1968 Jaguar XKE Engine Restoration

Article by Mark Trotta

Before I purchased this Jaguar XKE, it had been sitting non-running for 13 years. The first step in getting the engine running again was rebuilding the carburetors and going over the rest of the fuel system.

Jaguar XKE engine restoration

Jaguar XKE Fuel System

The fuel pump and tank are both serviced from the trunk, and needed to be checked. Trouble was, the only trunk key I had snapped in half as I turned it in the cylinder. Calling a few local locksmiths yielded nothing ("we don't have a blank").

Without another viable alternative, it was necessary to drill out the lock cylinder. Trouble was, the trunk lock is not on the trunk lid. It's inside the car, behind the passenger seat, and not accessible with the top down. So, with the convertible top up and out of the way, drill in hand, hunched over the passenger seat backwards, I drilled out the original cylinder. The trunk could now be opened.

1968 Jaguar XKE roadster

The electric fuel pump was replaced with a new unit, and the fuel lines were blown out with air. For double measure, I installed two in-line gas filters. For start-up purposes, a plastic gas jug was temporarily substituted for the varnished fuel tank.

Changing the Oil and Filter

After draining the engine oil, I removed the canister oil filter. Like many pre-70s cars, the oil filter is not a spin-on type, but a cartridge inside a housing. A center bolt pulls the cover onto an O-ring in a groove.

I removed the six spark plugs from the cylinder head and poured light-grade oil into the spark plug holes, letting the oil drain down through the engine and out of the oil pan. After reinstalling the drain plug, I refilled the engine with Castrol 20/50 GTX. The E-type takes about eight quarts.

After disconnecting the ignition coil for safety, I was ready to crank the starter motor to see if it works. Do this step with the spark plugs removed (with plug holes covered by a rag). It'll be easier to turn over.

Engine Compression Test

With the spark plugs back in except for one, screw the compression gauge into that cylinder hole. A helper can hold and monitor the gauge. Crank the engine about 20 seconds, then wait 20 seconds. If the needle has moved, it indicates oil pressure. Mark down the measurement, re-install the plug and move on to the next cylinder. The compression check netted good results for all six cylinders.

Jaguar XKE engine repair

Electrical Troubleshooting

Cranking the motor revealed no spark at the spark plugs. A session of electrical troubleshooting found the no-spark problem - a defective aftermarket electronic ignition unit someone had "upgraded" the car to. Re-installing stock points and condenser solved that problem. The motor was now getting spark and fuel.

Jaguar XKE engine

Read: Points vs Electronic Ignition

Check Timing

After removing the rocker covers, valve timing was checked and gaskets replaced. Both camshafts looked fine.

Jaguar XKE twin-cam engine repair

Starting The Engine

Nine months after the Jag was brought home, it was ready to be fired up. I rolled the car out of the garage onto the driveway, got in and dropped the top. As I pulled out the choke cable, I said a quick prayer to the Car-Gods, and turned the key. The engine sputtered. After the third try, the motor came to life.

1968 Jaguar XKE restoration


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