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Telltale Light Lenses

Telltale Light Lenses

Does anyone know if there was any change in the type and color of front indicator light lenses. I have clear to whitish color lenses whereas every picture I have seen of XK's have a red to orange lense. My lenses also do not fit very well so I suspect they are not correct. However, before I go hunting for others I thought I would check. Also the shape of my lenses are conical and the pictures I see are more dish shaped. - Neville Laing

Neville - my early and very original 140 DHC has clear/whitish lower turn signal indicators so this would seem to be correct. Can you tell me what colour your fender telltales are? - Brian Pel

The telltales are more red than orange, I am looking at night under artificial light. How does that match up with your car. Getting back to front indicator lenses, what shape are they. Are they conical (pointy) or are they more saucer shaped. What holds the chrome ring around the lense in place. Neville Laing

The telltales in place when I began restoration were clear/white. As these do not appear to be available, I have replaced them with the red ones. Not sure if the 120 had these or what colour they were.

The front indicator lights on my car are saucer-shaped rather than "pointy". As I recall, they seemed identical in size and configuration to those on my Mark 2 except for colour.

I don't have the car handy so I can't tell you what holds the chrome ring on. Probably one or two screws seated in the chrome ring and which screw into flanges on the indicator light assembly. - Brian Pel

A general response only as my accurate research notes are at home. The earliest XK140 had, as you say, CONICAL shaped front indicator glass lenses, but were superseded soon after by the very familiar XK150/ Mark 2 DISH or flat shaped lenses. For the US market these lenses were legally WHITE, but of course had an element of clear in being a lens. In England and other export markets the lenses were legally AMBER (or orange) color. In Australia, I had never seen a WHITE lens until I visited USA, and the XK140MC OTS I purchased (very original, low mileage) still had its WHITE lenses, which I replaced with legally required AMBER lenses for use in Australia. Having said that, I do know replacement AMBER lenses are readily available in USA, although I have no feel for how diligently/ mistake free Jaguar supplied new WHITE lenses to original USA sales. The overwhelming majority of original (as apposed to restored) XK140's I have looked at in USA have correct WHITE lenses. - Roger Payne

Hi Brian & all -- to add to the debate, my original 1959 Mk IX, 792817 BW, has white (clear glass) turn signal lenses, chrome ring around lens, secured by one screw into body turn signal assembly at bottom. Obviously, laws hadn't changed to amber by my despatch date of 28 December '59. If by "fender telltales" you mean the small triangular pieces above the sidelamps, they're RED on all cars, mounted at the factory with long bevel to rear, short to front. They're a safety feature, to alert the driver that a sidelamp bulb has burned out -- because with the inset headlamps, sidelamps are the only way to indicate to oncoming night traffic the width of the car. - Larry Martz

Hi all -- thought I'd join the debate on amber vs. red stoplamps; ignition timing -- also going to XJlovers in case it'll help:

Re: Amber vs. red lamps -- my ORIGINAL Mk IX, 792817 BW, was built on 15 December '59, with ALL rear lenses (2 each) in tail lamps RED. First owner was a Northern Californian who picked car up in Coventry 28 December '59, so it was an American export car. Rear lenses were two each per lamp -- upper turn signal, lower rear lamp/brake lamp.

However: to further confuse the issue -- my good, knowledgreable friend Bruce Brown tells me that cars during that era ('50s) exported to Germany had AMBER taillamps for upper turn signals.

Also -- I've seen AMBER lenses for upper turn signal offered; have stayed with my original RED. - Larry Martz

When I bought my Jag it had on it the amber tail lights. They have Lucas # L549 cast in them. I drove with them on for a few years, then the police started giving me a hard time and said they would charge me if I didn't have red tail lights. The amber ones are now sitting in a box with my other Jag parts. My Jag has a boot lid latch with a push button in it. This may be a bit different than the ones with the button seperate. Also it seems to have a unusual adjustment setup it is a small (about a 4x40 thread) turnbuckle to adjust the tension on the latch mechanism. Sure does look like aircraft parts. - Bill 1955 xk140 ots

Soooo.... one more '55 XK 140 w/amber lights. Someone somewhere must have the definitive answer. Lucas...the Prince of Inappropriate Illumination? - James Warren '55 140dhc S817518 w/amber

I think we are only going to get much further on this when someone (a) checks out the Lucas part no. I came up (but could not track to a model), and (b) pronounces on whether it was ever legal to have amber brake lights / tail lights in any state the USA (which seems to be the only place where they have been reported). - John Elmgreen

Re: XK140 Stop Lamp Lens- this catalog lists only the Red Lucas Lens (Lucas number 574635) which is of course the same as many other British cars of the time. Nevertheless, we have seen Amber lens as well over the years. I assumed that they may have been replacement lens, perhaps approved for a specific market and/or for a specific car..not necessarily Jaguar..maybe Morris, MG, or something. - Hal Rogers

James Warren: I have spent quite some time going through the Lucas parts book and everything indicates that 140 tail lights were red. The part no. for the lens was 574635, used on quite a few other cars as well. However, you may be interested to know that on an illustration of the model 549 tail light, on the copy I have (which came from a long established auto electrician near me), there is handwritten: "Amber 54571928" adjacent to the lens. I cannot however find this part listed anywhere else (this is the 400E cat. that goes to about 1960), so it sounds as if some years after the 140 was produced, Lucas made lenses in amber for some application I cannot identify. A 1963 Lucas book I have uses part nos of similar range to the 5457 no. of the amber lens. I can't tell you what sort of car it was for, but Jamie Fiffles might have the resources to do so and locate that part no. Can you check whether that part no. appears on the lens, or some other part no.? - John Elmgreen

John, Thanks...the only ident. on the three lenses I have is L549. You will (or have) read (or read) that Klaus Neilsen also has amber lenses on his 140. - James Warren

I have the two orange rear lenses marked Lucas which came off the 140FHC. If you are interested, I would be glad to send you one as neither is serviceable any longer and I have to find some kind of replacements or orange! - Klaus Nielsen

Interesting to read John Elmgreen's note of handwritten part number for amber lens in Master Parts Catalog. It would be useful to see however what the intended application was, as I still believe there was a legal aspect in requiring RED lenses for any stop-light application. If amber was made for some non-Jaguar, non stop-light application then of course there is now the opportunity for inadvertent supply, given Lucas' habit of only quoting Lamp Number application, and not more mistake-proof lens part number. With John's advice of an amber lens part number I'll check my Lucas books again, as it still does not show in any Jaguar or Lucas-Jaguar books. - Roger Payne

At some point in USA automotive history there was considerable more flexibiolity re: lens color (colour). In the mid- to late-1950s it was the fashion among the hot rod crowd to install "blue-dot" lenses. I believe these were small, round, blue prismatic inserts that were put in drilled holes in the red lens directly in front -- or rather behind -- the bulb. To the eye this created a striking purple color not seen again until the days of Jimmy Hendrix. These were wiped from our roads by legislative action, I recall, sometime in the mid- to late-1950s. This may be the time that all lenses became subject to DOT (Dept. of Transp.) approval. If so, some 140s may have squeeked by before such oversite. This is only the recollection of a young lad most impressed by a 1950 Ford Coupe, primer grey, no front bumper and hood louvers driven by one of those big High School kids.

Do any other of our US members know the history of federal regs. re: lights? - James Warren

I'm running "Blue Dots" on my wife's XJC as an act of civil disobedience ( I run with scissors too), got them from the local Harley dealer but the Whitney Catalogue still lists them. - John Morgan

Love the blue dots, too - drool at hot rod shows! Thinking of putting them on my Reatta (tow/go-for-parts car) but need to find a 'spare' stock rear lens first (full-car-width wraparound). Harley dealers sell scissors????

Seriously, J.C. Whitney is a teasure-trove of misc. bits and pieces for our Jaguars. Besides the repro pieces, they provide affordable, good quality gasket sets, and used to provide Vandelvell 'original equipment' engine bearings, as no one else made parts to fit a Jaguar! Old catalogs also list side curtains for XK-120s and XK-140s; don't kmnow if they would honor an appropriate order today. Also used to have rear leaf springs! - Larry Schear Twin Cam, Inc.

I also have an early 1955 XK140 OTS. It was nearly all original - except for a cheap paint job. The car came with amber tail lights and white telltales, which are rounded. I always thought that the sun had faded the tail light lenses and the telltales. Now I'm not so sure. I've been able to keep my tail lenses without any hassle from the police or the car inspectors in NY State. Like everybody else, I changed the telltales to the red pointed ones when I had the car repainted. - Bob Orem

Will this subject never go away? NO! See Jaguar Driver, July 97, where 
Brian Ekins says that he saw what he regarded as an 
"original"XK150 S DHC RHD fitted with clear "telltales", 
and that he knows of a Mk IX with the same. 
I think that there were some on this list who reported the same feature 
some time ago, but I have not got the time to check. He also says that 
the US cars had clear (not red) telltales - do you guys agree? 
- Regards, John Elmgreen

In 1953, while stationed in France, I had a set of telltails installed on 
my car. They were red/white, with red towards the rear and white towards 
the front. FWIW. - Dick Pearson 92-XJ-40, former 53 XK-120 DHC

John, Are you asking about 150s only?  My US 140 had red (now let's again 
debate which way the "ramp" goes) Jim Warren S817518

If what you describe as "telltales" are the red plastic markers 
that were on top of the "parking" lamps which were on the fenders,  
the flat side were towards the rear of the car. Mine, on my 53 XK 120 were 
this way. I remember, because i broke one and make a replacement from a 
toothbrush handle. - Dick Pearson 92 XJ-40, 53 XK-120 long gone

I purchased my 150DHC #838839 from the first owner in 1982. The car had 
125k on the clock, and he gave me a file of every work order of every fix 
through 100K miles. He only fixed it when it broke, and he broke it often, 
however it had 99% of everything originally put on the car by the 
manufacturer, including:
- red telltales
- unfinished wood panels on the back of the rear jump seats, with snaps to 
  secure them to the rear bulkhead, which was, and is covered in hardura.
- Forged door hinges
- long tale light housings and red lenses - spring loaded trunk hinges
- american sealed beams
- body color bonnet lock
- black t- handle for tire access door
- chrome studs on the hadura mat-black on all others (maybe worn ?) 
- black oil filter
- brake lever mounted on the drivers side (LHD) 
- no reinforcing under the plinth panel for the driving light 
  (there was only one (lucas) I suspect that it was added later, though no 
  documents to this effect.
- an 'aftermarket' door mounted side mirror - 3.8 engine, OD, heater,painted 
  wire wheels and a roll of really wierd tubular socket wrenches

Thats all I can think of, in response to a number of questions posed by subscribers 
to this group, which I find to be fascinating and  a valuable resource. 
Thanks to all. William Burke

Telltales on my 150S OTS were clear (actually crystallized white!!) Long ramp facing driver. - David M. Drenzek

Dear Sir, On my 54' XK-120 the little sidelight telltales are of different colours. I am assuming that the port (red) goes on the Left as it would on a boat and the white would go on the right with the angle sloping to the back as if it would be more stream lined and the more upright side would be more visible to the driver as it directs the light? I am sure the car has been painted before and I am not sure which is correct? - E.W. Blake

Hi E. W. Blake & all -- telltales again, eh? All U. S. export cars had red telltales, installed with upright end to front so long angle faces driver for better visibility. Larry Martz

Great Rationalization there, E.W. - HOWEVER, and there's always a "however", (1) both should match, (2) both should be red (they occassionally fade to amber and white, and I believe some white nones were fitted to some sedans), and (3) the shorter (more vertical) edge should be at the front with the longer surface sloping backwards, carrying on the lines of the chrome trim atop the headlight nacelles. These things were originally added to indicate the turn signal flashing (trafficators) when this option was made available on the XK-120 (and the chrome sidelamps disappeared), and was carried forth after the XK-140 had its front trafficators relocated below the headlights (to a larger, more-visible indicator) and through to the XK-150. Hope this helps! - Larry Schear, Twin Cam, Inc.

Here in WA a number of people, including one of the specialist XK restoration shops seem to be convinced that the telltales are fitted with the shorter(More vertical) edge to the front. By using a magnifying glass on the various pictures in books by Paul Skilleter, Phillip Porter etc. it appears that many restored vehicles have the telltales fitted the with the long edge to the front whereas photos of original vehicles and in particular the contemorary cutaway drawing of an XK150 from Motor, reproduced on page 64 of "Essential Jaguar XK" by Mike Lawrence, confirm Larry Schear's comments. - Colin Haywood

Hi all -- on ALL of my LHD U.S. spec cars since '63 ('53 Mk VII, '52 XK120 OTS disc wheel, '58 Mk VIII, '55 XK140MC OTS, '54 XK120SE OTS, '59 Mk IX), red telltales were fitted with more vertical edge to front -- hope this helps - Larry Martz

This was one of the early subjects discussed on this list, and after some detailed research I came to the same conclusion as Colin Haywood: the tall end is at the front. The parts books show this (esp. Mk VII I think) and I have never seen a photo of an original XK (i.e. taken when the car was new) that showed any different. A guy in the USA made a study of the subject and concluded similarly. I think some confusion has arisen over the years from (1) Porter's Original Jaguar XK, where they asked a bunch of enthusiasts, who did not take the subject seriously and took a stab in the dark (and got it wrong), and (2) the fact that apparently Mk IIs have the indicators the other way around. - Regards, John Elmgreen

Is there any evidence of some XK-150's never having telltales fitted? We have a recently restored 150 FHC that has no telltales, I have yet to pull out the photo's to check but if memory serves there were no telltales before restoration either and this was thought to be original before that. Thanks in advance - Dave Massy

I just caught the tale end of this..I assume we are talking about the little lens on top of the front sidelamps. WELL! If you really want to see a brand new USA XK on the show room floor..I have one. Just uploaded it at It is a huge pic to be patient. It shows the tall end at the front. There is a zoomed picture as well to make it show up better. - Regards, Hal Rogers, H.D. Rogers & Sons

Dear Hal, Wonderful photos! Thank You. - Edgar Blake

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