Gumby is now complete, and ready for the Lime Rock Concours coming on Sunday September 3. I hope to see you at that great event!
Now that we have have ironed-out the rough edges, I had a delightful driving afternoon yesterday running errands. I made a short video (below) so you can perhaps feel the way this fuel injected custom Sprite pulls through the gears. The car has perhaps 85 horsepower which feels like plenty. The car wants to rev, and rewards the driver with a seductive increase in power as the RPMs rise and the cross flow head and roller rockers start to sing. This is not a stock 1275.
And after dinner on this particular warm night, I was reminded of the many night time drives I have enjoyed in this car. Each summer since 1979, this car has been there for me, a partner as we cut through the night air.
This car is the product of hundreds of hours of restoration work. Once it was done, then the fine tuning began, and with a new (and untested for us) cross-flow four-port injected head, a lot of computer-based fine tuning on the laptop was required.
This is a major paradigm shift for all of us who grew up around (worn) SU carbs. We are of the club that is accustomed to richening or leaning a flat after a drive. We know how to hold a piece of rubber hose next to our ear to synchronize our carbs. And we know all about which particular extra virgin olive oil works best in our carburetor dashpots.
Here is a car that has none of that, no dashpot tops to tighten, no carburetors to leak, no rotor to crack and arc, an electronic box tells the injectors what to do. For those into modern cars, this is a so painfully obvious and normal, but having lived with this car through High School with the most-mismatched-wrong jet-leaking throttle shaft SUs on the planet, it is a bit odd to have my old friend powered by such a power plant high tech.
To get this configuration to work, you best need find someone who grew up with a cell phone, not a Unisyn in his pocket… someone who thinks Suburu WRX when he hears the word “Bugeye,” someone who can operate a video game controller while simultanteously posting pictures on Instagram and commenting on a friend’s facebook post. We were lucky enough to find this person and add him to our team. He’s about 30 year younger than the rest of us, but we like him just the same, particularly since he was quite adept at massaging the fuel map for Gumby and making this car purr.
With laptop plugged into the ECU, Doug and I spent a few hours driving around town, me finding the stumbly spots and holding it there, with Doug keying in the adjustments to the fuel flow for that particular throttle setting and RPM. Gradually, we ironed out the kinks. Not one fingernail was dirtied. Our biggest challenge was keeping the laptop battery from running out.
There is something distinctly un-old british car about this process. It flies in the face of everything we do on a routine basis, we didn’t even have to open the bonnet during our two-hour tuning session! The plug for the laptop lives in the passenger footwell… that’s all we needed.
There is also something spectualar about this process. It’s clean! It lasts! It works! It’s infinitely adjustable! And it represents one more way we can power and further develop the cars that we love so much.
A few years ago we built a Concours Gold Bugeye, with all the right parts and pieces to satisfy four judges during a two-hour judging marathon. That was one kind of extreme Bugeye, extremely accurate and authentic. This Bugeye is equally extreme, and completely different. It has been a privilege to have an opportunity to build both. We look forward to continuing to apply what we have learned to the next car. Whether stock or modified, maybe the next one will be yours!