“I don’t know what started the initial interest in SBC’s [Small British Cars] but it may have had something to do with my surname, genetics and hormones,” John English surmises.
English was just out of school in 1962 when he went car shopping. “I was able to afford a 1960 Sunbeam Alpine that came with such technical advancements as roll up windows and a synchromesh first gear,” he recalls. That car was replaced by a succession of other cars when, in the summer of 1986, English saw an ad offering a 1975 Jensen-Healey for sale by a private party in San Francisco.
English explains that the Jensen-Healey was the brainchild of Kjell Qvale of S F British Motor Corporation and Donald Healey. The cars were manufactured from 1972 to 1976, English says.
“It was an exceptional two-seater at a modest price,” English opines. He inspected the-then 11-year-old car that at the time had recorded about 60,000 miles on the odometer. “It started, ran and didn’t pop out of any gear,” he says, “so I bought it.”
“This car needed tender loving care,” he says. For the next two decades, English enjoyed tooling about California in his handsome Jensen-Healey, usually with the top down. The speedometer tops out at 140 mph.
In 2007, with the accumulated mileage nearing 90,000, English decided that a total restoration with upgrades was appropriate. He soon discovered the restoration process was long and arduous, if not perversely rewarding.
Various needed parts were located in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. English discovered that during a restoration the single most important tool is the Internet.
The black vinyl upholstery was replaced, including headrests on both bucket seats and both sun visors, as was the tan cloth convertible top.
At Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, English had the engine overhauled and dyno’d by Huffaker Engineering. English reports engine output now at 186 horsepower. A five-speed overdrive transmission was prepared by Bob Wirth Racing Engines in Hayward, Calif.
When the mechanical process appeared to have been completed English says some of the improvements included a 2.2 Stroker crank, an aluminum flywheel and an 8.5-inch clutch.
“With the engine and transmission ready to go,” English says, “it was time to get under the car and make it all fit.” At this point the Jensen-Healey owner learned that when restoring an old car it is not the destination but the journey that is important.
“That is when the dreaded body rot was discovered,” English says. “Both floor pans had rusted through due to the uncanny ability of the thick matting under the carpets to retain water while the carpets remained dry to the touch.”
English selected Jeff Daniels of Metropolis Metal Works in Alameda, Calif., to correct all the metal malfunctions. English says the entire structure was then sprayed with lightweight ceramic “Lizardskin” insulation and then a layer of rubberized “Dynamat” after that.
The sleek sports car received a new coat of British Racing Green before the government-mandated big bumpers were attached at both ends. Everything now rests on uprated springs, front and rear sway bars and 15-inch tires.
The project took three years to complete. The satisfied owner exclaims, “It’s alive! I wouldn’t trade this car for anything.”
English has driven his rejuvenated Jensen-Healey for about a year since he declared the project complete. The odometer currently shows a total of 91,000 miles. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters
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Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010