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Jaguar XKE E-type Restoration: The Rear Suspension and Brakes 1: Dropping the Exhaust

The rear suspension of the Jaguar XKE (E-type) was a marvel of engineering when developed and has become a popular item to drop into the construction of hot rods over the years. Aside from looking cool, the suspension provides in one solid unit 1. a limited slip  differential, 2. inboard disk brakes that reduced the unsprung weight and improved handling, 3. true independent rear suspension design with two half shafts and four u-joints supplying power to the wheels, 4. each half shaft and wheel assemblage dampened by two shocks and springs, 5. the ability to relatively easily drop the entire differential, brakes and suspension as one unit for servicing. Now, there are drawbacks to the design 1. it is relatively complex with lots of bearings and u-joints etc., 2. any real work on the brakes requires dropping the entire suspension to get access, 3. replacing the four springs and four shocks is time consuming – and must be done carefully as the units are under compression. If someone says that Jag you are thinking of buying ‘needs a little attention to the rear brakes’ – be prepared for a fair amount of adventure getting to the offending units.

I wanted to rebuild the rear calipers, replace the pads, rotors and brake line and replace the springs and shocks. I also wanted to get the drive shaft balanced and replace the u-joints. On the XKE the drive shaft runs in a tunnel through the body and you cannot remove the drive shaft or replace the u-joints without removing either engine and transmission or removing the rear suspension.  Despite the car having less than 40,000 miles. it seemed prudent to rebuild and replace all these items – as well as replacing bushings and the rear suspension mounts. I also wanted to check all the bearings, fittings, differential etc.

Now, the first thing I tackled was getting the old exhaust out of the way. You have to remove the resonator-tail pipe assemblages to drop the rear suspension. As my exhaust was old, rusty and had numerous welded joints it was an easy choice to decide to replace the whole thing with a new stainless steel system. That being the case, I decided not to try and cut free the resonators, but to drop the entire exhaust from the manifold back to the mufflers and resonators as a unit. In theory this is relatively simple as the exhaust runs exposed along the bottom of the car and is held in place by a number of easy to access hangers.  I supported the exhaust and undid the hangers – which were all in good shape and unbolted with ease.  I then undid the nuts holding the exhaust pipes to the cast iron manifolds… and then things came to a halt. No matter what I did, or how hard I tugged or beat on the old exhaust, it would not come free from the manifolds. It was corroded solid. I decided the only sensible way to proceed was to cut the pipes below the manifolds and then take off the manifolds along with the remaining pipe ends.  I was going to replace the exhaust manifold gaskets anyway. Fortunately, the brass (bronze?)  nuts holding on the manifold came off with no problem and off came the manifold with the pipes still stuck in them.

Removing exhaust manifold to drop remains of exhaust system.

I wanted to reuse the original manifolds despite the fact they were missing a bit of the ceramic coating. These things cost about $300 each – and I did not think it worth $600 to replace them. So, I really needed to get the pipes free  from the manifolds. No amount of twisting or beating would budge them. My son helpfully applied some heat to the manifolds while I worked them and eventually we were able to free the pipes. The whole rusty and butchered exhaust system was discarded. AN IMPORTANT TIP- Save the bands and associated hardware that holds the two mufflers together! It turns out that some of the exhaust replacement kits that you can buy do not include these bands. You must have these bands to hold the twin mufflers together and mount them to the car.

Heating the manifold to remove the old exhaust pipes.

Exhaust manifolds with remains of exhaust pipes removed.

4 comments on “Jaguar XKE E-type Restoration: The Rear Suspension and Brakes 1: Dropping the Exhaust

  1. john mcgarry says:

    hi great info, I am in the same position on my series 3 one of the down pipes came off after a few good hits but the N.side hasn’t and i am stuck at the moment. Has anyone any other ideas other than removing carbs and manifolds, which is a last resortfor me..thanks


    1. gmmacdonald says:

      Yikes John – On the 6-cylinder engine the exhaust is on the opposite side of the engine from the intake manifold and the carbs. In addition the exhaust manifold is pretty high up and easy to reach – so access to it all is really simple and very good. In the case of the V-12 you have those two carbs, intake manifold and aircleaners above everything. Plus there is the angle of the cylinder bank. I often find at the end of the day it is easier to take the time and disassemble to get proper access when something is stuck. However, just looking at all the ‘plumbing’ on top of those V-12 engines makes me dizzy and I have not worked on them – you have my compliments and admiration for taking one of those on!


  2. john mcgarry says:

    hi mac, Thanks for the sympathy, since writing i have got the front pipe off without removing all the top parts. after much bashing left to right and right to left, from under my car to no avail, it came to me that a downward hit would be worth a try if i could get a clear hit. I fashioned a metre long peice of hardwood 1inch by 2inches and fed it down through the maize near the carbs and got a good position on top of the pipe and after about 10 good blows with my club hammer the pipe flew off and shot across my garage. I was pleased as punch. I have now got the new down pipe on and tight but that was no mean feat as the after market part was slightly out of line and the nuts are near impossible to get at. These 2 front pipes have taken me about 12hours to replace I hope they do not leak when i start up be a few weeks yet as have the rear suspension to do while exhaust is off.. be lucky john


    1. gmmacdonald says:

      Good to hear you got the downpipe off without having to pull all the carb plumbing! Great. As it happens – I tried the ‘downward force’ option on getting the Series 2 pipe to separate from the exhaust manifold. It is easy to put a 2″ x 2″ piece of wood down from the top of the manifold area and wedge it against the turn at the base of the downpipe. As we were not keeping the exhaust pipes – it would not have mattered that we were going to bash this section downward. In any case, after a number of good downward smacks with a weighted hammer – no luck. The pipe would not budge out of the manifold. Hence why I cut the pipes and then pulled the exhaust manifold off with the section of pipe still in it.

      I am glad you were able to get your exhaust off without further drama! I figure those 12 cylinder E-type engines are enough to handle without any extra adventures. Good luck with it!


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