Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Jaguar E Type: Meeting your childhood heroes

Let's just agree that if you are a car enthusiast, there is probably some point in your life you thought about owning a 1960's Jaguar E Type (or "XKE" as it was referred to in the U.S.).  Well, that was true for me and has been for a long time. Having always loved convertibles, yet fearing old British sports cars, I had considered many options through the years, including beautiful cars like the Triumph TR3A, the MGA, the Austin Healey 3000, etc. But nothing quite was going to scratch the itch of owning a Jag E Type. Well, this year, I finally did something about it.

I went to the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction in January 2017, wit the intent of looking at a few British cars, including an XK-140 and  TR3A. But then I saw several E-ypes in the line-up and figured I could get a good deal.  As it turned out, I should have waited one more car, as a fully-restored Series 1 E Type sold for a very low price. As it is, though, I am very happy with my 1969 (Series 2) 6-Cylinder E Type in red paint with black interior. The Jaguar Heritage certificate shows the the numbers of the engine, frame, transmission, all match as per original factory build. It was originally a Primrose Yellow exterior with Cinnamon interior.  That's nice, but I don't see myself returning it to original. I like the classic red and black.

Someone once said that you "shouldn't meet your heroes"... meaning that you may be disappointed. And in this case, I wasn't sure at first. But after some work to get the brakes in better condition and after some work on the valves and head, it drives smoothly and has nice torque down low. It's a bit cramped, suggesting that the English drivers of 1969 weren't over 6 feet tall (neither am I, so my 5-9" frame works just fine in there). The car was apparently reconditioned back in the late 80's or 90's and it is obvious that these cars didn't have much value back then, because some of the body work was done without the greatest attention to detail or originality. Looks great on the outside, but the underside, particularly of the bonnet, leaves something to be desired.  Details count, but in this case, I bought her to be a car that gets driven, not as a show car.

I do find that the pedal position is a bit odd (slightly to the left of center) and the pedals have a softness that make it feel as if your throttle and brake inputs are muted. But the clutch has a nice take-up and the 4-speed manual transmission is a pleasure to click through.

Overall, this hero lives up to its billing, mainly for its timeless proportions and beauty and its smooth low-end torque. Summertime cruising along California's Highway 1 will be perfect for this one. And oddly enough, without trying, somehow my garage now has three British sports cars in it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon - Gobi (ongoing build updates)

Well, Dave, Car Guy is now also Dave, Jeep Guy.  This one is intended as my camping and fishing vehicle, with some snow/ski expectations as well.  Since I have a good friend that has described for many years the amazing fun of the Rubicon Trail and various Jeep Jamborees, my intent is also to take this on the Rubicon Trail as soon as I can. With that in mind, I have been given tons of advice ny many different people about a few modifications the Jeep may need.

Keep in mind that we are starting here with the Rubicon edition of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (4-door version), so it already has such of the required capabilities straight from the factory. Namely it has fully locking Dana 44 axles both front and back, and it has a sway bar disconnect button to allow for quick disconnect and greater "flex" of the suspension while on the trail. Along with rock rails on the side, various skid plates, and heavier suspension, this Jeep is pretty much trail-ready. But for the extra large boulders and obstacles that might be fun to tackle along the trail, I will be increasing ground clearance with slightly larger diameter tires (315/70/17s) compared to the 255/70/17s that come stock on the Rubicon. I'll also increase the suspension travel and tire clearance (to avoid rubbing when flexed) by adding a small lift kit. I have chosen the Teraflex 2.5" lift with new shocks.  The car was ordered in teh new-for-2017 color "Gobi". I'm pretty happy with the old-school khaki-safari look.

In my very short experience with the Jeep I now realize that there are thousands of ways to spend money and accessorize these vehicles. My needs would suggest I should be looking for some racks to carry extra camping equipment, and maybe some racks specialized to carry my fly-fishing gear.  We shall see.

Because this will be mainly a fair-weather vehicle for us, we ordered it with soft top and half doors.  Day one at home and we first pulled out the removable framed windows from the four doors (easy), then zipped out the rear windows, and ultimately pulled down the top. First accessory order was a boot cover to stow that top so it doesn't look so sloppy back there.

I will update this post with photos after the lift kit is installed with the larger tires soon new wheels. For now, off to the mountains!

Update: My modifications lists growing to include a new bumper and winch. But for now, I added my first piece of aftermarket stuff: the Spiderwebshade SW1-JK-4D "Bikini" mesh top, to keep a bit of the sun off my delicate old forehead.

A few weeks into ownership and I took it to "The 4x4 Shop" in Livermore, CA to have them install a Teraflex 2.5" lift kit (with shocks), Fuel wheels (trophy Matte Black/Anthracite Ring 17"x8.5"), and BF Goodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires in size 315/70/17. the increased travel and clearance should help tackle the trails I am intending on trying.  Looks good, too! Only problem is the step up into the Jeep is now a little tougher and might now require a side-step on the rock guard rail. 

Also, the increased lift now shows in these separation between front bumper and fender, but that will change with the new bumper I have planned!

One of the first "moderate' trails we try is the Slickrock Trail off Highway 4 near Bear Valley, CA. It runs past Lake Alpine and along Silver Creek. We made it to a great camp spot along the creek, but not without having to try out a few key features of the Rubicon, like the push-button detachable sway bars and the front and rear Dana 44 locking hubs. At full articulation, we had some rubbing of tires on the fenders, but other than that, the Jeep knocked our socks off with it's crawling capability! Very happy that I had it lifted (for suspension travel) and added larger tires (for ground clearance).

Getting ready to tackle harder trails requires a bit more body armor and retrieval capacity, so teh next additions are side rock rails to protect the sides under the doors, a heavy duty rear bumper (the stock one is plastic), and a heavy duty front bumper with winch mounts. The front bumper is narrower than stock to allow more room for tires and suspension articulation upon approach to larger obstacles. Bumpers are Barricade Trail Force HD, with bumper-mounted tire carrier in back and mounts for factory fog lights in front. Both come with D rings for recovery work and were slightly lighter weight than some other aftermarket bumpers.

Next modification was teh addition of the winch: a Smittytbilt X20 10,000lb winch with remote and synthetic rope. My installation advice: attach the winch to the bumper first, then install the bumper. I didn't do this, so just trust me on this, it'll save you time and struggles.