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E-Type Restoration.
For the cautious but brave.

In a perfect world, the prospective E-type owner would have a bank balance heaving with bitcoin to facilitate the purchase of a fully restored, road-legal, turn-key car that could then be driven into the sunset on day one of ownership. For most potential owners, this is never going to be an option and, thankfully, there are several other routes to ownership.

Buying a classic which is driveable but requires a little TLC can be an easier way into the E-type experience. Purchasing a car in this form has the advantage of allowing the new owner to take to the road straight away, adding improvements as time and budget allows, but there are many shiny E-types waiting to entrap a new owner into a spiral of disappointment. X-ray vision would be an advantage to see below fresh paint and inside polished cam covers. So, this may be a good way of becoming an E-type owner and saving money, but it’s also far too easy to be swept away in the excitement of the moment and get lumbered with a car which ultimately ends up needing a total restoration. If there is any doubt, take an expert on your buying trip who knows the right questions to ask and where to poke the newly painted body shell.

Buying an E-type for restoration can be a very rewarding experience and will allow the owner to tailor the build to their own specification. Maybe the owner has a favourite colour combination of body and trim and might want to add a few upgrades to make the car more suitable to their own style of driving? It also means that the owner will have full control of the build. There is no short cut to properly restoring an E-type and a certain level of skill is required if all of the work is to be attempted by the owner. Most owner/restorers will distribute various elements of the process amongst trusted specialists. A full E-type restoration will absorb more than two thousand man hours, so the owner will need to be realistic about how much of their own time they can set aside and at just what date on the calendar the project would need to be complete.

“It is vitally important that all of the costings and a project plan is made even before the first rusty bolt is removed.”

The E-type owning community is very lucky in the fact that nearly every part is available for all models, so no car is ‘un-restorable.’ The SNG Barratt website or their sales team can give accurate pricing for all parts required to bring the car to life. When working out costing and hours for a first-time restorer, take the figures carefully calculated, then multiply by two!

Ten years ago, at SNG Barratt Group, we took on a full restoration project as an experiment to create a car using parts from our own stores and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the E-type. We chose the nastiest basket-case we could find, a 1965 Series One OTS. It was bad… very bad! It had all of the issues one would find in a vehicle requiring total restoration, but it was a complete car. Buying a car in this state leaves nothing to the imagination. All of the issues are on show, but a complete car means that all of those hard to find items are present and potentially restorable.

The car was the perfect example of what can be expected when commencing on the journey of a full restoration. The car, which had already been assessed as ‘bad’ turned out to be even worse than initially thought. It is a rare thing indeed if a restorer is presented with the pleasant surprise of a body shell which is better than expected. The body shell in any restoration will often absorb most of the time and cost of the re-build, so the treatment of the shell needs to be approached with a cool head and decisions need to be made early in the reconstruction process on how much of the rusty metal can be economically saved and how much should be replaced with completely new panels. Our E-type body was in dire straits; the stripping process revealed a body fighting a life and death struggle with gravity. All the outer panels exhibited major areas of corrosion with layers of previous poor repairs revealed as the remaining paint was removed. The sills and floor sections, which at first glance looked solid-ish, were in fact paper thin and holed.

“The E-Type as a restoration project is well within the scope of an enthusiastic home restorer with a certain level of mechanical expertise”

With a shell in such a poor state, making patch panels would have absorbed enormous amounts of time and would have led to an unsatisfactory outcome. Unless the restorer has access to some sophisticated metal working equipment, it is always more economical to replace complete panels or sections if available.

Luckily, in the case of any E-type, nearly every panel is available as a full ‘original equipment’ sized pressing or as a substantial repair panel. One third of the E-type’s shell is bonnet, so very careful consideration needs to be given to the choice between rebuilding a rotten/damaged bonnet and the purchase of a completely new assembly. The ready availability of new front ends can again dramatically reduce man hour input. We took the least painful option and passed the car’s remains plus a full set of replacement panels to a specialist welder.

Restoration of the mechanical parts of the E-type are a little more straightforward. It can be assumed that all bushes, bearings and seals will need replacing and are readily available, so these can be considered a fixed cost. There are numerous upgrades available for suspension and steering for the E-type such as Polybush replacement polyurethane bushes, Gaz adjustable dampers and springs and even electric power steering kits to give the rebuilt classic a 21st Century edge.

All replacement engine parts are also available including brand new engine blocks (at a price), so it’s a simple choice between a home rebuild or a trip to a specialist.

To sum up, the E-type as a restoration project is well within the scope of an enthusiastic home restorer with a certain level of mechanical expertise. Careful budgeting and time management is required, but a project of this scale can be taken on, safe in the knowledge that parts availability will never be an issue.

Author: Pete Stant

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