XJS HE "Rhona"
by Art Wharton (guest Team CJ contributor)
Report date: 2/10/02
I don't have the picture developed yet, but soon you will see the picture of my rear window that accompanies my visit to Katz's on the evening of January 18th, 2002.
School had started back up and all of my friends were back in town, and since the Jag was in good running order, we decided to drive around town and accomplish or normal pointless Friday evening tasks (like paying almost $8 to see a movie. . . . insane). After using up so much energy sitting in a movie theater, we decided we were hungry. Where do college students go to eat at 11:30 in the evening? Katz's. I used to love that place.
I got an awesome parking spot in the Katz's parking area. Nice and visible; not tucked back in an alley or anything. I was proud of myself, really. So my friends and I walk directly into Katz's and we eat our insanely overpriced sandwiches and "New York Style" Cheesecake that is really not much different from that of "Sara Lee," and we had a wonderful time. So we were walking back to my car in its very visible parking spot, and as I turned the corner, it appeared that there was a Red Volkswagen Beetle in my parking spot. Sure enough, that beetle was in my spot.
This is where I began to freak out. I'm very non-chalant about things like this. "Holy ****, Art. Where's your car?" "Aren't you
freaked out, Art?" "Why aren't you moving, Art?" "Are you alive, Art?" I could've been cool and calm had it not been for my friends who thought I was horribly unusual for just standing there, staring at the beetle. They made me realize that SOMEONE out there had MY baby! And this SOMEONE wasn't from Classic Jaguar, so it took a lot in me to keep from going insane when I went to the manager at Katz's to ask, "How do I find out if my car has been stolen or towed?"
The very cute manager was very apologetic when she got off the phone with the towing company, offered me money for a cab to go to the impound lot, and said that it would be no charge to me since I had dined at Katz's, so I shouldn't have been towed. The look on her face when she asked what kind of car I drove was classic. I don't think she had much sympathy for a college student who drives a Jag. Shoot. Nobody does. I had a ride to the impound lot, so I let her keep the cab money (stupid me).
After spending 30 minutes re-tracing South Congress looking for "Austin Express," we finally found it tucked behind a shoddy-looking car lot in a dark alley. I'm beginning to get a little more anxious by this time. Sure enough -- there was my Pretty Kitty sitting not even 3 inches (!!!!!) from a nasty Chevy Chevette. I fear I may have a rust problem in the future just because she was parked next to that thing. I walked into the office only to be met by this short, fat (and I later found out
Arabic) dude with a crooked nose who appeared to be the night manager. It's midnight by now, and I have to be at work at 6:00 AM. I'm not happy, and I'm in a very bad neighborhood in Austin.
"Did you guys use a flatbed? Please tell me you used a flatbed," I said. He nodded and said it was the only one they had running tonight. I turned around and saw a car being towed in, and it was NOT being towed on a flatbed. I told the man they accidentally towed my car, and that I was supposed to get my car free of charge according to the manager at Katz's. He didn't believe me, so he goes back into his office and makes a phone call. He came back saying, "The Manager says you have to pay, sir." At this point, my blood pressure more than likely skyrocketed. For a minute there, I felt like how some people describe their experiences with Charles Maund Jaguar. (Dan, you're not the only one.) Arguing ensued. "The guy watching the lot said you went into the bar next door, sir. You have to pay. The manager says I'm not to let you leave
without paying." I retorted, "Well, sir, you need to fire the dumbass who said I walked into that bar, because I most certianly did not." "That dumbass is my nephew." He continued on about how his nephew is a hard-working college student, and how his nephew would never lie to him. He went on for at least 5 minutes about how great his nephew was. Really, I was beginning to get a little irate.We argued for a little longer, and he insisted, "The fact is, sir, you walked into that bar, so you have to pay."
I walked out and talked to my friends for about 5 minutes. They thought something was up. Smart kids, they are. Finally, I walked back into the office holding my drivers' license up spouting out expletives, but the general jist of what I said was, "I'm 19. There was no way I could've walked into that bar. You're stupid, and I'm not paying, you dirty sack of cow dung." He made another phone call to the Katz's manager, and came back saying that he would now release my car to me if I had proof of ownership. This involved making a call to my mother (because I was 17 when I bought the car, so it's still under her name) at 12:30 AM to confirm that she was the owner and that I was allowed to take the car.
"Good evening mother, I'm at the impound lot right now." She loved that. So I finally got out of there, and I seriously considered going to talk to the manager at Katz's in person, but I instead called her from home to tell her how much I did not appreciate how she insisted I had to pay. "I never got to talk to the guy at the impound lot after you left here, sir," she said. This is where I realized there was something else crooked about that man onther than his nose. Luckily I didn't have to pay anything, right? The next day, I realized my front license plate was missing. So, I called the day manager at "Austin Express" and he said he read the file, and was very unimpressed with his night manager's performance. I told him the story, and the manager apologised deeply, and said he was ready to fire the man I dealt with. That was a very heartwarming experience. Someone who tried to con me got fired. Everything felt better.
Lo and behold, things were to get even jucier. Last week several 6th street bar owners and their associates got arrested for acquiring their liquor licenses illegally. Whose mugshot was on the front page of the Austin American Socialist (Statesman)? The short, fat guy with the crooked nose. Crooked indeed, I say.
Rhona was very traumatized. I had to give her a little pep talk to tell her I'd never go to Katz's again. She forgave me. From now on, my 24-hour dining excursions will be at the Magnolia Cafe.
Now onto the real stuff: Vacuum Leaks, Spark Plugs, and that dreaded "alignment" problem.
I can't say enough how great Sam is. He is thorough, precise, and is more than willing to tell me exactly what he did, what the problem was, and what future problems I may come into, and what other stuff I have going on that I may want to take care of in the future. I was pleased with Classic Jaguar before Sam came along, but since he has joined Team CJ, I have been blown away by his professionalism, skill, and follow through with getting information to me on the condition of the car. Don't let his lack of a british accent fool you!
To get to my front 4 spark plugs, Sam had to remove my AC Compressor. So I have some clean spark plugs, and in the process of removing and re-installing my AC compressor, Sam inadvertantly fixed my AC system! It was a beautiful surprise. I knew a wire came disconnected -- I just didn't have the time to search for it. Plus, I figured I wouldn't have to worry about it until the summer. It was a stroke of luck. Life is beautiful.
Sam also replaced several of my vacuum hoses because I had several small vacuum leaks. This caused my idle to go up drastically. Sam and John adjusted and adjusted until they had everything at its minimum where my engine should theoretically die due to lack of air. Sure enough, at all these minimums, my idle is perfect at about 850 RPM warmed up. Luckily, this burnt-up V12 I've had my eye on for a couple months was still sitting in front of the office, and Sam was able to
show me the air-check valve that he and John suspected was the problem. Some genius of an engineer thought that convenient placing of this valve would be between the engine and the firewall. Estimate: at least another two hours, plus the cost of the valve. Luckily it's not urgent. I'll take care of that in a few months, or whenever it starts giving me idle problems. Whichever comes first.
My "alignment problem" that I had my suspicions about actually turned out to be exactly what I had suspected! Whod've thought I'd get something right? Sam checked out my front end and said it was alright for the most part, but I have a toe-in misalignment, and my wheel bearings which I got replaced in June, I think) are a little loose. They suggested I take it to an alignment shop up the road. So I'm planning on waking up early on Monday and getting first in line over
there. Their estimate: Alignment - $112 Bearings tightened - $59 per side. I need to get that done before the outside edges of my front tires get completely worn, so it's under the "Urgent" list.
Jennifer called me 10 minutes after I got out of class Wednesday to tell me my car was ready. How's that for timing? She paid attention when I told her when I got out of class that day. Beauty AND intelligence. Lucky man, her husband. And she said, "Instead of giving you a 'Frequent Visitor' card, we had the detailing guy take a look at your car. It was dirty!" Yeah.
First sign you visit your automotive shop too often: You never have to specify your last name or customer number. Second sign: They wash your car because they're so offended by how dirty she looks.
Really, I should write a top-ten list.
Pictures coming soon of the impounded kitty, and the clean kitty. Perhaps I'll take pictures of the DIY jobs I promised I'd do last time. Really -- I'm going to do it this time. Hmmm. It's been a while since I've done that "Italian tune-up." <Evil Grin>
Report date: 1/17/02
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have good news!
Yesterday morning (before Physics class) I dropped by for my appointment at CJ to have the compression checked. We also took the opportunity to hook the car up to the Sun 400 analyser and conducted various other tests in an attempt to diagnose the general condition of my engine - which is something I have become increasingly concerned about.
I tell my friends, “I’m taking Rhona to the doctor for a checkup.” They think I’m crazy.
I wandered back into the shop a couple of times during the two hours, and the worst Sam could say really was, “Look at these spark plugs!”
poor condition, too
Judging by the condition of the plugs, I'm surprised the car ran as well as it did.
The good news was that the compression check came back normal. So did the emissions check, and my ignition check . . . and my memory escapes me on the rest of it, although Dan and Sam seemed enthusiastic about the condition of my engine. My Air-to-Fuel ratio was just a little high - who would have thought that an engine getting 13.2 miles per gallon would be running lean?
Sam also pointed out a couple of small vacuum leaks, one of which he explained was having an adverse effect on the distributor's vacuum retard capability. While Sam was down in the Vee pulling plugs for the compression check, he replaced 6 of them since they were easy to get to. We were then able to isolate each cylinder on the Sun 400 analyser and I could see the improved ignition waves generated by the new plugs....Ed's note: NGK TR5 gapped to 0.035"
Where does that leave me? Very happy! My engine is in good condition (especially for having almost 94,000 miles on her) which means that I won’t have to park her and begin a long process of a DIY rebuild. Sam replaced 6 of my plugs, and I need to come back soon to get the vacuum leaks taken care of, and have the other 6 plugs replaced.
Even with just 6 new plugs, driving home was notably smoother, take away from my alignment problem. We’ll get into that later. Anyway, after putting in a tank of 93 octane gas and having these 6 new plugs, the pinging noise greatly reduced by the middle of the day and had almost disappeared by the time I was doing some evening driving around campus last night. Last night was beautiful. I rolled down the windows and turned off the radio to listen to the beautiful hum of the V12 that I’ve fallen in love with since buying the XJS. The downtown lights, empty roads, and the cool breeze made driving the beautiful experience Jaguar intended it to be.
The beauty of said trip was ruined upon the realization that my alignment problem I felt since Christmas was much worse than I had originally anticipated. No matter how slowly I take a corner, I can hear my tires squeal, and when I hit a bump or pothole in the road, the car will follow it. This makes for a more active driving experience where I spend more time trying to stay in my lane than enjoying the drive. But here’s the worst part. I was driving around campus last night looking for a parking spot to meet some friends for some coffee, so naturally, I took a lot of turns. My tires squealing around those corners made me look like one of those hotshots who INTENTIONALLY floors it into corners to squeal their tires. Now, where’s the class in that, I ask? So, really – this alignment is bad for my image. My best guess (which isn’t a really good guess if you ask me) is that I have a toe-in misalignment.
I spoke to Sam about this last week but forgot to mention it again yesterday when I was at CJ . . . it was a side-issue, really. Perhaps I should start writing more things down.
So, hopefully by the next time you hear from me, I’ll have all new plugs, no more vacuum leaks and correct alignment. Oh, and a car wash (Rhona deserves it), a DIY headliner job.... and maybe I’ll fix that radio faceplate I butchered a couple months ago with the sheet-metal shears. Until then, I can only hope you have as much fun driving as I do.
Report date: 1/12/02
Greetings fellow Jaguar enthusiasts. It seems that I must’ve bugged Team CJ with enough problems with my XJS (her name is “Rhona”) over the past year and a half that they actually found my story worth publishing on their web page. Perhaps you should know the circumstances of how I was escorted into the wonderful world of the Jaguar marque.
I was 16, a few years ago, and my mother’s best friend had a 1976 XJS Coupe in British Racing Green with a Chevy 350 conversion done to it. This conversion was common for a reason, I was told. I was naive. I drove the car. I loved the interior, I loved the lines of the coupe, and I loved driving it. It was much better than my Thunderbird I had aptly named “The Thunderchicken". She sold it the day before I decided to buy it.
This is where two years of obsession and research ensued concerning the history, maintenance, ticks, quirks, and other such oddities of the Jaguar XJS. Summer of 2000 I was lucky enough to find an ’84 XJS Coupe, and I test-drove it. I began to wonder “Why would anyone ever take this V12 out?" I fell in love, and paid full in cash without even haggling. Did I already mention I was naïve back then? Perhaps I still am. I still dream of the day that I win the lottery, buy an XJ220, pull it into the Team CJ parking lot and tell Jennifer that I’ve got something for the guys to look at. In this dream, she, for the first time, gets excited about a Jaguar. (Not as excited as I would be - Ed.)
Here we are a year and a half later, trying to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering at UT, and Rhona is my daily driver. Sure, “daily” might be an exaggeration. I ride the Capital Metro to campus often.
On to recent events. For a few months now I have been bugged by a noise (at operating temperature) not unlike how pre-ignition is described. I’ve tried changing octane. I still don’t know what’s wrong. So I decided to try one last thing since I drive Rhona with a very soft foot. John Claydon will slap me after he reads this.....
I have heard it referred to as an “Italian Tune-Up.” Last night on my way from my parents’ house to my house in town, I decided to manually shift the automatic into first gear as I was leaving the HEB parking lot at Bee Caves Road and Highway 71.
How this is supposed to work:
Redline (or just below), then hold it for a couple seconds until a black cloud of smoke comes out of your exhaust. No more carbon deposits. Smooth running until the next time you need to clear out those deposits.
How it actually happened:
I took Rhona up to 6000 RPM, realized that I was speeding, and before I could let my foot off the gas, the TH400 forced a shift into second gear. I heard my tires squeal a little as second gear engaged, and I looked back. No black smoke. But shoot – my heart was beating so fast, I’m surprised I didn’t experience my early death last night from a cardiac arrest.
Moral of the story: The “Italian Tune-Up” didn’t accomplish anything, but it sure is a good rush of adrenaline. I decided it was probably best that I save up and leave the job to a pro like Sam so I have booked Rhona into the CJ Workshop on Wednesday morning. Maybe one day these Mechanical Engineering classes will come in useful for my car and I’ll do something myself correctly for a change.
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