A Beginner’s Guide to Austin-Healey Restoration

Wondering how much you’ll have to shell out to restore a classic Austin-Healey?

Getting a car restored by a professional can be pricey. However, the good news is that there’s a lot of work you can do on your own. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also have more fun with a DIY approach to restoration.

In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know to get started restoring an Austin-Healey. These are skills that you can use now and for any future car restoration projects you take on. Keep reading to learn more!

How to Restore an Austin-Healey

The first step in restoration is to understand what you’re working with. Let’s take a look at what sets the Austin-Healey brand apart, so you’ll know how to approach your restoration project.

History of the Brand

This British sports car brand got its start in 1952. As the name suggests, this company was a joint venture between two companies: the Donald Healey Motor Company, and the British Motor Corporation’s Austin division.

However, just 20 years later, this agreement between the two companies came to an end. Since they were only produced from 1952 to 1972, these cars are popular collectors’ items and well worth restoring.

Only a few models were built in a few categories. The 100, 100-6, 3000, and Sprite categories each had a few different models. The 100 models are from the early and mid-1950s, while the 3000 category came about in the 60s.

These cars were very popular for racing, winning many awards. In fact, a model that was streamlined for racing set multiple land speed records in the 1950s at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats.

Now that you know what you’re working with, let’s take a look at how to restore one of these amazing cars.

1. Know the Model

As mentioned above, there are a few different Austin-Healey models. Each one will require a slightly different restoration approach. If you’ve already purchased the car you plan to restore, do some research to better understand what makes that model unique.

For example, post-1953 models are known as “big Healeys.” Updates to the engine, interior, and exterior made each new iteration unique. Later, the Sprite model offered a cheaper, smaller, sportier option. Restoring a big Healey is a very different experience from restoring a Sprite.

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2. Be Ready to Work by Hand

Obviously, all of these cars were built before computers existed. This means that the cars were assembled by hand, and sometimes the parts were even handmade.

Although the craftsmanship is beautiful, this may cause some issues when it comes to restoration.

Depending on which model you have, different parts may vary between cars – especially for the earliest models. You may have a more difficult time finding replacement parts because of this lack of standardization.

The good news is that even though these cars haven’t been built for many years, a lot of suppliers still sell the parts you need. You’ll be able to find what you’re looking for, as long as you’re prepared for some extra searching.

3. Document Diligently

The more carefully you document every step of the restoration process, the smoother the process will be.

This helps you keep track of what you’re doing and what you’ve already done, so you don’t have to backtrack. If you restore another car in the future, this document will be a great guide. And if you ever decide to sell the restored vehicle, potential buyers will be interested in seeing what you’ve done to restore it.

Your notes don’t have to be detailed. Just make sure to draw diagrams of the work you do, and jot down the order in which you remove or add parts.

4. Pay Attention to Wiring

The wiring on these cars can be an added challenge. They used the Lucas electrical system, which is notoriously difficult to work with.

The Lucas system became so widely known as a terrible electric system that it has been on the receiving end of a lot of jokes – and a lot of frustration during restoration projects.

At the time these cars were built, the Lucas system’s electrical parts were already outdated. Many cars with these systems will start smoking from the electrical system, even if no clear problem is evident. And fixing or restoring these systems is extra challenging.

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If you buy a Lucas color code, you’ll make your life much easier. Be extra careful when checking the wiring. Make sure both male and female connectors are strongly attached, and look for any loose wires, damaged coatings, or other potential sources of problems.

It’s also a good idea to coat the connectors with dielectric grease for better conductivity and less corrosion. If you’re attaching new connectors or wires, use silver solder and then seal them with heat-shrink tubing. This is a good idea for any electrical systems, but it’s especially important with Lucas.

5. Have a Good Working Space

The better suited your working space is for restoration, the easier the process will be.

You don’t want to be restoring a beautiful classic car in a filthy, cluttered garage. Make sure you have plenty of room to move around the car, and places to store parts throughout the process. Not only will this make things easier, but you’ll also enjoy the restoration more.

6. Budget Accordingly

You can save money by restoring your car on your own, but you should still have a decent budget for the unexpected.

If you’re trying to pinch pennies, auto restoration probably isn’t the way to go. Restoring a vehicle will go much better if you have an appropriate budget that can cover not just the parts you think you’ll need, but any surprises along the way. There’s nothing worse than having to halt your headway on a restoration because of financial limits.

Ready to Restore?

Follow the above tips, and you’ll have a great time restoring your classic Austin-Healey.

Restoration isn’t just about the final result – it’s a process that you should enjoy every step of the way. You’ll learn a lot, overcome challenges, and gain new confidence in your abilities.

Ready to learn more about repairs you can do at home? Check out some Austin-Healey repair manuals here!