By on February 22, 2018

jaguar e type series i0019_B

If you haven’t noticed, Series I Jaguar E-Types have gotten very pricey. There were only about 75,000 Es made and not all have survived for a half century. The E-Type had one of the early monocoque unibodies and it was almost as if it was designed to trap water and rust. Also, quite a few were roadsters and open cars don’t do well when exposed to the elements. That’s made all E-Types rare enough to become valuable (well, that and things like a supple suspension, the outstanding Jaguar XK DOHC inline-six, and a body that even Enzo said was sexier than his Ferraris).

They’re so valuable that at this point it may well be that there is no such thing as an unrestorable example. A number of restoration shops around the world specialize in bringing back E-Types. Every body component is available, and it’s no exaggeration to say that as long as there is a number plate, they can probably rebuild an E around it. There’s even a chance, what with the E’s insane appreciation, that you might not even be underwater after the restoration is done.

I thought about that when I saw this heavily patinated ’64 E-Type coupe for sale on eBay for $47,000.
1964 jaguar e type series i

This particular E Type actually appears worse than it really is. A barn find with minimal rust and an operational drivetrain makes it a great candidate for a restore or preserve debate.

There are far, far worse Jaguars that get restored.

Don’t believe me? I give you Exhibit E:

Like the E-Type on eBay, it’s a Series I Car, though it’s a roadster in a shade of British Racing Green. Unlike the car on the auction block, which could be a driver with just a little work, this one is literally falling apart.

The doors are held on by a ratcheted web strap, as is the front clamshell hood — which itself appears to be held together by a large bungee cord. The floors are but a memory and the sills and rocker panels, important structural elements of the Jaguar’s unibody, can be seen through, end to end. There is a big crack in one of the doors’ sheet metal. I don’t know about the engine, but the transmission is still there, I suspect held up by the same strap holding the doors on. The prized glass headlamp covers that distinguish early E-Types are long gone, as are the headlamps and buckets themselves, along with the taillamps. Inside, most of what upholstery that remains is rotted, though some is surprisingly intact. Also intact, but in need of serious restoration, are all four wire spoke knock-off wheels. It still has a roof, but either the side glass is missing or the windows are stuck in their down positions, so the interior has been exposed to Michigan’s rain and snow.

From the license plates, it appears to have last been registered in 1973.

Ironically, this particular car was found at the site of the Concours of America at St. John’s. No, it wasn’t in the show, though it would make for an interesting display, as they’ve had barn finds before. I spotted it on the far edge of the parking lot used for loading by the exhibitors, where the trailer queens’ trailers were parked.

At first I didn’t understand what it was doing there. It certainly wasn’t there for the show and there wasn’t a For Sale sign on it. Parked nearby was a vintage GMC Motorhome that, coincidentally, I’d earlier seen on display at one of Greenfield Village’s car shows (where I chatted with the owners). They happened to be hanging out in their GMC and we renewed our acquaintance, but they had no idea about the trashed E-Type.

As I left the St. John’s facility after the show ended, parked at the side of Plymouth Road were the tractor trailers from Reliable Carriers, Horseless Carriage, and other transportation companies that specialize in moving collectible cars. Vehicles from the concours were being loaded onto the trucks, with some jockeying being done to get them loaded in the correct sequence. That’s when I realized what the basket case Jaguar was doing at a concours d’elegance.

I’m not very adept at fiction, so I can’t spin a yarn about how the tired Jag ended up sitting forlornly, a wallflower at the side of the dance, but I can hazard a guess what it was doing there, practically in the shadow of seven figure blue ribbon winners. That Jaguar was going to be restored, and it likely had already been sold by its Michigan owner and was on its way to a new owner (or a restoration shop chosen by that owner). It was probably offloaded from one of the car carriers’ trailers to allow them to also unload show cars. Perhaps the previous owner had a car or cars in the concours and, when the carrier picked up the show cars from the owner, they also picked up the Jaguar to be shipped to its new owner.

However it ended up there, it raises the question, just how far gone does a Jaguar E-Type have to be to be considered unrestorable?

[Images: eBay, Ronnie Schreiber/TTAC]


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46 Comments on “Of Rust and Restoration: Is There Such a Thing As an Unrestorable E-Type Jaguar?...”

  • avatar

    Nice article as usual and kudos on not calling it an XKE, but I’ve one little nit to pick: the E-type used the XK engine.

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you. Correction made. It was more of a typo than anything else as I almost considered including something about how it isn’t an XKE but that name probably got hung on it because it had the XK engine.

    • 0 avatar

      Yet, when they were new, they were being called XK-E’s in the United States at least. Just listen to “Deadman’s Curve”.

      I’m not really sure when all this “E-type” stuff started in the States.

      • 0 avatar

        It doesn’t take much work to find dozens of period advertisements for the “XKE”. The “E-type” bit started in the 80s during the first major runup of prices. It’s nothing but mundane “we’re more special, because we know the ‘real’ stuff” elitism.

        • 0 avatar

          The “E-Type” bit started when the car was introduced as such at the 1961 Geneva auto show. Period publications describe the car as the E-Type. Those cars were badged simply “Jaguar”. Starting in 1964 the 4.2 liter cars had “E-Type” on the back deck.

          As best I can determine, XK-E was used only in North America and only in the advertising. The cars were never badged as XK-E.

    • 0 avatar

      I just don’t see that being worth restoring unless the serial numbers on the chassis/engine/gearbox all match.

      I read somebody else’s comment saying the factory is now making new bodys for these cars, which would IMO be the most practical way to restore this car since its so far gone already. I know there are craftsmen who can custom fabricate the lower rockers, floors, rear quarter panels from scratch, but I’d rather just have a whole new body fresh from the factory dies than something that is only going to be about maybe 1/6th of it original metal and the rest all fabricated.

      IMO this car is going to be a “George Washington’s Axe” type of deal to restore. Is it really the same car if it has an all new body from the factory? This is especially true if the engine/trans doesn’t match the chassis.

      • 0 avatar

        “Matching numbers” doesn’t seem to be nearly as big a thing with European cars.

        Whether a new body is good or not depends on how good those bodies are. Some of the “new” British Heritage shells were actually pretty awful. though it is not like the build quality was any good when they were new either. I say that lovingly as the 22+ year owner of a Spitfire.

        • 0 avatar

          Some of the “new” British Heritage shells were actually pretty awful. though it is not like the build quality was any good when they were new either.

          See that’s what makes it “authentic”. ;-)

          • 0 avatar

            Many years of added wear on the dies did not do them any favors…

            But yes, if you want an authentic restoration you have to assemble them a bit haphazardly!

            “Cheap and cheerful”. And relatively speaking that includes Jaguars too – they were VERY much “built to a price” and were very cheap for the performance level they offered.

  • avatar

    Another great article Ronnie.

    I think the answer is the same as for steam locomotives and warbirds — if you have the builder’s nameplate and the money; anything can be restored. One of the big benefits of the internet is making parts and suppliers more available than ever before.

    • 0 avatar

      The most amazing restoration I’ve seen was a DeHavilland Mosquito at Oshkosh in 2016. It had been recovered from a crash site in New Zealand and there was little left. Being, famously, constructed of plywood, almost he entire airframe had to be built from scratch.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know what came of it but I recall years ago a multi-million dollar fight over the ownership of a Brewster Buffalo!?! at the bottom of a lake in Finland or Russia.

  • avatar

    Given the money these things are going for these days, I’d have to think there’s no limit to the amount of rust you could ignore.

  • avatar

    If one can weld, then anything is restorable. Plus with 3d printing almost any part can be repod.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      +1 on 3d printing.

      Just about any obscure part can be recreated easily these days. No more scouring junkyards around the country for some part that barely exists anymore.

      • 0 avatar

        “Just about any obscure part can be recreated easily these days.”

        With all due respect, that’s nonsense, certainly the “easily” part. Just how much do you guys know about 3D printing?

        The Selective Laser Melting printers used to make durable metal parts start at about half a million dollars, and that’s for something to make prototypes, not production parts.

        The SLS printers for making plastic parts aren’t as expensive but they start at about $6K.

        3D printing involves a bunch of very cool technologies and the possibilities are enormous but they aren’t Star Trek replicators.

        CV: I’ve been involved with 3D printing since 2014, first working with a 3D print shop and then printing my own parts. I have a genuine Prusa I3 Mk2 filament printer and I’ve built a Prusa clone as well. I’ve printed successfully with PLA, ABS, ABS+, Nylon, and flexible filament. Most of my printing has been for the Harmonicaster project but I’ve also done some contract printing as well.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          We 3D print mock-ups/scale models of prototypes for testing, but still find manufacturing the remainder the old fashioned way more cost effective.

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          6k to manufacture plastic parts is stupid cheap when compared to traveling the country looking for obscure plastic interior bits and pieces. A job which could take months.

          Yes, I don’t know much about it. But, a 6k printer is peanuts if one has a shop restoring million dollar cars.

        • 0 avatar

          My washing machine start button, actually the actuator for the PCB mounted start button, broke. Darned if there wasn’t an SLS part for the cheap busted dime sized piece of plastic. Out of warranty or not covered under a service contract, this would be a $500 repair. I got the price from the repairman, because fortunately I was covered, otherwise a perfectly functioning machine was headed for the landfill over a part that couldn’t have cost but pennies to make in quantity. Actually, I would have gambled the $50 asked for the 3D printed part. Lots of these actuators in Whirlpool machines of various types as what looks like a planned obsolescence initiative. More amusing was having the wash cycle time re-flashed for better efficiency into the control panel on an earlier visit.
          They may not be a Star Trek replicator, but 3D printers are pretty cool nonetheless. Unfortunately, the damn washer still understeers like crazy.

  • avatar

    I thought long and hard about restoring a classic car. After weighing the pros and cons, I decided that it was a waste of time. The old cars are currently rotted and the car I’ll restore will eventually become rotted as well. No amount of POR15 can save metal from air and moisture, it’s an exercise in vanity. Indeed the book of Ecclesiastes sums up these kind of pointless exercises precisely:

    All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
    to the place where the streams flow,
    there they flow again.

    All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it;
    the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    nor the ear filled with hearing.

    What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun.

    Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
    It has been already
    in the ages before us.

    There is no remembrance of former things,
    nor will there be any remembrance
    of later things yet to be
    among those who come after.

    Even if you make a decent sum from selling the car, you still wasted your time, because then someone else gets to enjoy the labor of your hands.

    • 0 avatar

      Amazingly, there are people who get great satisfaction from rebuilding and restoring all sorts of things. That, for some, is reason enough.

    • 0 avatar

      Cactuar, you are picking the wrong car then.. Many have the fallacy they must have a Barret-Jackson car or it is a waste of time. I got into the classic car hobby for under 6 grand and I don’t care if I junk it at the end of it. This includes a very well done paint job, mechanical work and the car! The joy and memories have been well well worth it. Ten years on, no regrets..

      • 0 avatar

        To bunkie and Halftruth: you make good points, and I totally understand the labor of love that are restorations. Especially if the car has sentimental value, it’s basically irreplaceable. I think I would enjoy the restoration process quite a lot actually, which is why I considered it in the first place. But at the end of the day, I’m a glass half-empty kind of guy; I would sigh in dissatisfaction knowing that someday the car will be crushed or rot away.

        I think it’s more of a philosophical issue rather than a car issue at the heart of it. I admire the folks who can do this work joyously without worrying too much about the long term destiny of the car! Wish I could be as free!

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          Gosh Cactuar, this seems like a tough view to take.

          You could make the same argument for your lifes work…well I was going to work hard and be successful in my chosen profession but you know we die in the end and it doesn’t matter after all.

          Look, we all know how this deal ends. Restoring an old car for very few is about financial gain, for the rest of us it is a way to unplug from reality, spend some time with our children in a fashion that does not involve a video game or device etc.

        • 0 avatar

          I have a friend who did a restoration of a ’57 Beetle. When I first saw it, it was a rusty floorpan, a shell and a pile of rusty fenders and doors. In the space of about two years, he converted it into, perhaps, the nicest Beetle I’ve ever seen. He had bought if from a fellow who had bought it from his dad a number of years earlier (who, because of health reasons, couldn’t do the restoration himself). It was a labor of love and it wears a plate reading DADS 57.

          My friend is an absolute master of almost any skill he pursues. For example, his paint work is concours quality, far better than what Wolfsburg put on the car back in the day. He has been offered over $20K for the car, much more than he has in it (not counting his labor). That, of course, isn’t really worth the time. However, the car serves as a testament to his skills and he has done work for some very high-end restorers.

    • 0 avatar

      Koheleth was Solomon in a pessimistic mood. He was more optimistic in Song of Songs.

      Like the great man, Ernie Harwell, would remind us every year, hope springs eternal, as does baseball.

      For, lo, the winter is past,
      The rain is over and gone;
      The flowers appear on the earth;
      The time of the singing of birds is come,
      And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

    • 0 avatar

      Some people enjoy the process more than the end product. Some people just want the end product. Is it a waste if you get a great deal of enjoyment out of what you are doing? Are all hobbies a waste?

      I think it is silly to think that the car you lovingly restored is just going to somehow rot away. Entropy always wins in the end, but very, very few people at going to use a restored classic car as a daily all-weather driver. I have a very nicely restored 22+ years ago Triumph Spitfire. I bought it from a guy who did 80% of the restoration and got distracted by something else- I finished the job. After 22 years, it is time to refresh the interior again (22 years ago I was on a no money budget) and I’d like to have it painted to a better standard, but it is still a nice car. I drive it about 1000 miles a summer, and it probably hasn’t even been driven in rain in more than 10 years.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the article, Ronnie. There’s an individual about 3 blocks east of where I live with one of these in great shape. Used to be parked in the drive a few years back, but haven’t seen it lately. As a kid this was one of the few “exotic” cars I thought would be fun to own and drive. I never knew there were so relatively few actually made.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Presenting the Eagle E-Type.

    “If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it.” – J.P. Morgan

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Great article and wonderful comments! Congrats to all.

      G.W. beat me to commenting on the Eagle. They have restored E-Types and their own Speedster which is a ‘modern’ vehicle with an E-Type style body.

      Love their advertising line:
      “Unlike an ‘ordinary’ supercar, an Eagle E-Type generates admiration rather than envy or jealousy. It’s a different world.”

      Or as Clarkson said:”I think this, by a long way, is the most beautiful car I have ever seen. It might actually be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” Jeremy Clarkson / BBC Top Gear / June 2011

  • avatar

    Even in this condition it is still visually stunning!

  • avatar

    Toss a Hellcat crate engine in that baby and you’re good to go. Oh, and a new driver’s seat cushion.

  • avatar

    Nothing is impossible, its just time and money.

  • avatar

    All you need is the VIN plates; grab pieces that can be restored and build (not rebuild or restore) the entire car from scratch.

  • avatar

    No there isn’t.

    Didn’t Gas Monkey sell an unrestored XK that made this example look as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar?

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    Oddly enough, saw two (black, burgundy) of these pacing gracefully around the Nashville area on the first springlike day of the year last Saturday.

    Stunning and nothing else quite like it. I’m of an age to have lusted after these in my youth and the sight of one still stirs the blood.

  • avatar

    No there isn’t.

    Have a look at the Classic Jaguar blog in Texas, you will be impressed at what they can do with something like this. No doubt the costs are terrifying to someone like me, but the people who are having this work done must be able to afford it. If you are going to replace everything anyway, it makes more sense to start with a rough car than a driver.

    I’m not worried, there is still fun to be had at all price points in this hobby.

  • avatar

    You can buy brand new E-type body in white from the UK (all series), which would no doubt be a cheaper way to go than trying to patch something that far gone. All the missing parts are also readily available, so it really is just a matter of money. From an investment standpoint, I have a feeling that the current high E-type values will never crash as they are such beautiful cars to look at and drive. Future generations will want them just as much as todays.

    • 0 avatar

      I lust after an E-Type coupe. I have always done so. Back when I was 15, a wealthy friend of my Dad lent him is new ’70 2+2 and my dad took me on a wild ride on the back roads of northern Virginia. I will never forget it.

      The closest I have come is owning a beat up 1970 Triumph GT6+ which, while not an E-Type is surprisingly similar: flip up nose (with similar styling including hood louvers), torquey in-line six, electric overdrive, Smiths gauges, just to name a few common points.

      • 0 avatar

        And the the 1970 Series 2 2+2 was probably the absolute worst E-type in terms of styling and performance – which means it was still better than 90% of the cars ever built.

  • avatar

    “Is There Such a Thing As an Unrestorable E-Type Jaguar?”

    If you’re British, no. They’ll restore something so long as part of the bulkhead (firewall) is still intact.

    All this thing needs is a fortune in Martin Robey panels, and someone who’s good with a welder and lead.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Years ago my mechanic/body man had a 62 coupe one of these sitting in his parking lot which the owner dropped off for restoration. It sat there when he closed his shop and moved. It was in worse shape than this one. I always wonder what happened to it. I would have to say I have always loved this model and think it too is one of the most beautiful cars I have ever seen which I cannot say about any of today’s cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, a friend of mine had one in his driveway for a couple weeks, he was holding it for a friend(not me, sadly). It was in less than pristine condition, but even still I couldn’t help staring at it, just a gorgeous car. Every one that can be restored should be.

  • avatar

    I recently read a book called “Warbirds” – about finding crashed or abandoned planes from WW2, and restoring them. We’re talking hulks that have taken battle damage, crashed into trees/mountains/swamps, or even frozen or lost in a lake.

    The accessible ones were often stripped of parts by the locals, but the more remote ones were found untouched with still-working machine guns. The planes would be cut up and often moved with the wings removed. Major restoration work done to get them flying again; almost to the point where I wonder how much is “original” and how much is new fabrication.

    At what point does a restoration become something new? /philosophical question

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