Big Healey restoration
Restoring a Big Healey is both costly and time consuming, particularly if you want more than just a show car. I started out with a tatty but roadworthy Healy in 2006, running it for 10 years until it was too bad to continue. Basically the floor, boot floor, sills, front and rear wings all needed significant work, thankfully the engine and transmission oil splashing over the chassis had saved it from rotting in the same way as the outer panels. Healeys are a bit different from many cars of this era in that they have aluminium front and rear shrouds, with bolt on wings and welded steel floors.
Finding someone to undertake the welding, without spending a fortune took some work, but eventually I found an amazing body man in Stoke on Trent, who used some pattern and made all the necessary panels, which he either didn’t like or preferred to make!
I’ve included some of the photo’s showing how far back he had to cut to the chassis below.
To be honest, at this stage it hardly looked anything like a car….I was astonished at how much metal needed cutting out. At this stage we had a good look at the fasteners required,given, once we were past the welding, the car needed some reconstruction before painting.
Leyton Classics email@example.com matched up the old fasteners, where possible, they offer a brilliant service for matching fasteners, you send them and they will attempt to match them.. In some cases this meant I need to take a box rather than a handful, but that meant the overall cost came down significantly on individual or handful quantities. Its always worth looking at getting box qualities when you’re restoring, as this reduces the cost by as much as 60%! Although some restorers cut costs by using cheaper metric fasteners, I opted for the correct imperial (UNC/UNF)
Once the metalwork had been largely complete, I needed someone to paint the car…at which point my good friend Paul Birkin from Birkin Brothers in Buxton put his hand up. Whilst Paul and his sons stick to crash repair (normally), given Paul’s love of Healeys he agreed to paint it for me….and what a job!
The initial preparation took the majority of the time, with much time spent on ensuring that the panel gaps were absolutely right. Each panel was trial fitted, then fettled until the fit was near perfect. Incidentally, the panel fit from the original Jensen works was said to be fairly poor!
Once the crew were happy with fit, next stage was to get each panel the right shape, remove any imperfections and the lay some paint on to check the work. You have to admire the sheer dedication of the Guys in working through the panels, until everything is right.
The next stage was to remove all the panels and paint the main body to wings, doors, bonnet and boot.
The above photo’s clearly show how the Healey is literally a chassis, with internal panels welded on then the front and rear aprons carefully attached. All the other panels are then carefully attached with bolts. Care is needed at this point, as the aprons are aluminium and the inner structure and wings are steel. If the two metal are directly attached an electorate process starts to take place, leading to rusting of both metals. We used imperial fasteners from Leyton Classics UNC range to fasten the panels together, with stainless fasteners used where possible.
The next stage was to build the car back up into the completed vehicle, another highly time consuming stage. This is one time in restoration where things do become quite satisfying! putting the vehicle back together with refurbished or new parts, rubbers, brightwork etc is the part I always look forward to.
However this is always the point when, on completion, you turn on the ignition and find out exactly what is and isn’t working!
Mini Cooper “s” 1969 Restoration
In 2014, after owning the Cooper for the last 30 years, I had decided that it needed a thorough restoration. Having restored it in the early 1990’s there were the usual mini issues, such as boot floor, “a”panels, front panel etc. The floor, subframes and doors and boot were fine, although everything had started to look very second hand, with rust breaking out everywhere.
First job was to strip it back to the shell and sort out the boot floor area, surprisingly the subframe mounts were still in good condition, although the front subframe needed replacing. On the front frame, when the car had received its first restoration, I hadn’t checked the front frame for accuracy….however on taking measurements, this time around, it was clear that this frame was very twisted. As luck would have it I found a good second hand early 1960’s subframe on eBay, the early Mini frames were solid mounted, with no rubber mounts. The later rubber mounted Mini Subframes are much easier to source. They arrived in the 1970’s with advertising from BMC as the new quiet Mini….to be honest, they were just as noisy as earlier ones. The early frames mount direct to the front panel and front floor with bolts (supplied by Leyton). We used zinc plated unified bolts with large (penny) washers to spread the load. The frame was sent away fro shot blasting and powder coated in black, to add to durability.
Next job was to refurbish all components removed from the Mini, we had already decided to change all brake parts for new items, given the ones taken off were original, apart from my changing the brake pipes to cupro-nickel and using stainless pistons in the front brake callipers….although that was in 1986. The stainless exhaust fitted in 1987, was still in great condition, just very rusty bolts! We decided to use stainless on the exhaust bolts, rather than zinc plate.