Repair or bodge, the workshop connundrum

Here at Great Escape towers mechanic Darren is on week two of the restoration of one of our 1972 Jaguar E Type convertible cars, which is based on our Yorkshire classic car hire fleet. This car has done sterling service for 5 years as a hire car but in 2011 customer feedback indicated that attention to the bodywork was overdue. At the first opportunity we brought it back to our Worcestershire workshop and set to.

Before Darren joined us in December we had received a quote of £2,600 to do the bodywork. The car was several different versions of Old English White, had the start of a serious rust problem on the front and rear valances and various stone chips that had turned brown and crusty. On firsty inspection this seemed a fair price for what would be a fairly extensive partial restoration.

When we got the car on the ramp at Worcestershire we realised that there was much more involved. The front valance needed cut away and large areas of new metal welded in (we considered a replacement panel but at £775 it was hard to justify). At the back the only sensible solution was to cut out the acres of rust and filler and fit new repair panels. Elsewhere the lower edges of the bonnet had large holes and the doors were going the same way. As with many similar projects, much of this wasn't immediately visible on casual inspection.

Planning out the job we realised that there was at least 10 days of labour, £500 in parts and at least the same again in painting. Either that £2,600 quote was going to be wrong or it was for a bodge. In the worst case it would have ended up being a £5,000 job, the excuse being 'we've found more than we expected.' Having spent £100,000 a year with garages for the last 3 years, this is a common excuse but it just doesn't wash with me anymore. A quote should be comprehensive and garages need to get out of the habit of expecting to change the price because they couldn't get the quote right in the first place. That's why I decided to take everything in-house and set up my own workshop.

So with the car on the ramp we set to work. The E Type was mechanically strong and the underside was refreshingly free of plating. But it had clearly been bodged and nursed along in the past. In particular the nearside rear valance and wheelarch were poorly reprofiled in filler, so we had to chop that all out. We ordered two rear valance panels from Martin Robey which arrived next day and Darren got to work. Fitting the offside panel was relatively straightforward but the nearside one requires the fuel tank to be removed. This is a simple task made complicated by the design of the E Type - removing it is fiddly. The repair panels went on easily and fitted perfectly, Robey even providing a convenient indentation to enable Darren to profile the old and new panels together with a light skim of filler.

The smaller holes on the doors and bonnet were repaired with new metal, leaving a conundrum over the front valance. The rust had destroyed the first 1-2 inches of the trailing edge of the valance on each side, meaning that the wheel arch line was lost. With a replacement panel out of the question we have decided to weld in new metal and then cut to the original wheel arch line using our second white E Type (which is based at our Worcestershire site) as a template.

We have also checked over the mechanicals of the car including overhauling the carburettors and replacing the nearside front manifold. This manifold was badly cracked following a historical bodge repair that had failed again. When we removed it we found the manfold had cracked several times in the past and been rewelded in three different places. V12 E Types have four manifolds, two on each bank, and strictly speaking you need to replace the two in line at the same time. This is partly because the replacement units are not an exact match for the originals. They are very difficult to remove and at £140 a time and based on advice from Jaguar specialists we work with, we decided to trial fit the single one by realigning the other manifold and the exhaust. A bodge? We don't think so. A bodge doesn't work long term, this solution will and it makes use of perfectly serviceable parts rather than replacing them.

There is another week of work before the car goes to the paint shop to be sprayed in a consistently white shade of Old English White.

When finished the Jaguar E Type will go back on hire with Great Escape Classic Car Hire's fleet in Yorkshire. To find out more call 01527 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk/

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