The Restoration of a 1954 Jaguar XK 140 Roadster

by Brian Cauthery

This article by Brian Cauthery appeared in three parts in the January, Febuary and April 1978 issues of the Ontario Jaguar.

The Final Car
We found our XK 140 in 1968 looking quite impressive (from a distance) on a parking lot in Toronto. It wore a "for sale" sign and presented its good side to the road.
Closer examination revealed fly screen reinforced rear fenders, cracked windscreen pillars, rusted body seams, no body sill members at all, carpets like a compost heap, and that characteristic smell of damp decay found in aged British cars. But at $450 plus Ontario sales tax, and certifiable as well, Barbara and I bought it. We drove about 200 miles, then decided some renovation was needed. Had we known it would be 1976 before it was completed, we might have wilted at the project.
THIS 140
The car was a 190 hp (nothing special) roadster with a two tone paint job (British racing green and rust). The car had either 75,000 or 175,000 miles on it - I could believe either.
To restore any car, you need:
  • a mental picture of the finished gem to carry with you
  • another car to drive to work in
  • a good selection of tools -a forgiving wife and family
  • a little money
  • somewhere to work
  • a small garden (a patch of concrete is even better)
Things I will do next time:
  1. Take a lot of photographs of ALL parts of the car before dismantling it.
  2. Record a selection of body measurements inside and out.
  3. Install new sill members before the body is removed from the chassis.
  4. Get a workshop manual before taking the gearbox to pieces.
  5. Re-tap the chassis drillings after galvanizing.
After three months pride of ownership, we had overhauled the brakes, the fuel pump, rebuilt the cylinder head, and concluded that we would be better off to disassemble the whole car. By six months, we had in the corners of the garage: the engine, gearbox, steering, axles,chassis, body in three pieces, and two 2 gallon buckets of nuts and bolts.
We disassembled each major component one at a time. First the engine. It was cleaned inside and out, degreased, the oilways in the block and crankshaft flushed (it is astonishing how much dirt accumulates there).
The bores showed little wear, so new rings were fitted and the pistons knurled. The small ends were satisfactory, but new main and big end bearings were fitted. Standard big end bearings for a 3.4 sedan were used as these have a catalogued clearance two thou less than those for the 140. A new timing chain and blade and spring tensioner completed the engine additions (this 140 was built before the days of hydraulic tensioning). The manifolds were polished and matched to the head. I was surprised at the number of holes which didn't quite match. I did not balance the crank, pistons, and rods, as the total weight variations between pistons individually, and pistons and rods collectively was less than half the allowable tolerance quoted in the book.
A new plate was installed as several springs were missing. The flywheel face was unmarred.
As purchased, the 140 had the usual four speed Moss gearbox. To check the oil, I removed the dipstick and concluded that it was filled with castor oil. It took a few minutes to realize that what I thought was transparent oil was in fact gear oil full of ground up metal particles! The circlip on the input shaft had broken, the shaft had moved forward, and the roller bearing which centres the input/output shafts had fallen out and had been ground to dust. The only real damage had been to first and second gears.
I bought a good used first gear, second gear syncromesh cone, and input shaft, but the first gear ratios were different. By pressing the new gear onto the old shaft, and adding a new gear on the lay shaft, all fitted. We now have almost equal ratio spaces across the box.
We bought a MK I Laycock overdrive unit and a gearbox mainshaft and converted the four speed box to overdrive. This is not particularly difficult if you have a workshop manual. With the standard 3.37:1 XK 140 rear end ratio and the 25% overdrive, we have about 34 mph per 1000 rpm. At a steady 65 mph with the top up, the 140 gets 28 mpg..
New universal joints from Canadian Tire were fitted to the driveshaft. Their part number is 15-2137.
REAR AXLE AND STEERING An examination of play convinced me that the rear axle needed no attention. The steering rack and pinion were cleaned and the ball joints reshimmed (no new parts). Even the metalastic rack mounts were satisfactory. At this point, all the finished parts were primed and finished in black epoxy
The chassis was in good condition - ie no crash damage (doubtless protected in part by the gallons of oil which had leaked onto it). There was only one rust hole - by the front shackle of the rear spring. This was cut out and a patch welded on. We now put a bolt into each tapped hole, and had the whole thing shot blasted, pickled, and hot dipped galvanized. It took a week to remove the bolts! The best way to tackle this is to leave the tapped holes open, and to retap them after galvanizing. Time lapse to this point was sixteen months.
One bright weekend, we carried all the major components outside, and in twelve hours had installed engine, gearbox, front and rear axles, steering, suspension, and brakes. The engine was lifted onto the chassis with the aid of a tractor and a front end loader just back from muck spreading - a memorable experience!
(to be continued in the next issue - Ed)

The Restoration of a 1954 Jaguar XK 140 Roadster
by Brian Cauthery

(continued from last issue)
After removal from the chassis, the body collapsed into about seven parts. The aluminum trunk lid, hood, and one door were in excellent condition. The driver's side door had been hit by a cyclist, and slammed too often - it was beyond repair. A fellow Jag owner gave me a used roadster door in good condition.
We had the body sandblasted inside and out. BE CAREFUL - sandblast rusted areas only! The developed heat is sufficient to distort the metal. The foot wells, sills, rear inner fenders, and all the body mounts had corroded badly. We cut out all the rusted parts; then, using 135" x 2" x lh" galvanized chaniiel, rebuilt the centre section frame which is situated behind the firewall and supports the doors and rear part of the front body section. This was difficult, as the original parts had disintegrated.
The sills were a major problem - "not available", said Ensign Motors. I couldn't believe that Jaguar hadn't got a single XK 140 sill somewhere. So, being a Radio Amateur, I called CQ Coventry England, and contacted a British ham whose next door neighbour happened to work for Jaguar. The neighbour was brought to the microphone, and he agreed to see what he could do. The following Sunday we spoke again. He had found one XK 140 sill member. It took six weeks to get here via Ensign Motors. We had the sill copied right and left in sixteen gauge, and galvanized.
The holes in the front and rear body mounts, and the body underside, were welded up with 16 gauge steel bent, cut, and rivetted first. We now had the front and back of the body, two sills, and no jig to fit them, and no measurements for the chassis to body mounting blocks.
We disgarded the white metal "corrosion cells" which were used between the body and chassis. White metal, body steel, and chassis steel together with road salt and water produce a potential difference only slightly less than that delivered by Ontario Hydro! We used hockey pucks as body mounts (NHL Official, of course).
At this point we rebuilt the door hinges. We stacked eight washers above and below each hinge plate, and with the hinge in place, welded washers and plate together. Then, with the hinge eye in place, ran a 7/16" drill through them. The hinge pins are 7/16" bolts lightly sanded and copiously greased.
With the aid of my son David and a wheelbarrow, we installed the front part of the body and the doors. The sills were then fitted and the hockey pucks sliced to fit. After this, the rear part of the body was set on the chassis, leveled, and bolted down. This last paragraph took three months off and on - it was a terrible job to get the body, doors, and fenders all to fit. New plywood floor panels were now cut, creosoted, and fitted.
Rust had so damaged the edges of the rear deck, that it came away form the lower section when lifted off the chassis. We cut 2" wide by 12" long strips of 16 gauge steel and hammered them concave down the centre. Then, by cutting slots along each side, they could be bent longitudinally to fit the curve of the outer edge of the inner fender. These were rivetted along the inner fender and then tack welded to the edge of the rear deck. Similar strips were cut and rivetted along both edges of the rear deck on the inside. They were then welded in place through the holes left by the rust and sand blaster.
Fibreglass rear fenders were tried and rejected - not original, and they didn't fit. We therefore cut a 2" wide flange of 16 gauge to the shape of the front of the rear fender and mounted these on the new shut face plates. Then a rectangular flat sheet of 16 gauge was set butting the new flange, and was brazed to it. The complex curve at the top of the fender was formed by cutting a series of narrow fingers to make up the compound curve of the fender top. All joints were now brazed in 111 runs to minimize distortion.
This method leaves undulations in the body work. These were covered in a layer of body filler and then smoothed to the correct contour.
Mark carefully the connections to the windshield wiper motor, signal relay box, and fuse block using coloured nail varnish. Then take the whole loom out - don't try to tag the ends. Cut all the wire behind the dash 8" from the instruments and solder each cut to the male and female end of a #1 Jones Plug. You will need two 8 pin plugs. They can be obtained from any radio hobby store. Age will have reduced the loom colours to a dull brown, so pin the loom to a sheet of plywood and remove all the end sheathing until the colours are visible. Now, buy at the wreckers a couple of looms from BLM cars of the period. You will find the same colours. Now carefully solder, using good flux and solder, new end lengths of the correct wire gauge and colour, insulate and rebind the loom. Solder new bullet connectors as needed. There will be plenty of good bullet connectors in the scrap looms. Install new grommets in all holes, reinstall and connect the loom. Check as you go with a l2v battery charger.
We spent several days smoothing the body and flattening weld seams. Next the metal was roughed and a layer of epoxy filler put on where needed. The whole car was rubbed down, and door, hood, and trunk gaps evened out. We took the car to a professional to have it painted.
Meanwhile, about 30% of the chrome had been replated, the remaining needed cleaning only.
New clear side screens were made from poly methl methacrylate sheets. Vinly was used for the side screens and the tonneau cover. Connally hide was used for the seats, cockpit surround, and the door panels. The seats were wholly destroyed by the incompetence of a local upholsterer who wrapped the existing leather seats with $250 worth of Connolly hides. New hides were purchased and the seats rebuilt properly.
  1. A fresh air heater from a Riley 1.5 was installed to replace the original recirculating device.
  2. Door locks from the rear doors of an Austin A60 were installed in place of the originals.
  3. Four way flashers were put in, using the 140 circuit plus a modified push button swithch from a 3.4 sedan.
  4. A 4:1 rev counter and angle drive from a 3.4 was installed, since the Riley heater precluded the use of the original.
  5. The passenger grab rail was repositioned to allow for the installation of the heater controls.
  6. A low brake fluid/handbrake warning system from a 3.4 was installed.
  7. JPL headlamps with the "J" from the originals in the centre were fitted.
  8. A power operated semi-disappearing antenna was placed in the rear deck, with twin speakers in the footwell side panels.
  9. A manual choke switch, headlamp flasher button, and electric windshield washer pump were put in.
  10. The overdrive reverse cut out solenoid is a Chrysler horn relay. it allows overdrive to be used in all four forward gears. The solenoid is energized from the back up light circuit.
  11. Panels were added below the lower door hinges and ahead of the rear wheels to keep out the water etc.
  12. New shock absorbers were installed: front - Plymouth Duster, rear - Toyota Crown. All from Canadian Tire.
The half round rubber section which surrounds the 140 cockpit was in good condition, but its leather cover had rotted. Similarly, the fender beading between the rear fender and the rear deck fell to pieces. We purchased about ten square feet of yellow upholstery vinyl. Then five foot lenghts of 1/4" rubber tube were enclosed in 6" widths of the vinyl to form new fender beading. A smaller beading was made with the vinly strips for use on the cockpit surround.
The method of making the cockpit surround is illustrated, since it is far easier to draw than to describe. (Next Month - Ed.)
The generator, after a commercial overhaul, couldn't decide which polarity it wanted.
The voltage regulator failed, probably due to the above. Replacements for the above units came from a 3.4.
Those three drilled brass bolts holding the external oil line feeding the cams were replaced with steel ones from a 3.4
1954 XK140 (used) 450.00 68
Tax 22.50 68
Cylinder head 155.86 68
overdrive and mainshaft 40.00 68
Handbook 5.00 68
Other parts 60.00 68
Repair radiator 15.00 68
Other parts 12.00 68
Other parts 15.58 69
Other parts 30.00 69
Other parts 10.00 69
Other parts 11.28 69
Sand blast body 60.00 71
Exhaust system 58.00 71
Rings, main and big end bearings 35.00 69
Wheel cylinder kits 3.32 71
Galvanizing chassis 25.40 70
Shot blasting chassis and other parts 52.00  
Sill member (UK) 39.00  
second sill members (Canada) 50.00  
Other parts 325.00  
Four tires 250.00 76
Paint and body 585.00 75
Leather/upholstery 300.00 76
New top 310.00 77
TOTAL COST (Approx) 3,710.00 (plus a few hours time)

The Restoration of a 1954 Jaguar XK 140 Roadster
by Brian Cauthery
(Part three)

The same system was used on the back and front of the cockpit but the curves at the body sides were made in 2 or 3 pieces.
I used 1 rivet every 3" staggered inner and outer edge.

The heater box and control cables with the
angle rev counter drive in front of them.

Heater controls on the XK 140 dash.

The fresh air intake to the new heater mounted below and behind the bumper.
All Photos By Kerr Associates

Sept 12, 2011 by Webmaster