Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

*   How do I Contact You …?

*   Where can I find Directions to Your Shop…?

*   What Makes and Years of Cars Do You Work On …?

*   A Little British Car History …

*   Who is Ken Russell…?

 

How do I Contact You …?

 

Shop Phone is:  (760) 782-0856

 

Email:  Ken@BritishCarsByKen.com

 

Shop Address:         Ken Russell Restorations

                             35860 Old Saddle Road

                             Ranchita, CA  92066

 

 

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Where can I find directions to your shop…?

 

Ranchita is located in East San Diego County.

 

I am located in the mountains at 4000 feet elevation, just behind Julian.  If you were to pick a spot,

equidistant, between Julian, Warner Springs, and Borrego Springs; Ranchita would be in the middle.

This is a very small, rural, community with much history in gold and silver mining.  Our population is about 200.

The climate is quite dry and excellent for restoration work.

 

Ranchita is located on State Highway S22, also called Montezuma Valley Road.  The closest connecting road is State Highway S2, which runs between Highway 79 and Highway 78.

 

Many people recognize Highway 79 as the one that starts at Dudley’s Bakery in Santa Ysabel, along the way to Julian.  If you know how to get to Dudley’s, you will have no problem getting to Ranchita.

 

Please phone me for specific directions to the shop.

I highly recommend making an appointment to see me.  (Being a one-man shop, you never know if I will be here, or out on errands.)

 

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What Makes of and Years of Cars Do You Work On …?

I only work on British made cars.

(No, BMW is not British  --can’t tell you the number of times I have been asked; go figure…)

 

If it was made in England, then I probably have worked on it.

However, the makes listed below are my primary work.

I would consider myself to be an expert on any aspect of the following vehicles:

 

*   Austin Healey (100-4, 100-6, 3000, and Sprite.  Years: 1957-1967)

*   Aston Martin (DB4-6, and all variants of the V8 – Volante, Vantage, DBS.  Years: 1960-1986)

*   Jaguar (XK120-150, XKE.  All the MK’ Sedans – MK2, MK7-10.  XJS.  Series 1-3 XJ6 and XJ12.  Years: 1952-1994)

*   Jensen (Healey, Interceptor, C-V8)

*   Mini (Austin, Morris and Cooper.  Years:  1960-1967 – Although a nice car, I do not work on the New Mini, sorry)

*   MG  (MGTD, TF, MGA, MGB, MGC, Midget.  Years:  1952-1980)

*   Morgan  (+4, +8)

*   Morris Minor

*   Rolls Royce (All the V8 Models.  Years: 1962-1984)

*   Rover  (3500 NAS, Land Rover, Range Rover.  Years:  1974-1994)

*   Sunbeam  (All the Sunbeam sports cars, Hillman)

*   Triumph  (TR2-8, 250, Spitfire.  Years:  1952-1980)

 

If your car is not listed above, don’t be afraid to ask me about it.  As I stated, I have worked on most every style and kind of English made vehicle.  Those listed above are just the ones I am best qualified on.   Concerning all the above listed vehicles, I have full documentation and tooling available.

 

This is a list of some of the other British cars I have worked on

 

*   Alvis

*   Bentley

*   Bristol

*   Crossley

*   Daimler

*   Elva

*   Lagonda

*   Lotus

*   Panther

*   Riley

*   Singer

*   TVR

*   Wolseley

 

Although they are not British, I do have extensive knowledge on Classic Chevrolet vehicles.  If you have a 1967 Camaro, which needs some special care, be sure and ask.  Also, I am pretty good at Cadillac’s of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  I was brought up during these times and learned to work on them in school.  If you have an interesting project of this vintage, I will consider doing it.  Please ask.  While I have not done nearly as many of these cars as the British, I still have quite a few very satisfied customers driving these classics.  There is also some crossover between American Cars and the British.  The Jaguar XJ6 uses air conditioning parts from Chevrolet and the XJS uses a Chevrolet automatic transmission.  The Jensen Interceptor uses a Chrysler V8 engine and transmission, just for a few examples.

 

 

As a general rule, I primarily work on vehicles built between the years of 1952-1986.  Although I will consider working on cars earlier than 1952, I do not plan on working on any car made after 1994.   (See “A Little British Car History,” below).  

 

Lastly, I provide a service to the backcountry by repairing older tractors and providing welding services.  The tractors are various, but include those made during the 1940’s to 1970’s.  As for welding, I am able to do Gas, TIG, and MIG as well as stick-arc.

 

 

 

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A Little British Car History …

 

If you are a British car enthusiast, then you most likely have read much of the British car, and of the British Car industry.  For me, I have been studying these cars since the 1960’s.  I was the only guy I knew in High School who had a subscription to Road and Track (and latter, Auto Week).  All my buddies talked Ford and Chevy.  I spoke of Sterling Moss, Jaguar and Aston Martin.  I rebuilt my first Austin Healey transmission at 14, and rebuilt my first MGB engine at 16.  I went into the business of repairing British cars when I was 19, having first worked for a British car dealer at the tender age of 18.   There has been a lot of water under the bridge, a lot of bangs and bruises, and plenty of sobering moments of clarity, gathered over the last 30 years.   Through it all, I have developed a “unique” view of the cars I work on.   Below, please find my ramblings of An American’s Perspective on British Car History.   I hope you enjoy it!

 

The 1950’s.

This was when the “New” British Way” was instituted by the British Car Industry.  The War was over and the engineers had finally been allowed to shift from rehashed, pre-war designs, to the cars which were to carry them through the post-war years.  William Lyons had his wonderful Jaguar XK120; Lord Nuffield had his MGTD;  David Brown his Aston Martin DB2; and Sir John Black the Triumph TR2 (designed by Ken Richardson of BRM racing fame).   All of these cars were radical departures from anything else the British had ever made.  They were wonderful.  They were new.  They were the vehicles that we all came to love and cherish.  If you compare them to the cars of today, they were extremely simple in engineering and design, as were most American cars of that day.  There was no thought of driver safety, nor of the pollution they were creating.  Generally speaking, I would classify the cars as being well built – at least as well built as the American car of the day.  They were at the top of their game:  Twin overhead camshafts, multiple carburetors, disk brakes, all combined with good handling and good looks.  It was a happy time.

 

From a mechanic’s perspective, these cars are not too difficult to keep in top order.  The problem, these days, is two fold.  There can be shortages of parts, along with the real possibility of not being able to get a needed item at all.  Fortunately, many parts are being reproduced; still, parts supplies remains a big problem.  The second problem with these cars, really, is their age.  By now, most of the car is thoroughly worn, (or worn out) and major rebuilding, not repair, is needed.  All of the “mechanics” who worked on the car, over the years, is an associated problem.  Patch jobs, incompetence, and just simple lack of attention to detail have rendered many cars to be in terrible shape.  My biggest job, in many cases, is just to put these cars back into the condition they were in when built.  Unless you have a vintage racecar, most owners want that classic Jaguar to be just like it was the day it was made.  If possible, they want current technologies to be used, if it results in a better car (such as reduced oil leakage, brakes that work, and cooling systems which don’t boil over).  But, overall, the car must look and feel like it did when new.  Fortunately, all of these things are what I specialize in delivering.

 

The 1960’s.

This was a time of radical design, or at least it started that way.  The years of 1960-1967 saw the introduction of the true British Sports Car.   Not to take anything away from the cars of the previous decade, but how can anyone forget Jaguar’s XKE, or Aston Martin’s DB4, 5 and 6; Triumph’s TR4 and 250; the Mini or the MGB?  How many school age boys dreamed of owning an Austin Healey 3000?  (I was one of them).  It started with a bang, and ended with a whimper for all those great and powerful beasts.  The year was 1968, the first year for the introduction of United States emission and safety controls;  and boy, was the British auto industry caught flat-footed!  America was their largest market.  It would take England more than (in my opinion) ten years to meet the new regulations with fresh engineering and design.  But, in the short term, they improvised (fancy word for made do).  The beautiful Jaguar XKE lost it’s glassed in headlamps and triple carburetors, as did Aston Martin.  Triumph and MG quickly added enough devices to clean up their tail pipe emissions, but wound up with anemic cars, sapped of power.  The poor Mini, realizing its hopeless fate, disappeared completely (in America, that is).

 

Most of these cars are, unfortunately, getting pretty old too.  Much of what I said on the repair of the cars of the 1950’s, applies to these cars.  Perhaps not quite as bad, but I have seen some really bad examples.  The good news is, because of their age, we are no longer concerned with the devices which made them run so poorly.  Most can be tuned to realize their true power potential.  Want to “bump” the compression on that E Type and hang a set of Weber’s?  No problem!   These cars respond to the touch of an expert, perhaps more than any other.  Put it back right.  Make it healthy.  Set it up correctly.  What a difference!  There is no guessing with these cars.  I know them intimately.

 

The 1970’s. 

Not England’s finest hour.  The emission requirements were strangling the life out of the English car.  And they had a real problem with build quality. 

 

I was working at a British car dealer, during 1975-1976 (the old British Motors on Midway Drive, long since extinct).  We had more warranty repairs than we could handle.  The MGB, Midget, Triumph TR7, Jaguar XJ6, all of them.  MGB had nothing but carburetor troubles; the Midgets had transmissions that kept blowing first and reverse gears; the TR7, where do I start?? – warped cylinder heads, transmissions, etc.  The story is told of British Leyland’s warranty department having a wall of TR7 cylinder heads, stacked 6 foot high and 20 foot long; all of them warped and ruined.  For Jaguar, it was the first year with a catalytic converter and it did not take well.  The automatic chokes on the Stromberg carburetors would hang up and run excessively rich, causing the catalyst to overheat (actually glow bright cherry red).  Sometimes, there were fires, but mostly the catalyst would melt and plug off the exhaust, causing the car to have no power.  What a mess.  The same problem would happen with the MGB’s (no wonder, they shared the same carburetion).  Only on the MGB the exhaust manifold would crack, and when the choke hung up, would allow sooty black carbon laced exhaust fumes to be introduced into the air cleaner’s hot air intake.   The carbon would plug the fine passages in the air cleaner, thereby making the car run even richer.  All the while, the catalyst was overheating from the excessively rich mixture and glowing cherry red.  Many of these cars did catch fire.

 

The repair of these cars is a mixed bag.  Some of the cars, even when new, were very problematic.  The years, which have gone by, have not really changed this fact, and mostly, have made things much worse.   If you have a:  Triumph TR7, MGB or Midget 1975-1980, or Jaguar XJ6 or XJ12 1975-1979 you need to know some things.  First off, I have been quite successful in keeping these cars on the road.  However, it requires an educated owner, to get the full benefit from these cars.  Because of the design of some items, there will be more repairs needed than you may think as normal.  I have been able to overcome many of the original faults and weaknesses, but not all.  There are upgrades which can be done which will make some of these cars quite reliable.  But to do these things, you must be willing to sacrifice some originality.  I take each car as an individual case, so be sure and ask for my advice.  It’s what I’m here for!

 

The 1980’s.

 

The decade started off with the demise of three British makes:  Rover, MG, and Triumph; by 1981 they were gone.  Of those who remained, there was a concerted effort by the manufactures to improve sales by making the cars more reliable, and for the most part, they succeeded.

 

For Jaguar, the 1980 and 1981 models were just continuations of the terrible cars of the 1970’s.  But in 1982 Jaguar introduced us to an XJS and XJ6 which were of excellent build quality and devoid of nearly all of the past woes.  The cars did not overheat.  The electrical devices worked.  The engines were solid.  I still own a 1982 XJ6 and I can tell you from personal experience it is really one of the great cars, a pleasure to drive and very reliable.  These were called the Series 3 XJ6’s and they were all excellent through their run, which ended in 1986 (there were some 1986 models which were sold as 1987’s). 

 

The Jaguar XJS model was even more surprising in it’s refinement.  The fit and finish of the cars, both inside and out, was very good.  But it was mechanically that the cars really shined.  The V12 was updated with many things, not the least of which was cylinder heads designed by Michael Mays.  These were designed to allow the engine to run extremely lean mixtures, thereby giving the car excellent fuel mileage numbers.  It was common to get over 21 MPG on the open road and 14 to 16 around town.  This was a far cry from the old version, which was hard pressed to give any better than 9 to 10 MPG under any kind of driving.  Any kind of overheating was completely eliminated by improved coolant flow and a system which constantly kept the air “bled” out of the system.  I have personally witnessed these cars coming in to the shop, nearly a gallon low of coolant, and not overheating.  The fuel injection and ignition systems were also radically updated and were very reliable and accurate.  Lastly, the old Borg Warner transmission was replaced with one from General Motors, the Turbo 400, producing a good shifting and long lasting unit.

 

The biggest change really ever to occur for Jaguar was when Ford Motor Company purchased them in 1988.  That was also the year which saw Jaguar introduce it’s really only all-new car in twenty years, the XJ6 (called the XJ40 by us in the service industry).  It really looked new and changed both inside and out.  From a mechanical prospective, it was all completely new.  There is really no part of the XJ40 which shares any commonality with the proceeding Series 3 model of XJ6.  I can tell you that for the vast majority of changes, all of them were good.  The reliability of the car was increased to the point it was foolish to call it any less reliable or drivable than any other luxury car on the market.

 

Although Rover (Land Rover) did disappear from America in 1981, they were back with the Range Rover latter in the decade (1987).  These sport utility vehicles really caught on.  Although there are some things which I think they could have done better, overall, the Range Rover is an excellent vehicle and very deserving of the good reputation it has.  The engine is dead reliable and the transmission nearly so.  If there is any fault with the vehicle it is that the owners tend to drive them all the time and things just wear out from use!  I drive a 1991 Range Rover and I can attest to their overall quality and ease of operation.

 

Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Lotus – they all improved as the decade progressed.  The cars were faster, better, and more reliable.  Although Rolls and Bentley really did not change anything under the hood (still a V8 engine, 3 speed General Motors transmission, Citroen style brakes, etc) the body styles did change and, I think, improve with age.  Bentley came out with the Mulsanne Turbo in 1984.  It was a real rocket; zero to 60 in eight seconds, not bad for a car that weighed nearly three tons!  Aston Martin continued with their V8 models, each more refined and faster than the previous one.  Lotus really came into their stride by the end of the decade with the Esprit Turbo.  They were supported by General Motors and had use of all of that corporation’s resources.  The only way to describe the engine and engine management systems of those cars was cutting edge, and man, were they fast!

 

 

The 1990’s.

 

In America, we were offered some of the finest British cars ever produced (even if the original manufactures did not make them any more).  As before, Ford owns Jaguar and Aston Martin.  After some shake up, BMW purchased Land Rover (and also the brand “Mini”).  Rolls Royce and Bentley soldered on (they were both sold to BMW and Volkswagen, respectively, in the early new century). 

The manufacturers continued to improve the makes.  They also became much more complicated, service-wise, to repair.  Electronic systems are the rule, these days, and not the exception.  This makes the cars much more reliable and efficient.  However, the electronic systems also make the cars harder to diagnose, at times.  To keep these cars on the road a mechanic really has to be on top of things, information-wise.

 

With the improvements offered, there really is no reason for a person not to choose British.  I encourage people to choose a car by the way it makes you feel as you drive it, not by what you fear, repair-wise.  All the makers are good, these days (even British).  I still prefer British, so buy British!

 

 

 

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Who Is Ken Russell …?

Having spent the last thirty years exclusively devoted to British Car repair and restoration, I have a very broad and deep knowledge of the cars produced in England.  No one can be an expert on everything, so my primary knowledge is grouped within those cars produced from about 1950 to 1990.  I do not offer any body, paint, or upholstery services (although I regularly sub-contract for these things); however, I do just about everything else. 

 

Along the way, I attended a four-year college in Aviation Repair and possess a Federal Aviation Administration license, valid for Airframe and powerplant repair ratings.  Although I am not currently providing aircraft repair services, I maintain the extensive knowledge learned, which has provided me with many superior skills, which are directly applied to my restoration services.

 

I have owned several businesses over the years:  British Motorsport, British Parts Service, British Sports and Imports, and British Automotive.  All these businesses have been in the San Diego area, the first starting in 1976.  All these services provided the average British car owner repair and maintenance services, allowing them to both enjoy their British cars and also expect reliable, daily use.   As the years have passed, I have been able to hone in on what I most enjoy doing:  Restoration.  So it is after nearly thirty year’s of on the job training I arrive at my true passion and proudly now call my business, simply, Ken Russell Restorations.

 

From 1994 to 2004, this business was called British Automotive and was located in Ramona, CA.  Ramona is a small town, just outside San Diego city, but still in San Diego County, toward the East.  During the months of October and November 2004, I closed out the Ramona shop, changed the business name to Ken Russell Restorations, and moved everything to Ranchita, CA.  As Ramona, Ranchita is still in San Diego County, but is further toward the East.  I built a new shop building on property I own in Ranchita and now everything is located here.

 

Over the years, I have had many employees.  However, these days, there is only one:  ME!  I run the office, sweep the shop, wash the cars, procure parts, plus all the mechanical work needed to do the job.  I am asked many times why I don’t have employees and the answer is really very simple.  I prefer to provide the best, most personalized service available.  I consider myself more as a doctor than a mechanic.  From the start to the conclusion, I want my customers to know there is someone who really cares about them and their car!

 

 

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Last revised: Tuesday, January 12, 2010