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Mountain Road Trip

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Mountain Road Trip

Post by DrJ on Sun Aug 27, 2017 12:56 pm

It's funny how raw desire for something can take off line that part of your brain that provides critical thinking. I had been searching for a car build, my first. During my teenage years, the sports car itch was scratched with a MGB which provided me endless hours of tracing electrical gremlins and ghosts. It also taught me that chasing rust was not an enjoyable experience.
Graduate school was calling and in a State that was 800 miles away as the crow flies...the MG had to go. My new ride was a 66 mustang with a 289, factory 4bbl, a T10 and a 9"posi. The rust issue continued in St. Louis but the drive-train was indestructible. Life, family and career followed and then one day when I was minding my own business when....the sports car inch returned. Now I like my cars like I like my women...round. Never been a fan of wedge cars. She needed to be topless, fiberglass if possible (no more body work) and a American drive-train (power, reliability). Plus I wanted it to be something I could build or rebuild or work on without an computer science degree. A long search led to the original web site for Classic Roadsters and one beautiful Healey replica. Sadly they were long gone but that raw desire to have one was growing. I test drove three, two automatics and one 4-speed. I am a stick shift kind of guy and so a deal was struck for the 4-speed.
So as that critical thinking brain part was obviously no where to be found during the test driving portion of the program I had not noticed some less than desirable qualities of the ride like...
The gearing of the Muncie was incompatible to the gearing of the rear. Starting off in 1st or reverse shook the car like a puppy pooping razor blades. There was no room left of the clutch pedal to rest your foot, the clutch pressure required was more appropriate to a Mac truck than car, the ride was just about harsh enough to liquefy your innards, pieces of trim were missing, the wiring under the dash was "interesting" and not in a good way, you get the idea.
Well I wanted a project and the schooling began. The first winter was spent swapping a WC T5 for the Muncie. That expanded to a new pilot bushing, flywheel, clutch, clutch slave, bell housing, transmission cross brace, shifter and shortened driveshaft. Fabrication work included the transmission brace that needed to permit installation of the T5 which was from a Camaro. Those units were installed clocked over something like 18 degrees so the brace boss was not parallel to the ground. Also the new aluminum bell housing had no provisions to mount an external slave cylinder so had to come up with that. Bleeding the clutch resulted in the master failing. The master was some unidentifiable unit that projected from the firewall at a 40 degree ish downward angle, tucked up under the brake booster unit. No joy finding a duplicate so I used it as an excuse to attempt a re-engineering of the pedal cluster so as to provide room for a dead pedal. Ended up using a reverse acting Wilwood master/pedal combo with a 6:1 ratio and a external reservoir. Welded up a new mount for it and the brake pedal and converted both to have adjustable pedal pad positions.
The summer of 2015 was the proof of concept driving season and a pretty successful one. The gearing was way better, now with an overdrive 5th which results in about 1,400 RPM @ 60 MPH. The clutch is substantially lighter in effort required and I can rest my foot on a dead pedal when not shifting. The caveat here being I have to use sneakers and have had to train myself to bias the left lateral side of the clutch pedal so as not to grab the brake when shifting. It's easier than it sounds and having somewhere to rest your foot is real comfortable.
The following winter was used to tackle the suspension. I read some books about how all that works and the math involved. Took the time time measure and weigh all sorts of things attempting to understand why it rode as it did and how to correct it. My work with regard to that is posted somewhere on the blog. Spent the season fabricating hard points to connect the new Vi-king coil-overs in the back, dismantling the front to incorporate tubular control arms, the Vi-king coil-overs, a new upper control arm mount that would permit alignment using shims vs the Mustang II "T" nut arrangement (thank you again Hotrod). This also gave me the chance to incorporate in some much needed anti-dive. The lower strut rod is gone, a bunch of welding, new outer tie rod ends, a cleaned up steering rack and in it all went. While I was at it I used the opportunity to install new 11" SSBC discs up front with larger calipers. The kit included new wheel bearings as well. Bleeding that resulted in the master leaking out the aft seal (seems like a trend here, I may never bleed a system again). Picked up a new master from SSBC and replaced the booster while I was at it.
The summer of 2016 was again a proof of concept/tuning opportunity. Overall she rides way better. The comparison I have used is driving my own State owned baja track. There is a 5 mile section of parkway up here that has been neglected by the State for 40ish years. It is one undulating patch of concrete. Prior to the suspension upgrades I could manage 30 MPH above which would most certainly break the car and or the driver. I can now run her at 55 MPH reasonably comfortably. Driving your average road is comfortable. The brakes are to good. If I treat the brake pedal any harder that if there was an egg under my foot it would toss the wife and I over the windshield. The dive is essentially gone but they are way to sensitive. This coming Winter I plan to remove the booster and try it as a manual set up.
The wife and I threw caution to the wind and decided a week in the Adirondacks, driving the twisty roads, was in order. This was not without some risk as I failed to mention certain uh...engine issues that I have not fully understood yet. Issues like her not wanting to start easily when at operating temp. Most of these symptoms began to develop two weeks prior to our departure date and I spent some time attempting to troubleshoot them but have not as of yet discovered the problem. We drove her about 1,200 miles overall. She handles as good as anything one could want in a non-competitive track car. We had a couple of instances of rain and the top worked remarkably well while we were moving. It did rain one night while she sat and that led to soggy carpet on the drivers side only, not to bad. I think I can improve that in time. I had replaced the OEM wiper arms and blades with adjustable units so that they park and work without bouncing off the windshield frame and that worked out well. The surprise was that my highway mileage ran between 23 MPG on flat land to 20.7 in the mountains. My speedometer agrees with my GPS speed so I believe that to be accurate but keep in mind I am running small valve heads on this motor and during those runs I tried to keep my toe out of it. The only issues were when we climbed Whiteface mountain, 4,700'. Restarting up there was tense but ultimately successful. We stopped again once back down in the valley to hike a trail and had more trouble getting her started at the lower elevation so I don't think it is just mixture/carb jetting. Just got her running before the battery gave up. On the way back we got stuck in traffic in Lake Placid and suddenly noticed the temperature jumped from it's usual reliable 190F to 220F. Turned out the electrical fan dropped off line, dirty electrical connections. We got home yesterday and without having to resort to AAA of a flatbed so it's all good. Some things to sort out for sure but the overall ride experience is way better than the one I began with when I bought her.
I have been toying with selling her and pursuing a C2 Restomod project but now I am not so sure. Not a day went by without 2 or more strangers walking up to ask about her. Plenty of thumbs up from other drivers as well. She is a pretty ride, fast and handles great. Never saw another all week, lots of Camaro's, Mustangs and Chargers, but no Healey's. Still plenty of opportunity to refine her so...maybe she is a keeper!

DrJ

Posts : 131
Join date : 2014-06-19

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Re: Mountain Road Trip

Post by Hotrod on Mon Aug 28, 2017 10:06 am

Great story.  Glad you made it home with all 4 wheels rolling in the proper direction. Very Happy

Sounds like you are well on your way to well sorted car.  Too many people never get to the point you are at.  I've never seen a home built (or pro built for that matter) car that didn't need some debugging.  The owners either live with the problems and decide that that's just how home builts are or they get frustrated and sell the car.  They never get to experience the enjoyment that driving a well sorted car that you built yourself can give.  Kudos for sticking it out and being adventurous enough to head out on a trip in it.

I totally agree with the Healey being unique.  Cobras are common enough now that I usually run across a few during the car show season.  In all of the 25+ years I've been actively involved in car shows, I've never ran across another Healey outside of a museum.

Besides, the layout, features and size make the Healey (Sebring) the "thinking man's Cobra". Laughing   It may be more difficult to get a Sebring to match the raw performance of a typical Cobra, but it is a much more practical car and can have very respectable performance while being reasonably comfortable.

Again, congratulations. Well done.
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Hotrod

Posts : 300
Join date : 2014-06-17

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Mountain Road Trip

Post by DrJ on Mon Aug 28, 2017 6:11 pm

Thank you Hotrod for the kind words but we both know that a lot of the sorting concepts have come from your mentoring. Slowly and patiently you are dragging this dense novice hobbyist threw the process of cranking our a respectable ride. There is just no substitute for experience, something you have in abundance.

DrJ

Posts : 131
Join date : 2014-06-19

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Re: Mountain Road Trip

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