We’ve seen many big name automakers incorporate 3D printing technology into their design and manufacturing processes, from Ford, Hyundai, and Toyota to Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar Land Rover. But the technology can also be used to repair and restore cars. The Jaguar brand recently turned to 3D technology for help in restoring one of the rarest automobiles in the company’s long history – the one-of-a-kind, Pininfarina-bodied XK120 SE, which was built in 1954 and delivered to Max Hoffman, an Austrian-born importer of luxury European automobiles residing in New York.
The vehicle was shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1955, and later that same year at the Autocar Show. Over the years, it’s changed owners multiple times, and was starting to look less than impressive. It was clear that the rare car was in need of a major restoration, which is where a British shop called Classic Motor Cars (CMC) and 3D printing technology came in to save the day. CMC actually purchased the car two years ago, after a previous owner had attempted to restore the vehicle and painted it burgundy, covered the seats with tan leather, and changed a few other aspects as well.
The restoration process to breathe new life back into the Jaguar was tedious. The team began by stripping the car all the way down to the metal, a task which was complicated by the fact that no reference guides or blueprints exist for the one-off XK. The mechanics had to photograph every single component of the car, in addition to taking copious amounts of notes during the disassembly process, so they would be able to put it back together again.
Due to rust on the body of the car, brand new sheet metal was used to replace the trunk floor, door skins, front end, and rear quarter panels. After repairing the car’s chassis, the team gave it a new coat of two-tone paint so the distinctive lines of Italian design firm Pininfarina would be on full display. It was only a lucky break that they were able to find the original paint color – a small section was discovered when the front screen was removed, and the team was able to use it as a color match.
Multiple parts on the car were either too damaged to be used again, or entirely missing. So CMC gathered photographs that had been taken of the XK throughout its long life, and used those as guides to re-make the front and rear bumpers, which are specific to the vehicle. Then the shop mechanics used a 3D printer to make mock-ups of the headlights; the 3D printer was also used to manufacture some of the parts that were missing.
The mechanics totally rebuilt the gearbox and engine of the XK so it would be driveable. An XK 120-sourced 3.4-liter straight-six engine and a pair of carburetors were used to power the Jaguar, which can make 180 horsepower at 5,300 rpm – a statistic that would have been almost unthinkable in the 1950s, when the car was first built.
CMC also uncovered a small sample of the vehicle’s original leather upholstery when they stripped the car, and they turned to automotive archaeology to find the exact type and color of leather to replace the interior. The hard-working mechanics spent a grand total of 6,725 hours restoring every single part of the 1954 Jaguar XK120 SE, and from the looks of the vehicle, I’d say it’s worth it.
According to CMC, “This one of a kind model is certainly one of the rarest Jaguars in existence.”
Earlier this month, the newly restored Jaguar XK120 SE was officially unveiled and presented at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance charity event in California, which is open to both prewar and postwar collector cars. The event is the finale of Monterey Car Week, and judges rank the cars, based on function, history, authenticity, and style. Thanks to 3D printing technology, the Jaguar XK had all of its missing parts and was able to compete. The crowd loved it, and the vehicle placed second in the class O-2 Postwar Closed. Discuss in the Jaguar forum at 3DPB.com.[Sources: Digital Trends, Classic Motor Cars / Images: Classic Motor Cars]
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