Project XJ6: The Wheel/Tire Conundrum


In last week’s Project XJ6, I got the Jag running and moving. This week, we’ll bring it one step closer to the all-important road test by finding some tires that will actually hold air.

So we’ve got a JAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGG… and it’s ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIVEEEEE! Too bad it’s sitting on four flaaaaaaaaats.

How bad is it? All four of this car’s tires are at least 15 years old, they all have weather-checking, and two of the four won’t hold air for more than a few minutes (if that). So, yeah–pretty bad.

I need to be able to drive the Jag down the road (at least a mile or so) to check for additional problems. But on those tires? Fuggedaboutit!

Herein lies the conundrum. Until I put new tires on, I can’t perform a road test. But if I drop a bunch of dough on new tires and then discover some major, deal-breaking issue during the road test, I’ve now got a scrap car sporting several (rather expensive, and now steeply depreciated) hunks of rubber. What to do?


The obvious answer would be used tires. Pretty much anything would do, within reason. But there’s two problems: one, the cost of mounting and balancing makes installing worn-down tires more or less pointless; and two, finding good used tires at a reasonable price can be often be difficult, if not impossible.

Having nothing worth bothering with on the rack, I started checking local junkyards and tire shops. But as expected, most pairs or sets were priced too high. (Why would I spend $80 + mount/balance on two cheap tires at half tread, when I could get the same cheap tires new for $125 a pair installed?)

Having struck out with the traditional method, I decided to hit up craigslist. As usual, it was full of single tires, overpriced pairs and sets, and mismatched junk that someone, somewhere had decided was “close enough.”

But I did find one interesting ad amongst the rubbish. Some guy was offering a set of four aftermarket Borbet wheels with usable tires, which he claimed to have pulled from a mid-’90s Jaguar.


Would it be the look I was going for? Not at all (a quick Photoshop job was sufficient to prove that). But for $200 or best offer, it was worth considering. After all, they could easily be resold or scrapped once I was through with them.

But those few minutes I spent debating it were enough to let the deal slip away. By the time I called, they were already sold (so much for offering $150!) and I was back searching. The only other semi-appealing ad I found was for a pair of bare tires with perhaps 40% tread remaining, available for $20 in a neighboring town. Good enough for me!


Since two of the tires held air (more or less) and two didn’t, I selected the latter to be replaced first. Into the Suburban they went–and it was off to the junkyard for some tire swapping.


As I rolled the Jag’s “Kent” rims in the door, the yard employee told me that those wheels would demand more than what their old tire machine could provide. Lucky for me, they had just taken delivery of a new rim-clamp machine that morning… a far more suitable choice for these odd wheels, he explained. (I can count on one hand how many tires I’ve mounted, so I had to take his word for it.)

Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that this guy was not yet familiar enough with the new machine to make it happen. I watched him fumble around for a good fifteen minutes before another employee wandered in and offered to assist.

The second guy knew what he was doing. Though the level of difficulty was still plain to see, he pressed forward and managed to swap both tires. He also knew how to get the computer balancer into static mode, allowing him to apply the needed weight to the inside of the rims only (instead of attaching ugly adhesive weights to the outside, as some moron had done to these wheels in the past).

Turned out the second guy had previously worked at a tire shop which was located near both an airfield and a drag strip. Spending time there had given him experience on just about every kind of odd wheel you could imagine–including ones like mine. As always, having the skills makes the difference!


With all that done, it was off with the old…


…and on with the new.


Finally, the Jag could finally stand on its own four wheels.


A thought for the future: right now I only have two of the four “growler” center caps, and few things bug me more than wheels with missing caps. In my junkyard travels, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for them–but so far none have appeared.

However, I did stumble upon something else…


…a set of lattice wheels, like this one. Price? $200 for all four (the fifth is absent).

Getting the Jag roadworthy is first priority; accessories can wait. But still, I couldn’t help but wonder what it might look like. So, while I was Photoshopping, I whipped up one more quick rendering:


Yay? Nay? Ah, who cares–right now I just need to get it out on the highway!


Will this Jag finally be ready to hit the road? What will be revealed in its first test drive? Will Keith bring along some comfortable shoes for the walk home? There’s only one way to find out… check back next week for more Project XJ6!