XJC.COM.AU - Paul Tomlinson Coupe Story

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Paul Tomlinson - My Coupe  - 1975 Jaguar 5.3C

THE PLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX
My story starts in June 2002 when, after many years of wanting, I purchased my first Jaguar. It was a 1974 Lavender XJ6-L series 2 in pretty good condition. In August that year I attended the All British day at Horsley Park in my new pride and joy. It was at the All British Day I spotted the most beautiful car I had ever seen, an XJ5.3C in Signal Red, I knew right away I had to have one.

Photo: The 'Phoenix' on top of Mt Panorama, Bathurst 2006
Click on pictures for a larger view.


After telling my wife, Karin that I needed one of these cars (you can only imagine the answer I received) I set about selling the “Purple Pain” and started my search for my new coupe. I answered an ad in the local Bathurst paper for not one coupe but two coupes! A 4.2 6 cylinder and a V12, with the V12 requiring a complete restoration. They were both out of my price range with the almost basket case V12 asking price being around $7,500.00 but I had a look anyway. Well what a wreck was my first thought and I made an offer several thousand dollars below the advertised price, which was rejected by the owner. Several months had passed and still coupe-less when I received a call from the owner of the V12 still wanting to sell, I made an offer and after some negotiations I was the owner of a 1975 XJ5.3C, (2G1131BW) and the adventure into the unknown was about to begin. Some years ago I restored a 1964 Renault R-1135 R8 Gordini and built 2 rally cars in my misspent youth, but this project was to be just that bit harder with my very limited knowledge of Jaguars. At this stage emails to Phil Evans became almost a daily occurrence and continued through the complete restoration. I have named my coupe “The Phoenix” after the mythological creature that is re-born and never dies, as it would appear there have been several attempts over the years to resurrect this coupe. The coupe arrived home on a tilt tray in December 2002 and the parts which had already been stripped came home in the trailer to be sorted, boxed and archived for now. With the amount of rust in the front guards, sills and floor I purchased a 1977 XJ6L for parts and started the restoration.

 

My new XJ 5.3C

Rust repairs completed
& paint stripped

Back from the
spraypainters

Looking good!!

 

The left hand door was beyond help; however I was lucky enough to find one on ebay. I was the only bidder and got it for $20.50 and $40.00 freight and it was completely rust free. I started to completely strip the coupe, engine and all until I had a shell to work on. When it was all stripped I began to repair the rust in the floors and replace the sills. It was then I found the many previous repairs done by “Bodgie Bros”. All of these repairs had to be re-done and the bog, cardboard and chicken wire removed (however there was no structural damage). I removed vast amounts of filler over the next few weeks from places it should never have been and I kept some of the larger pieces as a reminder to weld not fill. With the coupe lightened I rolled it from one side to the other, welding and replacing rusted sills and floor sections. The rust in these sections was caused by the now non-existing ‘S’shaped drains under the rear side windows. If these drains are maintained regularly little or no rust problems should be encountered. (All you coupe owners should go and clean yours out NOW). The ½ inch drains were replaced with ¾ inch ones to ensure good drainage in the future. With the floors and sills now completed and rust proofed I began to replace the rear valance or beaver panel and let me assure you this was one of the hardest jobs I had encountered. The replacement panels have a curve in two directions where the original panel has three and this makes fitting very difficult. An original Jaguar part here is the only way to go if you can acquire one! All the welding repairs took three weeks of full time work and this included reinforcing the jacking points and sills. The next step was to strip all the old paint from the body, this was done using an automotive paint stripper a variety of wire brushes and a lot of elbow grease. The most difficult area was the engine bay where the paint appeared to “laugh” at the paint stripper. While spending many hours in the engine bay I realised that the drip check used in the coupe retained water rather than expelling it, this was evident behind the battery box and brake booster positions. With the body now completely free of rust and paint the whole car was rust converted and primed and the shell delivered to the panel beaters. One year and 338 hours had now passed by. With the body now out of the way I repaired the Swiss cheese fuel tanks by welding patches to the undersides and treating the tanks with POR 15 US standard tank repair which was a slow process however a good seal was achieved. Many weeks were now spent repairing and re-colouring the interior using Leatherique products. Over the next few months many trips to the panel beaters were made in an attempt to hurry the job along, but to no avail. A Jaguar colour was chosen and it was of all colours “Phoenix Red” and after 5 months 1 week 1 day and 2 ½ hours the coupe was painted and came home. While the coupe was away I had also rebuilt the front end and sent all the wiring harness to Alan Taylor of Vintage Wiring Harness in Bellingen. The harnesses came back as new with cut and damaged wires and fittings replaced and all the cotton braid re-done as it was from the factory.

 

Refitting the engine
Jan 2006

It's back - not long
to go now!!

The interior is
finished also.

 

With the coupe at home and well into the second year of the restoration (558 hours so far) it was time to put it all back together. New head lining on the original board, new carpet and re-coloured trim, the coupe was looking good. All the windows in, new rubbers all round and new sill plates (c/- Phil Evans) made the coupe look stunning but it was still a long way to go. I removed the rear end - stripped, painted and rebuilt it. I sent the transmission for an overhaul and soon it was time for the mechanicals to go back in. This coupe had now been off the road for 10 years and during the time I had it, I regularly turned the engine over as the engine had always been my biggest worry. With the help of a Jaguar fanatic in Bathurst, Dave Rowland, we fitted the engine and transmission over a couple of days until the only thing left to do was to start it. With everything in place and fuel pressure checked I excitedly turned the key. It started first go, no smoke or rattles just a lot of noise from the lack of an exhaust system. This was the most exciting part of the restoration, you could not wipe the smile off my face, and I had to tell someone. I rang Phil Evans from the garage and said “Listen to this” then started her up again; the rumble of the exhaustless V12 was now in Phil’s lounge room. How good was this?! I spent the next week or 2 chasing coolant leaks and connecting up the odd loose end, then it was back on the tilt tray and off to have the exhaust fitted. On the 13th of March 2006, 10 years after it was last on the road, the Phoenix was registered. The final restoration tally was 3 ½ years, 1,082 hours of my labor and a total cost of $23,406.00, registered, on the road, drive away with only the fuel to pay. Only a few small problems were encountered over the next couple of weeks and most of them were c/- Mr. Lucas. At last I could attend a National Rally in a Jaguar, so we set off for Newcastle 2006, but that’s another story.

 

National Rally
Newcastle 2006

National Rally
Newcastle 2006

National Rally
Newcastle 2006

On the way home...

 

The Prince & I (Newcastle or bust!)
After spending the last 3 years restoring my XJ5.3C, it was time to get it registered. It was always my goal to have it completed for the National Rally at Newcastle and I was on schedule to make the drive. A month before the Rally I finally had the coupe registered and after ironing out some small teething problems it was time for a longer run, Bathurst to Lithgow. The trip down was uneventful with the coupe purring along the highway to Lithgow. On the trip home the cat coughed up a fur-ball in the shape of the Opus amplifier, a 45 minute trip turned into a 2 hour nightmare. With only 4 days to go before the trip to Newcastle the Opus amp was replaced with a Crane amp and the coupe ran better with the fuel economy dropping from around 20L/100km to 18L/100km (now around 16.5), the miss had gone and all seemed well. As I said, all seemed well. I had forgotten all too quickly about the “Prince of Darkness” - the “L” word. We left Bathurst around 8:30pm to travel to Sydney to stay with my mother and then to meet up with Phil and Ros Evans on Friday morning to travel to Newcastle. As we approached Lithgow the Prince decided to test his system and found the weak link - the head lights, we were in his territory now - Darkness. I managed to get to Lithgow where I was to meet up with an electrician friend to drop off some parts and he wired the relay to keep us going through the night. (Never assume someone else knows more than you!) Twenty minutes later at Hartley we were in darkness again this time with a fried relay to boot, (electricians are not always good with auto-electrics). After a quick look at the situation it was decided to sleep in the coupe for the night as we were too far from anywhere to do anything else and so a quick call to Phil to tell him of our situation and we were off to sleep! (Yeah right) With the two boys in the back and Karin and myself in the front we tried to sleep, well I did say tried. At around 2am the boys were out collecting snails and putting them all on a fence post, (around 120 were collected) and then it was back to the vegetable crisper. At around 5:00am I realised how simple it would be to rig the lights straight to the battery, however the sun was coming up and I didn’t want to leave the warm and comfortable confines of our lodgings (Pinocchio’s nose is growing). 6am and we were off again to Sydney. 9:30am and we were fighting our way through the Hornsby traffic all the way to the Hawkesbury River bridge then it was all good driving to Newcastle. The rest of the trip and the return journey was a pleasure with the coupe running like a 31 year old V12 should with only a few small niggling problems which I will look after during the week. Thank you to Phil Evans and the other JDCA members who were only too happy to help us in our time of need.