A new old suspension

Posted on November 29th, 2008 by admin under Austin Healey, auto restoration.

Click pictures to enlarge
Here is a project that I have been seriously dragging my feet on. It’s a pretty loosely done replica of a Bugatti Type 35 Grand Prix car. The radiator, steering wheel and gas tank are authentic. As are the Marchal headlights (not shown). It was done with a Triumph Spitfire front suspension.

In this picture the coil over shocks, double A-arms and rack and pinion steering and the disc brakes have been removed. It was pretty hideous and the 13 inch wheels really looked out of place. I will say that it did work pretty well, though in typical Spitfire tradition it turned too far at full lock and just pushed down the road.

The owner asked “can you make it look a bit more like the original car?”

Well, silly me, how hard can that be? As it turns out, a lot!

I’ll jump ahead about 12 months and here it is as of now.

Here I’ve installed a 6 inch drop Ford axle. The hubs are also Ford, but they are upside down so I ended up with a manageable 4 degrees of positive camber. The originals had a ton more, but this at least looks right and won’t tear up the tires too fast (I hope) The parallel leafs are 26 inch hot rod springs with nearly all the arch removed. I added rear shackles from a MK 7 Jaguar. Originally the longest leaf just slid through a slotted receiver. I think there was less than a 1/2″ of spring flex. I think the only suspension was tire pressure!

The brakes are from an Austin Healey 100. That took a bit of machining! The wheels are MG TC wires and the tires are replicas from Coker Tire. This was the first screw up. I never considered the lack of offset in the wheels to accept the drum brakes. So track is wider than the rear axle. We can get some correct wheels made at a later date.

Here is some more hot rod stuff. Friction shocks. I’ll do some final shaping of the axle cap and other rough stage installations after it looks like it will all work.

This has been the most frustrating part. The steering gearbox. It must exit the engine cowling on the right side and connect to the steering arm at hub with a drag link off a Pittman arm. After scouring the world via Internet (as some of you know) I found a Volkswagen box that when rotated 90 degrees seems to fit the bill. A custom Pittman arm will have to be made. The connection from the steering column to the gear box was done with a couple bicycle cogs and some chain! The column now floats since it doesn’t terminate at the rack anymore. So I need to address that so it doesn’t derail the chain. Engineering at it’s finest…

I’ll measure up some numbers for the tie rod and drag link next week.

here’s the look I’m trying to achieve within reason and cost constraints..

Well, I got a bit side tracked with the track tandem bicycle project, sorry.

I have progressed a bit more towards making this project steer. I’m waiting for my machinist to produce a collar for the VW steering box to which I’ll attach the custom Pittman arm (also in the machinists hands).

I’ve got the tie rod arms and the steering arms attached to the hubs and the faux hand crank installed.

Here I have fabricated a chain guide between the column gear and the steering gear box input. I’ve also made retaining collars with roll pins through the column at the distal support. Would not want that chain to fall off at speed!

need more sheet metal

need more sheet metal

Now just need to make some more sheet metal panels  to cover the bare chassis and connect new brake lines.

new sheet metal

Finally getting pretty close. The brakes and brake lines are installed and functional. The original like spring clamps are installed. Only thing lacking now is the Pittman arm and the two connecting rods to make it all work.  Should know next week if the work was successful.

Hooray!  The car made it’s debut on the mean streets of Albuquerque yesterday. I must say that I’m pleased with the overall results. As expected, there isn’t much compliance in the suspension, but it goes straight and turns on demand. Seems to be about the right amount of caster to give the very light front end some “feel”.

project 1-15-09

The fenders are mounted such that they now turn with the wheels. Need some new leather straps for the hood and still have to mount the Marscal headlamps somehow. The rear fenders also need to be moved so they fit the new 19 inch wheels. The brake master is bleeding by and makes for a very nervous test driver.  I’ll rebuild it tomorrow and venture a little farther away from home base.

project2 1-15-09


I came across this picture, in the bowels of my computer, of the original configuration of the car. I must say the new version is a lot  more original in appearance.

The good news is that the owner was by today and was thoroughly pleased with the results to date. I’ll try to post a last photo or two after the lights are installed and the final dressing up is finished.

Here are the last pictures of the “Buggatti”  It still needs the leather hood straps, but the owner will take care of that. Hope you enjoyed following along.

finished replica


Time for a drive!

Time for a drive!

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