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XK Soft top material

XK Soft Top (Hood) Material

Dear friends, Winter is almost here and driving gets cold, so restoration is the point. I would like to put a new hood on my XK120 dhc. Besides of the chrome and the metal work I would need everything new. There is a specialist here in Switzerland who seems really to be really amazing in behalf of quality and originality. But his price seems nevertheless high. He thinks it would cost me (with the window and the inner woodwork) about 10'000 Swiss franks this is about 7000 USD or about 4600 british pounds. What do you think about his price? Also did anybody of you hear about the material Rexin? It is used in the interior. Best regards - Zoran Mitrovic

Zoran: Doing a drop head hood, as I said to another list member only a few days ago, is one of the most difficult jobs there is on an XK. It is easy to do some sort of a job, even a practically acceptable one, but difficult to do it all right (down to the horsehair and calico etc). That's why I asked Peter Fielding to give us the story on the 140 he did recently. Assuming that Swiss prices would be through the roof, I am not all that surprised at the quote, but you would want to make sure that the guy knows what he is doing. What XKs has he done before? Are they right? Have you seen them? Another option is to send your car over to Suffolk & Turley in the UK, or at least ring them for a quote. They are ex Jaguar apprentices (they work separately these days apparently) and do a fantastic job. But still expect to spend plenty. I will append below some notes I took from Suffolk & Turley re doing the job and which I have at least 2 or 3 times before circulated on this list. Ask your guy in CH how he is going to do the job, and see how it compares with what I was told. Also some notes from Jim Canedy, list member. Rexine is the leathercloth trimming material widely used in XKs. Some sort of vinyl is usually now used. - Regards, John Elmgreen

The following information was given to JE by Eric Suffolk and Mick Turley of Suffolk and Turley near Coventry, in 1981. 1. The first thing to do is to fit what they describe as a "former panel" at the rear of the hood, from the mohair outside covering material. This was a piece of mohair about four inches to six inches wide, roughly outlining the rear window shape and going across the top back part of the hood in a half moon. I took them to mean that the former panel arched up from between the side and the rear window over the back of the rear window, and down on the other side. 2. A second pair of former panels should be fitted, one on each side of the hood above the side windows. This panel starts at the front of the hood where the windscreen is and goes right over to the back of the hood. I am not sure how it connects with the rear former panel - perhaps they are sawn together. I gather it is also 4" to 6" wide. 3. The headlining should then be fitted under the former panels. 4. Next, fit two calico side panels approximately where the windows are. I presume that these panels are cut out later. Also fit calico to the centre area of the hood. Query - is the calico stitched to the former panels? 5. Horsehair (which can be obtained from France) is then laid over the calico in the main area of the hood. The horse hair is very thick and is teased out into place. It is puffed up. When it has been put in place, the horsehair is then sewn onto the calico, taking special care not to catch the headlining when sewing. This process is called "wigging". 6. The wadding is then added at the front rail (the part of the hood that goes across the top of the windscreen) and is then spread over the whole of the hood, presumably on top of the horsehair. Originally this material was a cotton wadding, but now something called lintis felt (?) or dacron is used. Dacron is regarded as a very good modern substitute because it does not deteriorate through dampness. The wadding is white. The hood is then "wigged" again, which involves sewing the wadding on at about six inch intervals. 7. Then the "wigged" horsehair and wadding is covered with calico again and presumably hand sewn again. 8. Then cover the whole hood with the outer cover made from mohair. I do not know how the "former panels" attach to the rest of the hood. 9. The above directions do not describe in detail how to make the headlining or the outer mohair cover - the real point is to describe how the interior padding of the hood is made and formed. See photo at page 193 of Viart / Cognet: taken at factory of XK150 DHC being trimmed, shows rear window section with canvas tacking type pieces, horsehair being laid on the top, canvas tacked to rear hood bow. Said to have been taken in 1960.

Sun, 9 Mar 1997, Dear John, Re: 150DHC top installation. I have done several. They are very time consuming and frustrating to put on correctly. First thing to do is obtain the correct chrome surround for the rear, sides and above the rear window. Bassett's and BSA have it. It should be brass with a lead fill. This needs to be bent and trimmed and sent to the chrome shop while you are struggling with the top. You will later have to drill the back side and solder in brass nails. Next step install any tack strips that are needed. The ones just behind the door are usually bad and are difficult to get to. The front tack strip is also prone to rot. Good time to repaint the metal top supports and repair any loose joints. Once all of this is done apply the webbing. With the DHC the first thing after this is the headliner and rear window. Once everything is tight and beautiful a sandwich of muslin and padding goes on. I have done this several ways and I'm not sure where the padding stops on the side. After this apply the top working from the rear top bow and securing this to the rear tack wood .Stretch things out and move forward eventually tacking to the front top bow. If all works out your headliner still looks good and there arent any lumps after you open and close it a few times. If you have a good upholstery shopI would recommend having someone else do it. You will enjoy it much more. I didnt ever want to put the top down after all that work. I would be glad to answer specifics as they come up JIM CANEDY

Dear John, Thank you very much for your great explenations about the hood of the 120 dhc. The guy who would do this work says also that it is one of the most toughest jobs and he does it himself and not one of his mechanics. How many hoods he has done I do not know. But he has done the hood of Urs Schmieds car and it looks good. But how original it is, I can not judge. This Swiss place looks good, but the price seems nevertheless high and I am always rather cautious when somebody says he is the best in the world. E.g. this guy claims to be the only one in the world who works with Rexin. Do you have any address or phone number of a good place in England where they make good hoods? Just to compare....? Thank you very much - Zoran Mitrovic

It is indeed a difficult , but very manageable job for any professional. I am always rather cautious when somebody says he is the best in the world. E.g. <this guy claims to be the only one in the world who works with Rexin.> Nice to know there is someone who knows he is the best !!! And Swiss as well !! One of the good ones but by no means of Swiss timepiece excellence (smile!) are the folks at Aldridge ( just world champion concours experts) whose number I may have given you before... re the interior trim. 011 441 902 710805. kind regards.. - Tony Parkinson

The subject of what the reverse side of original XK soft top material should look like, is assuming out of proportion importance here in Aus. with a concours entrant and a judge having a disagreement. I asked a question about this a few weeks ago, I think without response. Anyway, here goes again. So far as I know, the accepted material for retrimming concours XKs in Aus and UK is mohair, and the only cloth available that comes by that description is a German cloth also used by Mercedes. On the reverse, it has a kind of herring bone pattern. Looks to me exactly like the photos of the 1,000 mile 120 in Jag World about 1994 which a few of you will have (query whether that car still has the original trim). Also see Porter page 25, 86 where you can just see the pattern on these restored cars. Judge here thought this was the only permissible pattern, but has now been sent from the UK what a supplier there says is a sample from an original XK150 OTS hood, which shows what he calls a kind of basketweave pattern, not unlike the modern German material, but not the same. Concours entrant has a US supplied material (some sort of synthetic) that has a plain lined 45deg pattern on the reverse. Someone on this list said that they have an original 150 OTS hood or tonneau - can you please advise what it is like? I have a sample of mohair from the factory about 20 years ago (given to me as an XK sample) that has the characteristic shine of mohair (just like a car salesman's suit) and a plain lined reverse. Terry McGrath (now on this list) tells me he has original materials from an XK120 DHC and 2 x XK 150 DHC which also have straight lined reverse sides. Who else wants to buy into this? I would like to find out who is the German supplier of the current material and ask how many Angora goats are shorn for each length of material (I wonder who supplied Jaguar in the first place too?). I look forward to a deluge of responses on this fascinating subject. - Regards, John Elmgreen

The German fabric is called 'Sonnenland' You can find a German supplier on the net: http://www.all-tops.com/index.html - Marc Bertels

Some of you may recall my recent messages asking for samples of original XK hood material and outlining a concours controversy here re use of mohair (German) material with a special reverse pattern, or use of a synthetic US material (with a straight line 45 deg angle pattern). A local judge said that the German material was the only mohair available, therefore the only acceptable material. One of you gave me the web address for a German soft top supplier, whom I emailed for details of the material it uses, called Sonnenland. I cannot say for sure that it is the same as the so called mohair material bought from Germany and usually used here in Aus, but I asked for a sample (it superficially sure looks the same) and asked what it is made from. Answer? "Polyacryl nitrite quality". Doesn't sound a lot like goat's hair to me! So, the saga continues. I have also tried BAS, without any answer from them so far. - Regards, John Elmgreen

John, ref your search for XK hood material suggest you try also Aldridge Trimming on www.aldridge.co.uk who have trimmed many XK's for concourse events. They offer a mail order service. Regards - Dave Roche

John, What soft top are we talking about? DHC or roadster? Or is it the same? I could ask for the opinion of the specialist here in Switzerland, who claims to work extremely on originality, if you care. Best regards - Zoran Mitrovic

Zoran, Please ask your local expert, and see if you can get me a few samples of both original materials and the currently available replacements! OTS or DHC? Both! And for 120, 140, 150. Everything you can find out will be welcomed. One thing you could ask is who is the manufacturer of the current material (name and address, also the brand name, one is Sonnenland, another name mentioned is something like Haartz) and are there any brochures available re specifications of the material made? And the original samples if available. - Regards, John Elmgreen

John - I tried to contact the local specialist, but I have to try tomorrow. Just to be exact: The hood of the XK 120 dhc consists of three layers? Exterior then the middle of horse hair(?) and then the interior layer? And your question is about the interior layer? The hood of my car is no more original, but it might be that the interior layer is original (it is in very poor shape). I could send you a sample of the interior layer of my car (In the back it is hanging around loose). Do you know the XK people? They have facilities in England, Germany and France. Their facility in France is very near to my place, may be I could get a new hood from them? Best regards - Zoran MItrovic

Zoran, Thanks for the offer re the hoods. At a general level, I want to know everything there is to know about XK hoods, including the liners etc for the DHC. However, the specific subject I have recently sent messages about is the actual hood (soft top) material, and the underside (reverse side, underneath) is different for different materials, and a recent cause for controversy here. I should add that it now appears that the reverse side of all original XK hood materials so far reported to me (and my own sample from the Jag factory) show 45 degree angled stripes i.e. straight lines, on the reverse. Therefore the currently available German "mohair" is different. I would be interested in all further comments you can find re the original materials, and the currently available replacements. I agree with what you say about the 3 layers for a DHC with the horsehair in the middle (held together by calico, as I understand). I would be very pleased to receive a sample of your apparently original lining material. I was recently told that this has to be virtually pure wool, otherwise it does not flatten out correctly after being folded. Some modern materials contain too much cotton. - Regards, John Elmgreen

updated: 30 March 98...
William, as I have said before, the DHC tops are a real challenge to do
right. I don't have too many answers either, but I will tag onto the end of
this a copy of some notes I made with Suffolk & Turley in the UK years ago
that give you some idea.
RE-TRIMMING AN XK DROPHEAD COUPE
The following information was given to JE by Eric Suffolk and Mick Turley
of Suffolk and Turley near Coventry, in 1981. 1. The first thing to do is
to fit what they describe as a "former panel" at
the rear of the hood, from the mohair outside covering material. This was a
piece of mohair about four inches to six inches wide, roughly outlining the
rear window shape and going across the top back part of the hood in a half
moon. I took them to mean that the former panel arched up from between the
side and the rear window over the back of the rear window, and down on the
other side. 2. A second pair of former panels should be fitted, one on each
side of the hood above the side windows. This panel starts at the front of
the hood where the windscreen is and goes right over to the back of the
hood. I am not sure
how it connects with the rear former panel - perhaps they are sewn
together. I gather it is also 4" to 6" wide. 3. The headlining should then
be fitted under the former panels. 4. Next, fit two calico side panels
approximately where the windows are. I presume that these panels are cut
out later. Also fit calico to the centre area of the hood. Query - is the
calico stitched to the former panels? 5. Horsehair (which can be obtained
from France) is then laid over the calico in the main area of the hood. The
horse hair is very thick and is teased out into place. It is puffed up.
When it has been put in place, the horsehair is then sewn onto the calico,
taking special care not to catch the headlining when sewing.  This process
is called "wigging". 6. The wadding is then added at the front rail (the
part of the hood that goes across the top of the windscreen) and is then
spread over the whole of the hood, presumably on top of the horsehair.
Originally this material was a cotton wadding, but now something called
lintis felt (?) or dacron is used. Dacron is regarded as a very good modern
substitute because it does not deteriorate through dampness. The wadding is
white. The hood is then "wigged" again, which involves sewing the wadding
on at about six inch intervals. 7. Then the "wigged" horsehair and wadding
is covered with calico again and presumably hand sewn again. 8. Then cover
the whole hood with the outer cover made from mohair. I do not know how the
"former panels" attach to the rest of the hood. 9. The above directions do
not describe in detail how to make the headlining or the outer mohair cover
- the real point is to describe how the interior padding of the hood is
made and formed. Here's a further note from Jim Canedy: Sun, 9 Mar 1997,
Dear John, Re: 150DHC top installation. I have done several. They are very
time consuming and frustrating to put on correctly. First thing to do is
obtain the correct chrome surround for the rear, sides and above the rear
window.  Bassett's and BSA have it. It should be brass with a lead fill.
This needs to be bent and trimmed and sent to the chrome shop while you are
struggling with the top. You will later have to drill the back side and
solder in brass nails. Next step install any tack strips that are needed.
The ones just behind the door are usually bad and are difficult to get to.
The front tack strip is also prone to rot. Good time to repaint the metal
top supports and repair any loose joints. Once all of this is done apply
the webbing. With the DHC the first thing after this is the headliner and
rear window. Once everything is tight and beautiful a sandwich of muslin
and padding goes on. I have done this several ways and I'm not sure where
the padding stops on the side. After this apply the top working from the
rear top bow and securing this to the rear tack woood .Stretch things out
and move forward eventually tacking to the front top bow. If all works out
your headliner still looks good and there arent any lumps after you open
and close it a few times. If you have a good upholstery shopI would
recommend having someone else do it. You will enjoy it much more. I didnt
ever want to put the top down after all that work. I would be glad to
answer specifics as they come up - JIM CANEDY
 - Regards, John Elmgreen




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