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Thread: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

This forum is strictly for discussing racing, such as SCCA-style Road-Racing, AutoCross, and other styles of motorsports that are relevant to British Cars.

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    Cool Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Hello everyone!

    I've been an on and off user of this forum for quite some time and have spoken with a few of you individually about my quest to race our Healey (Doug Escriva and Dave Phillips primarily). Everyone has been more than helpful and willing to lend advice and input, so thanks for that on the front end. I'm sure I'll be asking an overwhelming amount of questions moving forward!

    Long story long, the car was bought by my fatrher in the 80's (or maybe late 70's). It was sold to him, and is titled, as a BJ8 but with some help from our local Healey club, common sense and some research, we know that to not be true. What we've found is that it is a '60-'61 BT7 that has a BJ8 number plate, BJ8 engine, BJ8 trans and...wait for it...BJ8 doors. I've told this story a couple times on this forum so, sorry if this is repetitive for some of you. A couple summers ago I tried to track down the previous owner to figure out what in the world happened to this car to turn it into the bastard that it is! My efforts led me to an older gentleman near Akron who used to "restore" Healeys with his son and he seems to think our car was one that had been in a fire before his ownership. I personally haven't found any evidence of a fire, but it kind of makes sense as they may have just thrown a car together with whatever they had lying around. With this checkered past, we know that it wouldn't be worth turning this into a show car. I've always wanted to race, especially vintage, so we decided this is the perfect candidate.

    Back in high school (~2005-6), we brought the car out of the garage it had been in since 1989 and got it running. Throughout high school, my dad and I would putz around the neighborhood Fred Flintstone style, using the emergency brake to slow down. Once the summer after my junior year of COLLEGE rolled around, we decided that we had to completely restore. My internship allowed me to work from home that summer and I make gigantic progress on the car, stripping it down to just a rolling chassis. And there it sat. I graduated that fall, went to Europe (checked out the Healey museum while there, it's awesome), came back, started working, bought a house, got engaged...I'm sure many of you know how that goes. Now, a few years on, I'm back at it and 100% committed.

    The car is still in my parent's garage but it has to leave come October as my they are getting ready to sell and my dad is not going to stick with his Mini (the Healey fits perpendicular in front of his car). My garage is also not very big and wouldn't allow for convenient work. We rented a small garage near my house that we get to move into come September. I've started this thread to track my progress, get input from anyone who wants to lend it and generally force myself to stay with this (although I don't have a choice at this point!).

    All this being said, it will be quite a long time until I am actually racing the Healey but much of the build will be race-focused and there will still be racing-related updates along the way as I'll have to get licensed, etc.

    I see this project as having two phases, really, the first of which we're expecting to be done in about a year and half.

    Phase 1:
    - Restored to good "driver" quality level with some...racing...upgrades such as:
    a) Cage (not sure to what extent)
    b) Side exhaust
    c) Up-rated suspension components (again, not sure to what extent)
    d) Racing clutch, lightened flywheel
    e) Oil cooler?
    f) Other misc things such as racing seats, tow hooks, battery cut-off, etc.
    - I see Phase 1 as getting us to a point where we can take the car to open track days at Nelson Ledges, solo events, etc. where we can get our feet wet and don't necessarily need a fully "built" race car.
    - I expect the car to remain in the Phase 1 state for a good amount of time, possibly getting some small upgrades along the way

    Phase 2:
    -
    Fully-built vintage racer- When we reach Phase 2 will be primarily dictated on (mostly) my financial situation.
    - The engine is a strong runner, but certainly to be competitive we'll want to have it built into a true racing engine. This is not in the cards right now.
    - Toyota 5 speed conversion?
    - Competition components throughout

    Anyways, enough rambling for now, but I will get some pictures up of where we started and where we are now this weekend and am very interested in anyone's thoughts!

    Oh, why Small Axe Racing you may be wondering? It's a BIG Healey after all, right? I'm a huge Bob Marley fan and he and the Wailers made a song called Small Axe. The lyrics are more-or-less about an underdog story. I see that as a good fit for this project for a couple reasons. Firstly, I think although massively successful in multiple types of racing, Healeys are often overlooked by many who prefer the "flashier" cars of the era such as Astons, Jaguars, Lotus and the like. This also, as I've eluded to above, is not going to be a no-expense-barred build. We just hope to have an honest, fast, fun car at the end of it that can compete at a high level with even the most done up vintage racers.

    Thanks for reading and I'll have an update soon!
    Andrew W. Grannis
    1960 Austin Healey 3000 BT7
    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6SP
    1965 Chevy C10
    1978 Suzuki GS550E

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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Hello Andrew -

    Great to hear from you again. I love your enthusiasm, it appears you have the right mind set to race a big Healey, always the under dog. There's not a lot of big Healey racers contributing here. I suggest another forum that you also post this on. It has some great mid-west Healey racers posting which could really help your efforts. We've had this signal thread going for over a year. Start reading at the beginning, you'll be inspired.

    http://www.ahexp.com/phorum/read.php?8,5181

    Best
    Dougie
    '65 BJ8 3000 MKIII GN.29
    '57 100-SIX MM Vintage Racer GN.1 #414
    Team Healey PDX

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    Yoda HealeyRick's Avatar
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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    I'm not a racer, but have flirted with it a bunch. My suggestion, figure out where you want to race and get a rulebook ... then start making your modifications. It will save you a lot of time and money in the log run.
    Rick

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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Doug - Thanks for the link to the racing thread! I actually came across that forum just last week but hadn't dug into it yet.

    Rick - Sounds like great advice. I started into this a couple years ago but definitely agree that it should be top of mind when thinking about modifications.
    Andrew W. Grannis
    1960 Austin Healey 3000 BT7
    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6SP
    1965 Chevy C10
    1978 Suzuki GS550E

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    Darth Vader Michael Oritt's Avatar
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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Andrew--

    I'm not trying to discourage you from proceeding with your dream but before committing to it consider a few things:

    1. There is a reason (actually a few of them) why you rarely see Big Healeys on the track anymore, much less at or near the front of the pack. They are heavy cars and not inherently blessed with the best of handling, plus because of the engine size they are often grouped with cars that have more speed potential, perhaps IRS, etc. To be sure there are some fast Healeys out there--Dougie's is one and I know of a couple of very fast Healeys here on the East Coast though most are 100's and therefore a bit lighter.

    2. Healeys are expensive to bring up to race prep standards and the few sellers of speed parts are in the UK and command big bucks for their products.

    3. Though it does not sound like your car is highly valuable because of its "mixed parentage" converting a street car into a race car is normally a one-way street and it is hard to get your money out of the car unless you sell it as a race car. I owned (and still own) a Healey 100 when I decided to get into racing. For a brief moment I considered doing what you are looking at and then decided to buy a race-ready car (my Elva Courier) which is an inherently more competitive car, plus I was not several years and a lot of $$ away from actually getting on the track.

    Some people are process-oriented and like to build up their own car from "scratch", sometimes spare the expense. Others--I'm one of these guys--are result oriented and want to get on the track now with a competitive car. You should figure out what kind of guy you are and factor that into your decision-making process. There are a lot of projects--restorations, race car conversions, etc--that get started and never finished because they were not really thought through.

    BTW my Courier is for sale--it really is track-ready and if you buy such a car instead of going to a commercial driving school to get your license at great cost ($4-5K I'd guess) you can save that money by attending a driving school put on by one of the vintage race clubs such as VRG here in the east or VSDCA in the midwest for a couple of hundred $$. If you are interested send me a PM with your email and I'll fill you in on the details.

    Just my $.02 and whatever course you take I wish you good luck. Being a Healey owner I love seeing them on the track but too often they are just not competitive.
    Last edited by Michael Oritt; 08-08-2015 at 06:20 PM.

    Best--Michael Oritt
    1954 Austin-Healey 100 Le Mans
    1958 Elva Courier (FOR SALE)
    1959 Elva MK IV Sports Racer
    1961 Ginetta G4

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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Michael,

    Thanks for taking the time to share all of that. Your thinking seems sound and they are points that we have looked at for sure.

    1. As for the actual engineering of the thing - I completely understand that we'll have a difficult time being competitive at "Phase 1". I'm OK with this. It will give me time to get my feet wet, and more importantly, this is still my fathers car and he cares only about being able to drive the thing and enjoy it, not race it. So to that point, having a fully prepped race car right now fills a (deep, urgent, intense, etc.) need for me, but not him.

    2. This is why I see getting to a competitive place kind of further out with this car. I'm certainly not made of money and, as with all of my projects, things will happen bit by bit.

    3. I know for certain that my father does not plan to sell this car. Period. The only caveat to that is if this project gets completely stalled, cancelled for some unforeseen reason. I also know that this will eventually be my car and my intent will be to never sell it. To your point, this is certainly one we wouldn't expect to make money on unless we become massively successful in racing and it is a desired car because of it's racing prowess.

    I understand your comment about building a car vs. buying a car ready to go. In different situations, I can fall into both categories. For instance, my C10. I bought the truck ready to go, exactly how I would have built it because I didn't have the time for another project and, frankly, I'm not too terribly excited by restoring/building a truck. With my bike, however, there are countless "cafe" style bikes running around and many are kind of sketchy builds that knowledge-less people have done. In that case, I want to build my own. The Healey yet again is an interesting case. This is a car that has been in my family longer than I have and ever since I knew it existed I insisted my dad hold onto it. I also read books growing up about Healeys and their history, especially in racing. All that being said, we probably wouldn't be in a position to buy a nice 3000, let alone a race-prepped one, so...we build it!

    As for your car, I believe I've seen you run at PVGP, it seems like a wonderful machine. Certainly out of my price range at the moment. Along with that, buying a prepped car at the moment would probably be quite the mistake as I would be completely engulfed in racing that car rather than working on the Healey and as I said before, a big part of this is getting the car done so my dad can enjoy it.

    I truly appreciate the input, this viewpoint is probably more important than cheering me on in some respects.
    Andrew W. Grannis
    1960 Austin Healey 3000 BT7
    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6SP
    1965 Chevy C10
    1978 Suzuki GS550E

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    Darth Vader Michael Oritt's Avatar
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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Andrew--

    I did not mean to rain upon your parade and wish you only the best.
    Please keep us posted on your progress.

    Best--Michael Oritt
    1954 Austin-Healey 100 Le Mans
    1958 Elva Courier (FOR SALE)
    1959 Elva MK IV Sports Racer
    1961 Ginetta G4

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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Michael - Seriously, no problem at all. That viewpoint is very helpful.

    OK, time for an update. I'll give a brief overview of where we started and what has been done up to this point. As I mentioned, the car was in storage for quite some time. It sat in the back of a large residential garage up on jack stands from about 1989-2005.

    We got the car running and drove it around the neighborhood a bit (as I mentioned in the first post).
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/309887...posted-public/
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/309887...posted-public/
    A couple shots right as we were getting into the tear down. Looks pretty good right..?


    Then straight into pulling it apart to see what we're truly working with. We were expecting it to be bad, and is was!




    What's missing in this one?!

    Before this hunk, I had only pulled old 4cyl BMW engines that can be moved around with little effort. That is not the case with this thing, all 700lbs of it!


    Then off to the blaster.






    We threw some primer in the areas that were good and that we believed we would not need to replace and I then started to cut out the floors, really bad areas, etc. It was then like that until this summer where I started back into it.

    First came the front right outrigger. I measured many times (very nervously), then cut it off and replaced with a new Kilmartin piece.

    Sorry for the image quality on some of these, I only had my cell phone due to my wonderful memory. I struggled a bit with welding in the tight quarters so, they aren't too pretty but survived the jump test. It's especially not pretty because I the top weld has to be flush so the floors mount flat.

    Next came a patch near the drivers right foot. This, I'm told, is a very common rust spot for Healeys (it is for old BMWs as well). The driver gets into the car with wet and or salty shoes and it eventually kills floor there and the top of the frame rail. Kilmartin makes a great piece that mimics the pinch weld along the top. Out with the old and in with the new.



    These welds were a bit better but I stitch welded it up and it was hard to make it look perfect after grinding it down. Most of it will be covered by the new floor and trans tunnel eventually so I'm most concerned about the strength although constantly working on my welding technique.

    After that came the front left outrigger. Another session of measuring, re-measuring and checking level, the old one was cut off (what a mess it was!) and the new put on. I was on a roll with the welds this time...even had some dimes going and then the welder started acting up. Along the bottom is good (in my opinion), the front edge is nice and part of the top as well. Then, during the back-half of the top, the thing started screwing up so those welds as well as the back edge are far from pretty but strong.




    What kept happening was the hose for the gun kept popping out. At first I figured the contact tip needed replaced it but it kept happening after throwing a new one on. Although I've painted over what I did, I still have some work to do along the bottom corners and back edge but am kind of obsessive about covering up the new stuff.

    That gets us current more-or-less. Clearly, I've got many many many more pictures of the tear down but didn't want to bore everyone with what are mostly reference pictures for later.

    As always, please lend your comments good and bad, especially concerning welding. I know I'm making strong welds and sometimes I actually think they look good, but I've never had any training and could certainly use help in that area!
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Andrew W. Grannis
    1960 Austin Healey 3000 BT7
    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6SP
    1965 Chevy C10
    1978 Suzuki GS550E

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    Darth Vader Michael Oritt's Avatar
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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Andrew--

    Looks like you are doing a good job!
    My main welding skill consists of grinding off the slag and excess metal.

    Best--Michael Oritt
    1954 Austin-Healey 100 Le Mans
    1958 Elva Courier (FOR SALE)
    1959 Elva MK IV Sports Racer
    1961 Ginetta G4

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    Yoda HealeyRick's Avatar
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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Interesting that it has BJ8 doors and windows on it. How does the top match up to the roll-up windows?
    Rick

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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Michael - Thanks! Boy does it take some patience to not rush through the grinding.

    Rick - The top disappeared during storage so I've never seen how it fits. It's been quite some time since my dad had the top on it but from what he has told me...it leaked. Not sure how severe or how it compares with the correct setup, however. As you can see on the pictures though, the vent frame does match the windshield pretty well.
    Andrew W. Grannis
    1960 Austin Healey 3000 BT7
    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6SP
    1965 Chevy C10
    1978 Suzuki GS550E

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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    First sketch of the Small Axe Racing logo because that's what matters most right now...

    Andrew W. Grannis
    1960 Austin Healey 3000 BT7
    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6SP
    1965 Chevy C10
    1978 Suzuki GS550E

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    Darth Vader Michael Oritt's Avatar
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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Andrew--

    Logos are important.

    I keep wondering how you are going to get a stock top to fit a BT7 4-seater roadster body with a BJ convertible windshield and doors. Fabricating a top and folding mechanism sounds like an expensive venture. You might want to consider a hardtop that you can customize.

    Best--Michael Oritt
    1954 Austin-Healey 100 Le Mans
    1958 Elva Courier (FOR SALE)
    1959 Elva MK IV Sports Racer
    1961 Ginetta G4

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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Michael - Yes, that sounds expensive and well above my current fabrication skill level! We bought roadster doors from a local member a few years back. The BJ8 doors are not going back on the car.

    As for the windshield...I believe the frame to be the correct roadster frame, although I'm not sure we will be using it. It certainly isn't going in the scrap heap but we've talked about Brooklands screens or a 100S style Perspex unit like this:

    The thought is that we're mostly going to be driving the thing in good weather and if on a race weekend it starts to rain, we could run with the tonneau. One thing that may hinder this is the racing body may not allow running with a fabric tonneau (you can probably answer this one). A close friend of mine is a designer for Gunboat down in the OBX who specialize in carbon catamarans and I've thought about working with him to make a carbon tonneau sometime. I also have day dreams of carbon wings, fenders, hood and trunk lid but that's way, way down the line and probably not close to conforming to race rules!
    Andrew W. Grannis
    1960 Austin Healey 3000 BT7
    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6SP
    1965 Chevy C10
    1978 Suzuki GS550E

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    Darth Vader Michael Oritt's Avatar
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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Andrew--

    My mistake on the windshield--I did not look carefully enough AGAIN.

    As to the hard tonneau cover I believe that they are prohibited from most cars unless they had them to begin with--certain Porsches and Lotus 11's for example. The reasoning is that a hard/sharp edge would be quite dangerous in a crash. Best to check the rules of whatever race organizations you might foreseeably run with.

    Best--Michael Oritt
    1954 Austin-Healey 100 Le Mans
    1958 Elva Courier (FOR SALE)
    1959 Elva MK IV Sports Racer
    1961 Ginetta G4

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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Ah, interesting point. Here I was thinking the normal tonneau might be prohibited nowadays because of the chance of it blowing off.

    All of it goes back to the suggestion of gaining a good understanding of the rules. Added again to the must-do list.
    Andrew W. Grannis
    1960 Austin Healey 3000 BT7
    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6SP
    1965 Chevy C10
    1978 Suzuki GS550E

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    Jedi Knight dougie's Avatar
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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Andrew-

    Here's some good pic's of Kevin and Dennis Adairs 1960 Can-AM light-weight 3000 factory racer which had a low-profile plexiglass aroscreen from the start.


    Dougie
    '65 BJ8 3000 MKIII GN.29
    '57 100-SIX MM Vintage Racer GN.1 #414
    Team Healey PDX

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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    I love the look of those, especially the more "full" screen. Thanks for sharing.
    Andrew W. Grannis
    1960 Austin Healey 3000 BT7
    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6SP
    1965 Chevy C10
    1978 Suzuki GS550E

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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Another weekend, another update. I was able to leave the car on the stands in my parent's garage this past week which was a great help in allowing me to be productive in my small window on Saturday. It tends to take me ~30 minutes to get the car out, onto the stands and then shimmed level. Needless to say, being able to skip that step is huge.

    The goal for yesterday was to measure 5-10 more times where the LR outrigger, gusset and spring mount were, cut them off and get the new outrigger and gusset in. The company I've been ordering the Kilmartin sheetmetal from only had one spring mount in stock, so I told them to just send them both when another comes in. So that part will have to wait.

    Goal accomplished!

    This outrigger was in the best shape of the three that I've replaced so far.


    The gusset was almost perfect inside.


    I then proceeded to lay down some of my best welds yet. I figured out the issue with the welder was the set screw that holds the hose into the body of the welder had backed itself out, thus allowing it to pop out of place when any pressure was applied by the spool. It's very encouraging to see my welds getting better every week (at least in my opinion they are) but I'm still struggling making things pretty in tight spaces. In due time I suppose.





    Then a quick coat of primer to finish it off. I do this knowing that I'll probably have it basted before it gets it's "real" primer but I just have such a deep hatred for rust that I don't want to leave anything bare.


    And if you're wondering...yes, I stupidly left the newspaper under the outrigger while I was welding and had a bit of a fire.

    I also started to stitch weld the two piece sill together but forgot to take pictures of that. I also clearly forgot my actual camera once again...

    The car has been allowed to take up the whole garage this week again, but I'll probably not get to it until Saturday when I plan to knock out the remaining outrigger. That's a huge milestone in my mind as I've never seen the thing with even one complete outrigger. Having sills, well, that will just be unheard of!

    As always comments and/or criticism very much welcome.
    Andrew W. Grannis
    1960 Austin Healey 3000 BT7
    2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6SP
    1965 Chevy C10
    1978 Suzuki GS550E

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    Jedi Knight dougie's Avatar
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    Re: Project Small Axe Racing: Big Healey restoration/vintage racer build

    Great progress Anderw, keep it up!
    Dougie
    '65 BJ8 3000 MKIII GN.29
    '57 100-SIX MM Vintage Racer GN.1 #414
    Team Healey PDX

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