Tube Shock Conversion

The original Armstrong lever shocks on my Bugeye were completely worn out and due for rebuilding or replacement. The rears were particularly bad making for a very “hard” ride. The questions was, should they be rebuilt or replaced with one of the tube shock conversion kits available from the usual Bugeye vendors. My dad installed a Bilstein tube shock conversion kit from Putzke’s on his Bloody Beast AH 3000 and was very happy with it and since Udo Putzke also designed a kit for the Bugeye I decided that it would be a nice Christmas present from my dad! Fortunately, he concurred and right after Christmas we started the install.

Frankly, Udo’s instructions (clicking will download the instructions) could be a little more detailed, but we were able to successfully figure things out.

First we laid out all of the parts that came with the kit. Most everything is self explanatory with the exception of the spacers. Left side components were marked with red circular stickers and the right side components were marked with green circular stickers. 

Putzke's Bugeye Bilstein Shock Kit Components

Putzke’s Bugeye Bilstein Shock Kit Components

 

Understandably, Udo’s kit assumes a stock Bugeye. If you have made modifications like I have, these modifications can create installation conflicts with the new shocks or their mounting brackets. The first one I encountered was the upgraded anti-sway bar installed on my car. It interfered with the lower mounting bracket. I noticed, as you can see in the following photo, that I may have been driving a little too hard in some auto-crosses! Bent anti-sway bar bracket. For now I removed the anti-sway bar bracket. I will find a solution to this issue after the shocks are installed. I also encountered a conflict in the front upper mounts with my radiator overflow tank that will need to be relocated at some point.

Bent Anti-sway bar mounting bracket

Bent Anti-sway bar mounting bracket

Coolant Overflow Tank

Coolant Overflow Tank

Front Shock Installation – Lower Mount:

1. Pulled the emergency brake and locked the rear wheels.

2. Loosened the wheel nuts on the front wheels, jacked the car up and supported with jack stands and then removed the front wheels/tires.

3. Loosened (don’t remove) the two bolts that hold the the lower spring plate to the front A-arm.

4. Remove one bolt – frame side/inboard.

A-arm Bolt Replacement

A-arm Bolt Replacement

5. Place the new bottom bracket and long spacer on top of the A-arm. Replace the bolt and nut with one supplied in the kit. Tighten until metal contact.

6. Remove the wheel side/outboard bolt.

7. Insert the spacer and rate the bracket over the hole.

LH Front Lower Mounitng Plate and Spacer

LH Front Lower Mounting Plate and Spacer

LH Front Lower Mounting Plate

LH Front Lower Mounting Plate

8.Replace second new bolt/nut.

9. Check spring clearance and pull bracket away from spring.

10. Tighten both bolts to 19lbs.

Front Shock Installation – Upper Mount:

1. Support the lower control arm with a floor jack.

2. Remove three (3) from the Armstrong lever shock. At least in my case, I had to remove the big heater inlet hose to get to the shock bolts.

Removing Armstrong Shock Mounting Bolts

Removing Armstrong Shock Mounting Bolts

3. Remove the oil plug (big hex nut) from the Armstrong shock and take the valving out.

4. Reinstall oil plug and tighten, check and refill oil.

5. Checked the threads on the shock tower to make sure they were clean and in good shape. As Udo’s directions say, “Bad threads must be repaired!”

6. Clean threads with brake cleaner and Use Locktite on threads.

7. Install the original equipment shock with the new bracket on top using the original bolts.

8. Tighten all three (3) bolts to 30 lb.ft.

9. Install the Bilstein shock #F4-BE3-E553-T0 and tighten to 30 lb.ft. (top and bottom)

10. Install the wheels/tires and set the car on the ground.

Udo emphasizes that if you have adjustment plates installed, you must check the camber, caster and toe on the car!

RH Front Shock Installed

RH Front Shock Installed

Rear Shock Installation:

The rear shock installation is much easier than the front. We already had the car off the ground and on jack stands with the rear tires/wheels removed.

1.Removed both the LH and RH rear Armstrong Lever Shocks.

Armstrong Shock with Lever to be Removed

Armstrong Shock with Lever to be Removed

2.Installed the three spacers for the new mount bracket and one new bolt provided with the kit. Torqued nuts to 33 lb/ft.

Armstrong Shock Removed with Spacers in Place

Armstrong Shock Removed with Spacers in Place

RH Tube Shock Bracket in place

RH Tube Shock Bracket in place

3.Installed the rear shock F4-BE3-E554-T0 to the top bracket pin and torqued to 33 lb. ft.

Bilstein Shock Upper Mount

Bilstein Shock Upper Mount

4.Installed the step-down spacer on the lower mounting and torqued to 33 lb. ft.

RH Bilstein Shock Lower Mount on Axle

RH Bilstein Shock Lower Mount on Axle

5. Complete other side. Inspect your work and then reinstall wheels/tires and lower to the ground.

RH Bilstein Shock Mounted

RH Bilstein Shock Mounted

RH Bilstein Shock Mounted

RH Bilstein Shock Mounted

6. Take out for a test drive!

Post installation assessment: Udo’s shocks don’t turn the Bugeye into a Cadillac boulevard cruiser – but then we wouldn’t want that now would we :-). However, the ride is much improved (particularly in the rear) as compared to the admittedly worn out Armstrongs. One cannot really compare the two since we have exhausted lever shocks and brand new tube shocks. The test is always “would you spend the time and money and do it again,” and we think the answer is “yes.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suspension/Axle

The Original Front Suspension

The front suspension used coil springs, a 5/8” anti-sway bar, rubber bushings and Armstrong lever shocks.

 Front Suspension Modifications

Tube Shocks

I had the front shocks rebuilt by World Wide Auto Parts http://www.nosimport.com/, but decided to install Bilstein Tube shocks supplied in Udo Putzke’s Fahrspass http://www.putzkes-fahrspass.com/Eng/kits.html Tube Shock Kit. I ave been very pleased with the performance of the shocks. This is a document describing the installation: Putzkes Fahrspass Tube Shock Kit.

Blistein Tube Shocks

Blistein Tube Shocks

Anti-sway Bar

I replaced the standard 5/8″ bar with a heavy duty 7/8″ sway bar with poly bushing and rose joint links sourced from Cape International. http://www.cape-international.com/

Anti-Sway Bar

Anti-Sway Bar

Poly Bushings

All of the front suspension rubber bushings were replaced with poly bushings purchased from Putzke’s Fahrspass http://www.putzkes-fahrspass.com/Eng/BigHealey_poly_page.htm   Lubricating poly bushes is important. The image below illustrates the proper lubricating surfaces.

Putzke's poly bush lubrication

Putzke’s poly bush lubrication

Coil Springs

At the recommendation of others, I replaced the BT7 springs with springs from the BJ8.

Front Lowering Kit

I like a slightly more aggressive look accomplished by lowering the front end so I purchased a lowering kit from Denis Welch Motorsport http://www.bighealey.co.uk/content/lowering-kit. When you lower the front end it is also necessary to add a spacer to the rubber bump stop. This was also sourced from Denis Welch http://www.bighealey.co.uk/content/bump-stop-spacers-and-tube-nuts.

Lowering Kit

Lowering Kit

 Ball Joint Dust Covers

Rubber components in today’s restoration world are often very poor quality. Someone on the Healey list serve discovered that Hyundai ball joint covers, past #56828-21010, are of superior quality to that available for the Healey. I ordered and used them and they worked perfectly!

Tie Rod Dust Seals

Tie Rod Dust Seals

Original Rear Suspension/Axle

 Semielliptic leaf springs, solid axle with transverse panhard rod, 3.909 rear differential

 Rear Suspension/Axle Modifications

Tube Shocks

As with the front shocks, I decided to install Bilstein Tube shocks supplied in Udo Putzke’s Fahrspass http://www.putzkes-fahrspass.com/Eng/kits.html Tube Shock Kit in the rear. I ave been very pleased with the performance of the shocks. This is a document describing the installation: Putzkes Fahrspass Tube Shock Kit.

Bilstein Tube Shock

Bilstein Tube Shock

Rear Leaf Springs

Having used the Jule Enterprises frame, I also decided on Martin Jansen’s custom made leaf springs. They worked perfectly. Ride is great and the car sits nicely with the proper gap between the tires and the body. Martin’s springs use BJ8 mounting hardware.

Leaf Spring

Leaf Spring

Rear Differential Gears

Many Healey owners who converted to the Toyota 5-speed gearboxes suggest that the 3.54 gears in the rear end make for a nice combination. Mike Lempert, who makes Healey steering wheels also arranged for the manufacture of the 3.54 gear sets. I was fortunate to be able to purchase a set and install them in the Bloody Beast.

Lempert 3.54 Gears

Lempert 3.54 Gears

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Chapter 36 Restoration Assembly, Week Three 1/1/2007

The New Year itself began with attention turning to the front suspension of the Bloody Beast. The first step was the assembly of the swivel axles. Bruce Phillips at Healey Surgeons rebushed and reamed the axles for me and supplied new swivel or “king” pins.  I then applied a light coating of moly to the pin itself and slid the cork washer, with the chamfered edge down, onto the pin. The swivel pin can then be inserted into the axle and three thrust washers are applied to the top of the pin. One “oilite washer” is sandwiched between two “staybright” washers. The oilite washer was first soaked overnight in motor oil. The top trunnion was then placed over the top of the swivel pin and tightened down with a nylock nut. .002” is the maximum permissible lift.

Swivel Pin Spring

Swivel Axle

Swivel Pin lower trunnion

Upper Trunnion washers 3

Upper Trunnion tightening

 

I then collected the components needed to assemble the swivel axles to the frame. These included two paired control arms, the assembled swivel axle, the control arm and upper trunnion bushings, the necessary cotter pins, the shock damper, the lower trunnion bushings, cork seals and the lower link fulcrum pin.

Front Suspension Assembly 2

The factory workshop manual provides a very helpful illustration of the components and their relationship to each other.

Front Suspension Schematic

 

I had paint inside the journals of the control arms and the shock dampers, as well as the holes for the cotter pins so it was first necessary to clean these areas so the paint would not restrict access.

Control Arm Paint

To assemble, I had the side of the control arms with the flats for the cotter pin nuts facing down. I then fastened the spring plate to the control arms so that the alignment of the assembly would be correct. The grease fittings on the lower trunnion bushes face the front of the car. The cotter nuts should be tight but not so tight as to risk distortion of the bushes. The bushes are tightened to the control arms and then backed off a flat. A .002 feeler should be able to be inserted between the face of the bushing and the control arm.

Control Arm Cotter Pins

Lower trunnion components

Lower trunnion in place 2

Front Suspension Asembly 1

 

Then the time came to secure the swivel axle assembly to the car. Again, the first step was to remove paint from the frame openings that received the pins.

Cleaning hole for pin

Next the small shock rubber bumpers were screwed onto the shock mounting plate. The shock damper sans its valve was fastened to the frame, and Udo Putzke’s tube shock conversion upper bracket was also bolted in.

Front shock 7

 

Getting the face plates of the lower fulcrum pin washers to line up can be a challenge, so before final assembly, I pressed them against the frame fitting and marked a line on the face plate and the frame to make alignment much easier later.

Marking pin placement

The poly bushings were then placed on the pins and the control arms were lifted up to the frame. A screwdriver was used in the upper link to support the weight of the assembly while it was positioned to secure.

Front poly bushings

 

As per the workshop manual, a two inch block of wood was inserted under the lever shock to lift it to the proper ride height and then the shock and the lower fulcrum pins were tightened. A split pin was inserted into the hole through each fulcrum pin and bent back.

Temporary pin for shock

suspension spacer

Installed axle assemblies

 

The next task was to install the spring plate and springs, the lowering spacers and bolts, the bilstein shocks, the disc brake dust shield and the caliper mounting bracket. These steps were complete for the left and right hand side of the car.

I used four pieces of 3/8” fine thread rod to help install the springs. The two rear rods were cut to about 7” lengths and the two front rods were about 5.” I also used long extension couplers and a flat washer on the rods below the spring plates to make it easy to access the nut with the wrench. A single regular nut would “hide” under the plate and be hard to get to. This arrangement worked well.

Installing coil springs

The spacers from Denis Welch were inserted between the spring plate and the control arm and the lower nuts were screwed up tight with the spring in place. Then one at a time the nut was taken off the top of the rod, the rod was tapped out of the hole through the control arm and spring plate and the longer than normal fastening bolt from the Welch lowering kit was installed.

Lowering Spacers 2

 

The Bilstein tube shock was then put in place and tightened with nylock nuts. This required lifting the shock with a bottle jack so that its bottom fixing hole would line up with the bracket on the control arm. 

The rubber seals were then glued to the dust shield. I discovered that they probably did not need to be glued as they are a tight fit once the dust shield and the brake bracket come together. The steering arm, brake bracket and dust shield were then bolted to the swivel axle. A tab washer is used on the lower two bolts. The wood spacer block will remain in place until the wheels/tires are installed and the car is lowered to the ground.

Dust shield installed

Chapter 19 – Cleaning and Trial Fitting

 

May 28, 2004

Front Splash Panels 

Splash Panels – Installed left and right splash panels. I needed to drill 4 new holes on each side of the car in the frame uprights. The left side was difficult and took some hammering and grinding but eventually got it to fit. Use 8 #10 1/2” pan screws to secure.

Right splash panel 1

Right splash panel 2

Radiator Air Deflector – Installed radiator air deflector with two 5/16” x 5/8” bolts.

Air deflector 3

Air deflector 1

Bonnet Upright Brackets – Note the way they are mounted in the photos.

RH Bonnet opening brace 2

LH Bonnet opening brace 3

Front Wing Mounting Brackets – Installed left and right front wing support brackets using 4 1/4” x 3/4” hex head bolts.

RH Shroud bracket 1

LH Shroud bracket 2

June 18, 2004

Rear Axle Revisited 

Differential – Installed the differential pumpkin and bearing caps in the differential casing. I will be installing the 3.44 crown and pinion in the car when it is drivable, but to get a rolling chassis I just put the old differential back in with no pinion gear. Fastened the differential to the axle and inserted the half shafts and tightened them down with the small locating flat head screws. Affixed the rear brake disc rotors and calipers fastened the hub extensions to the axle with the 5 locking hub nuts.

Installing the Rear Axle – After removing the fuel pump and the left bump box we “walked” the axle with the differential into the chassis and superstructure. I may have been able to leave the fuel pump had we had more access room on the right side of the car, but that wasn’t available. I then secured the axle with the Ubolts and the brackets for the tube shocks. The key here is to start each side loosely and then return to fully tighten each side. I never could get the tube shocks to align with the brackets and Udo Putzke thinks it may be because the Jule frame is slightly different than the original AH frame. To his credit he has agreed to make some longer shaft shocks at cost – great customer service!

Bilsteins won’t align

Spring Work

Rear Brake Hose – Added the new stainless braided brake hose between the brake line and the rear junction on the axle.

Stainless Rear Brake line

This work allowed me to put the car on the ground as a rolling chassis for the first time – a significant milestone. In honor of the occasion I stuck on two fenders and placed a seat in the interior for photos. All just for fun. It lasted ten minutes and then off came the wheels/tires and wings and then back up on jack stands for more work! The shiny bonnet is a sample paint color that I would ultimately not use.

Four 0n the Floor 1

1st sitting

1st sitting 5

Driving Light and Tow Brackets – I received the front spotlight and tow hook brackets from Cape International and the rear bumperette (sprite) or Rally Car brackets and “bumpers.”  I discovered that Martin Jansen had not included the threaded tubes for the front bumper that go through the frame. Instead Martin’s are only on the outside of the frame rails which is fine for the bumper brackets, but the spotlight tow hook brackets also have one mounting hole on the inside of the frame rails. I located the holes on the inside of the rail with  3/8” drilled hole and will get Jeremy Turner to add threaded tubes later in the restoration. I also received Kilmartin panels for the frame rails that include the welded nuts for the anti-sway bar and I will give them to Jeremy as well.

Driving light tow hook bracket

Driving Light frame Hole

anti-sway bar frame bracket

Horns – Started on the horn installation. The original horns for the Mark I are no longer available so I used the later version. The older horns must have been a little smaller in diameter, because the horns rubbed against the splash panels when connected with the brackets I had. I modified the brackets by adding a mounting hole and grinding off a bit of the bracket to “shift” the horns toward the center of the car. All of this seemed to work flawlessly, but once again I encountered a job that probably should have taken 10 minutes that ended up taking two hours. The horn wiring harness extensions provided by British Wiring were not needed so I crimped some new connectors on the wire in place of the original bullet connectors and attached them to the horns. The new horns were interesting – both brand new – one gloss black and one satin. I will have Jeremy repaint them.

Horn install left

June 18, 2004

Fuel Sender Unit – Installed the fuel sender unit in the new aluminum fuel tank. The sender unit did not line up exactly as the original because the holes in the tank are not as they were in the steel tank. I sealed the sender unit with a new cork gasket and with Hylomar. Each of the small mounting screws received new copper washers.

Fuel sender unit

New Fuel Tank – Secured the new fuel tank with the two securing straps which I had slightly lengthened to make the fit better. The securing straps fastened to the rear boot wall with brackets and clevis pins.

Aluminum Fuel Tank

Spare tire fitment

Spare Tire Block and Bracket – Installed the new stainless steel spare tire bracket and tie down bar. I had to make a new vinyl covered block to fit on the back boot wall to accommodate the higher spare tire and the slight rise that was “built in” by Martin Jansen. Turned out pretty well. I actually used old naugahyde from my original reupholstery work on the car 20+ years ago!

Spare tire bracket and block 1

spare tire bracket and block 2

Spare Tire Block covering

Fuel Filler Pipe – Installed the fuel pipe rubber gasket on the rear shroud. Lightly smeared Vaseline on the lower section of the fuel pipe and pushed it through the gasket into the boot. The  Aston Cap is secured to the fuel tube with a threaded brass collar. David Nock advised that I should fasten the collar to the tube by reversing the ends and brazing the collar to the tube’s unfinished end. Then I cut off the old cap end to put into the rubber sleeve to connect to the tank neck.

Aston filler Cap 1

Aston threaded collar

Fuel tube cut off

Aston fuel cap on pipe

Steering Cross Bar – After discovering that the new cross bar for the steering was for a BJ8 I ordered new ends and installed the original cross rod. I probably could have used the BJ8 bar but it looked like the original provided a little more adjustment which I think I needed.

Cross rod right

Cross rod left