1973 DAIMLER SERIES II 4.2 SOVEREIGN STANDARD WHEEL BASE
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SERIES II 1973-1979
Commonly referred to as the "Series II," the XJ line was face-lifted in the autumn of 1973 for the 1974 model year. The 4.2 litre straight six XJ6 (most popular in the UK) and the 5.3 litre V12 XJ12 were continued with an addition of a 3.4 litre (3442 cc) version of the XK engine available from 1975.
The Series II models were known for their poor build quality, which was attributed to Jaguar being part of the British Leyland group, as well as to problems inherent in the design of certain Lucas-sourced components.
Initially the Series II was offered with two wheel bases, but at the end of 1973 Jaguar announced the withdrawal of the 'standard wheel base' version: subsequent saloons/sedans all featured the extra four inches (10 cm) of passenger cabin length hitherto featured only by the 'long wheel base' model. By this time the first customer deliveries of the two door coupe, which retained the shorter 'standard' wheel base (and which had already been formally 'launched' more than a year earlier) were only months away.
Visually, Series II cars are differentiated from their predecessors by raised front bumpers to meet US crash safety regulations, which necessitated a smaller grille, complemented by a discrete additional inlet directly below the bumper. The interior received a substantial update, including simplified heating and a/c systems to address criticisms of the complex and not very effective Series I system.
In May 1977 it was announced that the automatic transmission version of the 12 cylinder cars would be fitted with a General Motors three speed THM 400 transmission in place of the British built Borg-Warner units used hitherto.
The 1978 UK model range included the Jaguar XJ 3.4, XJ 4.2, XJ 5.3, Daimler Sovereign 4.2, Double-Six 5.3, Daimler Vanden Plas 4.2 and the Double-Six Vanden Plas 5.3.
Worldwide production of the Series II ended in 1979. A total number of 91,227 Series II models were produced over the six years of manufacturing, 14,226 of them with the V12 5.3 litre engine.
OUR SERIES II
Jaguar manufactured over 90,000 Series II’s over the six years it was in production. The Series II in our opinion was the most elegant version of all the XJ models, (produced between 1968 and 1992) but it was also known for its poor reliability and build quality.
Our plan was to find a solid chassis, carry out any required restoration work and then improve the models reliability and build quality. By sympathetically installing superior and upgraded mechanical parts, we could eliminate all of the known problems related to the car.
We soon came across an early “73” Series II Daimler, parked in the yard of a car sales dealership three miles away from our workshop. It had been part of a private collection of vehicles and had only clocked up a documented 41,000 miles. A quick look through the documents confirmed that the car had only covered 5,000 miles in twenty years.
We soon released that this was an extremely rare car, not because it was a Daimler, but due to it being one of less than a hundred Standard Wheel Base (SWB) Daimler Sovereign models remaining. The chassis was in exceptional condition with corrosion evident only on the front cross member and offside front chassis rail. The front and rear lower valances had seen better days and the offside front wing had holed around the headlamp bowl.
The interior was completely original, the headlining had just started to sag, although the carpets and seats, with exception of a mark on the driver’s seat were in an excellent condition. Keeping our cards close to our chest regarding the rarity of the car we struck a deal and arranged for the car to be collected on a flat loader.
We soon secured an early Series III, this would be used as a donor vehicle for the Series II project. The car had full service history and covered only 45,000 miles although it had failed a recent MOT test due to excessive chassis rot. The mechanical parts were in great shape and would lend well to our plans to improve upon the reliability of the Series II model.
Having satisfied ourselves that the body was in an acceptable condition, we started our inspection of the mechanical items on the vehicle and compiled a list of upgrades that we felt would benefit the car.
The cylinder head once removed was found to be cracked between cylinders 5 and 6 and found to be beyond repair. The Series II was known for overheating which commonly led to head gasket failure, cylinder head distortion and cracking between cylinders. The decision was made to rebuild the donor cars larger valve cylinder head as this would increase power and engine torque.
The engine block received a thorough clean and inspection, the cooling and oil ways were flushed through and heat resistant paint was applied to the exterior casing.
To improve the cooling system it was decided that we would overhaul and install the oil cooler and radiator from the donor car. The coolant hoses were replaced with modern alternatives and “Water Wetter” was added to the anti-freeze mix.
The power steering system was removed and overhauled. We felt that changing this would spoil the driving character of the car as the system fitted to the Series II is lighter to operate than that of the Series III.
The Series III’s braking system is far superior to the system used on the earlier model and is a direct replacement. The brake servo, master cylinder and foot pedal is easily removed in one section. The front and rear hubs are also easy to install and allow the front four pot callipers to bolt into place following an overhaul. All new copper brake pipes were run from the engine bay to new hoses and new discs and pads were installed all-round.
The XJ6 ”Series” models are renowned for their magic carpet ride quality. This is due to the number of bushes on each axle. Therefore when carrying out any suspension overhaul, it is essential to replace all of the suspension bushes including those within the radius arms and mounting body points.
We decided that while we had the donor car we should consider upgrading the electrical system on our Series II. With modern technology in use in most new cars to navigate us and keep us in touch with the modern world, we decided to beef-up the 70’s power. The Series III’s alternator was a direct fitment, so this was re-wired and fitted along with the H4 halogen headlamps to improve night vision.
The Series II’s points and condenser fitted distributor although initially retained on the car proved to be unreliable causing a huge misfire under load once that the engine had warmed up. The fault was caused as the engine warmed up. Heat expansion within the distributor caused the earth strap anchorage to loosen and therefore short the spark to the plugs.
The chassis was found to be in a very good condition, there was no evidence of previous welding to be found anywhere, however at some point in the cars life, a full exterior repaint had been carried out which was by this time showing its age, the colour had seriously faded and the paint had started to lift around the window rubbers due to the poor preparation carried out prior the new paint being applied over the original factory paintwork.
All of the chrome and bolt-on panels were removed from the car for inspection. At this point further inspection of the chassis could be carried out and a schedule of work could be agreed. The front wings were in a reasonable condition, however the lamp bowl areas would require new metal to perfect.
We contacted the Jaguar Heritage Trust who informed us of the existence of some original reproduced wings. These were genuine Jaguar parts re-commissioned for production by the Trust, however in small numbers. Unfortunately all of the stock dispersed to the UK dealers had now been sold. A few day’s later and two new wings were located in Belgium. Our local Jaguar dealer had agreed to import the panels through the dealer parts network and delivered the items three days later. Eager to check the panels out, the protective wrapping was removed from the panels. Unfortunately the nearside wing had been damaged heavily and the required repairs would have cost more in labour time to repair than the value of the new panel. The panel was returned and a replacement panel was delivered three weeks later from Germany.
The front cross member on the XJ models supports the radiator and is a major corrosion point. The exterior of this box section appeared okay, however the use of a special inspection camera showed signs of heavy internal corrosion. The cross member was therefore cut out and replaced with a new section and eventually cavity waxed following exterior paintwork.
Another common area of corrosion is found on the front and rear lower valance panels. The front panel sits directly below the front cross member, which as already mentioned supports the vehicles radiator. The panel can therefore corrode rapidly if moisture from a leaking radiator attacks the inner surface or if the exterior surface is damaged by road debris and stone chipping.
The rear valance panel can suffer from condensation build-up from within the boot area and the rear box section. The heat and moisture from the two rear exhaust silencers causes a lot of problems in these area’s and the adjoining panels, box sections and fuel tanks can corrode extensively if not treated. Removal of the panel on our example showed no exception, however the low mileage and many years of dry storage had saved the surrounding panels, with the exception of the fuel tanks.
The offside front chassis rail had started to show signs of corrosion, this section, being the only area of corrosion to the chassis was cut out and a new section was welded into place. After having stripped all exterior fixtures and fittings from the shell and bolt-on panels were stripped back to bare metal ready for any minor imperfections to be dealt with.
Next, a coat of acid etch primer was applied to the prepared panels, followed by high build primer. A dust coat of black aerosol was then lightly applied over the primer and allowed to dry. This acted like a guide coat, the idea being that any remains of black paint following the paintwork flattening possess would highlight areas that required further preparation. Once we were happy with the preparation the chassis and panels were moved back into the spray booth. With the spray booth up to temperature the final top coat was applied. Four litres in total was then left to bake at oven temperature until touch dry. The bolt-on panels and doors were now carefully replaced and aligned. Eight hours of flattening then followed, working gradually up to a 3000 grit flattening paper followed by a compound machine mop. By this time the paintwork shined like glass and our backs were killing us.
The best thing about a project like this is the rebuild, the homeward straight. We could now start to remove the wrapping from the new and re-chromed trim, body gaskets, light lenses and door opening rubbers. This was followed by the front and rear screen fitment and fiddly chrome inserts. A further five days and all of the fixtures had been replaced and re-cleaned. Finally the new number plates were fitted and the car reclaimed its identification, it was beautiful, the new re-chromed wheel rims and chrome centre caps looked outstanding.
The following day and the steering geometry and MOT test were completed to finalise the work. We had been cutting it fine as the car was due in Eastbourne the following day to perform its first duty as a wedding car for some close friends. It did us proud; the 10-mile drive from the brides’ home along the side of rape-seeded fields was mind blowing. The car caused just about as much attention as the bride and was found to be very photogenic. It had all been worth it.
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