Blog 23 January 2020

Off Piste

This month’s Off Piste is again a non-automotive topic.



Well, another car gone, this time the Corvette. I have to say , after some initial enthusiasm I had rather lost interest. It’s not that it was a bad car, in fact just the opposite, the more I got to know it, the better it appeared to be. I have to say that I’ve never been a fan of glass fibre although, typically, when the Americans did it, they made a good job of it; the doors, for instance, close with a solid clunk.

There’s no movement on our house sale but, in anticipation of a move, shedding motors is definitely the way to go. When (if) we move it may be time to restock but I think it’s important to use the cars and if one has too many, some never get an outing. The chap who bought my Chevy told me that, based on receipts and old MoTs, I had done less than thirty miles in three years; it doesn’t make any sense.

I have to admit, I rather like my Jaguars and would find it hard to part with the E Type or the XKs. The other day my SS was trailered away to have some work done and even though she’s coming home, I had a pang to see her leave on the back of a low loader. More of that below.

Goodbye to a not so old a friend

SS Gearbox

For quite some time I have been considering making a drastic change to the SS. When she was rebuilt back to standard specification in the seventies, Geoff Roe who did the work, found that the gearbox was pretty much shot. A replacement was unobtainable so he substituted a Mark IV item, which has given good service for forty-five years and no doubt  would continue to do so. What I find disconcerting however is the wide gap in ratios between second and third gears. I’m used to driving old cars so it’s easy for me to cope but it would be nice if my daughter Lizzie was comfortable at the wheel. I have to admit however that this was not my main motivation.

The family of Moss gearboxes are an incestuous bunch. The original box was developed by the Standard Motor Company and fitted to the Standard Fourteen. They gave the design to Moss to make for them and the item, with modifications, found its way into a host of makes. Jaguar, formerly SS, fitted the box to their saloons and to the SS 100. The XK 120, when it came along was also equipped with a Moss of basically the same design. With little or no modification therefore it should be possible to fit a ‘120 close ratio Moss into a ‘100.

I wouldn’t have entertained the idea if my car had its original box but it doesn’t so my idea was to close up the ratio between second and third. I have been on the look-out for a CR ‘120 item for quite some time and apart from the likely prodigious cost, it may not be possible to obtain the reconditioning parts and in any event, prohibitively expensive to have the work done. 

An old acquaintance, also a ‘100 owner, came up with the idea of fitting a Ford Type 9 five speed; he has had the work done to excellent effect, he tell me. I have been playing around with idea of changing the box for a very long time and this week (27/01/2020) I took the plunge and sent the car to Dave Davenport to make the change. Fingers crossed for a positive result.

Ford Type 9 gearbox as used in the Sierra and others

Exploded drawing of the SS box


Staying on the SS theme, another long time idea has been to fit a Prince Michael type leaper onto the ‘100’s radiator cap. There were only two SS cars fitted with this particular mascot. When Prince Michael of Romania obtained a 3½ litre SS 100 as a birthday gift, his car was fitted with a svelte version of a leaping jaguar. His father’s saloon was also given the same treatment. Frankly, the rather diminutive jaguar looks rather lost atop the saloon rad but, in my view, looks just right on the ‘100. SS/Jaguar didn’t offer the PM mascot to anyone else and so only two versions existed. When the Prince Michael ‘100 was sent to England for restoration, the restorer David Barber, made a mould and cast a few more PM leapers. Using one of the Barber copies, others have now been produced.

Not wanting to despoil my car’s original dog-bone and mechanism, I asked Wally Vorlaufer to make me a replica, which he done to a very high standard. Wally is a skilled craftsman working in South Africa, he specialises in SS Jaguar parts and everything I have obtained from him has been excellent. On the negative side his prices are high and the customs duty a killer.

Having obtained the cap, dog-bone and mechanism, as well as a copy mascot, the job is now to marry them together. Watch this space.

The complete Vorlaufer cap and bone with the reproduction PM mascot

The Prince Michael SS100 outside the SS Works

XK140 and early ‘150 rear, orange flashers

My ‘150 is home with its original, rebuilt engine and a Toyota five-speed. I am currently working on adding rear, orange indicators and I’m considering two options. First, a high intensity LED system that is reputed to shine through the rear red lens. My other, more radical approach, is to have a set of clear lenses made using 3D printing. I now have a 3D CAD specification which has already been used to create a slightly cloudy lens. The next step is to use the CAD model to produce a completely clear set. I shall first see how the LEDs work through a standard lens and then fit a clear version, if required. There’s a bit of rewiring needed which I hope to complete next week.

First attempt at producing a clear rear lens. I am told a completely clear option is possible. Watch his space!

LEDs intended for rear lights. The image on the left is intended to replace the standard dual filament incandescent bulb with a red stop and tail light.  The LED on the right is a bright orange flasher unit . They both fit in the Lucas L549 holder. Both are supposed to work effectively  with the standard, red lens.

The Future

A potential house move has got me thinking and I have been wondering what my future stash of old tin might look like. I’ll keep my Jaguars, it would be nice to have a collection of production sports cars and I have a pretty good start with an SS100 at one end and a V12 E at the other. I’d like to add a six cylinder E Type and if a move is ever accomplished and I have the space, I’ll acquire a Series 1 roadster.

I love my Barris ‘120 but it’s hardly archetypal. I think the prettiest XK of them all is the ‘120 fixed head and should like another, having owned a couple in the past. Of course, based on  my current thinking, the Barris is going nowhere.

What of the Auburn and the Lagonda? Good questions, the jury is out. I suppose if someone came along and made me a good offer  for the Lag I’d certainly consider it.

The Mini Cabriolet, owned from new with just 11,000 miles on the clock will stay as it’s promised to an off-spring. For a while I thought about disposing of the Bradford but it’s worth very little and it has great charm so there are no plans for disposal. London to Brighton Commercail Run, here we come – again!