E-Type Jaguar: Reader Resto

By: Scott Murray with Lyndon Dickenson, Photography by: Lyndon Dickenson

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It all started with a little plastic toy model. Fifty years on, Lyndon Dickenson now enjoys his fist-bitingly beautiful series 1 fixed head E-Type

 

E-Type Jaguar


I can’t quite remember what the brand was – either Corgi or Matchbox – but I saw the plastic model in the toy shop, with my boyish face pressed to the glass. I bought one with what little I had. I think that’s my first memory of the Jaguar E-Type and when my young heart experienced what grown-ups called ‘love’.

Winding the clock forward, I found this Series 1 Fixed Head in the most bizarre of places. The body was in a shed on wooden stilts, nothing unusual there. But virtually everything else of the Jag was pulled apart and stored under the house of a bloke in Hobart. Apparently it’d been there 30 years! It was nine-out-of-ten complete, all the right bits were there – with the odd exception – but what a weird place to store a car. It also puts into perspective just how low these cars were to fit under the foundations of someone’s home.

Being a flat-floor December-built early E-Type I knew it was worth doing properly and that’s where I knew I needed the calibre of Dean Causley from Classic Auto Metal. Like many of the early cars, this one did have some damage. But it hadn’t been on the road since 1982 so in some ways the damage had remained minimal. They’re a difficult car to get right, and there are many that aren’t, and it makes it hard to get the body fit right. This car had received a second floor which wasn’t the same height as the original, and the sills were bowed.

Another big issue we had was the windscreen. Many Astons and Ferraris have the same problem, getting front and rear screens in them, grinding edges to make them fit. Usually the glass is too thick, or one side of the screen doesn’t match the other because the original cars often weren’t built perfectly, but the glass had been shaped to mirror the opposite side. When we fitted a second-hand screen it fitted like a glove. Hold the two pieces of glass on top of each other and you’d swear they were identical. The back hatch screen is new and the steel channel around the outside was a good head-scratcher. We had to modify the rubber seal to fit the imperfect sill. This is one of the little changes I think happened from the time Jaguar started making the Fixed Head coupes in August 1961; mine was made in December ’61. So they probably hadn’t quite come across the issue by then.

Everything on the car is correct, the numbers are correct, and this restoration had the benefit of some modern additions like air-con. I did a lot of the research and sourcing of parts for Dean. I did a little accidental research too, where by chance I was having dinner with a couple of Jag club members and both had once owned the same car! One of them owned it for five or six years as an everyday car, but told me he got rid of it because there wasn’t enough room for his then-new third child. I asked where the hell in an E-Type he put the other two, which he answered, "In the boot"!

The first start on the car was cutting out the incorrect floor and cutting out the old repairs that weren’t done properly. I made a rotisserie so we could spin it upside down. It wasn’t a rusty car, but just had old shabby repairs. We had new door skins made, re-made the floors and made up a new footwell panel for behind the pedals.

As well as re-visiting bad repairs, between myself and Dean, when you pull a car apart which hasn’t been put together correctly or evenly, you end up with a bracket in your hand wondering where the hell it goes after being in bits for 30 years. It takes a lot of research and they can be a mystery. It’s a massive effort getting all those little things back together perfectly. I’ll bet Dean knows a lot more about E-Types now than he first did!

Coordinating the auto electrician with the dash and interior going in takes time, mostly because there isn’t a lot of space in an E-Type and they can’t all work simultaneously. The carpet and leather are new, primarily because being under the house for so long, nothing was recoverable. I think there might’ve been a little bit on the dash, but I’m not even sure of that. The instruments are all original and just got cleaned up and re-wired in. Having several owners each one’s done different things, but it was still being driven in ’82 before coming off the road. So it got used and I like that. It just means the chrome finishes were faded.

The bumpers are all original, and were in good nick but needed love. The wire spoke wheels are new and the knock-off spinners are newly made from England. Items like that can be cheaper to buy new than to have old ones re-chromed.

Dean’s quite a meticulous bloke and he made sure that re-chroming was perfect or sent back. His motor trimmer comes to his workshop to work, the auto-elec comes to his workshop, the engine that got rebuilt was started up in the car at his place. It means he can oversee everything and make sure it’s all done to his liking.

Fortunately it wasn’t a basket case when we started, but it did throw up challenges. The paint choice, I think, makes it look the goods. Dean says he’s not a painter but the Opalescent Burgundy is stunning. We’ve even left any side mirrors off it which makes it look sleek, elegant and muscular without being ruined by safety. My wife makes a much better mirror anyway.

We got the E-Type finished the very night before Motorclassica. Everybody was working hard right up to the finish line. We got it on the boat that night and Dean got it on a tow truck the next morning. That same day I got the Jag registered and drove it off the tow truck and onto the Exhibition Building’s polished floorboards. We made it.

The Jaguar E-Type and I have come a long way since seeing that little plastic Corgi model in the toy shop window. Sometimes the childhood memories are better than reality, but at least now I get to admire it and drive it.

 

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