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Thread: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

Discuss the Austin Healey Sprite and the MG Midget. Two different but similar cars sometimes referred to collectively as the Spridget.

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    Senior Member JimLaney's Avatar
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    Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    I am working my way through a planning and budgeting exercise for pair of basket-case MK IIIs that I have in my shop. I am wanting to create a more reliable (functioning) than original driver from the first body and the boxes of parts. They are both 1098cc engines and North American cars. This is my first time attempting to build a car from boxes of parts, but I do want to do as much of the work as I can. I am working with limited resources but I do want to be able to drive my finished car on a regular basis.

    I think I want to 1.) convert to spin on oil filters; 2.) convert from generator to alternator; 3.) from points and condenser to electronic ignition; 4.) from original finishes to modern paints for the body; 5.) from engine bay of body color to black engine bay paint.

    Can anyone offer advice on 1) advisability of each of these; 2) recommendations on particular parts or sources; 3) things that you believe should be added to the list?

    Some engine work will be required as the block assembly and head assembly were "rebuilt" and left apart 15 years ago.
    Jim Laney
    2 MKIII Sprites - in process
    2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650
    2019 Honda Ridgeline AWD
    past: BE, MkII, AH 3000

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    Yoda
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Spin on oil filter change is best accomplished by obtaining the filter housing and banjo tube assembly from a later car. The aftermarket ones are kind of a PITA. Gen to alternator has many that will work. I like the small skeleton alternators. One that fits a Kubota tractor is a nice one. I made the necessary rewiring inside of an old RB 106 regulator. Personally I prefer points. Seldom need adjustment and are not going to leave you stranded on the side of the road. First car I rebuilt I painted the engine bay black....will never do it again. A light color makes it so much easier to see whats going on in there. I like a light gray. My 0.02!!

    Kurt
    65,66 Midget
    57 Berkeley, MGA
    Working on quality rather than quantity

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    Senior Member JimLaney's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Thanks Kurt! Tip on grey vs black helps me.
    Jim Laney
    2 MKIII Sprites - in process
    2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650
    2019 Honda Ridgeline AWD
    past: BE, MkII, AH 3000

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    Senior Member JimLaney's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    After researching this forum I found the following:

    Popular Modifications for Sprites Summarized:

    Level I.
    spin-on oil filter
    Petronix ignition
    Sway bar
    sleeved master cylinder
    rollbar
    three point seat belts
    LED brake and signal lights
    Rust Check Treatment (Franklin, NC) about $150
    4 way flashers
    gear reduction starter
    replace suspension bushings
    shock replacement all around
    control heater valve from inside car
    Conversion to alternator from generator
    Braided stainless hoses (brake, fuel, oil)
    relays for headlights, horn, others
    Heat shielding in transmission tunnel

    Level II.
    seam welded frame
    Electric Fan with Frontline autotemp switch
    Suspension upgrade - new wishbones and shocks
    Oil Cooler
    Aluminum radiator
    Alloy valve cover

    Level III.
    Engine swaps
    Rear Disc brakes
    Exotic heads and valve train
    Performance internal parts
    Turbos
    Transmission swaps

    While there are MANY ways to modify these cars, making a Level I car will probably do the trick for reliability and driveability (from all I can gather)
    Last edited by JimLaney; 09-04-2017 at 10:52 AM. Reason: Update based on feed back
    Jim Laney
    2 MKIII Sprites - in process
    2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650
    2019 Honda Ridgeline AWD
    past: BE, MkII, AH 3000

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    Yoda Jim_Gruber's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Jim, you left off some key upgrades. Major suspension upgrade kit, 4 shocks from Peter C. New Wishbones as the metal bushings in the ones you have now will be toast. Upgrade all rear suspension bushings as well. Tires you'll need tires.Rubber brake lines. Replace they do not last longer than 10 years. Rear Discs, yes I'm going to put them on Bugsy IV but I'd call that a Level 3 performance upgrade.

    R&R of suspension front and rear will give you the most notable change in performance and handling and adding front sway bar is a big help as well. But new shocks. Wishbones, and major suspebmnsion kit is the key.
    Jim Gruber - Tampa/Riverview FL
    Bugsy I - '68 Sprite w BE Bonnet - Gone but not forgotten
    Bugsy IV - '60 Bugeye - 1,275+.040 and a 5-Speed - CA Car - 2nd Owner from new -

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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    You can also get LEDs for the instrument panel. More light and less draw -- one less "rock in the rowboat". I have a Sprite IV, and here are my mods:

    Spin on Oil Filter
    Pertronix Ignition
    3-Point Belts
    LED Exterior Lighting
    LED Panel Lights
    Headlight Relays / Halogen Headlights
    Tailpipe extension -- aims the exhaust downward so there's less that gets sucked back into the cabin
    Chrome trim rings for the wheels -- totally cosmetic, just gives the car a nicer look
    Center console -- this is pretty useful to have!

    I put a fresh set of Peter C's lever shocks front and rear and new trunnion bushings and have pretty much gone top to bottom through the car. Best part is that all the mods are reversible if an owner down the road wanted to return the car to purely stock. However, my car will never be a concours car, so I doubt that would ever happen.

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    Yoda
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Agree that suspention rebuild and upgrade should be right at the top of the list along with relays and halogen headlights. Those headlights with an alternator will make a HUGE difference in night time driving. Of course to do that you will have to go to negative ground and then your tach will need work.

    Kurt.
    65,66 Midget
    57 Berkeley, MGA
    Working on quality rather than quantity

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    Jedi Knight Pythias's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Consider .. instead of the Pertronix (mine left me stranded, but it WAS my bad install... still, )... the Crane unit. I have never heard of one failing. Harder to set up, but once done, you're DONE. ..New ones take either polarity. (I am lead to believe). ..

    You also left out the datsun 5 speed, (parts for conversion from Gerard).
    Bill L.

    1966 Sprite MK III - "the red thing"
    HAN8L49403

    President, Pacific Northwest Chapter,
    Sprite Midget Club, USA
    (Excepting Greater Seattle)

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    Obi Wan Bayless's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Agree with Kurt on the black engine bay. You will hate it! Besides, body color is "right" and just looks so much better.
    Never express yourself more clearly than you can think.
    '48 Ford Prefect
    '67 Sprite (project)
    '74 Super Beetle
    '73 MB 450SE
    '04 Saab Arc
    http://enfoprefect.org

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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    V8

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    Senior Member JimLaney's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    After I have a running car I'll revisit the 200SX turbo and 5 speed... Suspension suggestions sound good to me. Thanks to all

    Jim, can I buy replacement bushings and do the install or do they require a machine shop to "re bush" the rear suspension?

    I bought some new Kumho tires just to have tires that hold air on the car.

    Thanks to all for the suggestions!

    I have a front sway bar to mount and I bought new discs for the front since original rebuild never saw fluid and pistons rusted in place.
    Is there a particular type of piping to replace brake lines (where I am not replacing rubber with flexible braided steel ) I seem to remember reading something about a type of piping for brake line that is easier to bend than steel and doesn't rust..[not copper]
    Jim Laney
    2 MKIII Sprites - in process
    2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650
    2019 Honda Ridgeline AWD
    past: BE, MkII, AH 3000

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    Senior Member JimLaney's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    BTW, I thought I read that all MKIIIs shipped to North America we negative ground. Is that not so?....I don't have a car that has a battery in it so I can't just go look at the hook up.
    Jim Laney
    2 MKIII Sprites - in process
    2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650
    2019 Honda Ridgeline AWD
    past: BE, MkII, AH 3000

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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Jim change to negative ground icccured in 1968. Easy to change though. Swap battery around and connect. And polarize Ggenerator. Takes just a few min. Bushings you can can easily replace. We can help you get it done?
    Jim Gruber - Tampa/Riverview FL
    Bugsy I - '68 Sprite w BE Bonnet - Gone but not forgotten
    Bugsy IV - '60 Bugeye - 1,275+.040 and a 5-Speed - CA Car - 2nd Owner from new -

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    Senior Member JimLaney's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim_Gruber View Post
    Jim change to negative ground icccured in 1968. Easy to change though. Swap battery around and connect. And polarize Ggenerator. Takes just a few min. Bushings you can can easily replace. We can help you get it done?
    Thanks Jim. If I switch to alternator and swap the terminals around is the only difficulty the tach?

    Taking in a pair of basket cases (someone started on the rebuild but quit 15 years ago) means that It is difficult to tell what has been done as suspension was reinstalled with "new" fulcrum shocks, brakes front and back, axles, steering rack all back in just sitting for 15 years. I suspect the better course for me is to assume nothing and pull it all apart and verify new and needed parts.

    Thank you again for your help.
    Jim Laney
    2 MKIII Sprites - in process
    2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650
    2019 Honda Ridgeline AWD
    past: BE, MkII, AH 3000

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    Yoda Jim_Gruber's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Again don't trust work you cannot verify yourself. Especially things with Brakes or Suspension. Clutch or Brake MAsters if they have been without fluid likely have rusted bores.

    And here is how to fix the Tach issue originally written by "The Godfather" of Sprites - Frank Clarici, including his sarcastic comments disclaimer.

    Frank Clarici
    Tachometer Conversion, Positive to Negative Ground
    Items needed: soldering iron & solder, electric tape or heat shrink tube

    • Remove the tachometer from the dash, take it to a clean work site, on the seat of the car is not the place to work on the inside of your tach.
    • Remove the chrome bezel, glass lens, and inner black rim.
    • Remove the 2 screws from the back of the tach, these hold the mechanism to the housing.
    • Holding the tach by its face with the ignition light at 3 o'clock ( red line straight up ) locate the resistor which is soldered to the spade terminal that comes out the back. Locate the post imediatly to the resistors left, these must be reversed. Unsolder the resistor from the spade terminal, unsolder the green wire from the left post, solder the green wire to the spade terminal, solder the resistor to the left post.
    • Reassemble the tach into its housing replace rim, clean the lens, re-fit lens and chrome bezel.
    • Back in the car, you will have a white wire that makes a loop out of the harness and around a plastic terminal on the back of the tach, this loop must be reversed. Mark the wire 2 inches from each side of the loop, cut each side and switch the wire (reverse the loop) solder the connections and tape or shrink tube the bare wire.
    • Mark the tach on the outside of the housing NEGATIVE GROUND.
    • Install the tach in the dash, hook up the loop and green wire and be sure the housing is properly grounded.

    If you do NOT agree with these ideas, if you are "mechanically challenged" or are just down right "stupid" I suggest you purchase New parts from a supplier of your choice and have a local shop do this work for you.
    Frank Clarici
    Electric Tachometer Face Swap for Bugeye
    BUGEYE TACHOMETER CONVERSION

    Many Bugeye owners are confronted with the problem of sorting out a tach drive once they have converted either to an alternator or discover that they cannot find a mechanical tach drive at a reasonable price. Frank Clarici offers a great piece of advice on how to convert an electronic tack over to negative ground. I have taken his advice one step further. Many Bugeye owners do not want to give up the stock look of the original gauges, so I have outlined here how to solve the tach drive as well as the stock looking gauges problem.

    You will need:

    • original Bugeye tach
    • tach from a Mk3 Sprite or Mk2 Midget (this is an electric tach, the same diameter as the Bugeye)
    • Frank Clarici instructions on how to convert to negative ground (if your car is negative ground)
    • Small standard screwdriver
    • touch up paint (optional)

    1 Hour labor Procedure:

    • Remove the front chrome ring, glass and seals from both tachometers by twisting the ring. The rubber seal on them may need to be replaced.
    • Very carefully remove the RPM indicator needle from each of the tachs by pulling straight off the post.
    • Using a small screwdriver remove the 2 small screws that hold the face plate of each tach.
    • The screw spacing is different for the faceplates, lay the Mk3 faceplate over the Bugeye face plate and using a small drill bit, drill the 2 holes in the proper location. Be very careful how much pressure you put on the faceplates as they are very soft and can be deformed.
    • (OPTIONAL) Use super glue to affix a thin patch to the backside of the faceplate or fill the hole with epoxy, to cosmetically close and paint the old screw holes in the Bugeye faceplate.
    • Install the Bugeye faceplate and RPM needle onto the electronic tachometer.
    • Reinstall the tach chrome ring and glass with new rubber seal if needed.
    • Install reconfigured tach into car dash and do electrical hook up. You will connect a 12 volt line to the spade connector on the rear, the case is grounded and a length of wire will go from the coil, loop around the sensor pickup on the rear of the tach, and back to the points terminal on the distributor.

    It is that easy, drop me a line if you need more information,
    Bob Magnotti
    bob@itgonline.com
    Jim Gruber - Tampa/Riverview FL
    Bugsy I - '68 Sprite w BE Bonnet - Gone but not forgotten
    Bugsy IV - '60 Bugeye - 1,275+.040 and a 5-Speed - CA Car - 2nd Owner from new -

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    Senior Member JimLaney's Avatar
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    A careful check has revealed that the A arms are "new" and are sound. My Master cylinder did have rusted bores and I have been able to replace it but after that I felt that I had to replace the calipers since rust removal from the pistons seems like a bad idea. Bought new calipers.

    Great to have a place to ask my questions and get solid answers. Thanks.
    Jim Laney
    2 MKIII Sprites - in process
    2013 Kawasaki Ninja 650
    2019 Honda Ridgeline AWD
    past: BE, MkII, AH 3000

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    Yoda
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    If you are fitting a sway bar stiffer than stock you will want to re-enforce the frame mounts. They are likely to break out if you don't.

    Kurt
    65,66 Midget
    57 Berkeley, MGA
    Working on quality rather than quantity

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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Regardless of whether or not the previous lever shocks were new, Peter C.'s replacements are priced reasonably enough that it would seem to be a no-brainer to do it and have that piece of mind. If there's a budget or a priority list, I'd do the shocks before I'd drop in an alternator. I've been running a generator in my Sprite IV for four years without any significant electrical issues. The biggest issue I had was that the generator bearing was worn. I have a Chinese knock-off in there right now that's doing fine.

    I tried replacing the bearing on the Lucas generator myself, but made a mess out of it. I'll eventually bring it to a shop, but for now, the knock-off is working.

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    Jedi Knight
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    Saxman: where did you get your LED panel lights?

    A few minor thoughts:

    - real air cleaners (your choice; keep the originals but replace them with something that will keep more than just the gravel out)
    - clean up the SUs

    - for rear discs, have a look at Creative Spridgets: https://www.creativespridgets.com/
    - wider rims (dig through the forum for recommendations, as there's not a lot of room to play with)
    - check your differential ratios and pick the lower numeric one if there's a difference
    - makes more sense to me to use Peter C's lever arms, rather than going for tube shocks
    - modern lubricants. I'm using Redline in the trans and diff, but there's a lot of choices

    I was also thinking that adding Sophia Loren to the passenger seat would be a worthwhile upgrade, for those of us of similar vintages to the cars........ Doug
    1959 pristine 948 cc Bug-Eye; DCOE, 5 speed; bought 1971
    1960 BE bought 1971 & stored since; body tub restored and reassembling (1275; etc.)
    1962 AH 3000 BJ7; 3rd owner (1982?); in shop Oct. 2015 for paint job - home soon!
    1962 VW Meyers Manx clone dune buggy; stripped last winter and being reassembled
    1969 Kawasaki 500 H1 Triple, orig. owner; stored since 1973, but runs again! 1999 Buell S3

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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Sprite MK III upgrades - recommendations?

    I got my lights from Joe Parlanti at Veloce Solutions: https://velocesolutionsllc.com/

    Joe is a genuine British Car guy, too. He has a spectacular Sunbeam Tiger with a Mustang 5.0 V-8. He is actually the supplier of LED lights for Moss motors.

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