Keith’s Blog: Jaguar and Volvo Progress Reports

Last week, I told the tale of taking the 1965 Volvo 122S and the 1971 Jaguar E-type S3 V12 to the Oregon coast. My daughter, Alex, drove one of the cars, and my son, Bradley was a co-pilot.

Both cars failed at the end of the trip.

The pair got carted off to Consolidated Auto Works, where Ed Grayson performed a forensic analysis — along with a mechanical resuscitation.

Here’s what Ed discovered.

In Astoria, Alex had noted that the Jag’s tailpipes were striking the ground. She and partner Ross used baling wire to secure the pipes for the drive home, solving that problem for the moment.

The Jag had run well all the way to the coast and back, a distance of 200 miles. The temperature gauge had never wavered. However, when we pulled it into the SCM garage it puked coolant out of its header tank. S3 Jags didn’t have overflow tanks, as Jaguar decided their cooling systems were so good they didn’t need them. In fact, our S3 had an overflow tank which had been clumsily installed, which Ed had removed (“why would you need that?”).

When I started the car in the garage steam came out of the header tank. Lots of steam. The temp gauge immediately pegged. The next morning Bradley added three quarts of coolant and the car fired right up.

I decided to have the Jag flatbedded to Consolidated. I wasn’t sure what had caused it to overheat (split coolant hose perhaps?) and I had been told that if I overheated the engine, which could cause the valve seats to drop out of the aluminum heads, it would cost over $20,000 to repair it. The towing service seemed reasonable compared to that.

Ed discovered several things. First, the relay that operated the cooling fans had failed. So I had driven back from the coast with no fan. As long as I was moving along, the engine had enough airflow through the radiator to cool it down. Ed also noted that when you have the a/c on, the relay is bypassed and the engine fan comes on automatically.

He installed a new relay, and all was good. However, when the car was up on the rack he made another discovery.

When the car was first delivered to him, he noted that it what looked like all-new polyurethane bushings in the front suspension. Some consider those to be an upgrade.

Evidently they were installed about 20 years ago, when the hubs were changed and Dayton wires installed. The car had barely been driven since then.

After 200 miles of use, every single bushing had disintegrated. All of them, including the A-arm and shock absorber bushings. That was the source of the rattling and clunking that had been developing.

He will replace the bushings with OEM rubber, and that should take care of that problem for the rest of the time that I own the car.

As for the tailpipe, it appeared that the muffler had gotten pushed forwards slightly, perhaps by scraping a speed bump (the car has surprisingly little ground clearance).  Ed was able to push the exhaust back onto its hangers; there was nothing broken.

The car should be back in SCM service by the end of this week — and ready for more adventures.

As a bonus, the seller of the car provided me with the ownership history of the car that he had compiled. A Facebook friend, John Dean, tracked down the original owner (who is 84) and put me in contact with his daughter. She recalled sitting in the car when she was 6 years old, and “once in a blue moon getting to go for a drive in it.”

At the time the Jag was purchased, her dad had six kids, of which she was the fifth. She said, “Imagine that. Six kids and he buys a Jaguar!”

He later sold the car to his son and the trail goes cold there until it was purchased on eBay in 2004. The historical timeline is included below.

From everything I see, the 23,000 miles indicated on this car are original. Specialists Tom Black and Guy Recordon concur that the paint and interior are original. (The pillow headrests had collapsed, another indication of originality. I had them re-stuffed.)

The Volvo has been more perplexing. When we were at the coast, the car would turn over and not fire. Alex pulled out the choke and got it going. It drove all the way home, although I don’t know how well it performed.

Alex wasn’t familiar enough with it to decide if it was running poorly — or if it is just horrendously and ridiculously underpowered compared to the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 she has as her daily driver. That’s one of the benefits of her job at Daimler Trucks North America.

Back at the SCM garage, she and Ross took off in her Benz, and I left the Jag to steam away. When I hopped into the Volvo to head home, it fired up with the same “fainting goat” syndrome it had a month ago. It stumbled and wouldn’t clear its throat. Pulling the choke all the way out made it run a little better, just enough to make it the 1.9 miles home across the Willamette River’s Steel Bridge.

The next morning I got it to fire, and seemed like when I really revved it it cleared up. But rather than try to limp to Consolidated and risk it stalling on the freeways, it was rollback truck time again.

Ed re-routed the fuel line to avoid some engine bay heat and potential vapor lock. He said it started right up for him and ran fine. He suggested that I should not put ethanol gas into it — and avoid overusing the choke. He said this model, with its SU carbs, floods easily, especially when warm.  It has an electronic ignition upgrade which should assist in starting.

The Volvo is back home. Christ Bright, a neighbor in my condo building — and owner of a Ferrari 348 and 1,300-cc Giulia Super Nuovo — came along for a 50-mile drive through the lush Oregon countryside. We ended up by the wooden railroad trestle near Old Cornelius Pass Road. The 122 performed flawlessly. Of course.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market, now in its 33rd year. Keith has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and had his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity. He has received many honors, including the Lee Iacocca Award, the Edward Herrman Award, was inducted into the Concorso Italiano Hall of Fame and more. He is on the boards of directors of The LeMay Museum and Oregon Ballet Theater, and was formerly the chair of the board of the Meguiar's Award.

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4 comments

  1. Keith, Anyone with special cars should buy Triple A Plus towing coverage. It costs about $60 a year. Appleis to any car you are driving and allows for @ 100 miles free towing per incident. There is an 800 # so no searching for a tow company and the services are pre-screened by AAA. I have always found them to be courteous , knowledgeable and careful with my cars

  2. Sorry to hear about the mechanical mis-adventures but glad they both made it home. These seem to be the challenges of Classic Cars and so now they are both better cars.

  3. Aha, the dreaded vapor lock! Know it well! Aluminum heat shields and fuel line heat insulation cool tape definitely help and work! Keep Calm and Rally On!

  4. Keith i worked as parts manager at a Jag dealer in Richmond Va when the V12 came out, in remember walking up to the showroom with him and opening the bonnet and him shaking his head, saying these are going to nothing but trouble…i stuck to me 65 E type coupe! Nough said…Chuck Coli

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