The Leprosy Special








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Jaguar Clubs of North AmericaJCNA Home
The
Leprosy Special


by Larry Schear,
Delaware Valley Jaguar Club

 

DVJC Editor's note: Last year member Jim Shields wrote a JCNA award
winning article for the Purr entitled "A Restoration Tale".
The car he restored was a 1950 XK 140 DHC that he had purchased some
30 years ago from Larry Schear, an original club member. Jim knew the
car was known in the club as the "Leprosy Special" or alternatively
"The Truck". wrote " I was not prepared for the sight
as the body filler was removed. The shut face panel and rear fender
were held in place by a lattice of welding wire, brazing rod and pounds
of body putty.. Plus the door and sill were rusted out but well camouflaged
by filler." So here is Larry Schear's side of the story.

 

OK, Mike - Jim Shields has shamed me into finally writing a 'column'
for The Jaguar's Purr"! As the owner of the self-named "Leprosy
Special", also called "The Truck" by co-founder J. Richard
"Dick" O'Kane, then-Editor of "The Scratching Post",
I feel that all current members should be subjected to the following
'pre-quel' (if George Lucas can do it, so can I).

Long, long ago, in a land far, far away (Trenton, NJ), a young man
(Abe) from The Bronx bought a used car from his brother Sol. 'Twas a
1939 Studebaker President, a good deal after The War, and ran fine for
a few years. Engine problems led Abe to a shade-tree mechanic, who incorrectly
'fixed' a blown head gasket, and Abe decided to trade it in. He received
the best deal, predictable, from the local Studebaker dealer, and his
young family was saddled with a 6-cylinder 1950 Studebaker Champion,
olive green in color, with a vacuum-operated windshield wiper, 3-speed
on the column, starter button UNDER the clutch pedal (logical - depress
the clutch to disengage the transmission in order to start the engine!)
and a huge shiny chrome bullet-nose in front. This was the car I was
most familiar with during my 'formative years' and, hence, is partly
responsible for my somewhat warped outlook on life and motorsport; with
a base reference as a Studebaker, anything else becomes both possible
and desirable!

Dad taught me to drive on that thing, spending 2 months behind the
old Trenton Fair Grounds on the dirt lot the bus company used to turn
around at the end of the Greenwood Avenue line. When it was time to
acquire a second car, it was, predictable, yet another Studebaker! Eventually,
after 13 years of loyal though dramatically under-powered service, it
was time to 'retire' the '50, so we swapped it, with 80,000 miles, for
a '55 Studebaker Commander Sport Coupe (the 'good' 2-door 238 V-8 model),
also with 80,000 miles! Hey, it was 2-tone, and looked good! A friend
at college bought a '54, and then traded up (?) to a '53, which I bought
after my own first car went west after 23 hours following an engine
rebuild (it was a Fiat 600, and I reseated the head valves on my Dad's
workbench and then toted it to the car (which was in Princeton) on the
package frame of an English bicycle!). Bought a 'parts' Fiat, replaced
the engine, and promptly traded it in on an English Ford Cortina (and
then another for parts), onto which I grafted a sunroof from a Peugeot
504. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? I was destined to own
a Jaguar ('kit')!

Whilst seeking under-the-bumper factory fog lights for the '55 Stude,
I stumbled on a Jaguar XK-120 OTS! Returning from acquiring a replacement
tree and front fork for my '47 Indian Chief, (1300 cc / 80 cu. In.,
with full fender skirts!), I stopped in to a Studebaker dealer just
north of Vineland, NJ, where I saw a beautiful (to my eye, then) green
XK-120 Jaguar. I was allowed to take it out for a test drive, leaving
my '55 Studebaker as collateral, but found that there was a fuel leak
in the Jag, and I had to contribute a whole dime's worth of gas to the
car to get back to the dealer (one might note that I began to drive
during a gas war in Trenton, and, to this day, I consider $0.149 to
be a fair and appropriate base price for gasoline!). I liked the concept,
but not the car (stupidly, because of the gas leak - Hey! It cost me
a whole Dime!), and decided to start looking for one.

Mr. Reedman (Reedman Motors, in Langhorne, PA, opposite the Langhorne
Speedway), sold Jaguars, and one day I saw an ad in The Trentonian (local
fish-wrapper) that said he had a Jaguar XK-140 'Convertible', whatever
that was. I drove out to Reedman's in a light rain, saw the car, took
it slipping and sliding (out of control, but only a little bit, then!)
on Reedman's famous Test Track (the salesman was prudently wise in not
choosing to ride with me), thanked the salesman for the opportunity,
and went back to my car. I started it up, backed up about an inch, realized
that the Jag was neat, turned off the ignition, and went back to leave
a deposit. That night I managed to convince my Dad of the wisdom of
getting me off 2 wheels (I was riding a Triumph 650 6T Thunderbird at
the time, having borrowed Mom's car the night before (2 wheels isn't
too great in the wet), and promoted a loan from him until the bike was
sold. The next day, I gave Mr. Reedman $500, and he gave me a new way
of life!



The car was a black XK-140MC DHC, which meant it had a wood interior,
wire wheels, dual exhaust, a "C"-type cylinder head, 210 horsepower,
4-speed (non-synchro first gear), roll-up glass side windows, fog and
driving lights, and a flip top. It also had 'trafficators", a "facia",
an under-hood (whoops! "Bonnet", from now on!) valve marked
"air conditioning" in the owner's manual (go look!), wings,
a boot, and a "plinth"! It also had Reedman's famous 100/100
warranty (100 feet or 100 seconds!). Turns out it was quite reliable
for a number of months, uncharacteristically so. I heard about a newly-forming
group of Jaguar owners from a friend, went to their first formal meeting,
and responded favorably to a guy who stopped in the street in front
of my parents' house who "made me an offer I couldn't refuse!"
He wanted to swap his XK-150 disk wheels for my wire wheels, and give
me $100 in the bargain! Neither of us realized at that time what would
be involved in such a transaction, so we started to work in the street.
Two days later, when we were finished beating on the rear hubs to remove
them from the respective rear axles, we both drove away happy; I now
had only $100 invested in my car!

Responding to an invitation from the Empire Division, JCNA, our newly-formed
club, the Delaware Valley Jaguar Club (DVJC, but you knew that!), decided
to participate in their twice-annual competition weekend at the Lime
Rock Park, CT, racetrack. We all made plans to meet up there, but, as
it turned out, I was the only one who managed to make it! I spent 2
nights in the Ironmaster's Inn and learned to drive my car a bit more
safely and enthusiastically than before. I was fortunate to have two
of the Empire Club's finest as my early instructors - Hans Peter Schmidt
and Al Garz. Al was an ex-Indy racer, who owned and operated Speedway
Motors on DeKalb Street in Brooklyn, with his son Bob, and Peter was
his competition protégé' (Al built an XKE Lightweight
replica for Peter, who drove it fast and obnoxiously well!. In fact,
it was almost a lightweight, but it was an open car, not a streamlined
coupe, but I learned the difference many years later!). I took a third
place in one of the competition events (no, I don't remember which one;
the trophy is packed away somewhere in a box in The Big Garage!), had
a blast, met some great, long-lasting new friends, and returned home
in triumph (lower-case).

A few weeks later, when we held our first Concours d'Elegance, I entered
my car with the masking tape (for safety) still on the headlights, with
a hand-lettered sign (made by Dad, so it was legible!) on the windscreen
which read, "On (appropriate date), this car upheld the honor of
the Delaware Valley Jaguar Club in combat with the Empire Division,
JCNA, thus keeping them from a clean sweep of the field. 'Beauty Is
As Beauty Does!'" I follow that motto to this day, believing that
the purpose of the cars is to GO, with SHOW being secondary. During
succeeding years, I occasionally entered it when needed to fill out
a class to help ensure enough participation so that those who deserved
trophies for exhibiting well-preserved or restored cars could earn a
trophy, if appropriate. I later DID put together a fine-looking XK-140MC
DHC, burgundy in color, with a black top, that did win a trophy.

One day, when I went out to the garage to start the car, I noticed
a lack of oil pressure, so I quickly shut off the engine, and raised
the bonnet to check the oil level. Plenty of oil! Hmmmm! Started it
again. Nothing! Switched oil pressure indicators (that old dual-gauge
with the oil pressure and water temperature in one - even then, I had
the wisdom to acquire spares!) Still no oil pressure. I couldn't afford
to have it even examined at Reedman's then (poor college student) ,
but I had made contact with a guru - Tom Forman, an independent Jaguar
mechanic - who used to be chief wrench for Walt Hansgen when he was
racing D-Types with factory support up in Bernardsville, NJ. Tom had
and raced a D-Type himself, number XKD-537, and apparently took pity
on me as an enthusiastic young kid, telling me that, while he couldn't
do any major work ($40/hour in the mid-sixties! - out of my reach),
he would guide me over the rough spots. I bought a new XK-120 shop manual
from Betty's Imported Auto Parts in Trenton, and got to work.

Jacked the car up, put cinder blocks under the tires, and began the
task of dis-assembling the engine (what did I know - I had no oil pressure,
so I suspected the pump! Yes, I tried replacing the oil filter and even
reseated the oil pressure check-valve and replaced the spring. Remember,
though - no one knowledgeable (including me) had examined the car).
I pulled the oil sump, and removed and cleaned the oil pump, and it
seemed good; the problem must be elsewhere. Bearings? Removed the rods
and mains and the thrust bearings (half-moons). Seemed OK. Even checked
them with Plastigauge! Hmmm! I'm this far into it. How about doing something
about those uneven cylinder compression numbers? Pulled the head and
took it to Tom Forman for reseating \the valves and resetting the valve
clearances (total cost - $40). Hey! Aside from a couple of motorcycles,
and the Fiat 600 'fiasco", and the English Ford Cortina, this was
my first real engine! I had taken apart a couple of Studebaker engines
(thrown rod bearings) along the way, but they were only one-way - junked
both cars. Diving in further, as long as it was this accessible, I removed
the gearbox and, with a new 2nd gear synchro and cluster which Tom had
on a shelf, decided to try to regain 2nd gear synchro, so I took it
apart, too. (Yes, I eventually decided to replace the clutch disk and
pressure plate and throw-out bearing prior to re-assembly).

Now, let me put this in proper perspective. I was doing all this work
in my Dad's garage in Trenton which had been sized for a Model T Ford,
many, many years before. I had one dim trouble light. I was working
on a cold concrete floor (did I mention that it was Winter?), and I
was attending school in Philadelphia (Drexel) during the week, so I
only had weekends to do anything of consequence. I tried to be methodical,
putting bolts, nuts, etc., into neat little piles under where I had
removed them from (poor sentence structure, but you know what I mean),
and all was fine, until one day, Dad went into the garage to get his
snow shovel (Winter, remember?) and he accidentally kicked one of the
small piles of parts. Bending down to look under the car, he saw parts
scattered all across the floor (where I had put them), and, thinking
that he had done it (can't you see it coming?), he swept them all into
one pile again (so he thought) for me! Wasn't that nice? Do you know
how many different bolt lengths there are for the front timing chain
cover alone? Did you know that one of the oil sump bolts is a bit shorter
that the others, to allow a front timing chain cover bolt to clear it?
I didn't either, at first!

Sigh! I was not a happy camper that weekend!

I spent seven months rebuilding the engine and gearbox (and clutch,
carbs, and distributor), and finally I fired it up. And guess what?
STILL no oil pressure! Now, however, I had a good idea of what was inside
the engine, and I zeroed right in on the problem! I had noticed a dent
in the oil pan, which turned out to be just under the oil pump pickup
pipe; I had probably run over something the night before all this started,
and had blocked access from the oil sump to the oil pump. Didn't notice
it immediately, 'cause the oil was warm and thin, but the cold, thick
oil the next morning couldn't reach the oil pump! I dropped the sump,
gave it a zetz with the copper-headed knock-off hammer (which I kept
when the wheels were swapped), and replaced the oil sump. BINGO! 80
psi (cold)! I was back on the road, after 7 months! What a learning
experience!

On later engines, I received additional guidance and tips from another
local pro, DVJC member Bob Puglisi, who, at that time, owned and ran
a machine shop in Trenton. Bob used to race his tan metallic XKE FHC
with a rubber chicken duct-taped to the hood above the windscreen! "Chicken-Man"
was quite a sight at our Lime Rock events and at Atco (another club
member, Norm Grimm (and Sylvia), was associated with the Atco Dragway
in Jackson, NJ. - when we would head out there for an afternoon of time
trials and competition, or take stuff to the Concours site, my XK-140
DHC was used to haul all sorts of cargo, including flags, highway cones,
pylons, etc.; hence, Dick O'Kane nicknamed it "The Truck",
'cause stuff was piled so high in it!).

One morning, as I was heading to work (Drexel had and still has a co-op
program, wherein you work for a while in a related industry and go to
school for a while, typically six months on and six months off, for
five years (at least!)), I passed through an intersection with a newly-installed
traffic light (River Road and Lower Ferry Road, in Trenton). I was proceeding
north, and the light was green for me, but a car came from Lower Ferry
Road, through the newly-installed red light, and slammed the right side
of my car hard enough to knock me across two southbound lanes of traffic
(without getting hit by them) into the guard rail along the Delaware
River. It was still winter, and I credit the single seat belt which
I had installed (helicopter surplus, from a co-worker who owned and
raced an Elva Courier!) with keeping me from being thrown into the icy
Delaware River (of course the top was down; it was cold, not raining
(not that it ever made much difference!)!). The first car that stopped
bore NJ License Plate Number 1; it was the Governor's car (though he
wasn't in it at the time), and the trooper/driver radioed for help.
The other driver was ticketed for running a red light (said she never
saw it; said there wasn't one there LAST week (which was true; it had
been installed during the weekend) and I got a ride to work in a police
car! In retrospect, I'm amazed at what my employer put up with concerning
we co-op students! Did I ever tell you about the motorcycle (mine! -
Honda Trail 90) in the hallway? The Czechoslovakian hammer-welder/janitor?
The sweet young thing who . . .? The bullet-polishing security guard?
The tractor/mower in the parking lot (mine, again!)? The restored Springfield
03A3 at port arms? "Nuff said!

The insurance company totaled the car, and offered me $500 for it.
I protested, showing them all the receipts for the drive train improvements
(Koni shocks were in there, somewhere, too), and I said the car should
be more appropriately valued at its replacement cost for like condition.
Surprisingly, they agreed with me and offered me a check for significantly
more. I accepted, and then asked what they were going to do with the
car. Remember, this was an old bashed beat-up Jaguar. They said they
would junk it. I asked if I could have it, and they said, "Fine!".
Wow! Headed up to Stucker's, the Jaguar junkyard/Mecca on Staten Island,
where every week they received the pick of New York's choicest wrecks,
and found a green right-hand door and an XK-120 right rear fender (what
did I know - a Jag's a Jag, right? Looked the same! Hah!) Took 'em both
off in the snow, lying on my back!

The door seemed to fit OK, but the fender . ,. . well, that was another
story! Seems the rear wings are held on by ¼" Whitworth
bolts, and the fender from Stucker's had been 'persuaded' to part from
the body in a 'non-standard manner' ('cold' chisel - in the snow, remember?).
Also, the bolts on my car were rusted in place, and, though my local
hardware store Sears!) still had some Whitworth wrenches and sockets,
the bolts just snapped off. Tried to find spare hardware, but couldn't
find a tap and didn't have enough sense to drill and tap for more conventional
threads, so I decided to braze the new fender onto the car, ignoring
the plastic welting between the fender and the rear boot surround (tonneau
panel) (I'm Sorry, Jim! It seemed like a good idea at the time!). The
fender was too short, though, since the rearmost alignment (toward the
bumper) put the forward edge about 1 ½ inches from the door rear
shut-plate. What to do, what to do! The brazing held it in place, centered
around the rear axle. Continuing to use the borrowed welding set-up,
I used coat-hanger wire to mechanically secure the forward edge of the
fender to the right-side door shut-plate, 'weaving' a web of short wire
stubs between the two to form a matrix onto which I could apply Bondo,
the body plastic filler. Not being familiar with the appropriate techniques
for working and shaping that stuff, I put it on with a putty knife and
let it dry in place, only very roughly shaped. With no drum sander or
disk sander at that time, I just spray-painted it black (to match the
car) and left it roughly shaped. Bits of Bondo stuck out and appeared
ready to fall off (though they were all secured, and I went back to
club racing, calling the vehicle the Leprosy Special for a while; I
(mistakenly) thought it would have an intimidating effect on the competition,
much as a '55 Buick would dominate a New Jersey traffic circle! This
was the car that also became known as the Jaguar Truck, as it showed
up at competition events laden with orange lane marker cones, timing
lights, wire, auto jack, air compressor, and whatever else would fit
into it! A Drop Head Coupe, it served as a sort of very short-bed pick-up
(remember, this was, essentially, a $400 car, and I now acknowledge
that I mistreated it rather badly!).



Jim Shields with his restored XK140
Circa 1980

Striving for more speed and power, though on a shoestring budget, the
easiest path seemed to be more cubes and more carbs; with a physical
limit of three, though, without entering the realm of custom manifolding,
I chose to first increase the throat diameter, from 1 ¾"
to 2" (easy mechanical change - larger S.U. carbs), but there was
no immediate effect. A machinist from work (I was a Drexel work-study
program co-op) bored out an XK-140 intake manifold to 2", and a
bit of grinding seemed to provide better breathing. Never enough! I
wanted Triples! I acquired a 3.8 XK-150S engine block, head and carbs
(dragged a Fixed Head Coupe wreck home and stripped it in a neighbor's
garage), and set about to fit it to my existing 3.4 liter engine compartment.
It went surprisingly smoothly, save that the front-most carburetor interfered
with the bonnet-fender line. A $400 car, remember? You concours enthusiasts
can see it coming! A "Power Bulge" in the bonnet and a bit
of cold chisel work in the fender liner yielded a functional fit, and
I now had 265 horse power to play with! In retrospect, what a butcher-job,
but it achieved the desired effect, at the time! More Go-Fast! Of course,
yielding to the strong marketing of Pep Boys and J. C. Whitney, I added
a modified Mark IV Solid State Ignition system (takes the high-power
away from the breaker points), a High Voltage Lucas Sports Coil, Packard
440 stranded copper spark plug wires, and an in-line toilet paper bypass
oil filter (Another tale, that!) - all the low-cost bolt-on junk then
available! The package was most satisfying at Lime Rock and at Atco
(this was all for fun, and classification was much looser in those days!)
- I ran against all other XK-number cars, including Al Garz' son Bob's
green XKE-powered XK-120 FHC and an Aston Martin DB4!!! Ah. Memories!

With all this butchery, I was proud of the result, realizing only in
retrospect the effect of what I was doing in the eyes of the purists
in the club; it was The Early Days, and I was just a kid! I heard of
another XK-140MC DHC in Brooklyn, NY, retrieved it, complete with engine
knock, for $450, drove it home to Trenton, then threw a rod in the engine
while driving it up to Flemington to show my Jaguar guru, Tom Forman
(then owner and racer of XKD-537 - the so-called "lost" D-Type),
what I had acquired! Towed home, replaced engine, refinished that car
inside and out for show purposes (engine leaked oil like a sieve; showed
up once at a concours with a requirement to drive across a sheet of
newspaper and idle over it for 30 seconds, seeking drips - I had filled
the engine with 90-weight gear oil and just idled to the judging area,
not daring to blip the throttle and blow my oil lines out! This was
before silicone rubber gasket sealant!). May talk more about those adventures
later on.

Jim, I apologize after all these years for what was hidden under all
that paint and plastic on the car you acquired from me, lo those many
years ago. Your restoration to its original (and current) condition
represents restoration effort far beyond what a typical owner would
expect. Great job! The silver-gray conveys the proper mix of Grace,
Space, and Pace, with the quiet reserve of Capability. You can be justly
proud of your effort, and Now You Know . . . The Rest Of The Story!

Larry Schear

Twin Cam, Inc

 




posted 2/3/2003


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