I was a little indecisive about what part of the car to tackle next.  The chassis and running gear is almost complete, so I decided to work on the engine alongside it as I’m waiting for some parts to complete the brakes and steering.  The engine/gearbox is an enormous and extremely heavy unit, far too heavy to manhandle around the garage.  So much so, in fact, that I needed to build a custom dolly to enable me to work on it without the risk of falling over and causing damage to itself or me!   So, this is where I’m at currently.

When I bought the car, I did consider attempting to start the engine after performing some basic maintenance work.  Given that it’s not run for probably 30 years, I decided maybe that wouldn’t be the wisest decision, as the oilways could be blocked or any number of other issues which could cause the engine to self-destruct.  So, I intend to partially strip it down initially, and make an assessment based on what I find then.  The crank rotates freely and it feels nice and snug, but it’s obviously impossible to really know what’s going on in there until it’s taken apart.  I’ll be wheeling it outside to clean it up first.  Then it will be off with the carbs and ancillaries before taking off the heads and revealing the bits that will decide whether it’s a simple rebuild or if it will require a re-bore and new oversized pistons, along with the cost that’s associated with it.  Fingers crossed!

OK, the car is now a rolling shell at least, with the steering complete and just the brake calipers required to finish it off.  I’m holding out on those as they need either new sleeves fitted, which I am unable to find anyone to do at the moment, or to replace with new units which is mighty expensive.  There’s no rush for them, so I’ve put them on the back-burner for now. So, with a line drawn under the rolling shell, the next on the list is to tackle the engine. 

I stripped off all of the ancillary items without too much trouble, ensuring I took plenty of photos of each component and carefully labelling everything in readiness for its reassembly.

The rocker chamber looked in good shape, but the next step would dictate my workload (and expenditure!) for the next year, so it was with great apprehension I undid the head bolts and started to remove the first cylinder head. It came away surprising easy and didn’t require any ‘persuasion’ at all. 

Firstly I inspected the bores.  These four are perfect, even the piston ring threshold was barely visible, and I couldn’t feel it at all with the fingernail test.  Great news indeed.

The next thing to look at was the cylinder head.  These are made of aluminium and if the car hasn’t been well maintained, and has been topped up with straight water instead of the correct coolant, then the channels erode badly and this can creep into the combustion area.  This is very bad news indeed, as can make them totally unusable. 

Well, the last owner had obviously been conscientious with the servicing because the corrosion in the head was minimal.  A BIG sigh of relief. I had to end my work there for the day, and will tackle the offside head tomorrow, but from what I saw with the nearside head today, I am hopeful that it will be of a similar condition.  I drove home tonight with a big smile on my face.  A good day, a very good day!

So tonight I removed the second head and was pleased to find that this too, along with the pistons/bores, was also in great condition.

I carried on and removed more of the engine components until I praised off the tappet chest cover to expose the camshaft and followers.  Hmmm, not so good there.  The camshaft has a few lobes that have suffered some corrosion. Not the end of the world, and far better than the bores/heads needing work, but not ideal.  Fortunately the cam followers have not been damaged at all, so will be re-used.  At least it’s just a case of buying a replacement/used item and fitting it, no engineering work required.  Corrosion damage like this is caused by condensation in the engine, usually from short trips, but because it’s so severe in this case, I think it is more likely to have been because the engine has been laid up for so many years.

So, a new (or rather ‘different’) camshaft is on order and it’s time to check out the crankshaft and big end bearing shells. 

The crank journals were perfect, both for the main bearings and the big ends.  Very happy about that indeed. Next to check the actual bearing shells.

They were (almost) all perfect too.  All of the big ends and most of the mains were good (above), but the centre main bearing shells (below) show a little bit of wear. So out of thirteen pairs, just one pair showed wear, and even that was only just a little bit of the copper breaking through at the edges. There were no scratches, groves or damage at all. All three pairs of centre main bearings have a reputation for being the first to suffer in a worn engine, but I appear to have escaped lightly which gives me some confidence that it hasn’t done too many miles.  I’ll replace all of the shells now as a matter-of-course, but they certainly would have held out for quite a while yet.  The effort involved to remove and strip the engine, it would be foolhardy not to use this opportunity to replace them with new.

Time to give the engine block a clean-up.  I had already checked for damage and there is none.  The water jacket was however, very murky inside.  The rust had built up on the internal casting, and needed a good cleaning.  It wasn’t so bad to cause any blockages, but it will certainly help with cooling now that the water can travel unimpeded around the cylinders.  I used a length of 6mm steel wire to push around the insides where a screwdriver wouldn’t reach.  It’s ideal to use as it frays in use and acts like a chimney sweeps brush.  Eventually it gets too frayed, but you just chop off a few inches and start again. I also popped out all of the core plugs to give myself better access to the water jacket, and it’s wise to change them while the access is good anyway.

The resultant gloop spilled out of the lower core plug hole. Nice……  I guess it will take a few water flushes to remove the remaining residue from the system, but I’ll wait until it’s back together and the system is sealed to do that, before filling with the correct coolant mixture to prevent any reoccurrence.

Before I can start on the reassembly, the final job is to clean the pistons.  It’s a rewarding job to see the transformation as you remove the years of carbon build up and the bright alloy reappears.  Well, it’s rewarding the first time, the downside of it being a V8 is that there are a further seven to go…

The piston rings were all pretty good, just one had gummed up and needed a little bit effort to remove.  I checked each ring in the bore, and they were all just a smidge outside the tolerance of 0.009 to 0.014 inches.  Most were about 2-3 thou over that, with the gummed up one a bit worse at 0.021 inches.  I’ll measure the bores later but I’m hopeful that it’s the rings that have worn as there doesn’t appear to be any lip in the sleeve at all.  Everything on the engine so far has been standard sizing, so it’s never had a cylinder rebore or a crankshaft regrind.

Well, things were going well with the strip-down.  Too well.  I guess I was pushing my luck too far to expect that the camshaft would be all that was damaged.   I removed the heads and they looked ok upon initial inspection.  The main area that these alloy heads suffer damage is around the water channels.  They corrode due to lack of, insufficient or incorrect antifreeze being used.  This becomes a problem when it extends past the perimeter of the head gasket seal, and in severe cases can even breach the wall into the combustion chamber.  This was obviously the first thing I checked.  Both heads are fine in this regard, so I was at that point very pleased. 

The top of the first head also looked to be problem free with no slack in the valve guides after removing the springs.

This is where I lucked out! The OS head also has intact water channels, but upon turning over to clean the rocker chamber I was faced with two cracks in the alloy.  Arrrrrggghhhhh!

That’s put a massive spanner in the works. This damage is above the water jacket in the head and is caused by the water turning to ice and expanding in the cavity.  With nowhere to go, something has to give, and in this case it was the alloy head. So now I am faced with one of two options.  One, buy a replacement head or two, get this one repaired.  I have seen repairs made to these heads, and it seems a reasonably common failure point. Here are two that have been done that I found online.

I’ve made some enquires and I can find a replacement head, but it’s not cheap.  I’ve emailed a few places for a repair quote but no reply yet.  I’m still waiting for the main bearing shells and piston rings to come back in stock, so I’ll crack on with cleaning and preparing the other engine components.  First up is the sump.  I was not looking forward to this, and it took two days. The outside was covered in rock hard, oil coated mud and the inside floor was full of congealed oil, which had the consistency of yoghurt. What a messy job.  I don’t have any ‘before’ images, but it looks in reasonable shape now.

I had a reply from a local engineering firm to say that they would take a look at my head as they were quite confident that they could weld it for me.  Within 24hrs the head was back with me and I was heading home having paid what I consider a reasonable fee for the privilege.   They had to chase the crack a little as they welded, and this meant that there’s a little excess metal in the pushrod tube.  These are oversized, but I may need to trim a little away to get the end of the pushrod through. I will have to wait and see.

In the meantime, the bearings and rings have arrived, so I can start on the rebuild soon.  Before that though, everything needs cleaning.  The crankshaft of the V8 is unusual because in each big-end cavity, there is a sludge trap where any particles in the oil are collected due to the centrifugal force when the engine is running.  Sometimes there are spoonfuls of the stuff!  To gain entry to these, there are four plugs which need to be removed.  They are renowned to be a PITA to remove as the threads are peened over in the factory to prevent them coming loose.  In an attempt to avoid taking them out, I instead flushed the oilways with copious amounts of WD40 and used a flexible cable to dislodge and dissolve any sludge.  But in the end I decided that I wouldn’t be confident that a stray piece would block the oil feed to the bearings with disastrous consequences.  So, I used a Dremmel drill to remove the burr from peening and they came out reasonably easily, with just one suffering a little bruising of the hex socket from the allen key.  I had been wise to be so thorough as there were still a couple of little bits of clay remaining, hardly anything but at least I can rest easy knowing they are now absolutely clean.

I wanted to ensure that the threads were perfect and that the plugs did not create any swarf when they were reinserted, so I ran a plug tap down the thread to clean them up and clear any remaining debris.

Some more cleaning and polishing done on some of the remaining components.  I actually did a better job than this on the valves, but this was a capture half way through. I’ll post some completed ones when they’re back in the head.

The valve train (rockers) all ready to go. Interestingly some are steel and some bronze, or at least that’s the colour of them.  All have hardened tips for the valve contact areas though, which did need a little polishing to remove the wear marks.


I was looking forward to polishing the rocker covers, because polished alloy can look so good.  My enthusiasm soon subsided though when I remembered just how hard it is.  Here are a couple of before/after split shots.  I think the effort was worthwhile, now that my arms have recovered.


I won’t be needing any of the above polished ancillaries for some time, but I think I turned to these frivolous items because I am quite nervous of starting the re-assembly of the engine.  These engines are not easy to come by, and the costs involved in rectifying any serious mistakes could push back the restoration by years. So I am fully aware of the importance of getting things right, first time. We are not at home to Mr Cock-Up.

I forgot to take photos of the shells and crank prior to assembly, due to the pressure I think.  Anyhow, it went in quite well and I used some assembly lube along the way to ensure the bearings are not running dry on the first start-up.  The only issue was when I fitted the rear cap which is incorporated into the oil pump.  Back in the day, instead of a rubber oil seal on the crankshaft, most cars used a rope (yes, that’s right….a rope!) that fitted in a groove in the block and cap to prevent oil loss. This is supplied in its raw state, and needs to be fitted and compressed to the correct size before fitting the crank.  Well, I didn’t have the correct part, and so instead used the crank itself to act as a sizing tool.  It was initially very tight indeed, but after an overnight settling in period and removal of the very thick lube (I used a thin oil instead) it became far easier to rotate.  I’m happy with it now but would have been uncomfortable leaving it so tight that it could mask any other issues.  I have heard of people using two batteries in parallel to start the engine for the first time due to a tight rope seal!

So with the crank in and torqued down, time to insert the pistons. 

The original pistons were re-used as the bores were not worn, but it would seem churlish not to go to all of this effort and not replace the rings.

Here piston number 1 is being fitted using a piston ring compressor to ease it into the freshly honed bores.  The new compression rings do have some manufacturing tolerance and I had to try a couple before finding the best fit, no problem with the oil control rings, they are a loose fit anyway. The compression rings though, are tending to be a bit long (tight) but the instructions state that the ends should not be filed to fit.  I’m unsure what I’ll do if the last couple don’t match the bores.  I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. 

So here they are, all pistons in and all rings fitting within tolerance. With no option other than to file the ends to fit, I filed the ends to fit. I can’t see I had much option really.  ‘Gapping the rings’ by filing the ends is how they’ve been done for decades, so not sure why my rings said not to on the pack.  Anyhow, they’re in now.

With everything now torqued down and all tab washers bent over, it was time to put the sump on.  There is no gasket on the flat areas, just a rubber tube at each ends for the semi-circular seal.  These were a right pain as they appear to be too large in diameter and there seems to be too much rubber to squash down.  I did it in the end, but was quite difficult.


Next I fitted a new worm gear for the oil pump and distributor (well, it wasn’t brand new, but almost!) Mine had worn a bit as the gear is made from brass against the cast of the camshaft.  Here’s the difference.

There would have been a fair bit of play, but as the shaft is only ever driven, it doesn’t matter too much.  More importantly though is that the ends of the teeth can get very thin and eventually break off.  Compare the thickness of the two above.

I then fitted the shaft with the new gear into the block and down into the oil pump.  Hmmm, something wasn’t right.  It was free 90% of the way down, then the last bit tightened quite a bit.  I didn’t know if this was normal and neither the manual nor the internet gave any clues.  No option but to remove the sump, the one that I just had so much trouble getting on!  When it was removed, I could see that the shaft of the drive was not quite central on the input tube of the oil pump.  The pump sits on the block and is fastened by three bolts.  There is no adjustment to be made, so I wasn’t sure how to go about centralising the two.  Fortunately, the tolerances at Daimler back in the day were not as good as now, and after slackening the bolts I was able to tap the body of the oil pump gently around with a hammer which gave me the fine adjustment I needed.  Everything is now smooth as silk and I’m much happier and glad I decided to investigate.

So with the sump back on, it was time to fit the camshaft.  I bought a replacement as mine was too badly corroded to use.  The one I bought was much better, but not like new.  The lobes and journals both have a very slight amount of pitting, although for a 55 year old car, I think I’m just being fussy.   So I phoned for a price for a new one, £850.  Suddenly the pitting didn’t seem so bad after all.

I coated the journals with assembly lube and popped it in along with aligning the worm gear for the oil pump and reattaching the timing chain/sprockets.  These were perfectly usable and showed no real signs of wear.  I had taken photographs of the timing marks and sprocket positions before disassembly to ensure that they were reassembled correctly.  The consequences of getting this wrong could be disastrous.




After fitting the tappet chest cover, the heads were the next to be fitted.  They were true and flat, which I was pleased about, and only required a smooth over with 600grit to make sure they would mate well with the gasket.  I had already assembled them and lapped in the valves.  It’s been a while since I’d lapped valves and I’d forgotten what a pain the arse it is, especially with 16 to do.  Some of the valve seats had a small amount of pitting which needed them to be recut, but only by a very small margin and it only took a couple of turns of the tool to be deep enough to make them like new.  A last check that there was no debris remaining and a blow out with the airline, and on they went. 


I made the job of adjusting the tappets a whole lot harder for myself because I’d pre-fitted the sparkplug tubes on the bench.  This restricted the access to the locking nuts on the inlets.  In hindsight it would have been far easier to adjust the tappets before fitting the tubes, but it wasn’t worth the effort of breaking the new seals and sealant just to do this.  So, I struggled through.  The head bolts are not the stretch variety, so I was able to re-use the old ones.  Another advantage of non-stretch bolts is that they don’t require re-torqueing after 500 miles, which will save a whole lot of work removing the rocker covers again.

The duplex chain here was replaced before refitting the tensioner and cover. The old one, despite not having stretched out of tolerance, but it did have some corrosion so it was replaced to avoid rapid wear to the chain wheels.

The inlet manifolds are alloy, which always (well, almost always) comes out well after a clean-up.  I wire wheeled most of the crud off, and media blasted the remaining inaccessible areas. I will of course, thoroughly clean before fitting to ensure no media remains in any of the cavities, which would be catastrophic if ingested by the engine.

The first of the ancillary items to be tackled were the carburettors.  They were dirty but after a quick clean in the ultrasonic cleaner, they came out quite well.  I was a little sceptical about using the parts washer, but I was surprised how effective it was.  Very contaminated parts still require a little brush after cleaning, or even a second dip in the bath.  They are reasonably priced on the internet and a worthwhile purchase if you have lots of work for it to do.  It cleans the internal, inaccessible areas too, which is quite important for items such as carbs.

These are the HD6 version of SU carbs, and the D denotes they are diaphragm carbs.  There is a small rubber disk in the bottom which moves vertically when the choke is applied.  Because the car had been standing for so long, these rubber parts have become very hard and inflexible.  They are not extortionate to replace, but not cheap either.  After a search online, I discovered a way to rejuvenate the rubber is to soak in a bath of DOT3 brake fluid.  At less than a tenth of the price of new diaphragms, it’s worth a shot. It takes 3 – 4 days to penetrate the rubber, and they are currently soaking away.  The rest of the carbs have been assembled loosely so that I can progress with the rest of the setting up of the linkages etc.

Before I finally fit the carbs, there is a water pipe connection to the manifold, which is almost impossible (with my gnarly old hands at least!) to fit afterwards.  So I’ll get that on, along with the rest of the pipework so I can run the engine wet.  This means that I confirm that it is leak free before refitting into the car.  The old pipework was made up of a combination of rubber connectors and metal pipe sections.  These inevitably rust to nothing, so I will be replacing much of the waterways with copper plumbing pipework instead.  It’s a common upgrade/modification and far cheaper than genuine Jaguar replacements.  So that’s next……

So I’m at the point where everything (except the distributor) is back on the engine.  I’ve refitted the dynamo bracket after deciding not to upgrade to an alternator.  The bracket to convert is almost a £100 on its own, and I found a cheaper alternative.  It’s a Dynamator, a cross between a dynamo and alternator.  Yeah, I know it sounds like a made-up name, but it’s a genuine thing.  It looks identical to the old dynamo, but the insides are replaced with more modern components.  This is good for two reasons.  Firstly as it looks original, so it keeps the purists happy.  Not really an issue for me though, but what is good for me, is that it utilises the same old mounting bracket. I’ll also be converting the car to Negative earth, so I can fit modern electrical components and hi-fi.

Anyhow, everything is back on and the first test was to crank the engine over.  Not to attempt to start it, but just to see if the engine was loose enough for the aging starter to cope with and also to confirm the oil pressure was ok with no leaks.  I had already primed the oilways and filled the oil filter bowl by filling them via the output hole for the oil pressure gauge.  It’s a small hole and not designed for passing a lot of fluid, so it took a while.  I refitted the oil gauge and connected some sturdy cables to an old battery that I had kept when replacing it from my daily car.  It’s not 100%, but good enough for this test and I’d charged it overnight.  I removed the spark plugs so that the compression wouldn’t make turning it over even harder.   I held the cable on the battery terminals and the starter motor did its thing.  The cranking speed wasn’t fast, but after a few moments the oil pressure gauge started to rise.  It managed to get to 25 psi before the battery finally gave out.  Given the slow speed it was turning at the end, I think that’s fine. 

I want to run the engine on the dolly as I’ve mentioned before, but so I don’t annoy the neighbours, I need to fit a pair of silencers.  I had one, but needed to get another.  Fortunately, my local National Tyre branch had one in their scrap skip.  They were more than happy to give it to me, but I felt a right pikey asking for it!  Embarrassment over, I headed home to weld them both on.


Yes, not pretty, but they are only temporary.  The gearbox is also temporary.  I only refitted it to make it the engine more stable when I try to run it.  Next job is to finish the distributor and then it’s the big moment that I’ve been excited for and dreading in equal measures …….…. 


So, I completed the distributor.  It does still need some work, but not essential to its operation.  There’s a spring-steel arm with a felt pad on the end that lubricates the cam, but I broke it.  I tried a replacement spring from a spare set of points, but I couldn’t drill a hole in it easily.  So, with the excitement of actually starting the engine, I didn’t bother to fit that part and continued with the important stuff.  The points were adjusted to the handbook specification, but I needed to cut my 0.015” feeler gauge in half as it was too wide to fit in the aperture of the points. So, yet another tool ‘modified’ for a specific job.  I refitted the distributor and hooked up the HT leads, ensuring they were in the correct sequence.  Nothing left I could use as an excuse to put off the inevitable any longer.  With my spare battery ably assisted with the good one on my car, I cranked her over until the oil pressure rose.  Then, it was out with the fuel and a can of ‘Easy Start’. After about 20 seconds of cranking, whilst simultaneously rotating the distributor to find the correct timing, she sparked and stalled.  A further couple of cranks and she was at last running.  I had to use the throttle arm and choke to keep her running at that point, but I was soon able to use just the throttle.  The funnel of fuel soon ran out and I adjusted the ‘slow running screws’ to increase the tickover in readiness for the next start.  A quick on-the-fly adjustment and she was soon ticking over slowly and smoothly and was soon at operating temperature.  To say I was jubilant (and bloody relieved!) would be more than putting it mildly.  I’ll still need to tune her properly, but for now the aim of the exercise was complete, although I did run a few more funnels of fuel through because I was so excited.  Plus I wanted to get a good video of her running.  (No video? It didn’t happen, yeah?)  I did try to embed the video, but MS Word is having none of it, so if you want to see the engine running, you’ll have to click the link below -


So, that’s probably enough excitement for the weekend, and the next job is to remove the gearbox again and start the rebuild of that.  It’s a Borg Warner BG35 Auto gearbox and I’ll be armed only with the Daimler manual and what I’ve read on the internet. What could possibly go wrong!