1963 Big Healey Project

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Big Healey Restoration

Restoring a Big Healey is both costly and time consuming, particularly if you want more than just a show car. I started out with a tatty but roadworthy Healy in 2006, running it for 10 years until it was too bad to continue. Basically the floor, boot floor, sills, front and rear wings all needed significant work, thankfully the engine and transmission oil splashing over the chassis had saved it from rotting in the same way as the outer panels. Healeys are a bit different from many cars of this era in that they have aluminium front and rear shrouds, with bolt on wings and welded steel floors.

Finding someone to undertake the welding, without spending a fortune took some work, but eventually I found an amazing body man in Stoke on Trent, who used some pattern and made all the necessary panels, which he either didn’t like or preferred to make!

I’ve included some of the photo’s showing how far back he had to cut to the chassis below.

To be honest, at this stage it hardly looked anything like a car….I was astonished at how much metal needed cutting out.  At this stage we had a good look at the fasteners required,given, once we were past the welding, the car needed some reconstruction before painting.

Leyton Classics sales@leytonclassics.co.uk matched up the old fasteners, where possible, they offer a brilliant service for matching fasteners, you send them and they will attempt to match them..  In some cases this meant I need to take a box rather than a handful, but that meant the overall cost came down significantly on individual or handful quantities.  Its always worth looking at getting box qualities when you’re restoring, as this reduces the cost by as much as 60%!  Although some restorers cut costs by using cheaper metric fasteners, I opted for the correct imperial (UNC/UNF)

Once the metalwork had been largely complete, I needed someone to paint the car…at which point my good friend Paul Birkin from Birkin Brothers in Buxton put his hand up.  Whilst Paul and his sons stick to crash repair (normally), given Paul’s love of Healeys he agreed to paint it for me….and what a job!

The initial preparation took the majority of the time, with much time spent on ensuring that the panel gaps were absolutely right.  Each panel was trial fitted, then fettled until the fit was near perfect.  Incidentally, the panel fit from the original Jensen works was said to be fairly poor!

Once the crew were happy with fit, next stage was to get each panel the right shape, remove any imperfections and the lay some paint on to check the work.  You have to admire the sheer dedication of the Guys in working through the panels, until everything is right.

The next stage was to remove all the panels and paint the main body to wings, doors, bonnet and boot.

The above photo’s clearly show how the Healey is literally a chassis, with internal panels welded on then the front and rear aprons carefully attached.  All the other panels are then carefully attached with bolts.  Care is needed at this point, as the aprons are aluminium and the inner structure and wings are steel.  If the two metal are directly attached an electorate process starts to take place, leading to rusting of both metals.  We used imperial fasteners from Leyton Classics UNC range to fasten the panels together, with stainless fasteners used where possible.

The next stage was to build the car back up into the completed vehicle, another highly time consuming stage.  This is one time in restoration where things do become quite satisfying!  putting the vehicle back together with refurbished or new parts, rubbers, brightwork etc is the part I always look forward to.

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