Tires for classic sportscars

How old are your tires?

This one is probably 30 years old (it did pop)

I’ve seen recommendations that we should all change our tires every seven years. But we all stretch it, and with good reason. Even if you drive your classic car 1000 miles per year, after 7000 miles, that’s hardly noticeable wear for a modern 13 inch tire that is probably good for 40,000 miles or more. And there are plenty of Sprite drivers out there who just noodle around town, so why bother changing your tires if you never go above 40 mph?

Why leave your tires to chance? Roll with “Fate-O!” (these old tires came to us on a Sprite)

One of the great advantages of driving so many identical cars over the same roads day after day is that I get to experience lots of subtle differences between cars. More and more I am convinced that fresh rubber really makes a BIG difference. I have been to one of the largest tire dumps in America (tire pond) and I hate to see more tires discarded. But old tires provide less traction. Old tires don’t brake as well. Or corner as well. And in an panic situation, this could be particularly important. More importantly, new rubber provides more ride comfort for the occupants. Sure, comfort is not a priority when setting off in a Bugeye, but there is a noticeable difference when new supple rubber. It’s more compliant, and makes the car feel a lot better.

Sprites need all the suspension they can get, and tire sidewalls help provide that suspension. This is one reason I am very much against any tire with a profile lower than 70…. 60 or 50 series tires may look cool, but you sacrifice any cushion the sidewall provides. If you lost a dental filling on your last Sprite drive, you need higher profile (or new) tires.

Lots of original Sprite steel wheels are bent too. These Minilights repros are strong and round and well worth considering whenever you invest in new rubber…

Sure, everything else has to be set up right, and your shocks need to be working properly too. But don’t underestimate the importance of good rubber. Learn to read the date code on your tires so you can stop lying about their age. The date code is a four digit code in an oval box on the sidewall, usually next to a DOT number. 3604 would mean the tire was built in the 36th week of 2004. 1815 is the 18th week of 2015, etc. The new tire at left is 0618, made February 2018 (click the photo to enlarge if needed). If you can only find a three digit number, you are way overdue… in 2000, this designation changed from three to four digits, so if you have only three digits in your date code, your tires are more than 18 years old. Rubber that old just can’t grip the asphalt the way you need it to.

Tires are cheap! Click here if you want to order a set today. We have 155 and 175 series. We also have new wheels available and can mount and balance your tires are wheels and ship them to your door. Click here for more info! And click here to add mounting and balancing…

Bugeye revival after 31 years of ownership

Dropping off your baby at summer camp

After 31 years of ownership, we were lucky to have Jud bring his Bugeye “Raymond” to our shop for its grand revival. The car hadn’t run in years, and it was time to make the car useable once again.

Some 80 repair/restoration line items later, the car hurtled down the Interstate at 65 MPH once again. While there are about 20 more possible improvements we might make were time and budget available, this car is now ready for the next adventure. It’s incomplete (like many English sports cars). Still, Jud will fly into New Haven this week and drive the car back to New Hampshire. If weather and time allow, he’ll also drive over to The British Invasion at Stowe (in Vermont) next weekend.

Each dormant Sprite seems to need something different. This one had a very rusted battery tray, which we cut out. The firewall had also rusted.

We welded in a new tray, a job that requires access from underneath, which meant engine and transmission removal so that we could finish the repair properly. The car also needed new tires, new hydraulics, new hoses and all new rear brakes and hub seals. We fixed many temporary repairs put in place when time was abundant and money was scarce. Now that time is precious and money just a little more prevalent, this owner elected to have us make the car ready for highway miles once again.

Next up are similar projects on cars that came to us from Boise and Oklahoma City. More and more people are sending their cars to us from all over the country, so we can make them right. It’s an honor to serve a national restoration center for these wonderful little cars. Nothing is more satisfying than taking an inactive dusty vehicle and turning it into a road going machine that brings joy to owners and onlookers on otherwise less exciting roadways. Please call if you would like us to bring your classic car back to life!

Austin Healey Sprite fuel pump woes

That’s my Iris blue Bugeye (“The Egg”) getting retrieved by a flat bed tow truck a few weeks ago. The fuel pump failed, a nice looking little German model which started pumping furiously (without moving fuel) because the diaphragm failed. Below on the right is a picture of the one that came with the car, which broke. Alongside I have also shown an Ecco brand pump that comes with plastic fittings- I much prefer metal ones.

Sadly, we have seen lots of these aftermarket alternatives fail.

We have had zero failures with the square solid state pump we sell. This is the most reliable set-up that we have found, and they live on almost all of the cars we have shipped to customers around the world. The Egg will get one too (click this text if you want to order one).

Last week, we were putting together a Bugeye with a working pump and fuel pressure regulator in place. Lots of people use higher pressure pumps and adjustable pressure regulators to step down the pressure for SU carbs, which only need 1.5 to 2PSI of pressure. But the regulator has one more diaphragm in the chain that you just don’t need.

In fact, on a test drive this week, I felt something unusual on my right foot as I applied the accelerator pedal. Heat was all I could discern, and while it felt a little like a snake bite, my sock also felt wet. So I switched off the engine to evaluate and found that my shoe had filled with fuel. This particular regulator was located next to the pedal box and the diaphragm inside it failed, thus causing a gasoline rainstorm on my pedicure.

I’ve had plenty of brake fluid land on my shoes while driving, but this was my first fuel-foot. So I would rip out your regulator and put in the correct low pressure pump.

Every diaphragm has a limited life span, so it’s best to get rid of them all. The diaphragm on the mechanical fuel pumps original to the car will tear and can send fuel into your sump and/or onto your hot manifold. SU pumps have diaphragms that can tear. And regulator rubber can also perish. The square pumps are piston powered and seem much more durable and so far, represent the best path to reliability. My car looks great on the truck below, but I would have much preferred to have driven home!

How to make a Bugeye Sprite Tach cable fit

We’ve had a bunch of requests from catalog customers in the past few weeks for a longer tach cable. Seems a bunch of folks are having trouble getting the tach cable to reach from the dashboard to the generator. We never had that problem before, so I thought this post might help explain how to properly set-up your tach so that the stock cable will reach.

First, the proper location for the tachometer is in the inboard (large instrument) hole in the dash. This effectively shortens the cable run. So start by making sure your speedo is outboard and tach inboard. If your tach is closest to the fuel gauge, your cable might not reach the generator.
Secondly, you need to make sure you have the tach cable coming through the correct hole in the firewall. In the photo above, you can see tach cable, wiper motor wires and windshield washer hose, from left to right, filling the three holes outboard of the battery. Make sure your tach cable is in the proper hole, or your cable might not reach.

In the photo below, the blue car has the wiper wires and tach cable reversed (the washer bottle is missing and that hole in the firewall is plugged). This routing will put undue kinks in the tach cable behind the instrument, and make it more likely that your gauge will be jumpy. Mr. cable likes a nice fair curve.

Speaking of a nice curve, the cable also needs to run aft of the heater box and forward of the battery. Note green “Boyd” below, where the cable makes a nice gradual “S” from the dashboard to the generator, to the eyelet at the solenoid, to the tach drive on the generator. The blue car (above) has the the cable routed incorrectly.

Now look at the blue car below which is done incorrectly, and you can see the cable running in front of the heater box and beneath the heater valve. To make the 90 degree bend to the tach drive, the cable has to make a much tighter radius, which stresses everything. You should be able to see the nice gradual curve made by the cable in the photo above.

The mechanical tach cable, drive and tachometer has to be set-up right if you want it to work reliably. Make sure you have the routing correct (or you can try one of our new electronic tachometers if you want to go with a more modern electronic system-click here to check those out).

0-60 time for an Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite

How fast is your Bugeye?

I spent some time this week in a very technologically advanced Bugeye. In fact, next to our FrogE electric (coming soon!), this may be the most modern Bugeye on the road today. Why? Because of our new GPS powered speedometer, a tiny instrument that comes loaded with a slew of modern electronic and digital features.

Why would anyone need this in a car that is all about elemental simplicity? This is a car that doesn’t even have external door handles, let alone door locks.

Because it’s fun.

One of our more intrepid customers “Farid” routinely uses this red Bugeye for trips from NYC to Milford, CT. His speedo was working erratically, and he wanted it repaired. We diagnosed a loose drive gear in the transmission, a chronic Sprite problem that requires a complete transmission disassembly to fix. An easier repair was to install our new GPS powered electric speedo. One of my favorite features available after this fix is the 0-60 timer, which helps us to answer the perennial question, how much faster is a 1275 Bugeye than a stock 948? Watch below:

The video shows my first run, not too aggressive with a bit of an uphill, at 17.50. My fastest time to 60 was 15.84 seconds. While this sounds very slow compared to modern cars, it’s plenty fast to merge with highway traffic on Interstate 95. And if you want to go faster, this instrument gives you a novel gadget for evaluating tuning improvements. In 1958, Road and Track reported the stock Bugeye 0-60 time as 20.8 seconds. Now, everyone compete for the best time!

I have to confess I was mesmerized by the rock solid analog speed indicator. It never wavered. All my life, speedos and tach have floated through a range of values, as mechanical cables told the gauges what to say. Now, the electronic age is available in your Bugeye cockpit. And I confess I found it quite entertaining.

Other functions you get with the GPS speedo: compass heading, altimeter (86FT), an accurate digital trip odometer (that actually works), time of day, maximum peak speed (which also moves the analog needle to simultaneously display the value and quarter mile time. Check these out in our catalog by clicking here!

You can see pictures of the other screens in the album below. You scroll through the functions with the rubber button on the gauge face. Shown here in the album are compass heading, time, trip odometer and altitude. For 0-60 runs, you hold the button down when in this function to zero the digits. Once you begin moving, the timer begins. When you hit 60 MPH, the times freezes, and only resets when you hit the button again or turn off power. Distance traveled to 60 is also displayed…

Don’t do this to your Bugeye Sprite

The iris blue Bugeye in this photo came to us from Boise, Idaho for sorting and upgrades. I climbed-in to unload it from the enclosed trailer in front of our shop and my conversation with the driver went something like this:

Driver: “Turn the wheel to the right”
Me: It’s all the way to the right.
Driver: No it’s not.
Me: the wheel is hard over
Driver Then how come this wheel is all the way to the LEFT?

At which point we climbed deeper into the dark 53′ trailer so we could see the front of the car. Indeed, one tire was pointing fully to the left and the other fully to the right. We looked under the car to find the nut missing and the tie rod end no longer connected.

It may look pretty normal in the photo, but if you look closely in the upper right of the picture, you will see the tie rod end floating in mid-air beneath the steering arm. That’s because the nut came loose, unscrewed and departed the vehicle, and then the tie rod end fell out of the steering arm. When turning the steering wheel with this configuration, one wheel turns, and goes in any direction other than parallel to its mate, which is to say, driving in this mode could have disastrous consequences. Fortunately, this all happened while the car was making its cross country journey, safely secured inside this trailer.

We fixed it, tightened it and drove it off the trailer without issue. No one was hurt. But
please before your next drive in your classic car put a wrench on YOUR tie rod ends. Original tie rod ends were drilled for a cotter pin. Unfortunately, newer replacements are sold with a nyloc nut instead. We’ll never know why this one fell-off. Perhaps it was insufficiently tightened. Or maybe the installer lost the nyloc and used a generic nut. Regardless, have a look at yours. Two-wheel steering is a good thing.

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