Old Cars

Restoration of Austin Healey Holey

Austin Healey 100 chassis BN1-223926 left Longbridge in 1955. (two weeks after BN1-222490, which later became the Ward Special). The blue Healey was sent to UK Motors in Brisbane. In the mid-1980s, Bob Whittred found the car’s remnants in a paddock near Ballina, NSW, where it had languished for many years after an apparently deadly accident.

Most of the running gear and drive train were gone, and if we’d seen it, we’d have written it off as a hopeless cause. Bob had already restored a Hundred (black over silver) and a BJ8, owned by Owen Williamson.

Bob bought the sad remains for $450 and began a huge restoration project. This included replacing the front half of the chassis rails, cross members, much of the body sub-frame, and most exterior body panels. The car was ready for final panel repair and paint after BN2 rear guards were installed.

Bob used Wolseley 6/110 front suspension with disc brakes and a 3.54 rear axle. Bob planned to utilize a Rover 3.5-liter V8, but found it too tight, so he used a Lexcen V6 with 40,000km on it (Series1 VN Commodore) It had a 4 speed automatic transmission. The smaller, lighter, lower, and further back in the chassis motor had 165 horsepower in basic tune.

Restoration stagnated in the mid-’90s, and 15 years later, the automobile was sold. Alwyn Keepence told me about it, and I scoffed at the concept of a foreign engine and auto gearbox. I wanted a standard-bodied 100 because, as much as I like the Ward Special, I missed open-air driving. 1982 was the last time I drove my MGTD. I’d looked at a couple of other projects (one bought by Bob Pierce), but the negotiations fell through, so I considered Bob’s car.

Complete, straight, and with numerous new parts, it immediately caught my eye. I liked the wheels Bob created — 100/6 steel centres with Dodge or Chrysler rims and knock-on spinners in the middle (non-functional, but giving the appearance of Dunlop peg drive alloys like those worn by the Bonneville record breakers). Bob constructed a wood-rim steering wheel utilizing the original center and spokes. After not much consideration and a brief price negotiation (we both had the same number in mind), the automobile was mine and came on a trailer in July 2008.

As I was restoring a 1963 Series 2A Landrover, I didn’t start on the Healey until 2009. I applied for a Heritage certificate using the body number since the chassis plate was missing. The automobile was identified as BN1-223926 and delivered to UK Motors Brisbane.

I also checked Personalised Plates Queensland, but wasn’t hopeful. HLY 55 was still available, so I bought it in white lettering on a dark green backdrop because I planned to paint the car dark BRG over Old English White. Bob planned to paint it OEW over Lobelia blue, hence the white chassis.

Another early duty was to have a Queensland Transport-approved compliance engineer check the car’s modifications. Autotechnica Cleveland’s Earl Gilchrist inspected the automobile. He provided me a list of changes needed to replace the motor.

Dual circuit brakes, two-speed wipers, a demister, and retractable seatbelts were offered. If the replacement engine is more than 45% larger than the original, a collapsible steering column is required. This looked likely based on rounded numbers for the two motors, but factory specifications showed 42.5%. Phew!

I then started on the mechanical side. This includes cooling and braking, including front and rear circuits. I utilized Range Rover parts to construct brackets for the front hoses (I used a Datsun 240Z master cylinder courtesy of George Goss). I borrowed the handbrake lever from the Landrover, which resembled the Healey’s once chromed.

My Series 3 Landrover’s wiper motor and a 12 volt camping hairdryer became the demister. Hardy Spicer made a tailshaft combining Healey rear and Holden front yokes. Brendale’s Stopmasters and Stainless Steel Resleevers restored all my brake components.

I TIG welded Bob’s 85-litre alloy fuel tank because he hadn’t welded it. He also had an Aston-type quick-release filler cap he planned to use in the boot. It seemed a shame to hide it, so I moved it to the back shroud.

The injection system uses a Holden in-tank pump and out-and-back fuel lines. I thought about getting a 5-speed manual, but Veronica can only drive an auto and I can only drive one car. Instead, I disguised the Holden shifter and fitted it to the transmission. Rod Shepherd contributed a fiberglass shift tunnel cover (ex-Alwyn Keepence!) that I adapted.

Interior Restored

Bob’s wooden dash with the Lexcen instrument panel wasn’t my favorite. Bob thought this would make wiring the computer-driven motor easier, but V6 Conversions in Moree and Lionel Otto Instruments urged using original gauges. Bob contributed a dash panel, gold-faced speedo, fuel gauge, and 33/8 VDO tacho.

I already have a temperature and oil pressure gauge ($2 apiece at Toowoomba Swap!). I took all this to Lionel Otto’s, who rebuilt the fuel and temperature gauges. Otto’s developed an electronic tacho from standard parts because the VDO wouldn’t function with electronic ignition. Except for oil pressure and temperature gauges, the instruments look original. V6 adaptations provided a speedometer cable drive adaptor and a power steering pump idler pulley.

Now (October 2009), the motor could be reactivated. This required wiring, which I couldn’t do. The ECU and main engine compartment loom, as well as the back loom, were done. I got a Holden relay box and fuse panel from local wreckers, then took the car to Bashi’s Auto Electrics in Caboolture. Gezim, Troy, and co did a terrific work, and a week later, ‘it’s alive!’ First driving the car off the trailer and up the driveway (and down, and up again!) was exciting. Painting was next.

Peter Janetzki agreed to handle the final panel and paint work, and my son-in-law found cheap paint. 1950s Jaguar BRG and OEW. Peter’s work exceeded my expectations. I could now assemble the car’s new chromework, etc. I don’t like bumpers, so Bob created and chromed a little nudge bar for the front. Bob cast some brass 3000 badges, which I chromed and amended to read 3800. I got three Hella spotlights and rear indicator modules on Ebay. I have amber indicators instead of side lights in the headlamps. Local saddlery supplied bonnet and spare wheel straps (the spare wheel sits on top of the fuel tank).

Dave Railton advised me to get Mazda MX5 seats, which fit nicely and are fully adjustable, even though the high backs don’t seem right. I found biscuit-colored vinyl and stone-colored carpet. Bob had already constructed door and footwell trim panels, so covering and installing carpets was easy. I covered the spare wheel slot in the trunk with carpet. Alwyn’s brother Andrew of Retro Recovery performed a terrific job on the challenging trimming, especially the tunnel cover.

So it was crunch time to ask the compliance engineer for that blue plate. This was Autotechinca’s first long road trip since moving to Cleveland. I was surprised how well it worked out of the box. It handled brilliantly (it had telescopic shocks all round and deg negative camber on the front). The original Michelin 185/65-15 MXT tyres were 16 years old, so I replaced them with Kumhos. The car overheated on short rides before reversing the thermo fan and replacing the thermostat.

During braking testing, the automobile overheated and stalled. I went halfway home before it died, and we finished on a tilt tray. After locating some more ground clearance under the exhaust, installing larger reinforcing plates under seats and seat belts, recalibrating the speedo, and installing a shift indicator (from a hot rod supplier! ), I got my blue plate. On March 16, 2010, the automobile was on the road for the first time in 40 years.

I replaced the 12′′ thermo fan with a 16′′ one, which fixed the overheating issue, but the cutting out while hot issue persisted owing to a malfunctioning crank angle sensor, which I’ve subsequently replaced. Cavitation of hot fuel may have caused the problem on the route to the David Hack Classic in Toowoomba. Next is a tonn

eau cover, then refurbishing the car’s fibreglass hardtop. I have rusty hood bows and other hood frame parts, but I haven’t decided if I’ll fit a soft top.

Source : austinhealeyqld | please dm for the removals

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