My 1976 Pre HE (project)

Hi and thanks for being made to feel so welcome already. My name is Malcolm (prefer Malc or Mal). The XJ-S has always been one of my favourite cars, being launched when I was a kid. I actually remember it before the E-Type. I think my first memory of one was in the 1976 TV series “The New Avengers” which featured a red automatic XJ-S…

I have always been a car nut with a fondness for American cars, despite living in the UK. I have been lucky and proud to own the following: 1978 400 Trans Am (black with T-Top), 1971 455HO Trans Am (mad car), 1984 Corvette, 1993 Corvette, 1996 LT-4 manual Corvette, 1990 Callaway Corvette Twin Turbo 6-speed manual, 2005 Mustang GT, 2007 Shelby GT500, 2013 Shelby GT500 (662hp and 202mph from the factory, thanks Ford). All these now sold as I only generally have one car at a time.

I’ll give you some Jaguar background: after wanting an XJ-S I finally bought my first one, a 1985 V12 in Antelope metallic with an ultra-rare steel sunroof. Awesome car, absolutely loved it, sold it because I had no money…This was about 25 years ago. A few years later I bought a metallic dark blue 1989 V12 which I had for a little while. After that it was Corvettes and Mustangs for a few years…

Here’s an amusing anecdote: After my 71 Trans Am I decided I wanted an XJ-S. One of the first I looked at was an absolute beauty - a metallic red Pre HE owned by 2 brothers in North London. The folder of repairs and service history was about 10 inches thick. I couldn’t take it all in. I saw “subframe” mentioned as a repair item and I was overcome. I made my excuses and left. I just didn’t have a clue what I was looking at. I needed to lie down and was too scared to look at one again for a long while. My instincts told me that was an excellent car and I wished I had bought it but I think that, with where my mechanical knowledge was then, I wouldn’t have had a prayer regarding looking after it. Several years on I’ve done all my own work on cars and have learned loads. Having said that in 3 months of stripping my current car I may have learned a lot more.

So last year, after 3 1/2 years of owning Ford’s stonking GT500 I decided to sell it as my priorities in life were different. I also wanted an older car and something I could improve and really wanted another Jaguar. An XJ-S was probably favourite but an early Series 1 or 2 XJ6 or 12, especially a coupe was also shortlisted.

I only looked at one Series 2 XJ6. It was very overpriced. I started to look at XJ-S coupes. I saw two horrors: one 1981 very early HE was almost the most rotten car I had ever seen. It had a sunroof too which probably was why it was so wet inside…

Amazingly I chanced on an ad for a 76 that had just been imported from New Zealand. The seller said his circumstances had changed which sounded like a story but I went and had a look, then a second look with a bodywork expert and a test drive. It drove ok and a deal was done.

It managed the 35 mile drive home but was getting less healthy as I got closer to home. When I got home I got it in the garage and here it is. Although it ran nice on the test drive which was a good 6 or 8 miles, it didn’t run so nice on a longer trip. TBH none of that matters now. When I thought about it I realised there wasn’t much point replacing odd bits on a 44 year-old car. I may as well go through it totally which is what I’m doing now. I looked at what a task it would be to detail the engine bay and replace every perishable and service item. The paint underhood was scruffy. One side blew a little white smoke. I thought I’d pull the engine: big hassle now for less hassle later. I’m glad I did as I have now stiripped the bay completely. And I mean completely.

I also removed the front subframe and steering rack. These are easy and cheap to rebuild when the car is stripped this much. The car had obviously been waxoyled and the only rust in the front of the car was under the heatshield under the washer bottle. I’ve cut that out and welded a small plate in. The rest of the car is excellent. Only the floor has some pinholes and some localized rust in one rear wing. The paint overall is micro-blistered but if all goes well the icing on the cake, after all else is done, will be stripping and painting he body. I’ll deal with other stuff later. Each part of the car will be a project in itself and each component will be its’ own mini-project. I don’t want to get overwhelmed like when I saw that Pre HE for sale years ago.

So now I’m working on rebuilding or refreshing each component in the engine bay. More posts will follow as I’ve done quite a lot already and there’s a long long way to go.

Thanks for watching. Initially here are some photos of the car as it arrived when I got home.


All the best, Malc.

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can’t believe they didn’t do wood back then in the interior, but all in black, it looks quite sporty!

Update: countless hours spent preparing the under bonnet area for primer. Only one repair needed which is incredible and that was a few pinholes under the washer bottle area. I cut out to good metal, welded in a galvanised steel plate. We will hit it from underneath with waxoyl later. All areas: radiator supports, crossmember, everything: all rust free with original factory primer still there!

Then a painter friend sprayed the engine bay in 2 pack high build etch primer and I have been flatting it down since to get a good base for the Carnival Red top coat. I’m also preparing the headlight buckets for paint at the same time.

Yes the car was completely masked when being painted. Then I removed the masking paper as it needs to be re-masked so dust doesn’t infect the top coat.

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Here’s an idea how I catalogue parts when removing. I also have a notebook and write out bolt sizes, notes, etc. These with the factory parts manual and repair operations manual hopefully will result in me not getting too lost at reassembly time.

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Some before and after pics. Having a few parts zinc plated for protection and to look original. And look good really.

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Spent a nice sunny Sunday polishing parts in the garden.

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Been painting brackets and parts. Nothing goes back on without being polished, painted or zinc plated!

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And a few parts now zinc plated. A lot of early fuel rails appear to be silver but mine had traces of gold zinc that looked original so I had them gold zinc plated too.

Exhaust manifold heatshields are silver zinc plated now. Groundstraps plated. I may have to leave that power steering fluid cooler in plated zinc. It would be a shame to paint it black I think.

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Curious as to cost you have incurred having that much plated? Did you have it all done in one batch? How much prep did you do? Inquiring minds want to know…

If it is barrel plating maybe not so expensive.
If individually plated looks costly - unless by chance Malcolm owns a plating works.
Either way looks impressive attention to detail. Pity Jaguar never had the same mindset when making the XJ-S, although to be fair only Rolls Royce could afford to pass on the cost of doing that amount of work.

Very nice work! Impressive. I wonder whether you’ll have any nuts and bolts “left over” when you are done.

Hi I had it done in two batches and there will be probably one more trip to the player.

First I chose parts that were originally plated. Then chose parts which would contrast a bit on the aluminium engine.

There are also a few photos of rebuilds online where parts have been zinc plated so I was inspired there.

The idea is to assemble the engine bay components with every single part having been gone through . Initially I hope to use the car at every opportunity but it will never see rain!

Malc.

Very nice work. I am very impressed. Looking forward to seeing a bunch of pictures of this project through its start to finish

Thanks Jim and everyone on here. I’m pretty pleased with my throttle capstan. Here are some before and after photos. Thing is, it will all have to be done like this now. I had some of the capstan parts plated and trial fitted them on the bare aluminium body and the unrestored (albeit well cleaned) bits were showed up.

I thought the car was clean when I bought it. But when I look at my original photos all I can see is grease and grunge under there. My front subframe and engine block probably took days of cleaning a bit at a time. At first petrol just ran off the dirt. I had to scrub with petrol and degreaser using an alloy wheel brush to unstick 44 years of grime.

Best Regards, Malc.

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Wow, I wish I could do this kind of work, it will be a piece of art put back together!

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Very nice work Malc !!!
Keep keeping us posted.

Spare bedroom is useful. Once parts are restored they move to the bedroom as they are clean enough to be in the house!

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Trying to preserve as many original parts including clips as possible as every time I buy something it’s not the same. Can’t get that last bit of rust off those 2 wiring P-clips though!

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It’s like the ultimate cleaning job. I don’t think I can count the hours it took to get the top of my engine that clean. I didn’t want potentially engine destroying bits to drop down when I get the heads off (that job is scaring me…) As it was I found loads of small washers, screws and bits of jubilee clips in the valley stuck in all that old grease and oil.

As I suspect a dead head gasket it was no surprise to find a bit of sludge in the sump. Sump and sandwich plate are now super clean. The gaskets were weeping anyway…

Malc

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Decided to get the headlight buckets nice so they can be painted when the engine bay gets the top coat. That was going to be this week but I’m not sure everything will be ready. I need to get the bonnet hinges good enough for paint so they can be painted at the same time, as well as those cross bars that go in front of the radiator. Those are in primer though.

I separated the headlight clips as they were a mass of red paint. A couple of clips are broken so I’ve found some repro ones which strike me as unrealistically expensive but I may as well have them. The spring parts will probably be plated. I may strip the chrome paint I’ve used on the brackets and get them plated too as they were originally plated.

Saved the grommets from the headlight buckets by putting them in thinners for a few seconds at a time and stripping the overspray from them. they are nice and springy, whereas many grommets have been hard and disintegrated into clouds of black dust when I tried to remove them.

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