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Letter from Bruce Carnachan

Dear Nick

August 10, 1993

I received your letter yesterday, forwarded by Mike Cook of Jaguar Journal. You have an interesting story on the XK 120 SE, stored away after the owner's death. Two similar XK 120 stories I know of in this area, one new member of our Classic Jaguar Association, bought a car from the widow of the 2nd owner who had purchased it from a U.S. serviceman who bought it new in German in 1954. The 2nd owner bought it in 1956, enjoyed it until he died in 1962. His widow could not bear to part with her late husbands favorite car, so stored it away. Our member knew of the car for ten years, finally convinced the widow to sell to him as he would restore it and keep it for himself. And she would get the first ride in it! That car is nearly completed, and only had 46,000 miles on it. The other story is even more interesting, seems a young man and his father traveled to Los Angeles from Carmel, 350 miles north, to pickup his new aluminum XK 120 in 1950. Returning to Carmel, the car had only about 900 miles on it when the young man went on a flying trip - possibly with the Air Force Reserve, and never returned. His family stored the car in a barn on blocks, and covered up, hoping their son would some day return. This story first surfaced in early 1970's when some acquaintances of mine heard about the car and saw it. Finally when the mother passed on after the fathers earlier death, the car was purchased by some one in the San Francisco area. I have not seen it, but it was at a concours in 1991, Paul Skilleter wrote about it in his Jaguar Quarterly.

It is unfortunate that the car was vandalized while in storage, I will NEVER understand the mentality of vandals and would certainly shoot one if I caught him. Hopefully the grill bars were not bent, they are held into the oval surround with lead solder, so can be replaced after chroming the bars, just rough up the ends that solder into place. Some good books on the XK 120 are Paul Skilleter's The Jaguar XK's Chris Harvey's THE JAGUAR XK'S, (notice the difference in tiles) Skilleter's being an excellent choice, though rather small. It is rather small but has list of changes over the five years of production. I just bought a new one, Practical Classics & Car Restorer On XK Jaguar Restoration, but have not had the time to go through it care fully. The original Jaguar XK that you refer to, I also have it, is full of errors but has some good photos. You are right on the vent pipe in the gas filler area and Phil Porter is wrong. Talking with Paul Skilleter at a Jaguar Meet in Oregon a few years ago, and he said he could not understand why Porter did not come to the U.S. and see some original XK's before doing that book. Skilleter says most XK 120's in Great Britain arrive from the States in deplorable condition of as basket cases, so the restorers don't really have much to go on regarding originality. Example in Porter's book, page 25, this is an often photographed example of an XK 120 OTS. Note the way the carpet behind the pedals is done. Totally incorrect, the original merely had two holes for the pedal rods to go through. What you see is a copy of the J.C. Whitney Parts House aftermarket carpet set where they made it easy for the owner to replace without unbolting the pedal rods from the engine compartment. Also, on my July, 1954 XK 120 SE OTS, the hood release bracket merely had a slot in the underdash cover, not a large oval as shown.

Now is the time to make note that during these five years of XK 120 production, there were many small changes, Skilleter thinks about 1,300, so a 1953 might have small differences from a 1954, and many from a 1952 and still more from a 1951 or 1950 model. Unfortunately, not many JCNA judges are aware of that. Example, page 27, Porter's book, note the rubber seal around the boot opening. This was correct on early car into 1952, later cars have it glued to the lip of the boot lid, leaving the body channel as a trough for rainwater to run off in. While in this book, note back-up & License plate light on page 11, this should be pointed straight back, not at the "moon". These are often bumped into so that the mounting flange is straight, instead of bent at the upper edge of the license plate plinth. You will often see the rear bumper irons bent back from previous "bumps" and the person restoring the car never saw an undamaged example. Also on page 27, the carpet in the boot never covered the sidewalls, just the deck, and early cars had the gas filler neck shield covered with the carpet material, moquet, later cars just painted gloss black. While on page 25, note the folded top does not have the chromed metal tack on strip across the leading edge. Unfortunately, many top replacers preferred to use the soft material tack strip as it was easier to apply, so they threw away the metal piece. This of course, was before anyone thought of making an XK into a Concours Car. Take a look at page 79, the position of the small red plastic sidelight tell tale, in my opinion, checking on more than a dozen original XK 120's including one nearby with only 12,000 miles on it, the sloping back should face the driver, not the way shown here. Now, it is not to say that a car never left the factory with them reversed. Suppose some poor befuddled worker was just put on that final assemble, and stuck them in wrong before a more experienced worker showed how they should go. See the problem a judge at a concours will have? I never mark points off on that, just point out the way they should be. Like I said before, the "experts" in England are the ones that have visited the States, Canada, or Australia as these were the destinations of almost all XK 120's. Now, as to answering some of your specific questions; beginning in 1952, the bodies were assembled, except the rear fenders were not bolted down tight, and painted. So every thing is body color. The bolt-on engine compartment side plates were painted gloss black. My car, and many other I have seen, has undercoating inside the fenders and on the underside of the hood-bonnet. Others without the undercoat, were body color. The early cars, were flat black in these areas. The Radiomobile radio control unit was generally mounted under the center of the dash so as not to interfere with the shifter. On coupes and DHC's, usually where the ash tray went. The cables were fed under the carpet. My Oct. 1954 XK 140MC (so early, - #19LHD- it does not have the "C-Type badge on valve covers, which were NEVER on an XK 120) has that two piece radio and the original owner had it mounted above his left knee but the 140 has more room. The felt body packing was about 1/4th inch thick, I have never removed the body on my car, bought in 1957 from original owner - he purchased it in Nov. 1954. The car is fairly original, just maimed with new paint & upholstery in 1969. I have seen similar packing at my local hardware store, but I think a body shop could supply it. The best way to fit the two major body assembles is to make some steel bars or a jig to hold them. Do not use the aluminum doors as holding correct distances. They are too soft. I have enclosed some measurements taken from my car that you can use to make a jig, then use your doors to see if they align correctly. I saw what one person used for locating jig, hollow tubes with bolt-down flats on one end, and threaded rod with bolt-down flat at one end. a large nut on the threaded portion against a big washer with the threaded rod in the hollow tube, allowed him to make final adjustments. He bought all material at a hardware store. On the battery covers, I have two pair, they both have the design in the center. Many years ago, I moved the batteries from behind the seat to one 12 volt in a plastic box inside the right front fender as I had some corrosion in the original spot. Also thought I was getting run-down from the long cables being worn - not so, was a oil /temp gauge hooked up live all the time instead of to ignition side. Regarding the bolts, "BEES" and "AUTO" are correct. I once got a letter from an Englishman who imported a low mileage XK 120 from Texas. He found "BEES" bolts all through the car and wondered if the original owner had replaced them. He had inquired from Jaguar Cars and was told they "never" used "BEES" bolts, which were red headed. I had just rebuilt a set of S.U. Carbs with aircleaners for a friend, the aircleaner bolts were red-headed "BEES", so I checked with two friends that have restored several XK 120's, they both confirmed finding many "BEES" bolts. So I wrote the Englishman not to worry, no one at the factory is still around when his 1952 was built, and those bolts were ok. Again, Jaguar was a very small company, trying to survive after 5 war years, they bought parts and hardware from anyone that had them. I have found original small heater hose clamps on both my 1954 and my 1964 E-Type that were made in the USA! Where did they come from? Think of the millions of surplus U.S. Air Force clamps used on the many small hoses on the radial engine. I have researched this with Club members of such cars as the Jowett Jupiter, Austin-A90 Atlantic, Riley, and Hillman, that have also run into the small US made clamps. These small companies bought what they could find to do the job. Try explaining that to a JCNA judge sometime. On my 1954 XK 120 I find almost every nut or bolt will fit my U.S. wrenches and sockets, exceptions are the oil-filter bolt must use a Whitworth socket, and my open-end wrenches will fit as I have some odd sizes like 19/32nds, but SAE bolts will not fit the air cleaners, lose those and go to a British M/C shop for replacements. My original tire pump has brass screw-on cap at the top of the pump, with a brass knurled knob under the black wooden handle. The fold-up foot hold down pedals are painted black. On some nice after-market reproductions, that part is brass color, I just tell the owners to paint that part black. Like I said, Jaguar bought from suppliers that had what they needed at the time, just keep what you have and explain it came with the car which you think was all original. An intelligent judge will realize the tire pumps as well as the grease gun as well as the battery covers could have differences. Example, a short time ago I was contacted by a fellow that wanted to borrow asset of original Jaguar wrenches that had a bumble bee on them. I checked with may XK 120 owners as well as my set and that of my XK 140, the wrenches were all mixed make, some with the bumble bee some another brand. As these were all original tool kits, it just points to what I said above. Those small 1/8" holes are as you guessed, for a "Made In England" brass plate. Think either Moss Motors in Goleta, Calif. or XK's Unlimited in San Luis Obispo, CA have them. Or Bill Tracy in Florida may also. They all have ads in Hemmings Motor News, a good source for locating parts. I have only seen the round heater core for the XK 120, a hard to find item. Moss Motors has a taller one for MG'S and Triumphs that a good radiator shop should be able to remove a row or two so it will fit the Jaguar. Incidentally, the shut-off valve should never be turned off on these heaters, water should always circulate through them. They will rust out if left full on non-circulating water, also turn on the fan in summer and it helps to cool the engine. The bumper irons on the very early cars were painted body color, your car should be gloss black. Note that Porter said light color cars often had body color, but my light blue car has always had gloss black, and I have only found cars earlier than 1952 with body color bumper irons. The steering wheel was fairly close to a gloss black, more so than a semi-gloss. Early cars had painted grab handles, but some later cars, particularly during 1952 also had them due to a shortage of material in the chroming process. About 600 cars left the factory with painted tail-light housings instead of the normal chrome ones. The installer may have grabbed a painted one for the bin for your Dec. 1953 car, I have seen this on another 1953 car. So both are right. For mild steel exhaust, most any good muffler shop that makes custom systems for motorhomes or racecars or hot-rods can supply you. I use two long glass packs welded together on my original pipes (how does that song go? "It Don't Rust in So. Calif.") You might want the stainless steel system in your more rainy country, just do not polish them, some owners have roughed the surface with steel wool. I never knock off points for a stainless steel system, they last a long time and may be the only kind available.

I have enclosed some sheets on originality for the XK 120 restorer which may help you, also a copy of the 1950 Jaguar color list for the new XK 120 and the Mark V's. Note the statement at the bottom regarding special orders. Also I am writing Mike Cook about my comments on the fender & license plate mount welting, the latter is as a guide to the restorer, I have seen factory original with black around the license plate mount, it is smaller than that used in the fender which is always body color, and if the installer did not have the body color material, he probably used the same black welting as used in the door opening between the fender and the face plate. If you have any questions not answered in my notes, let me know and I will try to get the answer.

Bruce Carnachan
XK 120 Registrar & Membership
Classic Jaguar Association
1754 Hillcrest Ave.
Glendale, Calif. 91202

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