Austin Healey Modifications

Modifications are on my mind, particularly as our electric car nears completion. This green Bugeye below looks and feels like a Bugeye, yet everything is different. I am still getting used to seeing a large battery boxes when I look at the engine bay. Exciting, (especially with 108 lbs of torque generated by the AC motor under the boxes) but very unfamiliar.
“Pal,” the light blue Bugeye parked alongside, is also transforming into a a different kind of modified Super Sprite, with a supercharger and multiple other modifications, so that this blue car, while it also looks and feels like a Bugeye, is also upgraded in just about every way.

How do you feel about modifications? Most of us love the pure essence of our British roadsters, and we like to think we can switch to a spin-on oil filter perhaps, but keep the rest “original.” Now that we have sent more than 225 Bugeyes out into the world, we love the modifications more than ever, primarily because those mods help to keep our customers happy and out on the road instead of frustrated on the shoulder.

For example, “Pal” has our hot weather kit with better fan and radiator so that the car can handle more horsepower and Los Angeles temperatures with grace when it arrives at its final destination. The metal four blade fan is quaint, but the six blade version works a lot better if you want to stay cool.

Last week, I took my green modified Austin Healey 3000 to the “British by the Sea” car show in nearby Waterford, CT. That car has perhaps 50 different upgrades and modifications, including air conditioning and a twin spare tire rally-tribute boot lid. The entire rear seat area, which was never terribly useful unless your kids are just the right size, has been turned into a locker for fuses, electric relays and a superb audio amplifier.

Throughout this large British car show I marveled at the response from the audience. Some shook their heads in disbelief, as if to say, “why would anyone modify a Healey like this?” Many approved and showered praise on the incredible workmanship that went into the restoration. I couldn’t help but notice that our car attracted quite a crowd, while most of the other stunning Healeys in the line-up didn’t seem to be attracting too much attention. We lovers of British iron need that crowd. We need people to get interested and excited and to have an opinion about these cars. Anything we can do to stimulate discussion helps us all, as we strive to broaden the appeal of our little universe of wonderful cars.
When the green BJ8 was called for first in class, I was gratified to know that the approving votes won out, not because I needed another trophy, but because I was glad to see that people appreciate a well-modified car. Our car bested about a dozen other wonderful big Healeys, many that could have easily won the class.

If you like modified cars, you can see Pal’s modifications queued up in the video below, and I’ll show you some before and after pictures next week when the car is finished. You don’t need a limited slip differential in your Bugeye, but when you drive one thusly equipped, you might just agree it is a modification that makes your wonderful little car that much better!

All the mods in the video are available through our catalog. If you can’t find what you need at, please call us at 203 208 0980 and we will gladly add any missing products to our roster!

Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite floor restore

This week, our Maryland project Bugeye got a nice new driver side floor pan. Here, Kenny lights up the shop with his masterful welding. There’s more to do, but now this Bugeye Sprite is a useable machine that is finally mobile for the customer after a roughly 35 year hibernation!

Inner rocker patches were needed too, as was a patch on the front dip switch toe board. You should be able to see Ken’s patches in the photo album below.

Don’t do this to your Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite

Here’s the gearbox from a Bugeye we took in trade for an owner who wanted a better Bugeye, and sadly, this one only made it 10 miles in our possession before the wheels locked up and we almost had to drag the car home. We disconnected the diff at the drive shaft and found the diff was fine, but the transmission was in trouble. When we drained the transmission oil, large pieces came out. Game over.

Nose off, engine out, transmission off, and we discovered the last person to visit this site had neglected to install a pilot bushing, which allowed the transmission input shaft to travel in an oval arc, thereby contributing to the early demise of this gearbox.

Not recommended.

We made a custom pilot bushing to support a new rebuilt transmission, put it all together and off the car went to Tennessee and a new home. So the moral of this story, should you ever take off your transmission, make sure the pilot bushing is properly set-up before you put the assembly back in the car. We sell the stock bushing, it’s about $5, in case you need one…

And maybe do this with your Bugeye too!

Matthew has been a great customer. Not only did he buy one of our cars (Marco), he also had us modify it for speed. We attached a five speed transmission to his 1275 engine and an aluminum radiator so he could do battle in the DC area with his Sprite. We powder coated his new black rims and set up his 3.9 diff so that he could cruise at high speed per his request. His car serves as an excellent test bed for our product and we were gratified to get the following message from him:

I am driving her almost every day usually with a typical speed around 80 mph. According to my GPS speedometer, top speed so far has been 103 mph (not sure if that is accurate or not, although I have pushed her a few times on a straightaway at the local track) and my best 0 to 60 is 14 seconds….although I really don’t accelerating too aggressively. Not bad for a 60 year old car…you and your mechanics certainly do a good job on these cars!!!



He’s using our new GPS speedometer, which gives GPS based readings so it sure better be accurate! It also has a 0-60 recorder, which is how Matthew is getting the data above. The original 0-60 time for a 948CC Bugeye was around 23 seconds! You can get yours by clicking here.




Our new tachometers just arrived as well (pictured below). You can find these in our catalog by clicking here…

Matthew is also a pilot who loves vintage aircraft. Here’s his Bugeye parked with his two tail draggers!

Classic British car low power diagnosis

We had a TR4 in the shop recently, running a bit rough and not developing full power. Quick for sure, but I thought we could do better. We checked over the usual suspects, tuned and synched the carbs, checked all the ignition components and drove it again, without much change.

The one tool that made the most difference for this job was a pair of insulated pliers, with which Russ removed one plug wire at a time while listening for changes in RPM. Cylinders 2-4 had a consistent drop with the plug wire removed. But number one made only a slight difference when with the spark plug lead disconnected. We checked compression, and it was consistent in all cylinders.

Next we removed the valve cover to check valve adjustment. A simple push of the thumb downward on each of the valves revealed the issue- all of them were too firm to move by hand except one. The intake valve spring on number one was broken. There was enough tension to keep the valve from falling into the combustion chamber, but it was broken still, and once we replaced the springs and adjusted the valves, the car ran, well, about 25 percent better. It’s amazing how good valve timing requires good springs. You can see the broken outer spring in the photo. (it’s the one that’s a little short.)

Simply removing and replacing the plug wires one at a time is an easy way to verify that each piston is pulling its share of the load. If your car is making noises or feeling anemic, this is a useful low-tech diagnostic tool.

Another AH Bugeye Sprite floor restoration

Remember this garage find from a few weeks back? We’ve been rebuilding the mechanicals on this one for the past month for the good folks in Maryland who hired us to get the car back on the road. The car now runs and drives nicely!

Today we embarked on the next phase of the project, to restore the driver side floor pan, which was badly rusted. Here are some photos from the disassembly, that will give you a window into how these cars are built.

Some rust in the foot wells. Some rust in the rear spring area. Once in a while, we get cars that have both, like this one. The footwell had an old patch, with a piece of a street sign. The rear area on this car had never been repaired. Ken will weld in a complete new floor pan, to give this car a new foundation that will out live us all.

Above you can see the prepared floor, ready to fit the new pan. There is some welding and patching still needed on both the inner sill and on the front of the wheel well where the floor meets the rockers. This first step is nearly complete… Ken has stripped away most of the old rotten material. It looks like this car might have been Nevada Beige, as this seems to be the color emerging under the grime on the transmission tunnel.

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