Blog 26 September 2022

Off PisteOff_Piste.html

This Off Piste blog is a reprint of a piece I wrote some time ago.  It explores my genuine respect for modest classic cars.


A New Home

It’s now over a year since our move to our retirement home. Having spent the last thirty plus years in period and rather interesting houses, we now find ourselves in a somewhat nondescript modern box. Devoid of architecturally interesting features we do at least have the benefit of modern facilities, although we have recently had our share of minor breakdowns.

Extinction Rebellion will be delighted to learn that we can no longer get radio reception inside the house without an external arial, a testament to superior and all-encompassing insulation. On the plus side, it will mercifully, it is to be hoped, keep down our utility bills.

I protest too much; the house is wonderfully comfortable with, again we hope, significantly lower maintenance costs. It has meant cramming in much of the former content of the Old Deaks complex so that we might be compared to a sort of ragged version of Snowhill Manor but never mind, it’s all our own rubbish.

A reduced set of old tin is ensconced in the two garages and I have manged, by and large, to keep my boxes of spares, fastenings and tools intact but alas, without my four post hoist. It might be possible to rectify the situation but I’m not sure I have the energy or inclination (or cash) to try.

As I say, I protest too much, actually it’s pretty good and my new study is a major improvement on the old house. We are, as a family, exceedingly fortunate, for which I am truly grateful.

Power Steering Blues

I’ve probably already said too much about my foray into XK electric power steering (eariler blog) but having fitted the equipment to my ‘120 fixed head, I think I should report a problem. I’m clearly not the only owner who has fitted the option of electric power steering to a ‘120 so someone may have a simple work-around. The electric system is a neat, unobtrusive counter to heavy steering at low speeds but I have found an issue and I’d be delighted if a more experienced head could provide a solution.

The ’120 fixed and drop head cars are fitted with indictors in the side and rear lamps. The signals are activated by a neat, self-cancelling switch incorporated into the top of the manette control in the steering wheel boss. The cars are equipped with a steering box, near a front wheel (left or right). that fits at the end of a long column The centre of the inner column, that does the work, is hollow and through it runs, what Jaguar referred to as a stator tube. This tube runs the full length of the column from the steering box almost to the manette. It is held in place by a pinch bolt at the end of the box so that it does not turn with the steering. Wires for the horn and indicators run through the stator right though the steering box The manette has attached to it, a short tube that slots into the stator so that the manette is held firm and does not rotate with the steering wheel. The control assembly is secured with grub screws that hold the manette in place in the steering wheel boss. 

When the wheel turns, the manette does not, so the self-correcting indicator switch is always at the top, regardless of the position of the steering wheel.

In order to fit the electric motor into the system however, the column is cut and the electric drive inserted so that the stator tube can no longer reach the manette. Thus, it is not anchored in place and so rotates with the steering wheel. This in turn means that the indicator switch rotates with the wheel and is therefore potentially in different places when needed. I have to say that I find this roving switch decidedly disconcerting and difficult to use.

The stator tube is a throwback to pre and early post war SS/Jaguar cars that carried a host of wires for traficators, dipper and horn as well as a Bowden cable for advance and retard. The ‘140, with rack and pinion could not have stator tube and used, to my mind, a rather unsatisfactory vacuum timer. The ‘150 has a more modern solution with a self-cancelling column stalk switch.

Tiger, Tiger

The sad news is that I have done nothing with the Tiger. Just when I thought to take her on an outing and pulled her out into the light, I discovered water pouring out from somewhere that was hard to spot. In truth I feared it might be something bad like a cracked block but it turned out to be a hole in the thermostat housing. Caused, I imagine, by an impurity in the casting.

In any event a replacement casting was found and fitted and all was well. I have to say that the Tiger engine bay isn’t the easiest place to work  I sent the car to my old mate Brian Stevens who sorted out the housing and his body shop, one of the best in the business, realigned the driver’s door that had been driving me crazy. They also took out the rollover bar; I think she looks a lot better.

I’m sorry to say when she arrived home she got shut up in the garage and hasn’t moved since. I’ll try and get to her soon.

Above: Our home in Kent for more than thirteen years - a 1593 hall house. Below: Twenty years in a 1620 Sussex farm house; messed about but sympatheticaly so.

Left: Non standard steering wheel with original horn push and indicator switch above. Centre: XK120 steering box showing fitting for pinch bold to hold  the end of the stator tube. Right: Stator tube with slotted plate to hold the horn indicator manette so that it doesn’t move with the steering wheel.

There is probably a simple solution that can be applied to the ‘120 but I can’t think of one. As quick fix, I have installed a simple column switch but of course without self-correction. One has to rely on the blinking tale-tale in the dash. It would be possible to fit a sounder and I will do so if someone cleverer than me, doesn’t come up with a neater resolution.

Right: Unsatisfactory temporary workaround. Awaiting a better solution.


It’s been quite a while since I updated my website and I have to admit that there hasn’t been a deal of old car activity in the last year. What with the traumatic move to the new house and the sale of our French home of twenty-two years, old motors haven’t featured too much.

However, in May we went along, a little mob-handed, to join the JDC 100 years of SS and Jaguar celebrations.  Kathleen in the F Pace, Lizzie and Jo in the S1 E and me following up the rear in the SS100.

It was brilliantly organised by the JDC. Michael Ballard and Jamie Edwards did an outstanding job. The event started with a gala dinner at the Oatlands Park Hotel. The after dinner speakers were introduced by TV personality Tony Jardine  who introduced John Egan, the former CEO of Jaguar Cars, the man who led the company out of the death grip of Leyland. It was a very special treat also to be addressed by Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace who drove the winning Jaguar in 1988 at Le Mans. Even for cynical old  chap like me it was a magical and memorable evening.

The next day we drove to Brooklands for a massive gathering of SS/Jaguars. Again with me in the SS and my daughters Jo and Lizzie in the E. By all accounts, Lizzie handled the car beautifully.

Perhaps the sour moment of the proceedings was me getting horribly lost in the SS attempting and failing to follow the E that had sat nav. At one point I found myself on the A3 and then the M3. In all I travelled around 75 miles for the thirty-mile journey. A feat repeated on the return journey the next day. I can however report that both cars ran faultlessly there and back. Lizzie is now addicted to the six -cylinder E and Jo to the V12 as the following week she drove the car to the Staplefield Show. It seems I’ve lost two E Types in as many weeks.

Jo and Lizzie looking cool

Right: Two car stealing daughters dressed for dinner at the SS/Jaguar 100 year event.

Top: Tiger without the roll over bar, I think it’s an improvement

Bottom: One can just make out the hole in the housing by the flange at the bottom.

Top: The ill-fittng E Type boot lid. Below: the S3 mirrors, the like to be fitted to the S1.

Lots of Jobs

The jobs are piling up. The S1 E boot lid had a problem; it kept popping open. I spent an inordinate amount of time adjusting the shims and it now stays shut. Unfortunately, it sits too proud so the whole exercise starts again. Also, the fuel gauge isn’t reading right and I’ve obtained a new sender unit that needs fitting. The V12 E has an excellent and beautifully in-keeping set of door mirrors and I have managed to obtain a similar set for the S1. It means drilling holes and, I’m still drumming up the courage.

The poor old ‘140 that always seems to languish in the garage has the same fuel gauge problem but this time, a more fiddly fix necessitating draining the tank, removing a wheel and trying to pull out the old unit and fitting a new one. Putting it back together can be fraught as one needs to ensure that the arm doesn’t foul the tank baffles and above all, make sure the joint doesn’t leak; not my favourite job.

I recently had reason to use the SS after dark so I’m in the process of polishing the headlamp reflectors and realigning the big lights. There is also a strange electrical fault that needs investigation; when I move the advance/retard lever the lamps go out – go figure. There’s work to be done.

The ‘120 fixed head, already discussed above, needs a better solution for the indicator switch. She also has the old American indicator colours of flashing white at the front and red (re-purposed brake lights) at the back. Better Lighting offers a kit, that I had a hand in developing which, I suppose, I ought to fit in order to get amber indicators without fitting extraneous external lamps.

Quite a catalogue of relatively small jobs. Let’s hope I can summon up the energy and enthusiasm  to get on with them.

Below: the impressive lighting array of the SS 100