The View on "Vintage" Before 1988

The “Reproduction Tool Roll” topic got me to thinking about life with my E-Type and MK2 in the era before 1988.

I’m constantly amazed at the sky high prices of everything for vintage cars today: parts, labor, maintenance, restoration. If I had to find a complete tool roll for my E-Type today, I wouldn’t. If I had to restore either car today, I wouldn’t.

I brought my early '67 S1 OTS from from “basket case” in 1977 to rotisserie-restored “as new” car in 1987. My JCNA club pals–experts, all–warned me that if I spent more than $20k on restoration I’d never make my money back. Yes, seriously, that was the view back then. But I didn’t care, as she was my first car and I wanted her perfect, so I went “overboard” and performed one of the early (if not first) complete rotisserie restorations of an E-Type.

Both used and NOS parts were not only reasonably priced but negotiable and readily available, as was labor. Why? Because there was only a very small market for any of this. These were used cars back then. The “vintage” car market was pre 1950; 1950s - 1960s sports cars didn’t become “vintage” until 1987/1988 when the stock market took a tumble, and people turned to investing in the cars they pined over in their youth. And, boy, did things take off.

I still had most of my factory-supplied tools, and picking up the missing bits I needed at local swap meets was fun, easy and negotiable with cash in pocket. There were no reproductions, only the real deal, and plenty available. New stuff was also around: steering wheels (my original is on display in my office), clutch and brake bottles, windscreen washer bottles–you name it.

Nobody restored rust heaps or broken down '60s Jags before 1988. They were scavenged for parts. And, pity, MK2s were under-appreciated, so even good examples were wrecked for cheap, common, used parts for E-Types in lieu of new-old-stock!

Not everything NOS was available of course, but sourcing stuff was easy. I’d often shop “Jaguar Heaven” in Stockton, CA, for any bits I needed for my MK2. Original washer bottle, shoulder and seat belts, Lucas Fog Ranger lamps and 4-position dash panel switch. No big deal. Back then, they would take orders for stuff and call you when an “organ donor” arrived.

Anybody else remember those days? I feel fortunate to have been here since the beginning.


No doubt that a time machine would be the best tool to add to a garage.

Alas, we will just have to make do with patience and money.

I am over 50, but even still I tend to remember all the things that sucked about the past as we continue to advance with technology. Things are so much better now in my opinion, and I find that people that think things were better in the past are exercising their selective memories to the fullest extent.

I do often wonder if I will ever switch over to becoming a grumpy old man that thinks everything was better back in the day. Somehow I don’t think I will, and that’s sad, isn’t it?

I do like MANY of todays modern conveniences. My only frustration with any modern car with a motherboard… it has a motherboard that is impossible to “work on”. For example, my mom’s Lexus won’t start and won’t generate a code to say why!

I was still too poor in 1988 to be able to afford an E in any form even though it had always been my dream car. I was doing the same thing as you describe though trying to keep a couple of Chevy Vega going as rolling restorations as my every day cars. The Cosworth Vega was getting somewhat challenging for parts by then. Getting most parts for an E is a piece -of -cake compared to a Vega.

I finally got a complete but rusty E in the mid 90’s where I was starting down the restoration road that you describe. Not long after disassembly though prices really started to drop. I was able to find a completely rust free pretty original car that had lots of mechanical problems. I knew I would be able to get it going for a fraction of the cost and time on the rusty one so I stopped work on it and sold it a few years later. Might have been one of the best decisions I ever made.

68 E-type FHC

Going a bit further back in time, this 10 part series originally on the BBC and PBS is worth watching.

Part 1.

A lot about the good old days wasn’t very good at all.

Sorry my intent for this thread wasn’t clear. It’s supposed to be about the view of the vintage car market before 1988, not about the quality of cars today versus then.

Everything was available for decent prices for a used Jag back then, even though I restored my car for dollars that others considered to be ill spent. We won numerous concours together. The stories of the road are both priceless and endless. She is still in essentially new condition today. She’s been a fabulous investment, worth many times over what I have into her. And she has been more faithful to me than most of the women I’ve known.

The car is Dorian Gray and I’m the picture, growing old while she’s still young. Not that I’m unhappy now, but why shouldn’t I think things were better then?

As a used car, before two coast to coast journeys, two years on blocks, and the resurrection:


Alot: as it pertains to automotive technology, the vast part of it is WAY better, and very few tangible things–quality of tool kits (cuz older cars NEEDED them!) comes to mind–are better now.

On a daily basis, I’d choose my Hyundai over any 60s Jag.

They make great toys; they can be made more reliable, but really nothing like a modern car.

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Hello Paul,
The invent and use of CNC machines was a great leveler of Tool Makers. Once a good Tool Making shop relied on a good team of skilled Tool Makers. CNC machines made average Tool Making businesses into good businesses.

Unfortunately, many of the current parts being supplied and clearly, machined using CNC machines in their manufacture, demonstrate really poor application of this technology. I’m gobsmacked as to why this should be, as generally it takes the same amount of time to make a good, accurate part as it does to make a rubbish quality part using CNC machines.




Tommy ,when was the beginning,what yr about?

Couldn’t agree more. At my current age of 66 and counting, the lack of air con in the middle of summer, with or without the hood down, is almost unbearable in traffic.

But in the mid 70s as a teen, I could fit my dog, another passenger and all our stuff in the boot and behind the seats for a cross country jaunt. Don’t ask me how. All I know is it was a ton of fun, and I feel fortunate to have been there.

And to have restored the car at a time when prices were reasonable is a huge plus.

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My dad and I bought it in 1971 as a hobby project. I was 18, and we each contributed $1,250 for it.

All excellent points: I was unclear in my post, inasmuch as I was referencing the technology in the cars, themselves.

And yes, you are correct: the widespread introduction of CNC machining has transformed that industry.

Had I not been so old, I might have learned to master the M codes such that I could have extended my manual machining experience.

lucky boy. I bought my first car, a rolling wreck waiting to happen beater, around them for 1/5 of that. And no, it wasn’t a Jag or a sportscar of any kind

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What, no other old timers chiming in about their experiences with E-Type restoration before 1988? I know of at least one other member who was around then, showing and judging cars in that era.

I’m still here tho the car is not with me any longer sold it 6 years ago but in close contact with the current owner who I had been friends with for years. I bought it in '78 no restoration needed, ever. Still technically not restored, it has had a bare metal repaint. Engine rebuild in 2011 and I put a new hood/top on in around 1980. Never any body work for rust, of course surface rust on bare metal. It was a Calif. car when I bought it and though I moved it to CT it never saw winter or rain except for the pop up thunderstorm that I got caught in. This is a '78 photo, it still looks that way today without the bumper gizmo.



you guys make me feel old!
i was in a car club , long before E types , in fact my car loves occured around when XK 120 just where being imported to USA ,1949(actually me 1946), DAD influence !
he said 120s were no good because they only hold 2 people!
for some reason the most important part of a car was performance! all else was secondary!


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Opps i’m on the wrong site,DUH!

We, my son and I, started our first E-Type restoration in 1980, took total leave of my senses and started another in 1989. Both cars are still in the family.


I have a very good friend who’s in his early 70’s now…he moved from Minnesota to SoCal in the late-60’s, and thought he’d died and gone to heaven.

Your first post sounds like it could have been written by my friend. He says there has never been anything like the SoCal car scene in 60’s and 70’s, and there never will be again…I believe him, and I feel like I missed out (born in ‘78).

As you say, it sounds like just about anything was available from wrecking yards and swap meets. For guys willing to hustle, there was money to be made in the car game, but it wasn’t the cut-throat investment game it has become today.

He nut-and-bolt restored this car in ‘82-‘83, and won Best in Show at the Santa Barbara Concourse in ‘83. As you mentioned, it was probably one of the first high-end restorations of an E-Type, and he said there were plenty of upset participants, because only “real Jags” were supposed to win Best in Show.

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