(if a car is not pictured here, it has been sold)

Crack kills.

At the risk of beating this point to death, aged-out tires that still “look new” are a bad thing. I’ve bought a lot of cars with tires touted by sellers as brand new with very few miles. Make sure you ask the age. This week, I put some old “new’ tires to the test.

I have been to Connecticut’s gigantic tire pond tire dump and it is a horrific site, disposed tires make a big mess, so I had previously been reluctant to discard tires when they have few miles, regardless of their age. But I have recently become quite a convert, primarily because supple rubber on Sprites dramatically improves ride quality.

We restored the 1954 MGTF shown above for a customer from Alabama. We changed the wiring harness and completely rebuilt the suspension and brakes. When it came to final road testing, I was surprised to see just how poorly the car stopped. The tires seemed to skate on the asphalt when I applied the brake, and lock-up at a surprising rate. Further inspection of the tires revealed the cracks between the treads, as shown below.

When rubber dries out, the tread blocks can’t engage the texture of the asphalt as well as softer new rubber. Don’t be fooled if no cracks are present… some tires age without cracking but have still hardened with time and lost their mojo. I had a selling dealer recently tell me his Sprite’s tires were perfect because no cracks were present. But the date stamp was more then 19 years old. He will not have the benefit of experiencing the difference once we put new tires on that car. It’s quite noticeable, and about the best thing you can do for your Sprite (and your butt).

I am sure some classic car owners justify keeping old tires because they never travel more than 30 or 40 miles per hour. But new tires dramatically reduce stopping distance, and optimal panic stops are required at every speed.

Needless to say, this MGTF will get new Sprint Classic tires this week. New Spridget tires are available by clicking here. Email if you want 13 inch Vredestein Sprint classics, which are available, although a bit more money than the Kumhos we stock.

Erecting your Frogeye Hood

Top up and ready for a trip North of Toronto

This week, we sent our Bugeye “Miller” to his new home in Ontario. The client chose to have his car travel North on an open trailer, which meant that the car had to travel with the top and windows in place.

While preparing this car for departure, I thought I would shoot some pictures in case anyone is having trouble putting up their top.

Here’s the top bow locked in the down position, locked in the detent, which makes life a lot easier

Often overlooked are the springs in the top bow. They need to be compressed to put on the top, especially when it’s cold and the vinyl top contracts. Make sure your bow springs work, they are often seized. When pushing them into, for example, your garage floor (safely away from your car), the bows should move up and down about 1.5 inches. If not, use your favorite penetrating oil and free them up.

Above, the bow in the “up” position, release the thumb lock and the bow should pop upward, adding tension to your top (this is the last step, once the top is on the car)

Next put the bows into the holders in the car and lock them in the down position. Lay the top over the bows and fasten the top bar on the back deck hooks. Then fasten the common sense/twist fittings to center the top.

Start with the twist fittings to align the top, then pull the tenax fittings over their studs

Once you have all the rear fittings attached, you can drape the top over the bows, which are still in the down position. Both bars are still parallel too.

Now you are ready to tackle the windshield mounts

Next stretch the front of the top over the windscreen. This is a bar type top, so I like to start with one lift dot on one side of the windshield and then fasten the other side. Once the two lift dots are attached, I will then roll the thin front bar (inside the top pocket) into the groove on the windshield frame.

Here’s one lift dot fastened, once the other is attached, I will then roll the metal bar into the slot on the windshield frame

That front top bar is crucial, as it stops the front of the top from ballooning upward above 21.8 miles per hour. I spent a lot of teenage years driving with my top scooping the rain since I never had one of those bars. Now, I celebrate every one I install. (Click here if you’re late to the party too and want to order one). The bar doesn’t have to go deep into the groove in the windshield, it just has to stop the leading edge from becoming a parachute.

Now that the top is secured, you can spread the two parallel top bars, and release the springs to raise the top bow upward, for a nice tight fit

These tops are pretty simple but everything has to be just right or they can be a real bear. Sadly, most tops are too small to begin with, and they shrink over time, which means that it can be extremely difficult to fit them in cold weather. We sell a top in our catalog that is not only stretchier but it also cut better and thus easier to fit (even in the cold) and will also last longer. They cost a little more, but they’re superior. Check them out by clicking here (lots of colors)

“Weather-tight!” And check out our new cable railing! Our 1951 Quonset is looking faster and faster every week!

Don’t do this to your Bugeye Sprite.

I am not a fan of oversized sway bars. They’re fine if you run on the track, but for street use, they really damage ride quality, and seem to also lessen front wheel traction, especially on bumpy turns. Below is a picture of a 3/4″ bar on a car we prepared recently (before we removed it, more on that in a minute).

The stock unit (from later Spridgets) is just right, and this is a wonderful upgrade for every Sprite with no downside. These bars are only 9/16″ and they seem like they can’t be sufficient to impact handling, but that they do. They reduce body roll and make these cars more fun. Every Spridget needs one. And there is no diminishment in ride quality.

The white powder on the tip of bracket is rim material grinding off of lip of rim! (happening when compressed and properly loaded)

Back to the car above… on this one, not only did we observe harsh handling and a twitchy front, but we heard a grinding noise on sharp turns, which, upon investigation, meant that that bar was digging into the inner lip of the rims. These mounts are just slightly out of alignment, or the bar is not quite bent enough or both, but here is one more reason to only use the stock bar for your street car. That’s what this car has now, problems solved!

There are a bunch of pictures of the stock bar posted here, and you can even buy one while you are at it by clicking here!

Bugeye Sprite tow dolly long term test

In case you were wondering if you can tow a Bugeye on a tow dolly, Ken has 9,000 miles under his belt towing this car behind his motor home (shown below), without issue.

This month, Ken and Sandy piled their dogs, luggage and a bird into their RV and drove from North of Chicago to our door, for a new windshield and rear disk brake upgrade, done while they slept in our front lot!

A rear disk brake upgrade ends leaking rear wheel cylinder issues forever! (click to read more in our catalog)

Once the car was complete, the crew headed south to the Florida Keys with their much improved Bugeye in tow.

Many have asked if you need to remove the driveshaft to flat tow a Bugeye, and even UHAUL tells you this is required, but that seems to only apply to automatic transmissions. Ken reports no issues, after towing this Sprite all over America, driveshaft in place, without trouble.

Ready to head South for the winter!

Bugeye Sprite LED lights

Here’s another former Bugeye owner (had one in the 60s) who added a new Bugeye to his life! This is Mr Walker and his new Bugeye “Miller,” a car you might have seen recently for sale on our site. In the photo below, you see him with son Scott.

The two Walkers came to visit us in Scott’s new Tesla Model 3, all the way from North of Toronto (see below).

It’s fascinating to me that they came in an electric car, particularly since all modern electrics require some extra thought to use. They needed to charge-up three or four times along the way on their ten hour trip. Tesla’s software and mapping makes that easy, but life with an electric car requires active participation and thought in a manner similar to interacting with an old British car.

Driving around in a classic English car, one inevitably knows about what could go wrong and how one might fix it. Driving in a Tesla, one has to know where you could run out of juice and how to string together charging stations. While the two cars couldn’t be more different, life with a Tesla today is actually a lot like life with an old English car. It’s an active relationship. So I found it fascinating that father was getting back into Bugeyes, while son has found his passion in a new Tesla. There are more similarities to the two categories of vehicle than I initially might have thought.

“Miller,” before, with tail lights on and original factory bulbs

We are fitting out Miller for it’s trip to it’s new home in Canada and I wanted to share a “before” and “after” photograph of the new LED tail lights we are fitting to Miller. In the photos below, you can see the stock lights on a Bugeye, and then the new LED lights on another car. The difference is quite striking, and as more and more people seem to be paying less attention to the road, those brighter lights might just save your life.

A different red Bugeye, with tail lights on and LED tail and brake lights fitted

You can find our LED kit by clicking here.

Don’t do this to your Bugeye Sprite

I bought a Bugeye recently, promised to be running perfectly, save a fuel leak which needed to be repaired before we could drive it. I trusted the seller and had the car picked-up. We fixed the fuel leak and multiple other issues, and on my first drive the clutch was slipping horribly.

This sunk my spirit… now I was in for a nose-off engine-out project, not something I had planned or budgeted for. Most of the sellers we meet are great, and, should there be surprises when we get a car, they are mostly due to lack of experience on the part of the seller, not blatant acts of deceit. This clutch was slipping so badly, it was impossible to cut this seller any slack.

He lied.

Let’s see if we can recover from this unfortunate event with some good learning for all, so that no one ever makes this same mistake (at least with regard to their flywheel). Notice all the pits and corrosion on the flywheel face shown above and below. It was not cut when the clutch was last replaced, so no wonder if slipped so badly. These clutches need all the surface area they can get, and this face is so pitted that the disk is contacting far less than 100% of this flywheel. Old glazing and any lack of flatness isn’t helping.

So make sure to bring your flywheel to your local machine shop next time you change the clutch. Your clutch will thank you, and so will everyone else. Here’s how it looked after we had it faced. We put on a new ring gear too (after the photo below was taken). We sell ring gears in our catalog, if you need one…

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