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Restoration Information

Restoration Information

I have looked at the information available at your site. Really interesting and informative. I am just starting the restoration of a 1951 XK 120 roadster, # 660775. Right now I would like to work out a strategy for approaching the project. Are there any good restoration books or other resources that I could use to get an idea of what I am getting into? I am hoping to avoid working myself into a corner. Thanks in advance. - Regards, Bob Schilling

Ryan Border's account of the restoration of his MkII could well serve as a good starting's to be found on the web site for jag-lovers ( - Dick Clements

The XK-Lovers web site is at: Click on the "Library Book" for a collection of tips. Go to the bottom of the page to access the archives. There is also a table of links to other Jaguar sites. I would recommend going to Jag-Lovers first. It is the most comprehensive and is part of the xk-lovers organization, or rather I should say xk-lovers is part of the jag-lovers organization. - Regards,Dick White (xk list admin and xk-lovers webmaster)

Hello Rob, Greetings from another current 120 OTS restorer! My car is 1953 No.673565, ex USA, where I guess you are. Is yours a runner or at least complete? Do you plan to do a total body off, bare metal job? How much of the work will you do yourself? I will happily share knowledge gained so far if you have specific questions. - Regards, Phil Maurice

Bob, I am interested about your 120, since it is close to my 660636. Do you know the manufacture date and does it have the side vents? Since I have done most of the work, except painting, myself I have intimate knowledge of the car. Do you have the early carbs, not high top, and the two clips that hold the starting carb solenoid? Where did you purchase the car? - Larry J, 660636

Hello: My husband and I are starting the restoration of our 120 roadster, 670425. The car seems to be good condition with all the original "early" stuff (carbs, chrome this and that, etc). We have found out that it was originally silver with a duo-tone blue interior. It had a 150 engine installed sometime in the early 60s but my husband managed to track down the original one and buy it from the lady in whose garage it was stored ...seemed that it was too heavy to throw out so it just stayed there, hard to tell who was happier to see it leave her place !!!!!!!! This car is the ONLY rust free car car that we've rust..never had any. No accidents either but has the world worst paint, it is truly impossible to describe how bad it really is, sort of an "Exorsist" green with gold flake in it for good measure. The car was re-wired back in the early 70s......not a bad job per se, except that the person doing the work used ONLY yellow wire. Makes those midnite electrical fault finding sessions just that much more exciting. We plan on doing all the work, except body, paint and machine work ourselves; not that we have any great skill mind you, it's just that he is so damn cheap that he feels that he would rather screw it up himself than pay someone else to screw it up. First step will be to do the engine, so in the next couple of weeks we'll tear it down and see what it needs (it was taken out for a reason I assume). Planning on doing a minimal overbore, a little porting to clean up the area, align hone and a few other blueprinting things--not for more power, just for reliablity reasons. We'll keep the compression around 8 or 9:1 and do a 3/5 angle valve job. New parts as a matter of course. This car will be used to drive as opposed to concours events, so although we are concerned with originality, if we don't have a bolt with the proper marking on it for early July 1950 we will not be seen on top of a bridge waiting to jump. I would be interested in feedback (good and bad) and the opinions of fellow listers. Thanks - "Midget" Susan, 670425, MG TC, Bentley Continental dhc, MGA Twin Cam, MGA Deluxe

Greetings - "Midget" Susan, Congratulations on your decision to rebuild the 120. It sounds as though you have the perfect car for such a task. Yes, do as much of the work yourself as possible or you will only be paying for somebody else to mess it up for you. Obviously the major job is the spraying of the body which requires some degree of skill so you need to be absolutely certain of your paint shop choice before you get them to start - a change of colour is also a good idea ! I agree that XKs are to be driven as opposed to keeping them in readiness for Concours but then of course somebody has to maintain the pristine examples for us to admire at all the shows ! You have quite a fleet of MGs too but why have you not got a "Midget". Surely an MG Midget is tailor made for you !! I wish you both well with your rebuild. If you haven't done one before, then I would rather not tell you what you're in for except to say that there will be highs and lows, despair and joy but most of all you will make very many new friends all over the world. Good luck and ENJOY. - Peter Fielding

Dear Midget: IF you're going to use it as a driver a few things come to mind as mods I would make.... GM Delco Alternator with builtin Voltage Regulator....will do a much better job of charging your battery even when idling Disc Brake setup from XK150 (square pads)....much better braking, unless of course you like to check your heart every time you get off the freeway or go down a large hill with a curve or stop at the bottom! Upgraded radiator and /or electric fan addtion...stay way Cool! Rack and Pinion steering from a 140/150 will keep you pointed in the direction you intended. Oh hell, just get a 150S chassis and put your 120 body on it! What a deal the beauty of a 120 with all the improvements of the 150S!! - Dave Drenzek

Midget - here's another opinion on your restoration plans for the 120. We have driven ours 13,000 miles in the two seasons we have had it on the road. While I understand and appreciate all the advantages of the "improvements" that David suggests, just knowing about each unoriginal feature would diminish the pleasure of driving the car so much for me that I probably wouldn't drive it nearly as much as I do now. I would also feel like I would have to make apologies to everyone who admires the car for every deviation. I am such a nut about this that I can't even force myself to install seat belts. I know - I know - but it's just one more risk along with the risk of overheating, electrical failures, less effective brakes, etc. that are part of driving a REAL XK120 rather than a hybrid. The car has a soul that I am intimately in touch with and there is almost an element of sanctity involved in my respect for that soul. So my advice is learn to enjoy the unique idiosyncrasies of a genuine 120 and restore and preserve the spirit of the car as well as the appearance. - Bruce Cunningham, '53 XK120 OTS

I liked Bruce's piece of prose ! My view on the subject is that these cars work very well if they are in good condition, well maintained etc as they were supposed to be at the beginning of their life. Even well adjusted drum brakes can cope with modern trafic. What is wrong with a dynamo ? Most of the time it is that it is 50 years old and nobody had it serviced properly. Of course you can blame any component on these cars, the brakes, the electrics, the seats , the engine etc and replace them with modern stuff; but where do you stop ? I personnally find it more fulfilling to make these cars or components work as well as they should do. After more than 25 years of use of my120, 150 and MK7 M , the only problems I have had were due to my mistakes, such as forgeting to put back the protection around the fuel pump. May I suggest to start a list of mistakes (such as the Fuel Pump protection above) that we all have done. My first entry would be : " Don't forget to replace every 10 years the flexible oil pipe from oil filter to the oil pressure gauge. It looks fine with its metallic protection but after 30 years the rubber perishes " (This nearly cost be the life of a new engine) - Regards, Michel Gosset, 150, MK7 M

Oh fine!! Now you've gone and done it....found the car we've all been looking for!! Best of luck (but who needs luck with the only rust free XK left...) ;-) - Jim Warren

Michel, I agree almost 100% with what you say about making the original equipment work effectively. I wish I had a pound for everytime I heard someone compare their original, worn out and mal-adjusted drum set-up with the brand new disc system they had just installed. I've always maintained that well set-up drum brakes, in perfect working order are perfectly adaquate for normal, modern road conditions. Where I might make an exception however, is the area of '120 gearboxes. I do find that the four speed without overdrive makes long journeys rather tedious. To my shame I admit to having fitted a Getrag box to my 120 fixed head rebuild. And oh yes, one other thing: XK120 windscreen wipers. Is there any way of making the originals work effectively? - Roger Learmonth

Dear Bruce and fellow listers: I couldn't agree more with your asessment regarding our 120 project. If we wanted a faster, better handling etc....... we would have bought a modern whatever. I believe the older cars can be almost as reliable as the modern ones if all the components are up to snuff. We drive a TC on a regular basis, once an axle shaft broke. No problems, $150 fix, and on the road. Try that with a modern car. Now we need a new CWP. Now admittedly these problems wouldn't occur on a modern car but it's not that big of a deal anyway. But after all, 7000 miles per year in a TC ain't all that bad !!! If the brakes are done PROPERLY along with the electrics there should be no reason why one should suffer ANY loss of reliability. The problem, as I see it, is that more emphasis is placed on shiney paint than on proper electrical connections; with the result being a beautifully restored car on a flatbed going home instead of the wind in the hair and the bugs in the teeth. (uh..... what's the number for that towing service by the way ?). As for the brakes being disc or drum. I'll stick with drums per what God and that Lyon's guy wanted....I'll just be a little ahead of the times, pressing on the brake pedal before most everyone else. Everyones gonna do it....I'll just be first. Oh well. Thank you for the time to make your comments everyone. - "Midget" Susan

Hello Roger! On 120 gearboxes, I think that the problem is not so much the gearbox itself than the axle ratio. I had a friend 20 years ago who bought in france a 120 FHC ( 3.4 C type head) which had been belonged to MICHELIN and was equipped with a low axle ratio for endurance tests of tyres. This friend managed to be caught for speeding by the police on a motorway at 140MPH ! I just had to change the differential on my MK7 M ( too much play, leaking etc ) I took the opportunity to replace the 4.55:1 with a 3.77:1. This gives a 20 % reduction of RPMs wich is much better suited to the car . On screen wipers , I agree that they are a bit weak and can be dangerous at night. If I remember my old 120, there are two problems: 1 the motor is not powerful enough. There must be a way of rebuilding it with internals from a more recent one (150/ MK2) or ask an electrician to rewire it. 2 the springs of the blades should be replaced with stronger ones. Has anyone done it ? Regards - Michel GOSSET

Larry J, Regarding my 1951 XK 120 # 660775 - I have not researched the manufacture date of the car as yet. I would like to get that info eventually. It does have a side vent on the drivers side, it is a right hand drive. The passenger side does not have a door. It was faired in from front fender to rear. I was told it had been raced in Canada. Whether it was done for that purpose or as a repair after a crash I don't know. The starting carb has a wire clip hold down. By high tops are you referring to the damper piston housing? Mine are short. I originally bought the car in the late 50's here in Cleveland Ohio. I rebuilt the engine and transmission and did some cosmetic work. I drove it daily for a few years then moved on to sailing and sold it. It went through several hands locally and came up for sale again so I bought it again. Unfortunately the last owner started a restoration project and stripped out the interior, dash and wiring. One front fender was also badly damaged in an accident. It will be a bit of a job to get it back together again. I plan to do as much as I can myself so I will be very interested in hearing about your experiences. - Regards, Bob Schilling

Hi everyone! Last year an elderly lady friend called, said she was moving, and did I want an old car that was cluttering up the garage? Just the words 'british sports car' was enough to get me there within the hour. Her deceased husband had tried to replace the master cylinder, got discouraged, and the car has sat since 1968. It has sat in my garage for the last year and I am trying to figure out what to do with it. vital stats are as follows: Chassis# S673476, body F5527, Gearbox JL15018, and Engine W7258-8-S. It has about 40,000 miles on it, the carbs are locked solid, the engine is free, and there is a mouse nest in the radiator. The electrics work, the exhaust pipes are rotting, and the body is in 'good' condition with minor rust underneath. I am tempted to rebuild the carbs, add new exhausts, bleed out the brakes and fire it up. On the other hand, it has been sitting for 30 years so that there may be a ton of little problems that may be present from sitting so long. My expertise is 30's to 50's MGs, with several frame-ups completed. This Jag looks a little (actually a lot) more complicated. My fun thing is body work. The Jag looks doable body-wise. The engine work and mechanicals are what intimidates me. I guess I am debating to either invest a little and drive it as is, start saving to restore it right, or sell it.( I have been offered 5500 for it as is.) Obviously, joining the local Jag club is an option. Is driving a XK120 as much fun as looking at it? Next to a 53 MG , there is definitely a different 'look', especially of power. Anyway, comments are welcome. Lee at

The short answer to this question is easy - an unqualified YES! It's not just the power - it's also the sound and the engineering and the incredible beauty and etc. .... - I could go on and on. There just aren't words to completely answer this question. I drive mine about 12,000 miles per year and it's because it's such a thrill that I just can't resist it when I walk into the garage. I've owned a few MG's and there's no comparison. I used to be a mechanic working for a guy whe raced a TD. The jag is definitely more complicated but great fun to work on because it is such a superb piece of engineering and so beautiful inside and out. "Complicated" does not mean "difficult". The shop manual is fantastic and I am almost constantly saying "wow, that's neat" when I get into new things. It's much more fun than working on the MG's. You'll love it. My guess is you will have more work than you expect to get it in good running condition. I got mine two years ago (673099). It had been driven only a couple of times a year for about ten years. It needed a complete brake job, carb rebuild, distributor rebuild, and a lot of other minor stuff. While it ran well enough to drive it 30 miles home when I bought it, it was not really safe and was not performing well. It had about 100,000 more miles on it than yours, though, so you are ahead there. My recommendation is clean it up, do all the mechanical stuff, and have fun driving it. You can decide whether to do the complete restoration after that. If you do the complete restoration first, you may never learn the answer to your question. Once it becaomes a show car, it is not likely to ever be a driver again. Do more than bleed the brakes, though. Mine had three frozen wheel cylinders and needed new linings. Pull the drums and make sure there are no leaks and everything's working well. Your note implied that your friend gave you the car to get it out of the way - is that true? - Bruce Cunningham, '53 XK120 OTS

Lee, Its worth doing. The stuck dash-pots can be broken free with a little trick: Place the dash-pots into the freezer to chill them, then place the outside part into boiling water. The expansion of the outside "bell" will give additional clearance to the slide to allow movement without damage. The thermal shock also breaks some of the bonds that have be made over the years. - Cleo Bay Jr., 52 XK120 OTS, 56 XK140 OTS, 62 E-Type OTS

I don't think the SU fuel pumps are all that bad. I've owned and worked on many cars that have them. With decent parts and proper adjustment, they are reliable enough. It is a good idea to be familiar with the ticking sounds that relate to normal operation as increasing or irregular ticking is an indication that some attention is needed. This usually preceeds a failure and provides plenty of warning before a failure and maintenance is relatively easy. I like the location on the 120 because I can hear it with the engine idling and it is reassuring to hear it operating normally. - Bruce Cunningham

Dear XK Folks, I recently signed up to this novel e-mail list and think the collective camaraderie and support for XK's to be reassuring. Reassuring? Yes, for when I was a kid my dad would tell me about his XK-120 modified when he was a bachelor in NYC; the braaaaap of the exhaust, the gleaming engine, and...all the times he was coaxing the fuel pump to behave while his date waited in the car to get to their black tie function of the evening. Naturally, he is reticent to give his endorsement for me to buy one of these cars. "But", I offered, "there's a news group to offer technical help and advice. They now make a reliable fuel pumps, etc., etc." "Are they still in the same place? - under the car exposed to the elements. Does the water pump still seize?" and on and on. I have a '87 911 and it is wonderful. I drive it ~20k miles per year and it never complains. Bulletproof. I would get a Jaguar for its beauty, strength and sound. However, if I end up underneath it, as my dates impatiently wait, beyond the charming irony, I will probably remember my father's words and miss what I have now. Your assurances and warnings are welcomed. - Rich Muller

Hi Lee & all -- I recommend ignoring the $5500 offer (much too low for ANY XK120, especially in the condition you describe -- doable!), and setting a personal goal of having it CORRECT. Your MG experience is helpful indeed; however, one ride in a CORRECT XK120 will give you a new and totally different experience regarding British cars. 0-60 in 9 sec. or less; cruising at 80/100 MPH; top speed at least 120 MPH if you want; and the glorious sound of the XK twin-cam motor to reinforce the performance you feel. If she GAVE it to you, you're one of the few on this list who's gotten into what we're doing, for NOTHING. Be prepared, though, for some expenses to bring S673476 to correct specs. You've made an EXCELLENT start by logging into this list; many of us will come back with suggestions, information, etc., and you'll also be able to ask specific questions and get specific answers to help you in bringing S673476 back. For your information: The "S" prefix on the chassis # means your car was a "Special Equipment" model (wire wheels, twin exhaust, lighter flywheel, 3/8" cams, etc.). The engine #, W7258-8S, confirms this -- ALL SE models came with "S" prefix on chassis # and "S suffix on engine #. Your engine # suffix "8S" means a Special Equipment engine with 8:1 compression. I hole this preliminary information is helpful -- V. glad to have you with us -- take care - Larry Martz

Rich Muller, You should stick with the Porsche until you have such a passion for an XK that there is no option other than to have one. We'll then do our best to help you through whatever you may encounter. - Regards, John Elmgreen

Lee, My dad always told me that the best way to get rid of temptation was to yield to it. Get a parts manual, a shop manual and dig in. If you could handle a frame up on MG's you're a lot farther along than many of us, myself included. When you have questions, check the website library or ask the list. There may be months when you never think it'll ever run but it will. There is *nothing* like driving along hearing the duals rumbling around you and feeling the power when you push the pedal a little closer to the floor. - Regards, Jim Voorhies

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