Friday, June 16, 2017

Why do I fixate on terrible old cars? Especially forgotten barn or field cars.

The abandoned car as art. 

Well this would be the dream.
photo source;

Well they are not really terrible, just in terrible shape. That's the reason that they are affordable to me.

I remember back when I was a freshman in high school. While riding the bus through Clayton Ca, right at the curve there was a little country property with several very interesting and promising to me, old cars. One was a 1951 or 1952 Cadillac. Nothing fancy, just a four door post sedan. Oh, how I dreamed about that car. I'll bet it just needs a little tuning and freshening up and it would be back on the road in no time. Of course the fact that it had been sitting for many years should have told me something, like it must have suffered some kind of calamitous mechanical failure.

The second was a 1960 or so Ford Thunderbird. That was a car to grab a young man's imagination.

Why is it that the sight of a forlorn, forgotten old car so compelling to me. Maybe I think that it needs to rescued and brought back to life, and I'm just the guy up to the challenge.

In my imagination the car would only need a plug change and a new battery to be put back in service. In reality it was probably something serious. I would guess that it was probably the transmission that went out. Not many home mechanics will try to fix or replace an automatic transmission. There's more leeway with motor problems. Unless it threw a rod or blew a head gasket most owners could tinker with it or just drive it with it a shaky idle due to bad valves or a blue smoke cloud from worn rings. Ran when parked. Famous last words.

Realistically how many times have you parked an adequately running car somewhere and just "forgotten about it"? I think that most people would use that an excuse to just sell it. Living in the suburbs there is only so many places to park an extra car, even if you don't mind ticking off your neighbors. Unless, you're lucky enough to live out in the country and you have a whole lot of room to save that car. Then you can tell anyone interested in buying it " Not for sale, I'm gonna fix that up-someday". Sure you are.

For example, look at this beauty. A very interesting car that is currently not highly sought out or highly valued. When the new XK six cylinder motor was introduced, Sir William decided to produce a few specials that could establish the performance pedigree of this power plant. The sports job, the XK120 grabbed everyone's imagination and the Company was "forced" to go into regular production.

This is the car that the new motor was intended for. The Mark VII saloon. A sleek, stylish, luxurious grand touring saloon with a top speed just north of one hundred miles an hour. Nothing less than the equivalent of a Bentley Continental. For far fewer pounds.

The tragedy is that with the continuing interest in the sports models, these cars were mined for their mechanicals, especially the motor, manual transmission and suspension parts. Kind of like buying a 1970s Chrysler Imperial just for the 440 V8, the rest of the car was discarded. Most of these lower priced Mark VIIs are usually sold minus the engine. They don't trade for much, and even then, there aren't many takers.

Where have you been all my life? There is also a hidden parts car.
This  car showed up on CL and for some reason it eluded my attention for over three weeks.

These cars were advertised locally, but I thought that they were probably located somewhere out in the Central Valley. Field cars are rarely found in the local urbanized Bay Area. When the seller sent me these pictures I was almost certain that these were out in the country somewhere. But no, they were only about a half hour away. I just had to go and see them.

This thing looks quite well preserved.

The seller told me that the car had been purchased new by his father who was a British Car fan. You can see the Morris Minor in some shots. (What you won't see is the rather rough series one E-type). His Dad drove this car everyday up into the Eighties or Nineties when he got tired of operating the clutch and switched to an automatic Bentley. This old Jag was the car used in family vacations and the one the seller learned to drive in. The car was parked and covered while his Dad, involved himself in other projects. Time passed and the seller's Dad passed away several years ago.

Look between the seats. That's a shift lever!

The upholstery is actually pretty good on the seats and door cards. It was reupholstered some time in the past in blue vinyl.  There is some damage to the front seat bottom panels, but nothing not easily fixable.

This example really caught my interest previously, because it was equipped with a manual transmission.
What really caught my attention is the same thing that the car in Southern California had, a manual transmission. A non -synchromesh first gear, Moss gearbox.  Most of these I've seen for sale have that Borg Warner three speed automatic. Those old tranny's were well known to sap the performance from the car.  A manual transmission can be relatively easily gone through by the home mechanic. Because the mechanical bits of this car are shared with the XK120 all the way to the XK-E, there are lots of upgrades available.  A five speed conversion using a Toyota Supra box is a common upgrade, though usually found in an XK-E or the smaller Mark Two sedan.

This was the motor in the parts car.
The parts car has had an E-Type gear box installed sometime in the past.

                                          This was the included parts car. If I only had the room!

Look at that motor, This was from the period that led Jaguar to five victories at Le Mans. These models are the contemporaries of the famed XK120 and XK140. The Mark VII won the overall victory at the Mote Carlo rally in 1956. Talk about heritage. Talk about history. The seller has informed me that both cars were running when parked, but that was at least twenty years ago. He has to get rid of these cars to sell his late Father's house, and settle his estate. If the cars cannot be sold they will be scrapped. I can only hope that he can find a buyer for these often overlooked treasures.

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