Saturday, 27 August 2011


I've become quite adept at taking the engine with gearbox attached, out of my 140, but it is a monstrous, time consuming and extremely awkward task with the engine lift angle being constantly changed to clear the bulkhead and other bits of body.  So I was quite looking forward to lifting the 120 engine off, rather than out of, the chassis.  Question is, can that lovely alloy sump take the weight of all that iron?  I decide not to take the chance and knock up plywood frame to sit it in.  This in turn sits on a handy, heavy duty trolley, I pulled out of a skip years ago.  Easy now to move around the workshop.  Skimming through my "XK120 in detail" book a few days later, I come across a photo of a the Jaguar factory warehouse full of early XK Engines - all sat on their aluminium sumps!

Looks very "purposeful" without body

Just need to remove the head studs in order to fix the lifting jig.
Something really good about tools that actually do what they say
on the box.  This new acquisition really works.  Also note excellent
"smart -guard" gloves now worn at all times following a spate of
 skinned knuckles, deeply ingrained unmovable grime, broken nails,
various other injuries and infections!

Makeshift lifting jig with balance point guessed at.  What did
we do before they invented uni-strut?

Should have been one slot back - probably, but engine drops
neatly into plywood cradle.

To improve storage options, next job is to split the gearbox from the engine, usually straightforward but not this time.  The bell housing separates around 20mm but refuses to budge any further.  Wood wedges are tried but to no avail.  It can only be the first motion shaft splines stuck in the clutch plate.  I raise the problem on the XK Engine part of the "Jag Lovers" forum (something really odd about that name) and the answer comes back in a trice.  Simply remove the bottom cover from the bell housing and unfasten the clutch pressure plate from the flywheel.  Now - why didn't I think of that!

Something jammed solid in there

Simply turn the bell housing with gearbox upside down and
remove the bottom plate to reveal the clutch assembly.
Undo six clutch cover bolts and bobs yer uncle

Once apart, the clutch assembly slides off the first motion
shaft without difficulty

Clutch plate is stuck solid to pressure plate but I
can't see why this would create the jam.
Engine and gearbox are put to one side until its their turn for attention.  If I decide to fit a five speed which is likely, then I must find the time to clean up the original Moss box and have it checked out at CS Transmissions in Thornaby (Proper expert on Moss Boxes) and fill it to the brim with new thick oil.  Pallet wrap it. Build a wood packing case with appropriate labels, mark it "THIS WAY UP"  and seal it up with all relevant history and info inside.  Hopefully it will stay with the car, and many many years from now some future owner will wonder why anyone could have swapped it for a Mexican Tremec T5!  They will hopefully be delighted to open the case and find the original Moss box, properly documented, in excellent condition and ready to go back in.

Friday, 12 August 2011


If you're reading this for the first time, you probably want to see the blog from the beginning.  You can use the "Blog Archive" list to the right to quickly navigate around.  To find the start, click on 2010 (1) to go to the First Post.  Use the "Blog Archive" list again (2011) to return to here.  Go to the bottom and work your way back up again.  Sorry if this is a little confusing but its just the way that blogs apparently work so, that the latest post is the first thing you see.

I knew for certain from the Dorset Taxation records that KRU600 was first registered to "Maitland" on 20th December 1950.  I also had a photograph that came with the car, of a lady who according to the Boldon Auction House was Mrs Vera Maitland.  Additionally, a brief article in Classic Cars Magazine stated that it was first owned by Mrs V Maitland who may have used the car in the 1950 Exeter Trial and the 1951 edition of Autocar reported that Mrs VWM Maitland of Bournemouth did compete in the trial.
After extensive googling of Mrs VWM Maitland and all possible variations, in desperation I wrote to the Bournemouth Echo asking if they would do a piece about my search for the first owner.  Nothing came of this until August 3rd when I received this extraordinary email.

You contacted the Echo some while ago regarding tracing the original owner of the Jag you are restoring. We will be running a piece on it shortly in our Snapshots of the Past section but, in the meantime, I thought you might like to know that we have contacted the original owner. He is an elderly gentleman called Mr (not Mrs) VWM (Vernon) Maitland who still lives locally. He bought it from Henley's in Bournemouth and remembers it fondly. His number is ###### should you wish to contact him yourself.

Its quite hard to describe the feeling as those words jumped off the page  I can't really express the satisfaction and excitement but it was there in huge dollops!
What is the likelihood of finding the first owner of a car first made and delivered in 1950.  Not just any car but what must have been at that time the equivalent of today's Mclaren F1 - and in 1950, certainly the fastest production car in the world. 
A couple of hours later we were in conversation, mine animated, Mr Maitland's understandably measured, (who exactly was I) but slowly the storey of his ownership of KRU600 and his amazing travels emerged.
Mr Maitland was just 24 in 1950, and the entrepreneurial operator of the Excelsior Coach Company of Bournemouth running 60 coaches.  Now 85 and an OBE, his many travels and exploits included: 
  • 1957 - Coach tours to Moscow, Warsaw, Prague and Vienna.
  • 1959 - Record time trip to Moscow in a coach - Just under 45 Hours
  • 1968 - London - Bombay - London coach trip - 14 days travelling time.
  • 1970 - Coach to Afghanistan accompanied by a Ford truck to recover a rare Hawker Hind Bi-Plane 
  • 1978 / 79  - Round the World Coach tour including South Africa, Australia and USA
  • 1990 - London to Beijing, 10,000 mile coach trip along the "Silk Route" 
  • I am sure by no means a comprehensive list, just a selection of highlights.

Dorset taxation office record.   KRU600 5th entry from top

But, -- Mr Vernon Maitland kept the best bit till last - He has photographs of the car when new and very kindly had them scanned and sent me copies.  

And yes, that is Vernon Maitland in KRU600 doing the 1950 Exeter Trial  
Vernon signing in perhaps.  Note the man in the black cote
with the pipe, presumably lit and around a foot from the end
of the petrol pump nozzle! 
The 1950 Exeter Trial was run on the last Friday and Saturday of the year, the first leg comprising a 150 mile drive leaving at 10.30pm on the Friday night.  Starting from three points, Stratford on Avon, London and Plymouth to arrive at Exeter for the second leg and a 6.00am start on the Saturday morning.  169 cars and 87 motorcycles competed in the second 150 mile stint which included six observed hills concluding in Bournemouth.  Whilst a report exists of the trial, I have not yet found the results.
And what of Mrs VWM Maitland.  A complete red herring!  I can only guess that the entry form for the 1950 Exeter trial somehow said Mrs instead of Mr and all other misinformation flowed from that point.  The photo was introduced slightly mischievously at a crucial point and gave life to the storey.   In retrospect, I'm very happy it turned out to be Vernon Walter Mactear Maitland and I look forward immensely to driving KRU600 down to Bournemouth to meet up in the summer of 2013 for a photo or two.
Erroneous picture of lady with entourage, no doubt carefully
selected with correct period costume. I wonder who it really is?