Background history: One of 500 Coronet Cream Austin Healey 100 BN1's built to celebrate the Queen’s coronation. Build date January 1954 Built for the US market - no history from there except that she started life in California. Shipped to SA sometime in the early 1980’s (when she was converted from LHD to RHD) She lived in SA until 2014, when she came to Sydney I bought her in 2015.
So, what did we do to her (it’s a long list, and the full build is documented on Giles’ blog starting here.)
Three principles were adopted:
- Make her strong
- Make her lighter with more ground clearance
- Ensure she runs cool (Healey’s have a reputation for running hot).
Full strip of the bodywork and all running gear off the chassis back to a bare chassis (except the bulkhead, which is welded to the chassis) Cut out and replaced all the rust and accident damage; primarily this was on driver’s side, and the front cross member Gusseted and reinforced all the suspension pick-up points; boxed in the rear shock absorber mounts; welded on pick up points for the undertrays. Passenger door and sill redesigned to accomodate side-exit exhaust.
Rebuilt the car from the ground up, replacing everything. Literally everything. All the suspension parts, all bushes, all springs replaced with Denis Welch parts (including 800lbs rally rear springs - which were hopeless - see below!)
Replaced the BN1 rear axle with a refurbished BN2 unit. The diff was rebuilt and both axles replaced with Denis Welch units; all bearings and seals replaced. Gearbox was replaced with a rebuilt W50 (Toyota Supra) 5-speed unit. New driveshaft was built to suit the new gearbox and axle. New floor panels welded in; new boot panels welded in; new rear bumper carriers welded in.
Gearbox cover was redesigned to allow it to be removed, so the gearbox can come out through the cabin (rather than having to take the engine out).
Front wings rebuilt (rust along the bottom edge was cut out and replaced) and vents cut in to allow hot air out. All lines were re-routed from under the car to through the cabin - fuel comes through under the navigator, electrics and brake lines under the driver.
All electrics from under the bonnet were re-designed to be on the cabin side of the bulkhead; a new wiring loom was built to accomodate a modern fuse-box and bus bar to run auxiliary services.
Engine was stripped and everything except the block was thrown away (actually, I made a lamp out of the crank!) Engine was line-bored and rebuilt using Denis Welch everything - balanced crank, harmonic balancer, alloy head, camshafts and followers, rods, pistons and all bearings. we specifically built a low compression engine (9.5:1) to cope with poor fuel; even so, running 92Ron fuel, the engine was dyno-tuned at 98hp and 180foot pounds of torque.
The sump was cut-and-shut to reduce the height, so it would fit under the bash-plate; in doing so we increased the capacity of the sump to 8L.
Distributor was rebuilt and a spare distributor head also rebuilt and adjusted to the car, then removed as a spare.
Twin H4 SU carburettors were refurbished and refitted; foam air filter fitted; ducting to direct air from front cowl fitted.
Water pump and mechanical fan were deleted and replaced with Craig Davies electric water pump and fan. Radiator was replaced with Red Devil 3-way radiator (with in-built water to oil cooler, which we never needed to use); the radiator is rubber mounted to prevent it flexing with the chassis.
Cowling was fitted to force all air through the radiator (with a seperate cowl directing fresh air to the carburettors); original grille replaced with high-flow (75%) stainless steel mesh.
Fuel system fitted as follows: replacement aluminium 40L tank fitted as per original location; additional 20L auxiliary tank fitted above 40L with gravity feed and tap to isolate; glass-bowl fuel filter with water release valve and dual SU pumps (able to be separately activated from the cabin) fitted to the inside of the rear left wheel arch, mounted on a rubber-mounted plate; rubber hosing throughout the boot, steel fuel lines from boot through cabin, rubber hosing under the bonnet.
Cabin fitout as follows: original seats replaced with MGF Trophy seats (half-leather, half cloth), hard mounted to the floor (suit 6’1” driver and navigator); original 17” steering wheel replaced with 15” MotoLita leather covered period wheel.
Central electrical control panel mounted on top of the gearbox cowl - this houses the following switches:
- 2x fuel pumps
- Driving lights
- Cabin, underbonnet and boot lights.
Also has 2x 1kg fire extinguishers mounted on top.
All original dials refurbished (speedometer, tachometer, water temp and oil pressure; fuel gauge); additional oil temperature gauge added in front of navigator.
Door cards replaced with customised cards including storage space for water bottles, suncream etc. Additional arm rest built between the seats to provide discrete storage for phones, wallets etc. Original “glovebox” tray refitted under dash, with cargo netting to prevent contents bouncing around. Lightweight marine carpet fitted throughout (this doesn’t absorb water, so dries quickly).
Full-length ventilated bash plate fitted; 6mm alloy from front to behind gearbox, 3mm alloy from there to rear valance, covering rear axle and fuel tank. Half-cage fitted, with rear-facing struts braced to back of the chassis; mounted to the wheel-arches with plates.
Fitted over-sized 195x85x15 tyres to gain some extra ground clearance - dry with no passengers she has 8.5inches of ground clearance to the bash plate. She weighs 850kg wet but unloaded.
So that’s about it - obviously she’s been run-in since then, and particularly the undertray has been well used. The only mechanical issues we encountered on the rally were: we broke two rear springs which are now replaced with Russian-sourced, cobbled-together springs - the rolled-ends of the original springs had to be cut off and welded and riveted to the Lada springs we could get - these would benefit from being taken out and perhaps being replaced with e.g. Toyota Hilux uprated springs mud got into the bellhousing on a particularly wet and muddy stage, and destroyed the graphite clutch bearing; this would benefit from being replaced with a roller-type bearing.
We had to bypass the ignitiion switch as it got Gobi desert dust in it, and we had to adjust the points out once when we lost power in Germany, otherwise the electrics caused no problems at all. We lost a headlight and a sidelight glass on the very rough climb on day 9 in Mongolia - they shook out; the headlights are now left-dipping Vaz headlights (fitted in Novosibirsk, and the sidelight glass is now a coke bottle).
Asking AUD $60-65k for her as she is, with excellent provenance and ready for her next custodian to decide what to do with her. She comes with several boxes of spares and a hard top which needs rubbing back, painting and fitting.