Have we found a little piece of Jaguar heaven, or the storage lot from hell?
In our last installment, I was trying – and failing – to find a suitable replacement for the Jag’s leaky gas tanks. The easy option seemed to be a fuel cell, but despite many attempts I had been unable to get my hands on one. Several potential swaps from other makes/models had also been considered and dismissed.
Though sticking with factory tanks seemed like the best way to go, the absence of any such tanks locally made that road a difficult one. Shipping tanks in from elsewhere was likewise fraught with potential pitfalls, and new tanks weren’t exactly compatible with the spirit (or budget) of this project. What to do?
As I continued to dig, a new possibility arose. Before long I had the address of an all-import junkyard in Wisconsin, which was supposedly overflowing with Jaguars of all kinds. It sounded promising. So, as soon as free time and decent weather converged, I grabbed my tools and hit the road.
Since days off don’t come along very often for me lately, I had several goals to accomplish on this trip. The hunt for a Jag tank was of course the headline, and the farthest point in my travels – but there were also a handful of other stops to be made along the way.
With temps in the low 60s, a gentle breeze, and plenty of sunshine, it was a perfect day for doing just about anything outdoors. So I decided to take on as much as I could.
At around the 30 mile mark, there was a small junkyard that I hadn’t visited in several months. I’d been told they had recently taken in another 3/4 ton Suburban like mine – and since I was in need of a few things, I decided to stop in and check it out.
The Suburban, it turned out, didn’t exist. But I did arrive just in time to see this ’73 Chevy Van being unloaded.
It was quite a sight. Both the black dash/doghouse and cream vinyl seats immediately caught my attention, being in such nice shape for their age.
The rest of the interior wasn’t quite so interesting.
But the chrome grille? Now that was interesting!
For months I’d been seeking a chrome grille to install on the ’77 G10. It had been an impossible part to find… until now.
Despite a bit of rust, and one rather conspicuous ding, that grille needed to leave with me. I wasted no time in finding the yard owner and getting the requisite haggling underway. 15 minutes and $40 later, it was mine.
I debated going after the bumper as well. But with only light-duty tools along, I decided it would be difficult (if not impossible) and so left it for another day.
With one stop checked off the list, it was time to move forward.
The next stop came another 20 miles down the road, in the town of Taylors Falls – a picturesque little border burg on the bank of the St. Croix, home to around 900 residents and the nearest gateway to Wisconsin.
With small cliffs, sharp corners, and steep hills all around, it’s a beautiful area to travel through… but not much fun if you’re driving a commercial vehicle.
Crossing those hills put me in mind of one of the last times I was here, around a decade ago. At the time I was the sysadmin for a nonprofit group of youth centers, a job whose duties also included fleet maintenance and (occasionally) shuttling kids to and fro in the organization’s minibuses.
In the summertime, the centers hosted weekly outings for the kids. They’d round up slightly more than a dozen youngsters, along with a mountain of coolers and water toys, and pile into one of the buses for what would inevitably be a memorable day trip.
On that particular day, it was me, 13 kids and a chaperone, and the oldie of the fleet – this ’85 G30 dually with a Blue Bird body. It had a 350, a TH400, and a ridiculous 4.10:1 gear ratio. Anything over 55mph was more or less impossible.
As much as I despised that diff under normal circumstances, this was the one time I was grateful for it. With all those kids, their cargo, and the weight of the bus itself, that super-low gearing was what made climbing such steep grades possible – and even easy.
Some of the trips just plain-out sucked (for me, anyways – what can you expect when taking as many as 16 screaming teenagers to a state park?). But that was one of the few outings which resulted in nothing but positive memories.
The bus is long since crushed, the kids are all grown up – for that matter, neither the centers nor the group which ran them still exist today. But the town of which I spoke does still exist, and is still as charming as ever.
It’s got a drive-in, complete with a spinning root beer mug and plenty of carhops waiting to serve you.
It’s got a downtown that has remained attractive throughout the decades.
And did I mention that it’s full of CCs? Yup, it’s true! This Beetle was the first to catch my eye.
This AMX also made a brief appearance.
As I went around the next corner, time rewound by about four decades.
This drop-top Cadillac (a ’70, if my limited Caddy knowledge serves) appears to have been driven here by someone working in one of the shops on Main Street.
Of course, there’s also this ’70s Dodge window van, sporting a set of ET slots (which could use some polishing… tsk tsk!).
And if you’re into polishing aluminum, you’ll love this old Avion single-axle camper. I’d take it home!
Your camping weekend of the past wouldn’t be complete without a ride in an old fiberglass tub like this one. Ah, the nightmares stirred by seeing that three-cylinder Mercury!
I got out of the alley just in time to see… a Unimog?
Yes, indeed. I suspect its owner was across the street, having a burger and a brew on the patio at Romayne’s.
But before I could get back in the truck, I was drawn in by this dockside marvel.
A wooden runabout with a big ol’ white Merc on back. Green paint or not, I love it.
This boat is just too cool.
Style? It’s got style to burn. (Perhaps not the best word to use when referring to a wooden boat…)
The sign says it’s a ’55 Thompson, that it’s been in a barn for the past 17 years, and that $3000 is what it takes to own it. (That, and a whole lot of sealant. I’m betting it leaks like, well, an old wooden boat.)
But despite its inherent shortcomings, it’s hard not to find this boat attractive.
I’ve learned my lesson with old boats (stick to aluminum!) – but it does really reinforce my desire to one day find an aluminum lapstrake-style runabout, strip it down, and find someone who can finish it in faux woodgrain. Perhaps that would be the best of both worlds.
I’d love to drop this one in the river for a little test run. But even if this motor is a bit tired, I’d still worry that those 70-ish horses would tear this poor old boat apart.
With the sightseeing done, it was time to get back in the truck and proceed. Wisconsin was only a stone’s throw away.
Just cross the river…
…and you’re there!
I’m always very aware of the fact that I’ve left Minnesota. Or, perhaps, I’m always very aware that I’m in Wisconsin. The wooden signposts, the alternating three-lane highways, the 25mph speed limit in towns (30 in my home state), and the ubiquitous fireworks stands (since many types aren’t sold in MN) – all of it serves as a constant reminder that I’m not on my home turf.
Before long, I had arrived at my destination. The sight of so many Volvos in one place was a good indicator that I’d found the right place.
These guys handle only European automobiles. Most of their business is mail-order, so it seems that walk-in business isn’t the norm.
It shouldn’t be too surprising, then, that I got plenty of puzzled looks when I asked them to direct me to the Jaguars. This isn’t that kind of operation, they explained; you name a part, and they do the rest. Fortunately I was able to convince them to show me around the Jag department – but there would be no tools, no pictures, and no unescorted wandering once inside the fence.
As a result, I can’t properly express the overwhelming experience of seeing dozens of XJSes (most of them convertibles) packed bumper-to-bumper and mirror-to-mirror in such a small space. It was, by far, the most Jaguars I have ever seen in one place – and will likely remain so.
The pictures I was able to get were shot from just outside the fence. It’s not quite an accurate representation of this sea of Jags, but it’s something.
Though there was no shortage of Project XJ6’s two-door counterparts, sedans were comparatively underrepresented. It took us a good ten minutes to locate the sole survivor on the grounds – a pretty well picked over ’85, whose drivetrain and front clip (among other things) were long gone.
Since it was the only choice to be had, I inquired about its tanks. They were willing to sell them, for $100 each – but since there was no self-serve at this yard, I’d have to wait until they had time to dig the car out and pull the tanks for me.
How long would that take? About two weeks. D’oh!
Still, having no better options, I agreed to take my place at the bottom of the list. I told them that I only wanted one tank, that it didn’t matter which I ended up with, and that I would buy whichever of the two was in the best condition. If neither was worthy, the deal would be off.
But before I left, I did inquire about one other thing I’d spotted. There was a newer XJS at the front of the lot, which had four cross-spoke wheels – all in nice shape – with four white-letter BFGoodrich tires that were likewise usable. The price? $65 apiece.
Needless to say, there’s now a set of Style 5 BMW wheels available on craigslist. Hopefully their sale price will put a decent dent in the cost of these somewhat more correct Jag wheels, which I suspect will dress up Project XJ6 nicely.
It may not have been the most fulfilling junkyard trip I’ve ever been on… but at least now, I can say there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s hoping it doesn’t turn out to be oncoming headlights!
Sounds like a productive trip. Hope the tank(s) works out.
I am probably the only guy here jonsing for that early Dodge B series van. The ones with the little extra side windows are virtually extinct around here (let alone Wisconsin).
That wooden runabout both beckons and terrifies me.
You’re not the only one, jp!
Like the van (especially in green!) and the boat.
“That wooden runabout both beckons and terrifies me.”
I’d Put it in salt water and let it soak tight failing that I have a friend who is a boat builder.
If I had the space in my living room I’d put that little boat on a stand, and just gaze at it with joy.
Before I read some of the text, the photos were whispering Taylors Falls to me. Good to see I’m not crazy just yet. The irony of a European-only lot in that area is not lost in me; From Taylors Falls down to Stillwater, BMWs, Audis and Porsche are abound. It is truly the land of the aging suburban-type “Yuppie”…
Stillwater? Aging yuppies and Audis are the last thing I think of! 🙂 ……
That looks like beautiful country to drive one of my CC’s through!
My grade school friend’s family had a Thompson wood boat, a bit bigger than this one. Beautiful boat. And it had a 100hp Mercury, which was a big deal then; the most powerful outboard and the first to pack three figure hp, from six cylinders, no less. That thing would really scoot across Coralville Reservoir.
I think that ‘tower of power’ Merc 700 is a ’61 – the last year of white cowlings before the switch to black. Way too cool.
So many dead XJSs in one place! I didn’t know they were so much less desired than the equivalent sedans, but am not necessarily surprised.
I suspect it has more to do with demand than supply.
There’s oodles of dead XJ40s within a hundred miles of this yard, for example, yet I saw none in their inventory. Doubtful that it’s mere coincidence.
always amazing how many CCs and oddball vehicles they have in a climate where the driving season is only 3-4 months long. The Minnesotans and Wisconsinites are a lot like the Scandinavians who also love their old vehicles despite their difficult climate.
Hey, any Peugeots in that yard?
Jags are better bought in sets and Rovers apparently there are more of each at this location but the owner drives a Jeep of all things.
I’m loving this series. Probably because it’s not my car and things really seem to be progressing, albeit slowly. Looks like a two door amazon Ovlov next to the wheel donor xjs.
Yes, it was always more enjoyable to work on someone else’s car than your own. That way, when it came time to leave, the work-in-process car remains an interesting problem – and someone else’s. 🙂
Great finds and write up! Good luck with the tank!
I really like this series,Keith. You not only give us a peak under the hood of your projects, you take us on road trips.
Thanks a metric ton!
One thing I don’t understand. The yard is not a U-Pick so if you got hurt their insurance would not cover. But taking pictures? They let you in the yard to look around, what is the liability of taking pictures?
As I have mentioned many times here in the South Florida area FT. Lauderdale to the keys we have one you pick. It services a population of several million people. It is huge and you have to sign a waiver then pay two dollars for the privilege of walking around the yard. Most stock is 80s, 90s, and some 2000 and up. Sometimes you come across some 70s vehicles. Surely this market can support 2 u pick yards, I think. They do have some folks driving around in golf carts or compacts with the back half of roof and trunk lid gone for tools and oxyacetalyne torches, for a small tip they will remove parts in 10 minutes that would take most folks hours to pick.
This was today’s rant
“They let you in the yard to look around, what is the liability of taking pictures?”
Thieves, I’d guess. That, or perhaps they weren’t supposed to be taking me into the yard at all, and didn’t want photographic proof of their rule-bending floating around.
“They do have some folks driving around in golf carts or compacts with the back half of roof and trunk lid gone for tools and oxyacetalyne torches, for a small tip they will remove parts in 10 minutes that would take most folks hours to pick.”
If only the U-Pulls around here did that. Instead, it’s by special request only, comes at a hefty cost, and might not even happen same-day.
Smaller yards, on the other hand, are pretty much as you described. Just flag down the torch truck (could be any running vehicle with room for the tanks and a few tools), point to the troublesome nut/bolt/whathaveyou, and flip the guy a ten for his trouble.
Ahhhh! Where to start!? That lovely Merc probably needs a 35/1 mixture. We used to run Peterborough Boy cedar strip boats in Northern Ontario that needed a good soak in the spring to seal them up for a season of great boating. These boats were stable and could ferry an incredible amount of cargo!
I’d like to see a few shots of the Volvo 120 series hidden behind the Jag.
I operated a late 50’s/ early 60’s diesel powered Unimog in a Northern Manitoba open pit back when I had hair!? What a great, albeit spartan, vehicle.
Best of luck in your search, and don’t forget that you can substitute a GM crossover valve for you Jag tanks.
I always enjoy your writing and your discoveries Keith – you have a knack for taking an interesting and enjoyable selection of photos. Looking forward to the next instalment in the XJ Saga!
This morning I was at the Wrench N Go in Des Moines,IA. I found an ’82 XJ6. Both tanks are present. Of course it was not possible to tell if they were any better than what you have. There are rust holes in the fender wells so I could see the bottom front parts of the tanks. I could spy some surface rust. One tank lid is missing and there is superficial rust at the opening, the other tank lid is shiny and locked.
I forgot to look how much they charge for a tank. Their policy is to charge the same for a part if it comes from an Escort or a Corvette.
An interesting lead. If the Wisconsin yard fails me, Des Moines is only(?) 5 hours south of here.
Will keep that additional option in my back pocket, just in case…
Let me know here if you need to follow up. Maybe I can check if the tanks are still there.
The Jag is no longer there, not a trace of it.
Beautiful pictures and some great CC finds. The grill was a great find for the price. It should clean up nicely. Actually, to me the black grill that is on your van now looks good to me. That huge old Mercury outboard on that cool old 55 Thompson wood boat does look like it’s hanging on by a thread. When I was about 8 in the early 60’s, there was an old wooden boat with two new Mercury’s attempting to pull two large waterskier’s from a standing start. It’s a good thing it was in shallow water as the engines along with the transom dropped into the water. It was a sight I’ll never forget.
Great story, and it’s nice to see that Taylors Falls is still as charming as always.
My Taylors Falls automotive memory: When I had my learner’s permit at 15, I was driving up the hill there on Hwy 8 in my parents Plymouth minivan. This was probably the scariest drive in Minnesota (although in California nobody would think twice about it), so I was gritting my teeth. Coming the other direction was a Volare and the front wheel and axel was coming off the car! The Volare driver had a look of death on his face, and I probably did too. Somehow I managed to miss him by a couple feet and it seemed like he got the car under control.
Used to be all the yards in CT were pick ‘n’ pull til the damn insurance companies put a stop to it. There’s one left here in the state that I know of, but it looks like they drove a Cat D9 over everything, so there’s nothing to pick ‘n’ pull.
Where are you from? Leveille’s in Somers is still pick-and-pull, although most of their stock is newer.
Jerkoff junk yard rats don’t let you look at the parts then they whine endlessly about not ever selling much and usually crush 90 % of the inventory for base scrap value every two or three years .
When I ran a junkyard we sold everything and fast too ~ not much point in having it if you don’t want to sell it , _ALL_ junkyards get in way more stuff than they could ever sell so why not ? .
THANK YOU for a great article ! a fun read with great photos .
Your description fits the norm of many of the former junkyards in the Pacific Northwest. Stubborn owners who would rather see stuff rot away in the blackberries or crush it, than to give away (in their mind) a part at a reasonable price.
Sadly, even the money-grubbing beancounters (AKA Schnitzer Steel) that run the local pick-n-pulls have gone this route, and I have stopped going to those as well. They used to have reasonable prices, but now some of their prices, plus the ripoff ‘core’ charges, plus the 8.x% ‘environmental fee’, approach or even exceed online prices for new parts! The half-off sales every holiday weekend have become 1/3-off sales on wiper blades and window cranks on the odd weekday.
Seems to be a common mentality in the junk business. I’ve dickered with guys at the flea market (common refrain: “I could get $X on Ebay!”), only to see the same stuff laying out there years later. Too bad I can remember junk better than I can remember faces.
Many of these people seem to be mostly into it for the hoarding.
I’m still drivin one of those 73 open road conversion Chevy vans!! She’s my camper/hunting rig and presently getting an interior facelift–following some flood damage. Would like the name of that junkyard and see about gettin some parts. They are gettin hard to find ya know, but mine still rocks!
ATV Salvage in North Branch, MN. Might be flat by now, but who knows?
Whats happening with the jag?