers lying flat an unusual design for an American V8. I love this engine because it is not only a good performer, it is quite attractive. The intake manifold sits above a sheetmetal valley cover with an attractive thermostat housing water manifold. The stock rocker covers are nicely shaped and it also features an alloy water pump. This motor was used in the Early '60s Buick Riviera where it reached it's final displacement of 425 cubic inches. The motor in the photo is dressed out with finned aluminium items; valley cover, rocker arm covers, and spark plugs covers. There is even a finned aluminum air cleaner set up available.




You can get all those cool finned accessories from
O ' Brien's Trucking



Harley Davidson Sportster.





The 883 cc Sportster motor was the development of the KH flathead unit construction V twin. While the OHC XL motor was used on street bikes the flathead was developed into a racing motor that was most seen on flat tracks, but even raced at Daytona. AMA rules limited OHV engines to 500 cc displacements but they allowed 750 cc displacements for flatheads. This gave H.D. and exploitable advantage over Triumph. The left side four speed shift mimicked set ups used by the European vertical twins and it is clear that they were it's main competition in the market.

The Sportster was successful in competition, mostly drag racing where it created it's own classes. It was most successful on the street as the first Superbike. It was the quickest generally available bike, as those Vincents were rarely ever seen.




It was all image, and it had a magical name but it fell from grace as the 1970s dawned. While it is still in production it lost it's performance cachet many years ago,


Datsun 240Z OHC six.


This is the basis of the first great Japanese performance legend.

European marques had stuck with the six long after the American V8 had become the norm on the domestic scene. They did develop it's design to a high level. Mercedes, BMW, as well as Rolls Royce. The Japanese manufacturers started out with various four cylinder designs before moving up to the six.  Datsun developed an single OHC design that developed a surprising amount of power considering the fact that it wasn't even a cross flow design. There is a story that Nissan supplied Pete Brock's racing team with a prototype DOHC design that failed to out perform the standard design. Straight six Datsun Z cars remained competitive in amateur road racing well into the 2000's.

My Son had been attracted to the early Z ever since he was a little kid. It was his interest in that car that led to my first foray into the sports car world. Until then I had insisted that "I would never own a small car!" I became, and still remain a Z fan. There's just something about that straight six. I just don't get that same feeling about the later V6. Toyota designed a DOHC six that should have out performed this older design as it boasted a higher technical  specfication but it initially produced only equal performance to the Datsun. Over time Toyota gradually updated this engine into the legendary Supra twin turbo design

There are other motors that I have owned, along with the cars. The Cadillac Northstar was the most advanced American auto engine of it's era.  With 295 hp. and 300 lbs/ft. of torque it brought muscle car performance to the domestic luxury sedan scene. It was a real revelation. The car it was installed in also pointed in a new direction for a venerable American marque.

I owned several early Buick Rivieras that featured the classic Nailhead. I was quite the Riviera fan and these early models were such great combination of performance and elegance.

Currently I am lucky to own both an example of the first XK motor powering my old Mark VII and the 5.3 liter V12 in my XJS. The motor in my XJ6 is the final edition of the straight six concept that gave Jaguar such a heritage of racing success. I must admit that I find the view under my cars' hood to be  most satisfying!





Friday, November 10, 2017

Working on the new car: Part two. Tire Troubles.


photo source: YouTube
     I love these old cartoons. A lot of the situations they deal with were based on the tough reality of the 1930s.

Besides that grey Mustang I have my '07 F150. It was bought new six months before the Mustang, and it now is also not a "new" vehicle.

I had been having a lot of tire trouble with several of my cars.  My '97 XJ6 suffered from a slow leak which was finally traced back to a leaking valve stem. The '07 Mustang started a slow leak also. Initially the technician told me that I needed a new tire because he couldn't determine where it was leaking from.  I know that these tires are approaching the end of their useful life, but they weren't even worn down to the wear bars. I was depending on these to last into the beginning of next year. Tires are expensive. Typical of many techs and mechanics, they will always recommend replacement even if they couldn't identify the problem.

So I asked him to put it in the water tub and show me where it was leaking from. There wasn't any indication of leakage. I asked him where the air was escaping from, it had to be coming out from SOMEWHERE.  Luckily the manager was standing by and he took a look. He told him to change out the valve stem, which I had mentioned I had seen leaking.  (Though it wasn't leaking now). The valve stem was replaced and that solved the problem.

A week ago I noticed that the right rear tire of my truck had a slow leak. I topped it up and figured that I would just keep and eye on it, A couple of days later I was leaving for work in the morning and found that the tire was completely flat. After work I put the spare on and decided to take the tire back to the dealer in Santa Clara that had sold me the tires. I was informed that the puncture was not repairable since it was in the outside row of tread. I protested that it was not in the sidewall. The tech showed me a poster that explained that on truck tires the outside lines of tread are considered sidewalls due to the heavier loads that are carried. These are the first set of replacement tires. They are the OEM Hankooks which are fantastic performing tires. Of course I didn't want to buy an entire set of new tires, even buying one new replacement wouldn't be cheap. Buying a new set of tires is a big deal. A quality set is expensive, and it's not the kind of decision you want to make on the spur of the moment There's a lot of  thought and cross shopping involved.

I decided to give my local WheelWorks a try. They didn't have a Hankook tire in stock, and offered up a set of Firestones. No, I can't get any enthusiasm up for Firestones! They quoted the same price as the Santa Clara shop had quoted for the Hankooks, 175.00 per tire plus all the usual add ons that bring them up to almost 200 bucks a piece.


Used tire stores can be a lifesaver for the working man.


I realized that the best alternative would be to buy a used tire to get me through, and out of town. I was supposed to be on my way to Solvang for a birthday getaway.  It was already well past noon, and I needed to get on the road! I visited a used tire outlet on Monterey Road, There are many such establishments in San Jose. Calderon's tires sells both new and used, but the chain has made their name on used tires. They have several stores and they are well arranged and neat. I informed them of the needed size, it would be fifty bucks installed, not bad. At first they showed me a Michelin with plenty of tread. I would always prefer a matching tire but beggars can't be choosers. When I went back to double check that it was a light truck tire, I saw them installing an identical Hankook. The installer told me I had asked for a 16 inch tire and I needed a 17 incher. Either way I was very happy to be getting the Hankook which also had plenty of life left on it. Put away the spare, which was in worse shape than I had remembered, (!) and I was good to go.

Mention buying a used tire and you might get some strange looks from your middle class friends. They kind of give you a look like you were buying used toilet paper or something. Have you ever bought a used car? That car comes with "used tires." Middle class customers just replace all tires as a set, or they replace them when they buy new custom wheels, or sometimes just because they want something sportier. And think of all those wrecked cars that are sent to the scrapyard, what do you think happens to all those tires? The good ones are culled and sold to used tire dealers, and they are a Godsend for the working man. Prices range from 30.00 to 50.00 installed and balanced. There's no excise tax, or tire disposal fee tacked on. Road Hazard? Time for another trip to the used tire dealer. A good set of take off tires will run more of course, but are still a bargain.

Sometimes you just need to replace a single tire after it was damaged by some road hazard and is not repairable. Can't always spare 600 bucks on up for a new set. While I prefer to buy new tires as a set, as a quality tire can last a very long time. The current  tires on my truck have around 50,000 miles on them and a bit left to go. Hopefully I will make it through to the next year.

This experience made me consider finding some used, modern 16 inch tires for my Mark VII. Perhaps a 205 /16 might fit. It's really only a consideration in back, with those big skirts. The modern tire would have a wider tread and the shorter sidewall would lower the car at least a couple of inches. That couldn't hurt. I might have to run some inner tubes. I don't know how air tight those wheels are. A set of good tires for a couple of hundred bucks? I could live with that.

I did put some used modern radials on my '56 Cadillac's original rims. I had those buffed out to wide whitewalls. That was a messy and smelly procedure! I think that I would do the white primer treatment. If I go that route it will be worth an entire blogpost.

Working on the old car. At least one of them.


image source: graemecooper.com.gu
                                      Where is that coolant going?


My '97 Mustang has been pretty good to me, mostly since I made it a priority to keep up on the maintenance and spend a few bucks when necessary, It has gotten displaced somewhat from it's position of favor since all those Jaguars arrived.

I had planned to drive the Mustang down the coast to Solvang for a little weekend get away.  I had noticed last month during the heat wave that the temp gauge was indicating a little over halfway going over the Mission grade on I 580. I checked and found that the coolant was a little low. I topped it up with plain water and promptly forgot about it. My Wife was using the car and told me that then low coolant light had come on. I topped it up with coolant this time, and figured I was good to go.

We were packed and gassed up and ready to go. We were running a couple of final errands and I noticed that the low coolant light had come on again. Hmmm. I had checked it before we left and it was full. I let it cool in the parking lot and again checked the level. It looked okay. Maybe it was just the sensor?

I decide to return home and investigate. On the trip home I ran the heater full on to eliminate the chance that there was air in the system. When I arrived home the light was on and the reservoir was definitely low. I had been keeping an eagle eye on the temp gauge and it hadn't gone more than a hair over halfway. Normal.

I checked and couldn't find any sign of leaking hoses and there weren't any drips under the car. The motor didn't smell hot, but I could detect the faint odor of coolant. Where was the coolant going? Was there a leak in the heater core? (I sure hope not!) I thought that the radiator cap might be losing pressure and allowing the coolant to drain into the reservoir and then into the overflow. But the temp didn't indicate that it was hot. Then the worst alternative presented itself. Could the head gasket be leaking? (Even worse!) There wasn't any indication of excessive steam from the exhaust.

We were burning daylight and I had to find an alternative. I thought about taking the Explorer, but my Daughter needed it for a sales event on Saturday. (It also was having it's own issues) I could always take the truck, right?

 See above.