Column: The ongoing story of my Jag

COURTESY PHOTO Our columnist’s Jaguar XK 140 roadster.
Our columnist’s Jaguar XK 140 roadster.

Have you ever begun to think about those projects that you have never gotten around to completing? Or those you never started because you could never find the time?

I certainly have, and now that I am a certain age and not shackled by the demands of career and family, I am about to start a project. You may know that I have always been an old-car guy. But now that I am an older, old-car guy, there is a car project that I want to take on.

In 1969, I purchased a 1956 Jaguar XK 140 roadster in Albany. I was living in Hoosick, New York then and I regularly searched local classifieds for interesting vehicles. And then one morning it appeared. For sale: Jag 140, $300, and the phone number. I spoke to the guy selling the car and he told me he was buying a new MG Midget and the dealer offered him $250 in trade for the Jag. He wanted to make a few more bucks. I told him he had a deal.

I arranged all the requisite paperwork beforehand and drove home in my somewhat rough Jag roadster. I remember that on this maiden voyage, the car stopped dead at the on-ramp to the Northway.

Not being a stranger to old English cars, I rapped the electric fuel pump with a hammer in my tool kit and heard the reassuring clicking from the pump. I went the rest of the way without incident. I was delighted with my purchase. I could easily get $800 to $1,000 for it.

I advertised the car in the Sunday New York Times. Section five was where all the cool cars were advertised at that time. I asked $1,000 and the highest offer I received was $750. Turned it down and decided to keep the car. I still have it and have had it registered all these years. Always doing the work on it myself to keep it going.

Now I have the time to begin a proper restoration. Interestingly enough, parts for this car are easier to come by now than they were 46 years ago. I replaced all the tires just last year and repainted the spoke wheels. I think it looks pretty good but there are always those onlookers, and even my grandchildren, who ask “Why don’t you restore it?”

I must admit that the body has some scratches and a few minor dents. The side curtains are not perfectly clear and the chrome could use replating, but I think it presents itself pretty well.

I decided to start with the brakes. I found a place in Steubenville, Ohio that was able to get all new wheel cylinders, brake lines and fittings sent to me in two days.

I began with the back end of the car, lifting it up and placing jack stands under the rear spring. I cleared space around the car in the barn and began the dismantling process. The twisting and turning of this older body was not without some negative results.

Muscles ached for days but as I pace myself and move slower than I would have almost a half century ago, I see progress being made.

I won’t bore you with all the technical problems I encountered, suffice it to say that not one was insurmountable. I am going at a manageable pace and the satisfaction is great. I’ll probably have the brakes totally done by the end of this month. Then I’ll try to replace one of the leaf springs. It has a terribly noticeable sag. They say that one should replace both at the same time, but I’ll wait to see how difficult the first is.

Then I’ll do the interior — always a good winter project — and save a new paint job for the spring. I have had a significant amount of enjoyment from this car and look forward to completing the project. I doubt that it will ever demand some of the six-figure prices they are getting at auction these days, but it should be a better-than-average driver.

Just for your information, records show that between 1954 and 1957, 3,347 Jaguar XK 140 roadsters were produced. How many remain?

I just do not know. What I do know is that there are at least five on this little Island.

So, back to work. I’ll keep you posted.