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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 bugeyeguyparts.com, please call us at 203 208 0980 and we will gladly add any missing products to our roster!

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!!!

Thanks,
Matthew

 

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!

Finally, a Bugeye Sprite that doesn’t leak oil.

And this is it’s motor… an AC unit with 88 HP and 108 foot pounds of torque. Yes, we are building an electric Bugeye Sprite.

This is a big event for us, and we hope it will also be a positive event for the classic sportscar world.

Believe me, I have been smelling like hydrocarbons my entire life, and I have three of my very own dinosaur powered Bugeyes. But I have yet to attend a British car club event with more than a few token souls under the age of 50, and I believe we have to adapt to our new reality in order to keep these cars alive. More and more new car brands are offering electric vehicles in coming years. My hope is that an electric Bugeye will bring more new people into our world, the world of eccentric British sportscars that we all love so much.

Please forgive me for building a great Bugeye with no exhaust note. But I am hoping that there will be multiple other benefits that will offset the loss of the gas-powered soundtrack so integral to the ride.

Time will tell.

Our intention is to offer zero emission power as one more option for anyone who wants to own a Bugeye. We plan to continue to build awesome gasoline-powered cars. We have a very big carbon footprint. This will help.

We will also sell kits for anyone wanting to convert their own Sprite to electric power.

Our kit is completely reversible. The motor fits neatly in the transmission tunnel, about where the gearbox used to live. You can see us offering the motor up to the frame brackets in the photo here.

The batteries occupy the space formerly occupied by the engine. 25% of the battery power will hang under the trunk floor in the space formerly occupied by the fuel tank and muffler.

We are hard at work making our car look and feel just like a vintage Bugeye. We have used stock cosmetics wherever possible.

Above is a link for great video about a 1969 electric E-type built by the Jaguar factory. You’ll notice they have made a digital dashboard which looks very futuristic. Instead, our dash looks just like a period Bugeye, except our speedo is GPS powered, the tach is pulse driven off the motor shaft and our fuel gauge reads battery capacity.

This is a prototype, and in the coming weeks, I hope you will enjoy watching this project unfold. We are excited about this development, and hope that you will be too! The car should be less than 50 pounds heavier than a stock Bugeye with a full fuel tank. Weight distribution will be similar to stock. We’ll do some side by side comparisons… we expect that the electric will be quicker to 60 mph than a gas-powered Bugeye with a stock 1275 engine. Range will be about 100 miles. When you consider that most of our clients only spend an hour or two with their bugeye per session anyway, this range should be just perfect. Our prototype BugeyE is British Racing GREEN.

Stay tuned!

 

Another exceptional Bugeye Sprite leaves the nest

It was extremely satisfying to send this amazing Bugeye to Ron in Rhode Island this week. We all fell in love with this car, mainly because it was just right. This was a stripped-down Bugeye, with the stock engine, brakes and transmission. The exhaust was modified, the car was lowered, an anti-roll as well as a single roll bar was added, as well as slightly wider tires. That was about it, and thus we recreated a Bugeye that feels like something people anyone might have modified in their driveway in the 60s.

Simple.

Of course, we unleashed some cosmetic indulgences, like the the metallic (modern) stripes, flip-up fuel cap, (not so modern) Brooklands screens and a handsome custom short tonneau with contrasting gold stitching. And custom headrest in the roll bar. The yellow driving lights and billet grill are also cool. But overall, this is just an elemental Bugeye, with a few select upgrades (and some showing-off by us). And thus it feels very much connected to its roots, despite the non-stock paint scheme!

Interestingly, this is the third Bugeye Ron has purchased from us,(an honor)! He has owned Roz, a supercharged white wall clad leaf green Bugeye, Rose, the primrose stock Bugeye you can see in our current inventory, and now this car, Goldie. Ron is doing an impressive job sampling the many moods one can build into a Bugeye Sprite.

We look forward to building one for you!

Don’t do this to your Bugeye Sprite

Here’s one we had not seen before, but it is worth highlighting so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Look closely at the brake adjuster at the bottom of the picture above (if you are unfamiliar, it’s the slotted screw in the u shaped bracket sitting on top of the wheel cylinder). This adjuster is meant to sit in a groove on the bottom of the brake shoe. Instead, this one was assembled with the flat side of the shoe on the adjuster, which allowed the adjuster to squirt outward into the drum. As a result, the adjuster happily cut a major groove in the drum as shown below. Not a nice soundtrack. New drum needed.

Don’t do this to your Bugeye Sprite.

Rear brakes on Sprites are super-simple, but they are almost never working properly. Yup, almost never. From experience with 200 plus Bugeyes, a shocking percentage has arrived in our building with wet or otherwise non- functioning rear brakes. That’s what gives drum brakes a bad name. People assume drums are the problem. But non-working drums is the real problem. Pull the handbrake on your Sprite while you are rolling to a stop (in a safe place, please). if not much happens, your rear shoes are not doing their job.

Rear axle seals leak and soil shoes (the dark patches are gear oil on the shoes shown at left, on the other side of the same car, new seal and shoes needed here). Axle flanges leak and soil shoes too. Wheel cylinders leak and soil shoes three. Modern shoes don’t start out life perfectly mated to your drums, and so the new shoes start-out with small contact patches until you them wear in. It takes a while for the shoes to properly mate to the shape of the drum. So all this elevates the possibly that rear drum brakes in particular will be less than effective. They have to be well maintained, properly adjusted and properly set-up. (And then they work quite well!)

You can buy our rear drum brake rehab kit by clicking here.

If you really want to fix the problem once and for all, you can buy our rear disk brake kit. This is an elegant solution and the direction I went with my Bugeye Gumby, so I would never have to deal with these maintenance issues again.
Here’s a photo of the rear disk kit installed on my personal car. You can see the components below. If you want to give your car a great gift, you can purchase a rear disk kit by clicking here.
But no matter what you do, make sure your rear brakes are working!

Our 217th Bugeye Sprite departs for a new home

This is our 1960 Bugeye called “Susan” departing. She is the 217th Bugeye we have sold.

We owned this car about five years ago and sold it to a wonderful woman in New Brunswick, Canada (named Susan). Sadly, she passed away recently, and we bought the car and then sold it to Ralph in California, who had us customize the car to his specifications before we sent it on its way. Here’s a video about the modifications we did to this car.

The story of this shipment is the culmination of extensive Bugeye sorting and improving. We took a great Bugeye and made it even greater, and we’re proud of the fact that this car is now simply a delight to drive and enjoy. I continue to be amazed that we have sold now 218 Bugeyes, more than any single workshop has ever touched and handled (either when they were new or any time since).

I am even more amazed how much we have learned along the way. The cars just keep getting better. The improvements we make are at times subtle, and sometimes dramatic. But when I drove this car onto the trailer for it’s cross country trip, I was fist-pumping and smiling because the car is completely dialed-in. When everything comes together, these short and at times twitchy little cars become sublime. I am forever excited that we know how to make that happen. A Bugeye is a very simple car, and very forgiving in many ways. But to drive one that is really set-up right is nothing like one that is just “OK.” We spend our days in that zone, the space of constantly improving an old car to make it the best it can be, and this turns us on, particularly when it all comes together and becomes a great product such as the car you see here.

There were a bunch of noteworthy improvements on this one. (the referenced products are all “hot” and linked to our parts catalog, if you would like these same products for your car). First, this car showcases our hard tonneau without stripes, and I fell in love with the monochromatic vibe. While I am not usually in passionate about red cars, the addition of the big red panel in the cockpit made the car into something I have not seen before, and I was surprised that this one became one of my new favorites. The new splash of color on top made this Bugeye seemed to supercharge its appearance.

By the way, I notice writing this post how easily I still get excited about each of these cars. Perhaps it says something about me, but I believe what’s much more relevant and interesting is how many people, like me, also have Bugeye imprinted on their DNA. The manifestation of this phenomenon is the multiple Bugeye owner… there are many out there who have had and who still have multiple Bugeyes in their garage (or in the yard, in their barn, on their trailer, in the weeds behind their house, etc) The cars are infectious, and I am proud to report I am still very much infected.

To that end, this car also has contrasting red fat thread stitching on the tonneau, another new innovation that allows us to amp-up small details to personalize and upgrade these simple cars. The “mini” tonneau is itself a cool innovation, that is very helpful if a hard tonneau car is left out in the rain, and we have upgraded that product with contrasting stitching. We can offer the same on any conventional tonneau we build for you through our catalog, you can find the link here. We work hard to make upgrades like these that quietly add elegance to these cars.

Too often, upgrades on old cars can be overdone. We strive to make accessories that look like they belong. It’s subjective, but the fat thread on the tonneaus is meant to evoke the feel of an old football you’d see on “The Little Rascals,” and thus we feel we have license to try to make anything that looks like it could have existed in 1960 when we make add-ons for these cars. Plastic for example, is used only when absolutely necessary. For example, the center console and arm rest is a great product we offer in our catalog, because there is no glove box to hold your change and fuses. So the center console is a wonderful product for functionality. Unfortunately at present, it is only available with an ABS plastic base.

There have been numerous mechanical upgrades and improvements too on this car, which came together in harmony. Any five-speed transmission in a Bugeye is a dream-come-true. We sell the Ford five-speed conversion kit, which rarely rattles in the shifter, but Datsuns often clatter when not properly set-up. We made bushings for this shift lever assembly to stop it from rattling, which also tightened up the linkage, to make one more delightful tight interface between man and machine, something I appreciate with every shift. The engine ran well when we got the car, but it ran a lot better through the entire rev range once we fit the HS2 carbs with #3 needles, which seem to have the right profile for ethanol based modern fuel. K and N lifetime air filters also help this car to breathe freely.

The car had a recent SU fuel pump installed when we got it. This is a very nostalgic pump, and makes the right clicks as it pressurizes the system. Remember, all Bugeyes came with a mechanical pump, so no electric pump is original to the car. The mechanical pump is a bad idea, for it risks flooding the crankcase with fuel, or flooding the ground and hot down pipe with fuel, and is slow to prime, so we are huge electric upgrade advocates. This pump looked fine on our preliminary inspection, but the power lead vibrated off on one of my test drives, which stranded me on the side of the road util I figured it out. So with reliability in mind, we removed said SU vintage British pump and replaced it with a new solid state cube pump. Most people would not have done this. But we are proud of the fact that we did. While it cost the customer a few bucks, I will sleep better knowing that we put in the most reliable pump we have, given great field experience that verifies they do not fail. The points don’t get dirty (there are none), the leads don’t fall off (they are hard wired) the banjo fittings don’t leak (there are none), the diaphragm doesn’t leak (it’s sealed). So while Ralph didn’t “need” a new electric pump, he got a better pump with fewer vulnerabilities, and the peace of mind that comes with it.

Stock bulbs left, LEDS on two cars to right.

The LED lights we added are another modern-world necessity, to help other drivers wake-up. The three-point retractible seat belts are essential in my mind, mainly because it helps me to feel I am wearing the car. I like “being one” with these machines. The aluminum radiator we fit is essential for the Southern california heat that this car will now face. And there were more improvements, but you get the idea.

Every one of the cars we ship will receive 25-100 hours of our time as we attempt to move them closer to that blissful fist-pumping state. Sure, we all hope we find used classic cars from sellers who naturally do all this stuff for us, but the reality is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and if you haven’t driven more than 200 of the car you are selling, perhaps you are less familiar with what it means to build something that is fully sorted. We are not perfect. We can’t always fix everything. And we don’t (usually) take apart things we didn’t build that are working well when we review them. But what we do offer, and what we are proud to offer, is the experience to know what works and what doesn’t… and what is likely to keep working in the field and what won’t. And we know what accessories can help you personalize and improve your ultimate sports car.

I didn’t yet mention that Ralph, the new owner of this shiny red Bugeye, traded his project Bugeye and cash for this improved version. I love these stories, because it means a Bugeye that could never quite get finished gets transformed overnight into a glorious specimen, as if by aliens. I imagine that Ralph’s neighbors will smile as he drives by, and wonder how they can get the new vitamins he must be taking, because how else could he have gotten so much done on his little car, in so little time.

When I got into Ralph’s old car (shown here) to drive it off the trailer when it arrived from California, it came to life quickly… albeit on two cylinders.

And so the next renovation begins.

If you are building your own blissful Bugeye, here are a few more links to products we built into this car, all detailed in our catalog:

Bugeye Sprite Cockpit Trim Restoration and re-coating

Front Flip nose hold downs (pair)

Windshield Post Raydyot Racing Mirror

The best Spridget rearview mirror-20% bonus

Bugeye Sprite Alternator conversion kit, with pulley installed

Dual Master Cylinder

Instantly reduce body roll with our sway bar kit!

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