1968 Jaguar XKE Restoration
Article by Mark Trotta
Speed, style, and handling. Pleasing to look at in every way. Aside from the engine and transmission, the the 1961 Jaguar XKE was a completely new car, and as beautiful today as the day it was introduced to the world.
During 1967/68, the transitional Series 1-1/2 cars were brought about to comply with U.S. safety regulations. The biggest exterior change was the loss of the original glass-covered head lamps, to a more upright and exposed style. Under the hood, twin electric fans were added to help cooling. The original smooth polished dual cam covers were now ribbed and painted.
From the single picture posted on the internet ad, the Jag looked clean - a blue-on-blue roadster with original factory air-conditioning and wire wheels. It was being sold in non-running condition. When I called the seller, he said he'd already received dozens of calls, mostly from out-of-state, but since I was closest in distance I would be offered the car first.
With directions in hand, I hopped into my truck and arrived at the address several hours later. I was immediately impressed with the Jag's condition; no rust, no dents, a few minor scratches, and perfect blue-leather seats. Everything looked intact, but the car hadn't run in 13 years. My gut feeling was the Jag just needed some TLC.
The body of the Jaguar was straight and rust-free, and still had the original paint. Since only mechanical restoration was needed to return this 1968 XKE to former glory, this was a minor restoration project.
When looking for a classic car project, it's rare that you'll find one that needs only mechanical restoration, but that was the case with this low-mileage Jaguar roadster.
Although I had no previous experience with British cars, several factors contributed to my decision to buy this non-running XKE. First, the car had been stored in a clean, organized garage in a beautifully-kept house. Second, the seller was not only friendly and informative, he was genuinely concerned about the car. I had no guarantee that the engine would run, but I took a chance. The Jag was purchased and trailered home.
The Jaguar XKE body is partially unitized, and each panel functions both for appearance and support. Although this particular car was rust-free, places to check are under the rear fenders, along the sills, under the spare tire, and under the carpets. All XKE's have 4-wheel discs, and the rear ones are inboard. This means any serious work on the rear brakes will require lowering the rear axle.
Read: Jaguar XKE History
Working On British Cars
This was the first British car I had worked on. Before I did any work on it, I read every book I could get my hands on about the Jaguar XKE models. Turns out old British sports cars are easier to work on than I thought they were. Another old myth dispelled.
Vintage British vehicles were assembled from the factory with Whitworth-sized nuts and bolts. These are often confused for, and not the same as, fractional or metric sizes. This is why you see many old British cars with rounded-off nuts and bolts.
Shop: British Whitworth Tools
British vehicles continued using Whitworth sizing into the late sixties, and to make things more confusing, some seventies models had a combination of sizings. Consider investing in a set of Whitworth tools for your vintage British car project.
Because the car had sat in storage for years, the gasoline in the carbs turned to varnish. I began the Jaguar XKE project by disassembling, cleaning, and rebuilding the Zenith-Stromberg carburetors. It's nice to have a second carburetor to use as a reference as you're disassembling the other.
Read: Getting the Jaguar Started
Read: Zenith-Stromberg Carb Rebuild