Austin Healey Sprite

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SaxMan
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Austin Healey Sprite

Postby SaxMan » Fri May 16, 2014 11:09 pm

I bought a 1969 Austin Healey Sprite Mark IV last August. It was the last year the car was sold in America under the Austin Healey name. It is basically identical to the MG Midget, and the Midget continued to be sold until 1979. It's needed some mechanical sorting, namely replacing the head gasket after only owning the car four months. I've never turned wrenches on a car before, but the Austin Healey was the ideal first car for doing so...it is a very simple car to work on:

Shortly after purchase and a wax/polish job:
ImageDSC_0002 by onyxsax, on Flickr

First thing you have to do is take the hood off, as there is almost no clearance with the hood open:
ImageDSC_0006 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Spark plugs and valve cover removed:
ImageDSC_0017 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Dual carbs removed from the engine:
ImageDSC_0028 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Intake and exhaust manifold:
ImageDSC_0032 by onyxsax, on Flickr
Last edited by SaxMan on Fri May 16, 2014 11:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

SaxMan
Posts: 77
Joined: Sun Jul 14, 2013 1:12 am

Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby SaxMan » Fri May 16, 2014 11:14 pm

Siphoning off the antifreeze. I took a siphon tube and attached it to my shop vac for a power siphon. I wasn't planning on reusing the coolant, so no big deal that it got fouled by whatever was in the shop vac's tank.
ImageDSC_1008 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Rockers removed:
ImageDSC_1024 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Cylinder head did not want to come off. It took me several nights of cajoling and using a couple of tricks like stuffing rope into the cylinder to lift it out. It finally gave way:
ImageDSC_1102 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Close up - antifreeze is visible at the top of the pistons:
ImageDSC_1105 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Our culprit on the head gasket:
ImageDSC_1109 by onyxsax, on Flickr

SaxMan
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby SaxMan » Fri May 16, 2014 11:18 pm

Engine block cleaned up:
ImageDSC_1114 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Cylinder head torn down and ready to go to machine shop:
ImageDSC_1201 by onyxsax, on Flickr

While I was at it, I replaced the exhaust. Here the old exhaust is dropped from the car:
ImageDSC_1210 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Clean up of the side of the engine block:
ImageDSC_1212 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Cylinder head back from the machine shop. They also replaced the blanking plug with a threaded one, which was what touched off the head gasket issue:
ImageDSC_1508 by onyxsax, on Flickr

SaxMan
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby SaxMan » Fri May 16, 2014 11:21 pm

Bottom of the cylinder head. The blanking plug is dead center between cylinders 2 & 3
ImageDSC_1511 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Head reinstalled:
ImageDSC_1514 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Intake manifold and new exhaust manifold installed:
ImageDSC_1607 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Carbs back in:
ImageDSC_1608 by onyxsax, on Flickr

New exhaust pipe:
ImageDSC_1618 by onyxsax, on Flickr

SaxMan
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby SaxMan » Fri May 16, 2014 11:24 pm

Everything back together.
ImageDSC_1630 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Car finally ready to drive again after two months (January 6 - March 4). Of course, with the winter we had, there wasn't that much of an opportunity to drive it. I also installed the beauty rings on the wheels, I thought it made the car have a bit more "pop"! That's also a new top that I installed last fall.
ImageDSC_0361 by onyxsax, on Flickr

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Fawteen
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby Fawteen » Sat May 17, 2014 6:13 am

Nice little car!

You'll get LOTS of practice working on cars, especially if that has the famous Lucas (Prince of Darkness) electrics on it. :mrgreen:
What do you mean I can't do that?

SaxMan
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby SaxMan » Sat May 17, 2014 8:53 am

As someone once told me "If you weren't a mechanic before you owned a Little British Car, you will be once you own one"

Yes, this car has the dreaded Lucas electrics, which already sent me diving into the wiring when my taillights and taglight failed to illuminate, but I still had turn signals.

Someone suggested I get the bumper sticker "The parts falling off this car are of the highest British quality" :D

In all actuality, if you stay on top of things, the Little British Cars are no different than any other car of that vintage. Where these cars got a bad rap was from people who bought the car and expected it to behave like a Chevy Malibu that you only brought in service station every once in a while. You need to be an active participant in the car's maintenance and adjustments -- particularly the dual carb setup. I can usually get the carbs well synchronized, but I tend to miss on the mixture settings, which are also temperature-sensitive.

The only thing that drives me nuts are the number of people who refer to this car as "Cute" or "Adorable". It is not cute. It is not adorable. It is a serious piece of British engineering!

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Grove r
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby Grove r » Sat May 17, 2014 11:09 am

Great job SaxMan, a level of competence that I can only strive for and never achieve........I, too, take exception to peoples comments........."fancy", is my pet peeve, feel that that should be reserved for embroidery or crochetting, or knitting or some such delicate venture.....not for wrenching or welding or pulling the trigger on some varmint.......

have a good one,
Ron.E.

hansen
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby hansen » Tue Jun 17, 2014 11:34 am

Sweet project! Thanks for the step by step pictures. That makes it really interesting!

SaxMan
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby SaxMan » Thu Nov 27, 2014 12:09 am

After a summer and autumn of driving, and other than having to replace the water pump, virtually without incident, it was time to take the Sprite off the road for its winter overhaul and maintenance. This winter, my main focus will be fixing up the interior, including new foams and recovering of the seats, fixing some electrical gremlins in the dash, and a general freshening up of everything else.

I started with the passenger seat...

It's amazing how much more room there is in the car when you take a seat out:
ImageDSC_0003 by onyxsax, on Flickr

The seat outside the car:
ImageDSC_0007 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Underside of the seat. What you're seeing is a foam rubber "bladder" that attaches to the seat frame and acts as the suspension. It is supposed to cover the entire underside of the seat. Obviously, it's distintegrated.
ImageDSC_0008 by onyxsax, on Flickr

The foam, seatcover and frame all liberated from each other, likely for the first time since it left the factory in April 1969:
ImageDSC_0016 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Detail of the corrosion around the seat frame. I spent about 90 minutes tonight sanding, grinding and hitting it with a wire brush to clean it up and prep it for a repaint after this pic was taken.
ImageDSC_0017 by onyxsax, on Flickr

SaxMan
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby SaxMan » Sat Nov 29, 2014 5:59 pm

More work done...

The seatback is up on the operating table:
ImageDSC_1101 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Seat foam exposed. This appears to be a replacement foam...
ImageDSC_1105 by onyxsax, on Flickr

The seat back frame was in better shape than the bottom frame, but there were some corrosion issues that needed to be addressed:
ImageDSC_1106 by onyxsax, on Flickr

The headrest, without foam and covering. The upholstery was secured through about two dozen tacks, and I had to pull each one out -- reminded me of the AT-17! :wink:
ImageDSC_1109 by onyxsax, on Flickr

This is what literally poured out the headrest when I cut it open. If I didn't know better, it looked like someone was using the headrests to smuggle marijuana.
ImageDSC_1111 by onyxsax, on Flickr

SaxMan
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby SaxMan » Sat Nov 29, 2014 6:02 pm

Painting day!

Seat bottom frame gets a coat of paint:
ImageDSC_1113 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Seat back frame's turn:
ImageDSC_1115 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Completed seat bottom frame:
ImageDSC_1118 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Seat back frame:
ImageDSC_1121 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Between paint coats, I was able to clean / detail the passenger footwell.
ImageDSC_1122 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Completed headrest:
ImageDSC_1125 by onyxsax, on Flickr

Next step is to install the new foams, cover them with new upholstery and put it all back together.

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Fawteen
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby Fawteen » Sat Nov 29, 2014 6:31 pm

Upholstery is something that I've never worked up the courage to try.

I'm guessing the covers came off intact and you can get the correct foam inserts that won't require modification?
What do you mean I can't do that?

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Ron/PA
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby Ron/PA » Sat Nov 29, 2014 7:44 pm

When you say new upholstery do you mean you could buy new covers or are you making your own?

Looking great.
We don't rent pigs.

SaxMan
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Re: Austin Healey Sprite

Postby SaxMan » Sat Dec 06, 2014 12:00 am

I bought new covers in the same pattern and grain as the previous ones. I'm not entirely convinced that the current covers are original, either. There are also custom foam kits that fit the seat frames. I am pretty sure the seat bottoms have the original foams, but the seat backs had their foams replaced along the line. I figure if I screw it up too badly, I can just take everything over to a car upholstery shop nearby.


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