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Why your classic car needs new tires.

Everyone cheats on the date.

And it makes sense, most classics never even begin to wear out the tread. We just don’t drive them enough.

Here’s how you tell just how old your tires are:


058 date stamp

The tire above has a three digit date stamp. This means it was built before 2000. It would have made in the 5th week of 1998, or 88? There is no way of knowing (hence the change to four digits after 2000). All tires after 2000 have a four digit date stamp like the one below. That one was made in the 34th week of 2006, which means it’s 12 years old.

3406 date stamp

In actuality, both of these tires are in our discard pile that you see above. Even the 12 year-old tire is past its prime.

I can tell right away from the ride quality, the date stamp merely confirms what my butt already knows. Any tire more than about 8 years old has started to harden, and as such, it yields less and provides a firmer ride. Sprites need all the suspension they can get, and the tire is vital for a supple ride. Older tires also skitter along the tops of the peaks of any asphalt surface, instead of hooking up with the roadway. As such, an old tire doesn’t grip as well and certainly can’t brake as well.

I used to think this was all propaganda from tire sellers. But I have driven enough Sprites now over the same local roads to be able to feel the difference. Old tires don’t stick. Sprite suspension is so low tech that the tire is even more vital for a good ride and the safest drive. While I hate to put more tires into the waste stream, safety is more important, and if your British car stops 50 or just 10 feet sooner because the rubber is fresh, that might just save your Bugeye nose from some unsightly scars!

Please proceed to your car and check the tire date stamps today. 13 inch tires are cheap, about 1/4 of the price of modern tires for most SUVs.

Shameless plug: we sell the tire we use on all our restorations, you can find it by clicking here.

Don’t do this to your Bugeye Sprite

Here’s another nice Bugeye success story.

At the request of the longtime owner, we picked up the car above in Pittsburgh about eight weeks ago. It had a worn interior, wouldn’t go more than 30 miles without dying and didn’t ride very well. Now it drives great, has a new top and interior and about 100 repairs/improvements have been completed. It’s fully sorted and ready to be loaded into an enclosed trailer for the trip back home. Don’t be confused by the title of this post… DO this to your Bugeye Sprite! This client turned his old friend into a much more useable asset he can trust and enjoy! (And we can pick up your car anywhere in the USA if you would like us to perform a similar transformation on your favorite old english sportscar.)

Now on to the title of the post… one of the issues we addressed was a fuel tank leak at the sender. This is a common problem. It’s not easy to seal the sender into the tank and thus many fuel tanks leak at this gasket. To access the sender, you have to drop the tank from the trunk floor, and thus many tanks don’t get the maintenance they need. If you don’t have a lift, it’s a hassle to drop the tank while on your back.

To make matters worse, if you get it wrong and find that your gasket still leaks after you’ve wrestled the tank back into position, the last thing you want to do is take it apart all over again. But every time you fill up the tank, the sender gasket will allow fuel to fill the little well around the sender (see the photo of the new product below, the sender and well is roughly in the upper center of the photo) and that pool of gas will stink up your garage pretty effectively until it evaporates or runs down the sides of the tank. Look for tracks on the sides of your tank… those indicate a leak and that fuel has been running off the top of your tank and streaking the sides.

To fix this problem once and for all, make sure to use ethanol-proof VITON gaskets. There are two on every sender, and they both need to be VITON. Discard the cork gaskets that come with the tank, or sender. Both of them will leak eventually. Check those out in our catalog by clicking here.

Make sure to seal the screw heads that hold the sender in place. And you need to pressure test the tank (gently!) before installing it, to make sure there are no leaks. Spray the sender gasket area with windex or any soapy solution to verify no bubbles/no leaks. We’ll be happy to sell you the parts for all this, see the links at the end of this post. Or if you don’t want to hassle with these details, we sell a fully assembled, sealed and tested tank, ready to install.

Check out the photos of someone previously attempted to address this issue. Notice the caulking applied around the entire fuel tank perimeter (above). This builder figured that they could seal the union between the tank and the trunk floor whereby the fuel that leaked out of the top of the tank would remain trapped between the tank and trunk.

It’s a lot easier to just fix it right (which we did).

Need a new tank of your own? Click this link to buy one. We’ll send it to you with a new sender sealed inside (with a metal float too!)

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…

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!

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.

Why this innovative new Sprite product is worthy of its own post!

The new generator shown below (installed in a customer’s car) looks completely stock. Yet, hidden inside is a modern high-powered alternator that outputs more than twice the amperage, spins on superior bearings, and weighs about half as much as the original!

Introducing the “GenerNator,” an exciting innovation of great interest to everyone who owns a Spridget fit with a Lucas generator and regulator. This new dynamo looks original but is superior in every way to the original Lucas generator. It’s available for positive and negative ground cars, as well as traditional Mark One Bugeyes with a tach drive and also for later non-tach drive set-ups.

For years we have done alternator conversions to get rid of the generator and regulator-the alternator provides more power at lower rpms, with better bearings, and it’s more durable. But this change always necessitated a change to an electronic tachometer, because the tach drive went away with the alternator change-over.

No more.

Now, our new GenerNator gives you all the the benefits of an alternator with none of the downsides. It looks completely stock but hidden inside is a modern alternator. It spins the tachometer drive just like the original. The difference is more than twice the output of a generator, more power available at lower RPMS, much less weight, built-in regulator, better bearings.

It’s brilliant!

You no longer need your regulator with this product (this is more great news-regulators are sometimes unreliable-the GenerNator gets rid of another potential trouble spot!) Instructions are included to wire it all up. You can leave the stock regulator in place, it becomes a fused link for the new set-up. If you are missing your regulator, or yours is damaged, you can also order our dummy regulator, which looks stock and includes a fuse hidden inside.

Check it out at our catalog page by clicking here. We are actively installing these in customer cars and have thus far had no issues and expect this product to be a winner all the way around! Retain the stock appearance, retain your stock gauges, upgrade the power output and reliabilty, lighten the weight. What’s not to like?

It’s a particularly timely innovation, and the need for this product was “driven” home this week. One of the cars we recently delivered to Western New York (Hampton) stopped working when the voltage regulator melted. It may have shorted internally, or the generator may have shorted and fried the regulator (we’ll know when we inspect the pieces soon) but regardless, the charging system failed and it left the customer’s car inoperable in his own garage. This is of course completely unacceptable… frustrating for the customer and particularly frustrating for us!

This happened in spite of our routine inspection of these components when we released the car. In fact, every car we sell goes through a comprehensive check list before we allow it to depart, and the charging circuit is thoroughly inspected as part of this checklist. Still, the system stopped working, which is our worst nightmare. Hampton will get a new GenerNator, and this should serve the car and the customer quite well, and most importantly should end hassles with the charging system forever.

If you want to order one of these beauties, click here. We have the tach drive model in stock now, and will have the non tach drive version available next week (for later cars).

Contact us at David@bugeyeguy.com or call (203)-208-0980 during business hours