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My BJ8 Barn Find


Freshman Member
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Myth: Barn Finds are great cars, will be in great shape and cost little to renovate. FALSE. Let me restate that - VERY FALSE. There are very few exceptions to this. My barn find may or may not be one of these - TBD. The engine was seized, brakes and clutch peddles went to the floor and stayed there, what was put in the fuel tank 40+ years ago no longer can even imitate gasoline, tires are bald, interior in fair-minus condition, repaint is not a Healey color (close but no cigar), battery missing so determining positive vs negative ground is a mystery, glove box lock is shot and won't open... need I go on? In light of all this I couldn't help myself and bought it anyway. At times I wonder what the heck I was thinking. Other times I just imagine what it could be - this is what keeps me going. I decided to not take on too many projects at once fearing it would take too long to get back to it with new parts and I'd forget how it went together. So far I'm ok but expect it will happen somewhere sometime. I bought the car January 29th and pulled it out of the barn and dragged it home about the end of February.
Projects to date:
  1. I found a number of workshop manuals on line (Healey & Haynes) and not sure which was better bought them both. Glad I did, while some sections are word for word the same, other times one has better pics and descriptions which have been helpful
  2. I found Moss Motors, Victoria British and A Head 4 Healeys. These are great parts sources and also provide very good blown up parts picks - some better than the workshop manuals. Made numerous lists and ordered parts. Brake and clutch master cylinders, water pump, thermostat, valve cover gasket, oil filter and numerous other parts. I've done this a number of times now so I'm starting to really hate shipping charges.
  3. Pulled the radiator. No one told me how difficult it is to release the bottom radiator hose. I figured out. it I undid everything else so I could move the radiator just enough to reach the bottom hose clamp. That only took 2+ hours. Not fun. I sent it out for reconditioning. It needed one minor repair - Good news
  4. I mixed 50% trans fluid and 50% acetone, pumped it in each cylinder and let it sit. After a few days I grabbed the fan, rocked it back and forth a few times and it broke free. (easier with the plugs out). More good news
  5. I finally determined it is still a positive ground and added a battery. I also ordered a better battery box to handle modern batteries.
  6. I changed the oil and now wish I had a modern spin-on oil filter - that will come later.
  7. I borrowed a compression tester and found #2-6 are all at 120#. Number 1 tops out wet at 80#. Argh - hopefully this is due to my lack of experience with a compression tester. Barring that, I suspect a stuck valve, bad guide or worse - ring-failure. I've decided to press on and work to get it running as is and see what happens. Fingers crossed.
  8. I pulled the fuel tank and blew the old fuel out of the lines. I also discovered a rusty trunk floor. I have a new tank to install but first the floor needs attention. I ordered and received a replacement floor panel.
  9. I cut out the large section of the rusty trunk floor but still have to cut out the right and left corners. I'll need to lift the car and go it from underneath. This project is still in progress.
  10. I pulled both carbs. A friend used to own his own British car repair and restoration company and has offered to help rebuild these. He's my new best friend!! With the Stay at Home order we now have due to the Covid-19 outbreak, this project will have to sit incomplete. Lord I hope I can remember how these go back on. Fingers crossed.
  11. Today I pulled the thermostat and water pump. I'm painting both the thermostat cap and new water pump - they may be the prettiest parts under the hood (excuse me - bonnet)for a while. Once dry, they will go back on.

I'm getting there - slowly. I still have brakes, ignition, interior and who knows what to tackle. If I was a mechanic and paid hourly, my boss would go broke. I'll get there when I get there and not a minute sooner. More later.
There's generally a reason cars were rolled into barns and it wasn't so some happy new owner could find them years later, change the gas in the tank and motor away. Usually, something broke and was too expensive to fix so the car was just pushed aside. Good luck with your project, sounds like you've good a pretty good to-do list ahead.
It really has been fun so far. One project leads to 3 or 4 but they're all good. My goal is to make it a 'driver'. Anything after that is TBD.
Usually the battery cable ends are bigger for positive. So, unless you just arbitrarily replaced the cables, you should be able to slip cables onto a battery and know right away.

I watch all these reality car shows....some kludge dragged out of somewhere and they get the engine fired right up.

I've been doing car repair for close to 60 years, and that just does not happen. Stuck rings, stuck valves, completely clapped out bores, bearings, cam, lifters, crank.....and seals.

Seen a lot of this barn find stuff, generally once you are done the cost is FAR greater than buying a running, complete example.
I could not agree more with HealeyRick & TOC.

However, since I have been sucked into several similar projects over my lifetime, I've got to say there is something very special about the act of bringing a dead car back to life, especially if you like working with your hands and have some basic skills.

I definitely agree with your approach of 'one thing at a time', aside from how easy it can be to forget how things go back together, if you tear it all apart at once it can become overwhelming psychologically too.

OTOH, if it has good bones, you may end up with something special. Remember, the journey can be as satisfying as the destination. This forum is a very good source of help, so use it often.

Is the rngine running? How did you check the compression?
To see if its the rungs, take the compression again; then pour some oil into the cylinder and retest. If the compression goes up, its the rings. If it stays the same - probably a stuck or defective valve.
Remember, "some oil" is sort of specific. I had a guy working for me who POURED oil in and about blew the gauge up. Couple of squirts with a pump oiler, spin the engine with the started for a couple of revs, then do the test.
Have a look at http://www.britishcarforum.com/bcf/...pgrades-for-a-BJ7&highlight=tasteful+upgrades for some ideas as to improvements-changes as you go through the car. And depending on budget. And your energy. The radiator is out - can you justify getting it triple cored (budget); adding an overflow tank (energy).
For parts, also consider AH Spares in Jolly Olde. If your chassis and body are good (i.e. usable and without two much rust), then carry on getting it mechanically done and running. My impression is that it is the body work that is the financial killer.
Good fortune on the new adventure!
I watch all these reality car shows....some kludge dragged out of somewhere and they get the engine fired right up.
Generally agree, but I enjoyed watching Roger Barr on Chasing Classic Cars. They would show him doing things that would actually make a car work, not just swearing and yelling at their partners. Especially enjoyed when he was working on reviving a pre-war classic.
My saga continues. Many times I thought to myself "I'm in over my head" followed by "I'm really in over my head" followed by "whats the worse that can happen, research it, try it and then try it again" Well, some of that has worked. More projects to date:

12. Rebuilt both carbs. First I helped a friend rebuild his HD4's off his MGTC. As it turns out, we have a common friend that years ago owned his own British car repair shop. He recently retired from GM so who knew? With his great guidance we rebuilt my friends HD4s. They are very complex. When we started my HD8s, we completed them in 20% the time it took to rebuild the HD4s. The good news is, they are done.
13. Installed a new water pump and thermostat
14. The new steel trunk floor is a perfect fit (surprisingly). The rear section is now riveted to the aluminum rear faring. I cut and shaped a few patch panels for the side sections so now I need a welder. Since the car is not driveable and I don't have a trailer, I need someone to come to me. My neighbor recommended one who does great work so I called him. Yes, he was interested and wanted the work. He wanted to stop by on his way home and see the project. Great! Except, he never showed. I texted him a few times and left 2 voicemails over the next 3-4 weeks and never got a response. I taught myself to weld 15 years ago on an old Ford pickup. It was just a wire-feed welder, no gas. For every 10 minutes of welding, I spent 30-40 minutes grinding. No I was never good, but did get the job done. Well, I borrowed a MIG welder and will soon find out if I remember anything about welding.
15. The glove box lock was broken and would not open. I had great hopes of finding golden nuggets of the cars past in there. I ordered a new lock, learned how it operated and with a few old dental tools finally got it ope. Alas, it was empty. The new lock is installed and works great.
16. While waiting for the welder (that never showed, returned a text or phone call - rude!) I held off reinstalling the radiator to keep working room for the carbs. I didn't want to reinstall the carbs until the new fuel tank was installed and plumbed. I couldn't install the new fuel tank until the truck floor was welded in. Argh! Dominoes in reverse! So, I bought a spray bottle for Mothers Vinyl and leather conditioner and started on the interior. Much to my surprise, front and rear seats as well as the dash top came out terrific. The top looks brand new. I plan to treat all a few more times before lowering the top for fear it has dried out and will crumble when folded. I may get lucky here. Fingers crossed.
17. I have a conflict. The weather has warmed up (it snowed in May this year - odd). I redirected my focus to our sailboat. I painted the bottom, waxed the hull, launched it, moved it to our Yacht Club, put the sails on, more cleaning, on, and on, and on. Healey took a back seat - for a couple weeks only.
18. Today I picked up the borrowed MIG welder. I hope to have the trunk floor welding complete by Saturday. Wish me luck.
New pics:


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More new pics


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Great progress! Keep the pictures coming...
Generally agree, but I enjoyed watching Roger Barr on Chasing Classic Cars.

Roger was a class act. Always enjoyed his spots as well as his antics.
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