A 1961 Healey 3000 Mk II BT7 originally sent over to the Hambro Trading Inc., Los Angeles, US in July 1961.
It was given a 1962 “Black Plate”
The nerdy bit as I didn't know this when I started out, thought I might as well add for reference .... "On cars sold in California after 1960, a small black (with white characters) plastic plate stamped with BMC and the model year was fastened on the firewall, generally under the inboard securing screw of the car number plate (though sometimes under the outboard securing screw) or mounted separately with two screws above the Car Number plate. Pictures and observations of a number of original California cars show absolutely no pattern regarding the location of this plastic plate.”
Re-imported into Europe in 2005, it has had a couple of previous owners, each of whom did a bit of work (I so wish they hadn’t bothered!!).
In 2012, I bought it as rolling chassis and a few boxes of bits. (I know not the best place to start from). However, in its favour it appeared to have spent all of its life in a dry state and the chassis inspection showed no major issues.
There had been some rear end damage in the past and since re-importation one of the PO’s had for some unfathomable reason cut through the rear shroud. I won't mention what they did to the doors!! Hey-Ho.
b. Removing the rear springs (not to mention the rubber bushes from the spring eyes once removed! I can’t remember how I got the bolts and shackles off, but I didn’t cut them as they are still intact.
Getting the rubber bushed with central steel tube out of the spring eyes was a real pain. It didn’t want to be pressed out so I ended up cutting the tube and rubber bush with a junior hacksaw blade threaded through the middle of the tube and cutting outwards – in a couple of places, which did the trick.
Whilst more than happy to tackle most things, those jobs where I don’t have the ability (welding) or the facilities (painting) were always going to get sent out to some-one who can / has.
Through a friend I came into contact with Darren at Creative Classics (http://www.creativeclassics.co.uk/ ) who did all of the metal work for me. Excellent job
Despite being a “dry state” car there was still quite a bit of repair / new metal required to the chassis – although some of this was taking out what a PO had done and doing it right.
Whilst I had nearly all of the external panels, they were a bit of a lottery. Front shroud and front wings good.
Rear wings one Ok, the other?.
Rear shroud and doors oh dear – the PO had done a good destruction job.
I did consider going aluminium outer panels, in keeping with the Sebring theme and as I would have to address the doors anyhow, but in the end, I decided to keep with as much of the original steel as I had and re-work the remainder in steel.
I had read of some horror stories in getting new Al panels to fit (even from the same source) and also, (and I am not sure how true this is) that stones thrown up inside the wheel wells can dent the Al wings from below?
Work was as expected easy at the front and left side (with the original wings)..
On the right hand side the door frame, cleaned up and re skinned, fitted well however the rear wing had clearly had some work done to it in the past and was far from right. Easiest way forward was to cut off the front portion and re-make ....
The boot lid needed a bit of attention due to too much "lace" along the bottom edge ...
... and after some skilled work ....
... every-thing fits as it should
Once this was done things started to come together and the completed repair looks very nice ....
Overall the RHS now mimics the Left with nice close panel gaps ...
Whilst work was happening in the chassis / body tub time to incorporate some of the “enhancements” found on works cars, such as strengthening webs to wishbone / engine mounts.
I also added a few additional items;
adjustable shock mounts, (included in pic above)
rebate front cross member for side exhaust,
brackets for rear anti-tramp bars,
brackets for aluminium sump guard (No pic, but just a series of small brackets on each chases leg to screw the sum guard into.
bulkhead cover panel, an aluminium panel which will cover the bulkhead. Plan is to sandwich in some insulation and paint the outer in body colour to provide a ‘plainish’ view from the open bonnet, but more importantly hopefully keep to a minimum hot air escaping into the cabin. ...
Support brackets / flanges for centre shift tunnel (cf BJ7 / 8)
Flat covers over the rear seat wells – I plan to turn the rear seat area into a storage shelf.
On the bodywork side of things, I asked Darren to incorporate:
Side vents on the front wings. With a stainless mesh (removable) cover guard which fixes to the inside.
Additional vents in the front shroud (Oil Cooler). … again with a stainless mesh insert
Dished recesses in front shroud for Aux lights.
From what I can ascertain in relation to the positioning of the Aux lights:
The UJB's built at Abingdon used mounting brackets running under the shroud, albeit thinner than the rally cars.
The BJ7's built at Warwick had the lights on the front shroud, but some were dished (KNX, FAC56 and FAC57) and some not (FAC54 - which just had two holes drilled in the shroud).
FAC 54 with no aux lights on, you can see the mounting holes
“Competition style” front grill and ducting panels to channel air into the radiator ....
Whilst the ducting will stay, the jury is still out whether I’ll stay with the mesh front or go back to the vertical slotted rally style with the edges open to the ducts.
Bonnet fixing strap.
The central bonnet strap runs from under the AH badge to under the air cowl on the bonnet. On the works cars all different solutions / orientations appear to have been used. Things here are a bit tight with the raised section below the air cowl. In the end I have opted to go with the look seen on 767KNX with an open air cowl (the holes in the top closed in) and the raised section at the bottom cut out and flattened. ....
It might just be me, but I seem to have a thing about drilling into newly painted panels - but I guess I am going to have to get over that before this thing gets finished. Any-how in order to reduce the trauma, there were a few things I remembered to get done before painting ......
Handbrake support stud - the one which sticks down at the back of the floor.....
Seat belt mounting points ( and re-inforcing ) ......
Battery tray and side clamps
"Coachmand Loop" for spare tyre strap in boot floor ......
Seat Runners ....
Handbrake captive nuts (one of mine had come loose!) ....
Bulkhead blanking plate (Plan is to use some of the existing captive nuts plus some new where needed and to put some insulation between the bulkhead and blanking plate)......
Through the restoration of my MGA, I came to know Bob West. Bob West MGA restorations, have always been at the pinnacle of MGA restorations, not least due to the consummate metal working skills of James Horner. During 2016 Bob has been scaling back his operations in order to spend more time with his family. As a result of this James has been working alongside Gary Barker of Common Lane Body Repairs in Knottingley, who have been painting MGA bodies for Bob West for some time.
Knowing James as well as Bob for some years, the Healey chassis and bodypanels, fresh from the bodyshop at Creative Classics made their way North to Knottingley (next to Pontefract) and into James' care for the painting.
(Note: As from 1st July 2017 James will be entering into partnership with Gary Barker, currently Proprietor of Common Lane Body Repairs. The new business will be known as Common Lane Restorations and will be able to undertake all aspects of classic restorations, mechanical work and trimming. James can be contacted on 01977 677927, Mobile 07776 335596 or at
Chassis, inner boy and outer panels delivered to paint shop to wait in-line (Feb), note: no deadline given.
Decided to do the whole underbody in stone chip coloured as per the upper colour
Now for the outer panels .....
What to do about the rear rivets. These were originally solid rivets. Looked at a number of options and in the end decided to go with a "pop" type rivet, but with the head filled in, to mimic the look of the solid type.
Despite the lack of working space (House move !!) , I thought that it is about time I got started doing something - anything !
So not your usual build sequence, but one dictated by space available and what parts I can find!
Decided to start at the back, and went looking for some of the rear suspension parts:
The initial plan was to re-use the original springs, however on taking them apart to clean, they literally fell to bits, some brave soul in the past had used parts of spring leaf to coble together something resembling a spring.
Plan B - DWM 8 leaf uprated springs, which are in the above photo - after a coat of paint.
Painting is great but it does get everywhere so step 1 was cleaning out the threads:
These were the easy bits, the error was not covering up the rear holders for the shackle bushes. Bit more difficult to get to, but with the help of the trusty Dremel and 90deg attachment things moved on.
I had planned to use the blue polybushes in the rear spring set-up, however as the new DWM springs come with rubber bushes as standard and I didn't like the look of the shackle bushes in the kit I decided to stay with the rubber in the springs and the steel bushes for the lower shackle pin.
Inserting said bushes - well first attempt took a bit of time, until I struck on the ideal of using the old shackle pins which helped maintain alignment across both bushes and things went much smoother from then on.
Although I had the old "d" headed bolts and shackle pins cleaned up, I didn't like the look of some of them, especially the lower shackle pins :
so decided that it would be prudent to use new. They aren't expensive and take away a bit of play in the old pins.
Assembly was then relatively straightforward with everything fitting OK so far and both springs fitted, but not fully tightened.
Not earth shattering, but a start.
Moved onto rear axle as it was big enough for me to find!
Managed to free up from the removers blankets and set-it up on some axle stands on the bench:
.. and cleaning more paint from threads
I some head scratching on how best to fit the axle, single handed, decided to fit the diff carrier to the axle and then try to put in place as a single unit.
Fortunately the diff carrier was easy to locate - I had made a small wooden frame to sit it on and pushed it just inside the garage door as it is too heavy to start moving around on shelves.
Diff carrier with new Quaife ATB Helical LSD differential fitted and set-up. At the same time the bearings, oil seals were checked / replaced where necessary and a 3.54 Lempert gear set installed.
The next bit is where wishful thinking takes over from practicality!!
Lifting the combined axle / diff unit over to sit beside the rear springs wasn't too bad, however getting it into position was another matter.
The chassis is sitting up on a wooden frame - to make it easier to work on ! - so with a Heath Robinson arrangement of axle stands, boxes, etc in the finest health and safety tradition, the axle was gradually moved into position - that is until you get to the bit where the diff casing has to pass over the rear chassis member.
Well it came out so must go back in, thought I.
So after much trial and error the 'right' angle was found, however the only way to move it further entailed lying down underneath and doing a good impression of bench pressing the axle. However a combination of the raised chassis and too short on the arm length was the next problem - I needed a raised platform to lie on.
With that fixed and some more bench pressing the axle finally moved into position.
Moral of the story - this isn't a one person job!!!!
Back now recovered .... time to look out those “U” bolts
and tie down the axle.
Now after getting the axle into position this should be easy !!! One end was tied to the chassis to stop it pivoting and at the other end I tried to raise the spring with the trolley jack. It started well but soon all I was doing was raising the whole chassis off the support frame.
Plan B. A bit of weight was needed to the other-wise empty shell of a chassis. Fortunately the garage is full of removal boxes packed with books , photo’s, spare parts etc. Packing quite a few of these onto the floor pan / back seat area did the trick and soon the spring met the axle and nylocs applied.
As they say in all the best manuals the other side was a repeat performance, with the exception that I needed to support the spring on the original (secured side) in its compressed state to stop it pivoting away. Axle secured.
The plan with the rear suspension is to encompass a few modifications .....
- The original Armstrong lever dampers are being changed for an adjustable SPAX telescopic layout. - An uprated Panhard rod from Cape. - Udo Putzke “Anti Twist Shock” kit, essentially an anti-tramp bar.
When the axle was being secured you would have noticed a change to the bottom spring plate. The original plate has changed for a two part combination:
The spring plate on the right belongs to the Spax kit. On the left is an insert I made for the tramp bar, such that it would be easy to fit one, both or if need be neither and return to the original spring plate.
The Spax kit appears well made and is a straightforward fit (quite a change for a modified item!). The only issue was that I didn’t like the half yellow colour of the shock – bit too modern to show through.
Quick paint had them all black .... much better.
The Cape International uprated Panhard rod, is again a nice bit of kit. At one end it secures to the chassis bracket on the RH side in the same way as the original, albeit with ‘mild’ poly bushes. At the other end is a rose joint which ends in an aluminium block which affixes to the mounting holes on the axle.
However I have seen a couple of reports which have indicated that the rose joint is just too stiff for the original axle mount, resulting in cracking where the “v” of the mount is welded to the axle frame. As a result I have gone with a hybrid solution.
I have used the Cape rod (which is a bit thicker) and poly bushes at the chassis side, whilst at the axle, I have used the original panhard bracket (between axle and panhard rod) and attached the Cape rod to this with additional “mild” polybushes.
The Udo Putzke “Anti Twist Shock” kit.
I had been planning on using a “standard" fixed length anti-tramp bar, however after some exchanges with Steve Thomton, I decided to go with Udo’s set-up.
As Steve put it ......“As noted in my suspension project paper.....the fixed radius control arm (anti-tramp) bars are okay.... hundreds in use. The issue with any of them is that you have the spring mounted in one location... the radius control arm mounted in another (usually below the spring but the BJ8 puts them over the spring) so there is a built in binding since they are moving in different arcs. A fixed arm radius control arm is going to introduce a harshness because of this arrangement. The rubber bushing take up some/most of it but is is inevitable..... it's a compromise on the inherit design. Udo's variable length radius control arm eliminates this design compromise issue. The radius control arm provides no real resistance in gentle normal road oscillations. On the road it's a smoother ride without compromising handling. I ran my car really hard in the Texas Healey Roundup autocross.... which was a pretty quick one as autocrosses go... a nice big parking lot.... fast for an autocross Anyway, I couldn't have been happier with the handling of my Healey. In harsh transitions Udo's variable length radius control arm resists change. A race car? No. But an excellent all-around handling car.”
At one end they secure to a bracket I had welded onto the side of the front spring hangers (pre-painting) and at the other, well as above on the additional bracket which site below the spring pan.
When I came to dismantling the rear axle, all that was left of the original breather assembly was the inner tube which screws into the axle. (on the right in the first pic below).
According to the Parts book, the breather assembly on the rear axle for a 1961 BT7, was part number 1G3668. There is a note to say that this was subsequently replaced by part number 1H3364.
It appears that 1G3668 was comprised of the metal inner tube with a plastic “top hat” / breather assembly and the later part 1H3364 was the all plastic version which is freely available today. (On the left in the picture below).
Now on re-building, the plastic breather just didn’t feel right.
You have a heavy, well made axle with this little plastic appendage sticking out of it!. With not a lot of other options my first thought was to create something as per the original, using the original inner tube (with the hole through the tube walls in around the middle which is ideal for screwing in / out) and add the plastic top hat bit from the new assembly. This was then painted black to match the axle. Not ideal and still feeling a bit flimsy.
Then in May 16 edition of Safety Fast the folks from the V8 register had a small article on missing plastic breather tubes – seems to be a common occurrence across BMC of old axles.
Any-how the interesting bit was that one of their members had spotted that Rover Land uses a similar axle breather (515845) but of better quality, in brass and incorporating a ball-type non-return valve to exclude water and dirt.
They are available from Land Rover dealers or on the internet from a variety of sources. The pack I ordered had two brass breather assemblies for just under £5.
And the best news is that they just screw straight in. I fitted a small gasket, just to bridge the gap between the brass and the painted axle, but you probably don’t need to.
I guess that if you wanted to be more original looking you could put it in a lathe and turn down the hex collar to match the original straight inner tube appearance, but that would leave you without the easy means of tightening / removal.
On purchase, the engine / drivetrain was in the car (I hasten to add that it wasn’t installed, merely sitting there!).
The story was that the PO who had started the restoration, had ‘done’ the engine. Evidence to support this was in the form of invoices from AH Spares for quite a variety of new parts from bearings to core plugs; pistons to valves etc.
Now in the early photos of the car in my garage, the engine is no-where to be seen. That is because this was the same PO (supposedly and Engineer by profession) who had done the replacement of the floors and based upon my inspection of that work decided to take no chances and sent the engine off for a proper inspection. So, the Healey (plus boxes of bits) came home to me and the engine went on its separate way – as transport was free and available!
Fortunately, close to what was at the time home in SW Scotland, was a small Engineering company – Thomas J McKean, Engine Rebuilders. It has been run for many years by his son John. This is the sort of place that you would have passed many times but never given it a second thought – I had!. Inside was like a travel back in-time regarding heavy engine (eering) equipment – not a computer control in-sight. In-fact it also appeared to be the meeting / tea / coffee place for quite a few, shall I say elderly gents – goodness knows how any work gets done.
However, John clearly had many many years of experience and quickly dug out an original BMC works manual. A quick removal of the head told the main story – yes there were new piston installed but the bores hadn’t been touched and a ridge was clearly evident near the top of each cylinder.
As expected every-thing would need to be stripped and re-build properly. At this stage, it all went into a corner whilst I decided what I wanted from the re-build engine.
What did I want from the engine – that’s a good question – so some thinking and research required.
Sounds logical, but that probably helped confuse things a bit more in the initial stages as there is a lot of advice around but not all in agreement!
I did find a helpful article by Richard Hockert Building a Competition Engine, or Maybe Not! on the NTAHC web site helpful; www.ntahc.org/techtips-03/
What I can up with was:
- Solid reliable fast road engine. I am not likely to want to go beyond 6000 revs.
- Smooth, rev’s easily, and keeping power and torque through the rev band – not all at the top end.
- Keep to the triple SU concept (it is a tri-carb after all), but allow for larger.
- Improve on the 132bhp original.
Oh and I planned to link the engine with a Toyota 5 speed.
Now some of these things may conflict so getting a balance was / is going to be important.
I guess like always there is good and bad news from the strip-down. The positives were that most of the major parts block, crank, camshaft looked OK, but the block and head would need a good internal clean and all of the surfaces need machining. So, what has been done….
Whilst I would ideally have liked to put on an aluminium head, finances weren’t going to stretch this far and the original looked OK on inspection. Porting and polishing were the order of the day (if I took one thing from the above article it was Flow, Flow, Flow ….and this can be achieved just as well on an iron head as an Aluminium one).
The head, along with a new set of 1.75” SU intake manifolds were sent down to Peter Burgess (http://www.mg-cars.org.uk/peterburgess/indexstart.html ) for this to be carried out. Peter is more commonly known for his work on A and B series MG heads but through a friend he did the porting and polishing on for the Healey and aligned the intake manifold.
The head was then transported back to John for building.
The fully stripped block was sent out to be fully cleaned / cleared out!. On return John did some measurements and confirmed that the bores would clean up nicely at 84mm (about 26 thou oversize). Having given me a ‘shopping list” of the ‘specialist’ parts he was going to need, John continued with the engineering work on the block and crank etc. He was going to source bearings etc.
Now there is nothing like having an impending engine build with a list of parts in one hand and the DWM catalogue in the other. Self-restraint is definitely required!
Some of the things that did get ordered though (although not all from DWM) ……
- Pistons – Omega forged 84mm
- Aluminium sump plus baffle
- High capacity oil pump
- Competition timing chain
- Hydraulic chain tensioner
- Camshaft Vernier gauge
- Balanced lightened flywheel (note original weighs 12.5kg / 28lbs and the lightened one comes in at 9.4kg / 21lbs) – a useful lightening, plus it is drilled for a more modern clutch*)
- Pro-Race damper / pulley
- Spin-on oil filter kit
*I initially went for an AP racing 9.5” clutch (as per BJ8) but the cover plate is too deep for the Toyota conversion bellhousing, so this was sold and a Toyota item sourced instead).
All of this supplemented by the usual gaskets, plugs, seals etc. including a Payen head gasket which I managed to secure.
The original camshaft wasn’t in too bad a condition and a good candidate to be re-profiled. Looking at the options available, see table below:
After some advice, I plumped for the Kent Cams AH2 profile with new cam followers.
Kent claim that the AH2 will give an extra 20bhp at the wheels – we shall see.
Although not mentioned on their web site, this cam is not far from the DWR8, which required valve pockets to be cut in the block. After some measurement, we decided that we would need these with the Kent profile and cut them in.
The one thing that John wasn’t equipped to do was dynamic balancing, so (once again through MG contacts) the crank, flywheel, pistons (incl. pins) and Con-rods were sent down to Steve at Engine Tech in Kidderminster.
Feedback was good, in that the crank was in good condition and didn’t need much work. The key things they did were to:
- Balance the crankshaft, flywheel and clutch cover
- Decarbonise the con-rods and bead blast
- Re-size con-rod big ends and check and adjust for straightness
- Refit new small end bushes and hone to fit gudgeon pins from new pistons
- Balance con-rods end for end
The whole lot then brought back to John for assembly.
Final assembly was by now underway. The block internals were rebuilt with Cam, Crank, Pistons con-rods, bearings etc. all installed.
The Aluminium sump was secured after fitting the new oil pump which was adjusted to fit. The timing gear was added and secured.
On rebuilding the ‘head’ we noticed that the rockershaft had some signs of wear, and although we could probably have ‘got away’ with it, why bother, when, with every-thing stripped it could be changed pretty easily – back to the DW catalogue for a Tuftrided rocker shaft.
Another modification I have added is a gear reduction started motor. This was fitted whilst work was progressing with the engine, to check on mounting position / clearances etc. As a result of doing this John decided to remove the ring gear from the flywheel and install it the other way around as the starter teeth engage from the other side. I know that you don’t have to do this as it will work as original, but it offended his engineering sensibilities not to do it..
Whilst the engine was in his workshop I wanted to get the Toyota gearbox mounted up to check that every-thing matched and dowel pins worked as intended. I’ll cover the gearbox in a separate write-up.
Ready for paint. .... then
A few bits of glitz did creep in to the rebuild – the outside Head nuts have been changed to plated domed (aka XK, which is where they came from). Some of the non-load bearing screws, such as those holding on the timing cover are stainless – we had to make up some stainless washers to fit. And John got carried away and engine turned the visible sections of the back plate!
I also managed to come across an original works type aluminium rocker cover which has clearly up nicely - albeit difficult to hold onto its shine! ... and the crankshaft nut - the one with the ears which were probably a throw-back to starting handles, had a quick turn in the laithe to get rid of the ears!
In parallel to getting the engine work done I dug out the distributor – Lucas DM6A in my case and clearly it had seen better days.
After a quick look inside and finding things a bit loose, into a box it went and off to Martin Jay otherwise known as the Distributor Doctor.
Martins prognosis was that it was, to misquote a famous Monty Python sketch an ‘Ex Distributor’. It was too worn for repair.
a. Rebuild, as original, using NOS DM6A bodies (from another car) but made up to look / act as per “Big Healey” ….. Good for approx. 40K miles
b. As above, but incorporating a bushed drive. Good for 65K miles.
c. Rebuild using later distributor, NOS 25D6 and set-up for engine specification.
d. Change away from Lucas, such as 123 or Mallory.
Having made quite a few changes to the engine, I didn’t want to change too many things at once, since ideally, I want to let the rebuilt engine “settle in”, get it optimised on a rolling road and probably spend a bit of time getting the right SU needle / jet settings etc. The thought of having to do this and also select / develop an optimal curve, for say a 123 would be too much for me at the moment.
The following article was helpful in thinking through the Lucas options.
I am looking at rebuilding my 2.6 100/6 engine, if possible having it bored to nearer 2.9 capacity and while at it doing most of the mods you completed for a road fast version. The engine is the later version with the detachable inlet manifold the same as the 3000's fitted with 2 HD6s so a good one for port polishing instead of changing to an alloy head, have you an idea what it has cost you for your engine up grade ? and what is the expected HP increase ?