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Thread: Project Sebring GT Spyder
          
   
   

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  1. #1
    Hotrod46's Avatar
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    Car Year, Make, Model: 1946 Ford Coupe, 1962 Austin Healey 3000
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    Project Sebring GT Spyder

     



    Well gang, it's time it introduce my latest project. I've been looking forward to this for quite some time, but other projects kept getting in the way. This car is a Sebring 5000 kit car from the late 80's. They were copies of the "Big" Austin Healey 3000 sports cars of the 60's.

    Before I get started with the actual build stuff here's a little history on me, the car and the "adventure" my son and I had getting it home.

    I got to drive my first original Healey 3000 when I was 16 years old (I'm in my 50's now). To a kid that had only driven pickups and large under-powered sedans, that big Healey was a supercar. I've had a soft spot for British sports cars ever since (especially big Healeys). I would have bought one, but just never could seem to find a car that was both affordable and not rusted beyond practical. When I first discovered the Classic Roadsters Sebring back the 80's, I wanted one, but by that time family responsibilities meant no way that was going to happen either. By the time I could afford it in the 90's, I had gotten interested in street rods. I built a 46 Ford coupe so I could haul the kids around and the Sebring was pretty much forgotten. I built a T Bucket that I got on the road in 08.

    Fast forward to 2013. After spending 20 years fooling with street rods, I got the itch for something different. I looked at Cobra kits (mainly Factory Five) and while I love the styling, the cars I rode in were just not what I wanted. I was wanting something that my wife and I could travel cross country in. It had to be powerful and drive good. We also wanted to have a reasonable amount of room, for both us and a suitcase or two. The Cobras certainly fit the first requirements, but are sorely lacking in the room department. While we didn't need a true convertible, we wanted a functional top that didn't take 30 minutes to assemble. I looked at several late model convertibles, including Mustangs, Jags, and Mercedes, but they didn't do anything for me. Most of the affordable ones were high mileage and that worried me. Jags and Mercs are not exactly cheap to repair. The FF Cobras would take somewhere around 30 grand or more to finish and I didn't want to spend that much.

    I stumbled across a Saxon (cousin to the Sebring) on Craigslist and all those Healey memories came back. The car seemed to fit our requirements, too. Trouble was the seller didn't have a clear title, so I passed on that one. Next came a Sebring 5000 on EBAY. The car was in Florida which was in reasonable driving distance for me. For various reasons, I wasn't able to bid on it. It didn't sell, so I contacted the seller and made an offer. He accepted it and my son and I were off the Florida.

  2. #2
    Hotrod46's Avatar
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    Car Year, Make, Model: 1946 Ford Coupe, 1962 Austin Healey 3000
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    Getting the deal made

     



    The Sebring was about 400 miles away. The owner had assured me that his wife drove the car all the time. He had bought it in New Jersey, where it was originally assembled, and drove it to Florida. It had new tires and I was reasonably sure that I could drive it back to my home in Louisiana. I was also happy that it had a Chevy engine and a standard T5 trans. I've been wrenching Chevys since I started driving (grew up in a GM family) and know them better than Ford's.

    The car's body wasn't perfect. It had a crack in the gel coat on one fender and the gel coat was cloudy from age. Also, it had a cracked door glass. The motor needed a tune up and felt a sluggish, but it only had 8000 miles showing on the odometer. The owner claimed it had been assembled with a new crate motor back in '89 and the original owner hadn't driven it much.

    As for driving, it had no issues. It steered OK and stopped good. My test drive wasn't as long as I would have liked, since we were in a very congested area. That would come back to haunt me later.

    One bonus was that the car came with a removable hardtop. A deal was made, paperwork done, and we started out for home. I was happy that it had cost a small fraction of what a Cobra kit would have been and it was a driveable car with a clear title. That joy would soon be gone, however. The "adventure" was just beginning!

  3. #3
    Hotrod46's Avatar
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    A very "hot" ride home!

     



    When we last left our heroes they were on the road home. We had barely made it 20 miles to the interstate highway when the car started running very hot. I pulled into a station that had a cover to keep us out of the sun and we started looking for the problem. We found a loose fan belt that had run out of adjustment. A quick trip to a nearby parts house and we had a new shorter belt. About an hour later we were back on the road again.

    I was confident that the belt would fix the problem, but no such luck. Twenty miles later and the car was approaching 250 degrees. I pulled off the interstate and parked under a bridge. I decided that maybe the air was going over the radiator and used an old tarp and duck tape to whip up a temporary air dam. Another hour later the engine was cooler and the "finely crafted" air dam was finished. No go though, as I approached Pensacola, FL, the car was bumping 250 again.

    I bailed off the highway and of course my son, who was following in the pickup, missed my turn off. I pulled behind a store under some shade trees while he worked his way back to me. The real shock came when I raised the hood and found a hose on fire slowly burning it's way like a fuse toward the carb!!! The hose was stuck tight and couldn't just be pulled off so I quickly pulled out my pocket knife and cut the burning hose off and threw it on the ground. Seems that the carb vent hose that had once been connected to a missing charcoal canister had fallen against the exhaust manifold which had been hot enough to set it on fire. With that disaster averted, I started trying once again to solve the heating problem.

  4. #4
    Hotrod46's Avatar
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    Problem finally solved

     



    As I waited for my son to show up, I studied the engine. I noticed that the temp sending unit was not on the intake manifold by the thermostat where I usually put it. Oh well, I thought the builder may have put it on the cylinder head. That's where the factory puts them, so no problem. The head location can sometimes read hotter than the intake location, but it will work fine.

    The engine was way too hot to feel for the temp sender on the head in the tight confines of the engine bay, so I used my cell phone to snap a picture of the normal sender location on the head. I was very surprised to find that there was no temp sender there either. Ok, so where the heck is the temp sender????

    I finally located it BEHIND the carb!!!!! The original builder had screwed it into the manifold runner where a vacuum port normally goes!! The sender was reading intake manifold temperature, NOT water temp!!!! That probably explains why the car is 25 years old and shows only 8500 miles. It also explains why it had a 10" electric fan installed in front of the radiator to "assist" the engine driven fan. Everybody that has owned the car probably thought it was running hot all the time and didn't drive it much. Mystery solved!

    My son and I swapped the sender location with the plug that was in the correct location near the thermostat. Luckily they were the same size. When we hit the road again, the temp never got over 190 all the way home. By now though, severe weather was threatening and it was getting dark, so we spent the night in Biloxi, MS.

    By morning the weather had cleared and we had an absolutely beautiful day to finish the drive home.

  5. #5
    Hotrod46's Avatar
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    One last surprise!

     



    I left off with us on the way home on a beautiful day, but the car had one more surprise for us.

    I was about 30 miles from home when electrical smoke started poring out from under the dash. I stopped as fast as I could and killed the engine. I tried to get the battery cable off but it was on too tight. Luckily, when I turned the ignition off, the power was shut off to the short. Remember that electric fan on the radiator? The fan wire had fallen down against the exhaust manifold. Of course, they had wired it to the wrong side of the fuse block. A little quick work with some cutting pliers and we were back on the road. Forty-five minutes later we were finally home!

    Here are some pics of the car soon after our "adventure".







  6. #6
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    Just a few little repairs were needed

     



    Over the next few weeks, I went over the car closely and drove it as much as I could. I spent a lot of time repairing problems.

    The distributor that came on the engine was intended for computer control and had no advance mechanism. I swapped it for another advance type dist. that I had. Getting functioning mechanical and vacuum advance on the engine really woke up it's performance and fuel mileage. I also rebuilt the Quadrajet carb, repaired the electric choke and replaced the stock EGR intake manifold with an Edelbrock Performer that I had stuck under a bench.

    The valve seals had hardened over the years and the engine started smoking pretty bad when it was started. I replaced those on the car and fixed the leaking valve covers at the same time.

    These few things had the old motor purring like a kitten. I managed to get it up to 20+ MPG. That was up from about 10 to start with.

    The engine driven fan wasn't doing much so it went away. There was no fan shroud and it was several inches away from the radiator. The tiny 10" electric fan that was in front of the rad was pretty much useless. I had a cheapo 16" electric puller fan hanging on the wall, so I threw that on. After playing around with the vacuum advance, it would keep the temp under control pretty well.

    I also changed the worn out front shocks out for some decent Monroes that I had laying around. Yeah, I collect stuff!

    The fuel sender wasn't working, so I pulled the tank and repaired it. Replacement senders for the Chevette tank are not available, but I was able to resolder a connection and get the original unit working.

    The original glass type fuse block was badly deteriorated, so I replaced it with a generic blade type piece from the local parts house.

    Lastly, I replaced the broken drivers door window and all the felt strips and channels.

  7. #7
    Hotrod46's Avatar
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    OK, so where is this going?

     



    I was lucky to be able to spend several months driving the car. I loved the interior room and the styling. It attracts a lot of attention every where you go, but there were some things I wanted to change. I wanted the original Healey type hood with the scoop and I wanted a chrome grille. Both of these were options when the kits were new.

    It drove OK, but I wanted better handling. There was a lot of body roll and understeer. The chassis seems to flex a lot, too. I'll be trying to add some torsional strength, if possible.

    I also wanted more power. The last few years I've been driving a 1700 lb T Bucket with about 350 HP at the crank. I've gotten used to that performance and wanted more out of the Sebring. Of course if I add more power, I'm going to have to improve traction. It won't handle what's in it now.

    I also hated the wheels that came on the car. I spent months searching for wheels that would fit, but there was no way to fit wheels that I like. I wanted wheels with some lip in the front and there were just none available that fit. The body is just not wide even with the flared fenders. I have a plan to correct that, but it's radical.

    I'll be changing the entire rear suspension. Plans are for either a torque arm or a 3 link. I'm also going to redo the front suspension. Coil overs at all 4 corners. It'll be getting 4 wheel discs, too.

    There are a few other things, but I'll get into them later. My vision for this car is for what the Europeans would call a GT (Grand Touring)car. That would roughly be a high speed touring car, not a racer and because it's a roadster, I might as well add Spyder to the name.

    So let's officially kick off Project Sebring GT Spyder!

    I've actually been working on the car for a couple of weeks. I'll be posting more shortly with pics.
    stovens likes this.

  8. #8
    rspears's Avatar
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    Great car! Not very familiar with the Sebring kits, so will be looking forward to your updates.
    Roger
    Enjoy the little things in life, and you may look back one day and realize that they were really the BIG things.

  9. #9
    Mike P's Avatar
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    Neat project. I can understand your attraction to the Healeys. Back around 72 I was stationed at Ft Devens Mass and had a buddy who was really into then and owned a couple including a 3000, He would let me borrow them from time to time and they were a blast to drive. Being the Hot Rodder I've always been I always thought a good old V8 would have been just the ticket in one.

    I'll really be interested to see your mods on the suspension and body.


    .
    I've NEVER seen a car come from the factory that couldn't be improved.....

  10. #10
    Dave Severson is offline CHR Member/Contributor Visit my Photo Gallery
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    Neat car for sure, sounds like a fun project! Anything lightweight with decent power and good handling is a blast to play with on the street!!!!
    Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, Live for Today!
    Carroll Shelby

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  11. #11
    falconvan's Avatar
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    Cool project and your road trip sounded like a blast! That was a great find on the temp sensor; I think most people would have missed that.
    1 Corinthians 1:27

  12. #12
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    What an adventure! LOL That Healey look is great, nice project!

    Rich

  13. #13
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    Good story, and the portions about fixing silly little things that add up is oh so common.

    On that front end spacing, if that has the typical MII based suspension as many of those seemed to have, you can get "narrowed" upper and lower control arms that will give you an extra 5/8" per side (Heidt's is one supplier). Also, if you're careful about sourcing the front disc brakes you can save another 1/2" or so (ECW is one source).
    Your Uncle Bob, Senior Geezer Curmudgeon

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  14. #14
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    Nice car and even nicer that you had what it took to fix the problems going home as they presented themselves. Kudos to you for having the ability and fortitude to "git'er done". Looking forward to future threads on this little car.

    meller
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    " I'm drinking from my saucer, 'cause my cup is overflowed ! "

  15. #15
    Whiplash23T's Avatar
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    I too enjoyed reading the story of the road trip home after purchasing. The only negative comment I have is while you do the body mods, please, please run the hacksaw through those bloody horrible windscreen posts and replace with ever original Healey or maybe look at MG screen posts but I'm sure there must be something a darn sight better looking then what the kit came with. Apart from that, it looks like a excellent project to get you into the sportscar world.


    I maybe a little crazy but it stops me going insane.

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    Mark.

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