The plan from inception was to “enhance” the original design with a series of modifications to enhance the drivability and safety of the car; however, virtually all changes are “bolt-on” to permit a reversal to original specification (with the major exception of the frame) if desired by a future owner.
While I have the greatest respect for those who restore their cars to original but as-new condition, Donald Healey endorsed modifying his cars from the beginning.
John Christy in the August, 1961 issue of Sports Car Graphic wrote an article entitled “Healey’s Six-Slug Slugger.” The article was about improvements that might be made in the 6 cylinder Austin-Healey. Clearly, enthusiasts were modifying their cars almost as rapidly as they were being produced. Christy’s article divided improvements into three categories: power, reliability, and roadability.
#AEC2029 – leaves intake valve timing alone, but opens exhaust 51 degrees BBDC, closes 21 degrees ATDC. Ideal for street use, doesn’t increase rpms, but adds torque.
#AEC865 – moves intake valve opening to 16 degrees BTDC, closes it at 56 degrees ABDC with exhaust opening at 51 degrees BBDC and closing at 21 degrees ATDC. This cam increased rpms by about 500 and increased top end performance. This cam required a modified distributor as well – #LT17001. Heavy valve springs (#1G2887) and a close ratio gearbox (#AJH5291) helped to take fulladvantage of the hotter cam.
The HD8 carbs later used on the BJ8 cars were available as on option at the time with double or triple manifolds and a cold air box. Various needles could be used in the HD carbs to enhace performance. The XD-19 was recommended as the ultimate performance needle.
A polished and ported head and manifold was available #H.8433.
High compression pistons to boost the ratio to 9.5:1 with polished connecting rods #H.8432, a lightened flywheel #H.8257, and a competition clutch ##h.8255/6 could be installed.
Modified two blade fan # H.8421 could be had to reduce horsepower loss at racing speeds.
To assist in cooling a modified engine, an oil cooler #AJH5291 and a largr capacity oil sump #H8416 could be ordered.
It was recommended at the time that tires be switched to Dunlop R5s. The rear disc brake kit was also suggested #H8462 and was available for $120 at the time. Variations in front coils springs and in shock size and stiffeness were available. Combined with the anti-sway bar # H8275 handling was enhanced. An upgrade from 48 to 60 spoke wire wheels with either steel or magnesium rims was an available option. 15 and 25 gallon competition fuel tanks could be ordered for the racer.
The factory, or “Works” as it was called, supplied numerous performance components for the Big Healey owner to convert his vehicle to race specifications.
To enhance power, high performance cams, pistons, connecting rods, distributors, clutches, gearboxes and ported and polished heads could be had. An oil cooler, larger oil sump, improved tires and wire wheels, and uprated lever shocks were available to the enthusiast as well.
I have chosen the path of those early Healey owners who preferred to “personalize” their cars to enhance performance, comfort, and reliability to suit their tastes.
After considering how much rust I had, and knowing that I wanted to build a “driver,” albeit a show quality driver, I elected to use a Jule frame. The frame is made by Martin Jansen from Canada and his company is Jule Enterprises http://www.jule-enterprises.com/. Martin drove to Harrisonburg, VA picked up my “tub” (frame and superstructure) returned to Canada to build the frame and put my superstructure back on the new frame, and then returned the finished product to me. He replaced a number of panels and components that were too rusty to repair.
I selected Jeremy Turner of Maple Hill Restoration in Broadway, VA to do my panel fitting, bodywork and painting. Jeremy had not worked on a Healey before, being a specialist in Corvettes and Mustangs. However, I had seen the quality of Jeremy’s work and I convinced him to take on my project.
Jack Harper of Coach Works agreed to complete the engine rebuild for the “Bloody Beast.” Jack’s shop is located in Singers Glen, VA. Jack has done some Healey restoration work including a complete restoration of a BJ8 for his dad. I also had experience with Jack as he provided some mechanical assistance on the 1959 Austin Healey “Bugeye” we own.
The rest is up to me! I will complete the assembly of the restored components. However, in doing so I am guided by a number of Healey specialists available to me as consultants through the Healey list-serve, [email protected] and the British Car Forum, http://www.britishcarforum.com. Although not a complete list, I cannot thank people like Rich Chrysler, Michael Salter, Michael Oritt, Mike Lempert, David and Norman Nock, Bruce and Inan Phillips, Jack Brashear,George Burkhart, Dave Russell, John Loftus, and Tracy Drummond enough. What great resources they have been. It is hard to imagine how difficult this job would have been without the use of the internet and digital photography. Technology improvements have made a successful restoration by a novice possible.
Jeremy delivered the painted “tub” on December 7, 2006. Now the fun begins! I will use this Blog to chronicle my progress. I am going to try to chronicle progress in one week increments. I am certain that there will be some weeks when nothing gets done, but I plan to try my best to do something each week.