Project XJ6: Waking The Beast


In last week’s Project XJ6, I scored what seemed to be a honey of a deal on a vintage Jaguar. This week, we’ll get it into the garage and figure out whether it’s a worthy cat… or a dirty dog.

(How about that? Three Brits in one day… what a coincidence!)


It was long after dark when we arrived home with the Jag in tow. As such, I decided to leave it on the trailer until morning.


That turned out to be a good decision. Two of the tires had gone flat before we’d even left the seller’s driveway, and the other two had managed to lose all their air during the trip home. Who wants to deal with flat tires in the dark, when the temp is below zero, no less? Not I.

The two (relatively) slow leakers would be okay to leave on for the time being. But the other two were losing air almost as quickly as I could add it. That wouldn’t do.

So I began to scan the contents of my tire rack. Hmm… what could I use as temporary replacements?


It didn’t take long to come up with a solution. See, Jaguars use a 5×4.75″ bolt pattern for their wheels, the same as many older GM cars. These steelies, pulled from an early eighties LeSabre, had such a pattern. A perfect match, right?

Wrong! The bolt pattern may be the same, but the hub size on a Jag is considerably larger. As a result, some filing of the wheels’ center holes was necessary to make them fit. Even having done that, I still erred on the side of caution by not torquing them on – the lug nuts were merely “snugged”, which was perfectly acceptable for a car that would only be moving a matter of several feet.


The larger-than-stock tires also presented a potential clearance issue. Having only 1/4″ of space between rubber and wheelwell was acceptable for pushing the car around the garage, but attempting to go down the road like that would be be another story.

After a quick bucket wash, it was time to begin looking it over.


Overall, everything looked pretty decent – no major surprises. While in the warmth of the garage, I even found that all four windows and the sunroof all operated without issue. The only electrical issues I noticed were a couple of burned-out indicator bulbs, and the inoperable power antenna.


Of course, the shiny brown paint made it difficult to see where the rust was. It’s got the typical bubbling at the lower corners of the windshield…


…and some at the left bottom corner of the rear glass…


…along with some minor development around the rear wheelwells…


…and a bit in the rockers (though it’s difficult to photograph).


There are also some clearcoat issues, as you can see here.

Interestingly enough, the seller’s story about the original owner has so far checked out. He was supposedly a doctor in the city of St. Cloud, which explains this St. Cloud Hospital parking sticker. The Carfax also shows him being the car’s first owner–buying it with single-digit miles on the clock, keeping it registered until 1999, and selling it to my guy in 2010.


The engine bay wasn’t exactly clean, but it was at least free of rodent infestation and any obvious shadetree repairs. I topped off the fluids (all of which looked clean and not terribly old), put in a fresh battery, and attempted to start it.

After a combined 30 seconds of cranking, all I’d managed to achieve were a few quick “pops”. A bit of ether was applied, but to no avail. I was beginning to get a bit upset. This engine supposedly purred just a few months ago–had the seller stuck me with a pig after all?

Having verified that there was indeed spark, I tried spritzing a bit of raw gas down the intake. Finally, the motor ran (if only momentarily). So it was a fuel system problem. What could it be… clogged lines, old filter, bad pickup, shot pump, or even that multi-tank plumbing monstrosity?

Before starting in on the usual fuel system regimen, I decided to perform one more test.


Sure enough – despite the gauge reading 1/4 full, the tank was almost completely dry. I added a couple gallons of fresh gas, and the engine roared to life.

Of course, there was still the issue of the severed exhaust pipe, and it was idling very high (likely due to a cracked vacuum hose somewhere – there were plenty of suspects). But it was running, and it sounded healthy. One major step in the right direction!


Now that it was running, I could finally attempt to move it under its own power.

Taking it several hundred feet out of the garage and into the parking lot was hardly a test drive, but it did allow me to prove that the transmission and brakes were at least somewhat functional. It also allowed me to take a bunch of pictures of the car, all clean and shiny–including the one which was used in this series’ introduction.


But it wasn’t long before I hit my first snag. I let the car idle for several minutes while I took pictures of it from various angles. The fact that it was running the whole time was completely intentional; I wanted to make sure it came up to temp and stayed there, among other things. But upon attempting to return to the garage, I found that the transmission didn’t want to engage.

Uh-oh! Up went the hood, and out came the dipstick.

I’d brought the fluid level up to the full mark while idling in the garage. But after running for a while longer, it was plain to see that it needed more–apparently 30 seconds of run-time hadn’t been enough to get fluid pumped everywhere it needed to go. So I ran back to the garage, grabbed some fluid, and once again brought it to the full mark. Normal transmission behavior resumed immediately after, with (seemingly, hopefully) no harm done.


So the Jag can start, run, and move. Great! But there are still many things left to check, things that I can’t determine without actually driving it down the road. And there’s no way I’m leaving the driveway with with those Buick wheels on back. Guess that means it’s time to mount up some tires!


In the next installment of Project XJ6, we’ll find out just how tricky it is to remove tires from Kent rims. Tune in next week–same cat time, same cat channel!