E-Type Restoration Guide - The Leapers Beeper

As I sit behind the wheel of my 1969 E-Type (series II), I press the horn button on the center of the steering wheel listen to the beautiful beep. Wait a minute...Series II? Horn button in the middle of the wheel? And it works? Yes, friends I have just completed this difficult modification, and it does work, and it hasn't changed appearances in any radical way.
If you would like to take a crack at this bad boy, you will need the following materials:

Note: This procedure works for cars which do not have locking steering columns. Some modifications will be required if a locking column is used.

The problem.
In response to Federal safety mandates, the steering column on the Series II E-Type was designed to colapse on hard impact. This protects the driver from being impaled on the steering column in an accident.

This design problem was solved with a modification to both the steering column housing and the actual steering shaft:

The housing has a colapsible section which is about 5" long. This length of the housing is sort of 'perforated', almost to the point of structural failure. This allows the section to crush down to almost nothing when forced forward. To allow this to happen, the front column mounts are frangible, that is, they are designed to shear away on impact.

The steering shaft is made of three sections. The lower section is solid steel. It is weakly riveted to the center section, which is hollow. The rivets will shear away on impact, allowing the lower section to telescope into the center section. (The upper section, which happens to be hollow, allows the steering wheel to be adjusted in and out)

This design turned out to be inconsistent with Jaguar's horn blow apparatus. The horn button was relocated to the turn signal lever, and the horn button became vestigial.

Four problems present themselves when trying to come up with a center button design:

  1. A contact ring or commutator must be designed to carry current into the shaft.
  2. A means must be found to keep the horn button wired when the steering wheel is adjusted in or out.
  3. Safety cannot be compromised.
  4. The result should look normal

The Nardi Wheel

The PO of my car had installed a Nardi steering wheel. Although I have considered reverting to original, the Nardi wheel just looks too nice.

Part of the Nardi installation is a center-mounted horn button. This is a simple momentary contact switch. Unfortunately, it is designed to attach to the horn rod on a series I, and is insufficient in itself to solve the series II problem. However, if a way can be found to extend the horn wiring into the shaft, this button will work just fine.

**** Before You Start, Disconnect the Battery! ****

Steering column removal.
  1. Assuming you have a Nardi wheel, pry out the horn button.
  2. Remove the locknut and the nut from the column.
  3. Pull the wheel forward to remove. As you do so, the two halves of the "split cone" will fall away. Be sure to retrieve these. Tip: a dab of rubber cement will hold the split cone to the shaft when you reassemble.
  4. Remove the big locking cylinder by removing the lock ring and unscrewing. Pet peeve: use a lock ring plier for this job. There is no excuse for destroying the ring.
  5. Pull off the right side of the plastic turn signal housing. It is held in place with spring clips, and will just pull off to the right.
  6. Remove the four screws which hold the clamps to the left side turn signal housing. You must be very careful to note the positions of the two halves of the clamp: The left clamp has a dimple, which locks it to the housing, and the right clamp is assymetric, and has an (unmarked) 'up' side and a 'down' side. remove the left turn signal housing by sliding it off the signal lever.
  7. Unscrew and remove the metal clamp which retains the turn signal switch. There are two screws on this clamp, and they use some oddly shaped washers to grip the ring. Do not lose these.
  8. Unscrew the 'plug' which keeps the upper column from sliding out of the center column. This plug should be hand tight, so no tools. Do not lose this plug. Slide out the upper shaft and the shaft retainer.
  9. Slide the turn signal switch off the shaft, but do not unplug the wiring.
  10. Remove the two forward bolts securing the column housing to the bulkhead. There will be a stack of washers on these bolts, be sure to note locations and assembly sequence.
  11. Remove the two rear bolts securing the column housing to the bulkhead. Only one washer on each of these.
  12. Remove the u-joint, by undoing and completely removing the bolt, and pulling the entire column forward.
  13. The steering column is now out.

Disassembling the column
  1. Peel off the plastic dust cover which covers the collapsible section of the column housing.
  2. Note that there is a series of diamond shaped perforations in this section of the housing. Now this is important. From the bottom of the shaft, locate the first complete row of 'diamonds'. Poke a magic marker dead center thru one of these diamonds, and mark the steering shaft. This is where the commutator ring will eventually be.
  3. Remove the "C" ring from the lower end of the shaft. Extreme care should be taken not to allow the shaft to unexpectedly slip out of the housing,as nothing will hold it in when the ring is removed. Carefully remove the washers under this clip, and note assembly sequence.
  4. Slowly slide the shaft out of the housing. The lower bearing cone is a very precise fit to the shaft, so removal is tricky, but patient work will slide it off. Do not succumb to the temptation to bash it out. Note the assembly sequence of the bearings. Be careful, as the bearing races are delicate, and it is not easy to find replacements. These races should be greased prior to reassembly.
  5. The shaft is now out.

Building the commutator.
  1. Unfortunately, there was so much trial and error for me, that I didn't bother with precise measurements for the next steps.
  2. In the removal step, a mark was made on the lower shaft. This mark identifies the circumference of the commutator ring.
  3. Slide a 1" length of 3/4" heat-shrink tubing onto the shaft. It should be centered on the above-mentioned circumference.
  4. Shrink the tubing by heating the shaft. This can be done with a hair dryer, or by leaving the shaft on a stove top while the oven is on. Stop when the tubing grips the shaft tightly.
  5. Cut a piece of 3/4" copper pipe. The length should be about 5/8".
  6. Solder a male disconnect to the inside of this ring. Keep the solder joint as flat and compact as possible.
  7. Slide the ring on the shaft, with the disconnect facing the top of the shaft. The 'flats' of the lower shaft are the ideal location for the disconnect. The entire assembly should ride on the heat shrink.
  8. 'Stuff' the gaps formed under the ring by the shaft flats with high strength epoxy. If you do this correctly, the epoxy will hold the ring to the heat-shrink, and the heat shrink will be held on the shaft by friction only. This will allow the whole commutator to displace forward in the event the shaft collapses.
  9. Test fit the shaft assembly to the housing. The commutator ring should ride directly beneath one set of diamond shaped holes.
  10. The commutator is done.

Building the contact slide.
  1. Cut the upper two sections from an old radio antenna. Cut off the 'button' at the top.
  2. Trim the lower section so that it is about 1/8" shorter than the 'hollow' of the center shaft section.
  3. With the antenna fully extended, and inserted in the center shaft, slide the upper shaft partly in. Screw in the 'stop', and allow the upper shaft to drop in to its fully compressed position.
  4. Slide the upper section of the antenna fully in.
  5. Trim the upper section of the antenna so that is recessed about 1/8" on the upper shaft.
  6. Disassemble the shaft.
  7. For the next step, I used the insulator from the an old ohmmeter probe. This is about two inches long, and made of hard plastic. But almost any hard plastic tube will do.
  8. Machine down the above mentioned plastic tube until it just fits into the upper shaft. This should be a tight friction fit.
  9. Slide the antenna into the upper shaft, with the plastic tube in place. Crimp an insulated male disconnect to the end of the antenna. Then force this into the plastic tube, and anchor it in place with a bit of high strength epoxy.
  10. Slip a section of rubber hose over the lower section of the radio antenna.
  11. Clip the head off a copper roofing nail. Do not use an aluminum or steel nail. Leave about 1/4" of the shank. Roofing nails have extremely large heads, which make them ideal for the purpose.
  12. Force this into the open end of the lower antenna section.
  13. Solder a length of hook-up wire to the copper nail head.
  14. Wrap some tape around the nail head.
  15. Insert the nail head into a rubber bonnet bumper. This is the hollow, perforated bumper which fits onto the bonnet lock pins.
  16. Force the antenna into the center shaft. The bonnet bumper is a perfect friction fit to the shaft bore, and will hold the antenna in place, insulated, dead center. Be sure to push it all the way down.
  17. Slide the cone section of the upper bearing into place
  18. Fish the hook-up wire thru the slot in the side of the shaft.
  19. Slip a section of 1/8" heat shrink over the hook up wire. Shrink this with a hair drier.
  20. Cut the hook up wire to length, crimp on a female disconnect, and attach to the commutator.
  21. Tape the hook up wire to the shaft to prevent interference with the housing.
  22. Reassemble the shaft, bearings, and housing, and test for fit. Make sure there is no interference between the wiring and the housing. Using an ohmmeter, make sure that the commutator is electrically connected to the male disconnect at the top of the antenna. Make sure it is not grounded to the housing.

v=commutator ring

x=rubber bumper


n=nail head


i=insulator from ohmmeter


               |xxxx         --------------------

  -v-----------|xnxx                        iiii

   vddd        |xnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddd

  -v-----------|xnxx                        iiii

               |xxxx         --------------------

     Lower     |------------|   Upper (telescoping shaft)

     Shaft       Center Shaft

Building the brush.

To get electricity into the circuit, a brush must be made which contacts the commutator.

  1. Secure a suitable housing. I used the 'bannana plug' from an old ohmmeter lead. This was the old-fashioned kind, where the metalic portion unscrews from the insulator.
  2. If you follow my lead, unscrew the plug. Solder the spring from a ball point pen to the solder lead of the plug.
  3. Cut a 1/4" length from the shaft of a copper roofing nail. Polish one end, and turn the other so that it fits snuggly into the open end of the spring.
  4. Screw this assembly together.
  5. The copper nail should project out the back of the bannana plug. It should be possible to push this all the way into the housing, against spring pressure.
  6. Build a suitable bracket for this commutator using plumbers iron strapping.
  7. Insulate the tip of the bannana plug from the strap using a Ford plastic door rod clip lock.
  8. Use the hose clamp and the tie wrap on the bracket to hold the brush close against the commutator ring. Select a 'diamond' perforation on the right side of the housing.
                              ||      tip of plug
                         __ ||__
                           |  ||  |
                           |   _ | 
                           |   /  |  
                           |   -  |  spring
                           |   /  |
                           |   -  |
                           |   n | 
                           |_ n |   nail
  9. Use a three way splice to attach a lead to the horn wire (purple and black). Crimp a large female bullet connector to this lead. The bullet connector will exactly fit the tip of the bannana plug.
  10. Reassemble everything.
  11. Cobble up a piece of wire with female disconnects on both ends. Use this to connect the Nardi horn switch to the disconnect on the top of the antenna.
  12. Re assemble the switch to the wheel
  13. Connect up the battery. You are done.