To the casual observer, it may seem nonsensical to start a Jaguar-related post with a picture of a Buick. But there is, in fact, a method to the madness.
See, this isn’t just a story about gas tanks. It’s a story about hard-to-find parts, wild goose chases, deleted craigslist posts, swap meets, cruise nights, junkyard creativity, and making the best of a bad situation. It also happens to include an elusive Can-Am, a ragtop Riviera, and a roughed-up Coronet with a bee on the rear quarter.
Confused? Don’t worry – it’ll all make sense after the jump.
When we last checked in on the Jag, it was running, driving, and leaking. Many of the smaller problems it was having (such as a cracked coolant overflow tank, a clogged and subsequently field-modified evap check valve, etc) have since been fixed. But its biggest problem still remains: the spaghetti-strainer gas tanks.
Since both the left and right tanks were poke-a-screwdriver-through-’em rusty, no chemical or coating was going to do them any good. This car’s only way to move forward would be a tank transplant.
But where to find one – much less two? In the past few months, exactly two Jaguars have appeared in the local junkyards. One, this ’83, had tanks that were just as bad as mine. The other, which was promised up and down to be a proper Series III car before I made the 2 hour drive, turned out to be a ’94 upon arrival. This project couldn’t be put on indefinite hold until the next junked Jag came along… so it was looking like used tanks were out.
What’s left, then? New tanks run around $300 a pop, plus shipping and all other applicable fees. That’s approximately 30% of the car’s value… plus, I’m simply too cheap to drop three Benjamins on a chunk of stamped sheetmetal.
Two less-traditional options remained. The first, and least ridiculous, was to find an appropriately sized fuel cell.
Turns out my idea of stuffing a fuel cell into the sparewell (while at the same time eliminating all the crazy dual-tank plumbing, and extending one of the fillers with a long hose) was far from an original concept. If others can do it, why not me?
New fuel cells cost about as much as a new Jag tank. Having determined that, the hunt was on for a used fuel cell (or the marine equivalent) of acceptable dimensions.
After a few days of watching craigslist, one finally appeared. The seller was about 60 miles from me, and was happy to let it go for $100. Success at last!
Or so I thought. After two failed attempts to retrieve the fuel cell, I was getting rather frustrated. It seemed the seller was a pretty popular guy, and routinely got called away on a moment’s notice. Broken appointments were quickly becoming the norm. But with no other viable options presenting themselves, I decided to keep trying.
My third attempt came this past Saturday. As always, the trip would have multiple objectives: to pick up the fuel cell, to stop by Grandma’s house and clean the gutters, and to put some miles on the LeSabre (which I had put a few hours and dollars into making roadworthy over the past several days).
Upon reaching the Cities, I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find that I’d been stood up once again. The slippery seller had managed to miss our meeting, and was unavailable by phone. So I moved on to the next item on the list: gutter cleaning.
Two hours and zero completed phone calls later, I finally decided to check the craigslist ad. The result was as I’d feared.
Yup, he’d deleted the ad. The seller would later claim he’d sold it to some guy who he thought was me. It didn’t really matter what the circumstances were, though – gone is gone.
I wouldn’t consider myself an optimist, but this was one case where I could “look on the bright side”. I was in Roseville, Minnesota, just two blocks from the State Fairgrounds, where the MSRA Back To The Fifties car show was in full swing.
Being so close to the grounds meant that, as always, Grandma’s living room sofa would be a front-row seat for all the action. So I decided to hang around, watch the cars, and do some fuel cell hunting once the swap meet began.
I should probably take a moment to give you a brief Buick update. Though it’s far from done, I had managed to get it tuned up, cleaned up, wearing decent tires, and sporting new shocks and exhaust over the past several days. These simple improvements had made it into an acceptable driver.
My grandmother, who’s 86 and still as active as ever, had never really taken much of an interest in cars. Perhaps that’s why I was so surprised when she expressed interest in going for a ride in the Buick during the big Saturday night cruise.
Though it was 19 years too new (and way too unfinished, IMHO) to officially partake in the festivities, there was nothing stopping me from getting it out amongst the traffic. And with 12 hours to burn before the swap meet began, I figured, why not?
So we hopped in and hit the streets. There were at least six police officers per mile on the cruise route, trying to prevent the stoplight launches, impromptu burnout boxes, and other exhibition stunts that used to be the norm in past years. Traffic was moving slowly and steadily at 35-40 miles per hour… the perfect situation to prevent embarrassment when driving a 3800-ish pound car with a 231 V6 (making all of 110hp) under the hood.
Of course, there was no shortage of interesting vehicles out cruising that evening.
And no matter how many years go by, or what vehicle I may happen to have at the time, it’s always fun to be driving amongst so many of them.
There’s always a crowd of spectators along the cruise route. For about two miles, they line up shoulder to shoulder on both sides of the street. Picnic blankets and beach chairs are the norm.
Though plenty of cars partake in the cruise, some of the most interesting stuff is often found on the sidelines. Such was the case with the seemingly unrestored Super Bee.
We swung back for another picture, but neither quite turned out.
It seemed we weren’t the only ones flaunting the “nothing newer than ’64” cutoff.
I know I’ve seen this ragtop Riv for sale before, somewhere. Glad to see it’s found a good home.
Though it didn’t want to stand still long enough to be photographed, this Can-Am was also making laps.
The cruise brought out all sorts of wild creations – even the ridiculous stuff, like this ’60-’61 on ’92-’00 Chevy crew cab dually mash-up…
…and this Caddy on a truck frame, sporting late-model Escalade rims and “zombie patrol” graphics on the doors.
So you’ve got a Cadillac sedan, a wrecked GM truck, and too much time on your hands. Why limit yourself to bodywork and a garden-variety LS swap? “If less is more, imagine how much more more would be!”
As darkness began to set in, Grandma decided she’d seen her fill. I brought her home, and went out to kill a bit more time on my own.
At one point I paused in the parking lot of this Arby’s for a few pictures, while the car was still clean and relatively shiny.
A few minutes later, I found myself making a U-turn in the parking lot of Har Mar Mall, right across the street. A rusty second-generation Nova rolled in as I headed for the exit. Someone in a late ’70s Camaro rumbled up behind me as I waited for the light to change.
As I sat there, taking in the sights as Blue Oyster Cult played on the radio, I couldn’t help but think of my parents growing up here in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I thought of my father, terrorizing these very same streets in his orange ’73 Nova RS, or perhaps the ’71 Satellite Sebring he’d had before it – or the ’62 Bel-Air that came before that.
Granted, what I was seeing, hearing, doing – all was a very condensed form of what one might have seen back in those days. Still, it was the closest thing I myself would ever get to experience.
But really, the details didn’t matter. Sitting here in this two-door boat, windows down, chrome shining, as my anemic V6 burbled deceptively through its newly-installed glasspack… everything about it just felt right.
A narrowly-averted confrontation with the law shortly thereafter (instigated by a burned-out brake light I didn’t know about, and avoided by the timely use of an alley he didn’t know about) made the similarities even more uncanny.
The Sunday swap meet began promptly at 6 AM the next morning. I was there, slightly refreshed after an evening on the sofa, and ready to (hopefully) find the long-awaited tank that would move Project XJ6 forward.
Will rain ruin my plans?
Will a proper fuel cell appear?
Will the trip end in victory, or defeat?
Will this story involve me pushing a car home?
Find out tomorrow when Part Two appears… same cat time, same cat channel!