Before actually going out to buy an XKE I took a hard look at four issues and made some decisions on these.
First, I decided what I wanted in the car in terms of model and eventual degree of restoration. I wanted a Series II 2+2 – so that meant I was looking for the least expensive of the various XKE models. I also wanted a nice looking and reliable driver to enjoy on weekends and cruises up the coast etc. So, I was not going for a 100-point trophy winner. That should keep costs down.
Second, I decided I wanted a minor restoration project to work on. I did not want a major rust-bucket with lots of rust removal, cutting, jig work and welding. I also did not want a car that had been modified or ‘customized’. I wanted a car in as original condition as possible, with a matching number engine, correct differential etc. I wanted to maintain the emissions controls and fuel efficiency – so that meant the original carbs and controls. I also wanted to do the mechanical and trim work myself. I would send out for precision machining, body work and paint.
Third, I took a look at how much restored Series II 2+2’s in the finished condition I wanted were selling for and how much was typically spent on the restoration. Now, here is an important consideration. The cost of parts and labor to restore a Series II 2+2 will be just as expensive as the restoration of the much more valuable Series I roadster or the coupe. So, from a dollar and cents perspective it only makes sense to restore a Series II 2+2 if you get the car for a very inexpensive price to start with. On the other hand, if you specifically want a 2+2 and have no real desire to turn it around for a profit this does not matter so much. In my case, I wanted a Series II 2+2 specifically for comfort, reliability and my own appreciation of the looks.
Fourth, I read every book I could get my hands on regarding XKE models, XKE restoration etc. , got hold of various parts catalogs and price lists and used some great online sites. The catalogs (many available in online versions) are generally well illustrated and great for seeing how the cars are put together, what is missing or broken and pricing out the restoration. The I also talked to XKE owners. I got as much information as I could on things to look for, things to look out for and the costs of various bits and pieces. One good thing is that virtually every part for these cars – from drivetrain, to body, to interior – is available…at a price of course.
Having made decisions on what I wanted and how much work I was willing and capable of doing myself, and armed with as much information as possible on car values, restoration costs and specific things to look out for when appraising an XKE for purchase, I was ready to set my target goals and get hunting. In terms of my goal in costs – I was looking to buy a car that would have a purchase price and estimated cost for restoration that was equal to the current purchase price of a solid, unmolested, presentable and reliable driver. Being realistic – and having restored other cars – I knew that the actual cost of restoration would be higher than my initial estimate due to the inevitable ‘surprises’ that arise along the way. However, since the enjoyment of working on the car and actually restoring myself it was part of attraction of getting a Jag – I considered this difference between the potential resale value and the cost of restoration as the ‘price of admission to the fun house’.
As a final point – if you do not have the time, interest or ability to do much of the labor yourself, the cost of any decent restoration will be very, very high and you should get an expert appraisal and restoration estimate of any potential project car before putting your money down. I did see one Series II 2+2 which had close to $30,000 in restoration costs put into it – and had a realistic resale value of perhaps $20,000. The owner was at that point trying to sell to cut his losses. When hunting for classic cars here is an important general truth.
“Low end cars needing extensive restoration are typically priced higher than their true value and high end cars that have been carefully and fully restored typically sell for less than their total cost”
Don’t kid yourself. If you are not going to do the restoration yourself and the fun of doing the restoration is a BIG part of why you are buying the car – look for a car that has already had a good restoration done and enjoy it.
A Few Examples of Readings and Resources for the Hunt (all the books are available used from E-bay, Google, Alibris sellers at reasonable prices)
Illustrated Jaguar Buyer’s Guide, Michael Cook, Motorbooks International
Jaguar E Type: Owners Workshop Manual, JH Haynes and Bill Harper, Haynes Publishing Group
Jaguar E-type: The Complete Story, Jonathan Wood, The Crowood Press Ltd
Jaguar ‘E’ Type Restoration, Jaguar World – Jaguar Enthusiasts Club, Kelsey Publishing Ltd
Original Jaguar E-type: A Restorer’s Guide, Philip Porter, Bay View Books Ltd
SNG Barratt E Type Parts Catalog and Pricelist, http://www.sngbarrattusa.com
Terry’s Jaguar Parts Catalog, http://www.terrysjag.com
XK’s Unlimited Master Jaguar Catalog, www.xks.com
A Very Full Restoration of a 1963 Jaguar XKE FHC , http://www.mckennasgarage.com/xke/
Jaguar Clubs of North America, http://www.jcna.com/
Jaguar Lovers , http://www.jag-lovers.org