Relatively recent/ongoing projects

Whenever folks stop by the shop they seem to be amazed at what all it is we seem to get ourselves involved in. While being known so well for our work on the Austin Healey Sprite & MG Midget, over the years many have come here with vintage cars of many origins to have the satisfaction of having their pride & joy or their dream car built or serviced by some truly dedicated guys that really do care and love what they do. Speedwell has done countless rollcages for the movie industry, modified cars for television commercials, welded parts for countless applications etc. Here’s a few examples:

So this older gentleman walks in the other day and says he heard that we can weld pretty good. I replied “Yes sir, what can I help you with?” He shows me a small steel bracket with some elongated holes and wanted to know if I might be able to weld them up so he could re-drill them to the proper size. I’m pretty sure it’s a bracket off some old camper shell for his 1950 something pickem-up truck even though there were quite a few stampings on them, but me – never one to waste time bloviating, I just say sure, no sweat. He says he has six of them and how much would it cost? I’m stupid for even turning on my heliarc welder for less than 50 bucks but he just looked too nice and that he just may be from the WWll era and I just said “ehhh, 25 bucks”. He says that sounded reasonable and went to his car to get them all. As he’s leaving he says “Oh, by the way – they’re for an airplane” as he flips open his phone to show me a picture of HIS B-25 Bomber!

My eyes get huge, I start stuttering like I just got a date with Rita Hayworth, and I start looking for someone to tell and brag that I get to weld up parts for a real B-25 bomber! Now would be a good time to thank my old welding instructor and, coincidentally an Austin Healey 3000 owner, Tony Marsden. Just a little fantasy but even with a ton of free welding, somehow I doubt “Heavenly Body” will ever wind up with “SPEEDWELL” stickers on her.

Ground up racing restoration of Datsun 240Z

Construction of handcrafted all aluminum dash and gauge pod for the 240Z.

We picked up this 1965 Austin Healey 3000 Mk3 from a customer in Las Vegas…………………

and went from a bent ugly car and………..

after alot of caring effort………………..

ended up with a thing of beauty. Couldn’t talk ‘ol Chuck out of those painted wheels over chrome though!

I am positively flattered and also lucky enough to have the privilege that Richard Cupp has let us take care of his prized possession, his 1937 special bodied Austin 7. All hand-formed aluminum, this Austin 7 was transformed into a racecar back in the ’50s. A 750cc flathead, supercharged, single S.U. , solid front/rear axle! It’s a joy to even wash it I tell ya.

The blower is hiding there under the headers. No timing chain anywhere – all gear driven camshaft, water pump, magneto, the whole shebang – it has such a deep, deep throaty sound, no one would ever guess it’s coming from such a tiny engine. Christ, the firebottle is longer than the damned engine!

Those long alloy blades at the rear wheel? Those are the adjustable friction shocks – cool as hell, huh?

That long wooden handle sticking up from the rear tire? Yeah, that’d be the brakes……………

That cool looking wooden handle on the engine turned alloy dash at the right side of the steering wheel? That’d be the fuel pump, not a faux fuel pump – the ONLY fuel pump – just give it a couple pumps in between turns and she keeps on rolling.

In case you hadn’t noticed, this car just …………………. God damn it, I just flat friggin’ love this car!

Without scrolling down further, I’d have to guess that if 10,000 gearheads view this pic, not even 3 would correctly identify this car. And to those three who do? You need to find a few more things to do in life…………………..and, check this out – the pulley at the top of the engine? I can’t even make this stuff up – that’s the water pump, and behind it is the long shaft that goes to the fan blade……………….. you know, to cool the radiator that is mounted BEHIND everything. It’s just great fun to check the coolant level, all you need is a pad on top of your cranium, a flashlight, and a mirror! Might as well check the brake fluid level at the same time – it’s way back there as well.

Well, DUH! Of course it’s a 1951 Jowett Jupiter. You know, the tube framed car with an all torsion bar suspension and a water cooled opposed flat four. The first car in history to win it’s class at Le Man’s three years in a row. ’48, 49, and 50. All alloy body and the strangest car you could ever fall in love with (or not fall in love with.)

We’ve restored a ton of Healey’s and garnered many trophies in the Austin Healey Club functions but I was quite proud when we took the Jowett to the Rancho Palos Verdes Concours and received 2nd place in British Sportscar first time out!. Special thank you to Jon Anderson for allowing us to restore this classic.

And some people think all we do here is build THE BEST SPRITE’S on the planet.

Of course, I suppose saying “the best” is quite an arguable statement. So maybe a better word might be “unequalled”.

And, with our list of victories in both racing & show’s, one might say we do more than just hold our own.

Speedwell even know’s about modern crap? Yup, that’s a Speedwell stickie on a Pro series FF2000 run by the Olivares’ clan. Poor bastard’s – 3 Sprites, Formula cars, Ford Escort, Porsche’s – they silly!

Few years back a raceshop owner/friend of mine says they could use one more crew guy for the SCCA World Challenge GT series campaigning a Corvette. Always wanting to learn more and gee, I just hate to travel off to racetracks so I say “I’m in”! We go to Willow Springs for testing before heading off to Sebring for the season opener. He says “by the way, bring your suit and helmet just in case”. Lesson 1: always bring your driving gear, you just never know what may happen. So we get to the track, the owner/driver isn’t due for a few hours yet, we roll the car out of the trailer, set up the scales, check everything and then Mike says: “you brought your gear, right?”  Yep, I says.  “GO shake it down.”  I says, “yeah, funny.” Mike says: “Get your shit on and shake it down, just don’t crash it.” I’ll cut to the chase here – don’t even bother EVER telling me about how great that gal was or what a divine experience losing your virginity was. Nothing in the world will probably ever equal driving that Corvette , full race, all new, Katech race engine. Oh wait, it got even better, hit the button after two laps and turned the traction control off. OH BABY! Then later in the day I had the bad luck of doing the driving for the launch control. Launch Control you ask? Why yes, that’s where – damn it all – I had to sit in the car and repeatedly run sit in the car and at 4000 rpm just literally drop my foot off the clutch, then @4500 rpm. Then 5000 rpm. Then 5500 rpm. I gotta say, I was grimacing when I was literally at 6 and then 7000 rpm and snapping my foot off the clutch doing this testing. In my mind was if I were to try this in a Sprite, all the shrapnel that would be flying everywhere. So anyhow, as I said, don’t even bother telling me about your fun with Rita Hayworth or Jayne Mansfield. I drove a C6 Vette for a day! I will never forget turn 5 @ Willow, traction control off and using my right foot to steer the car. My eyes just watered typing this. But – 2nd place would go to Rita Hayworth for sure.

The following statement may possibly damage any good concept you have of me but I’ll say it anyhow – I really do think it would be a blast for myself and a buddy to be able to drive into a 7-11 parking lot in the Batmobile, dressed in the full costume and jump out to grab a soda, hop back in, and have my cohort Robin say “Turbines to speed” and peel out with that flame shootin’ out the back. That’s not really that strange a thought, is it?

About Tom Colby

Gearhead.
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2 Responses to Relatively recent/ongoing projects

  1. peter knightley says:

    very nice web site, own a very modified 1960 sprite which could do with some of
    your goodies. Keep up the good work Pete stoke gabriel devon UK ( do you fancy some pictures?

  2. mitch says:

    To anyone who grew up in the 60’s and spent saturday afternoon at the movies .. watching the caped crusaders, your comment is not all that strange. Anyone that has a sprite… me included is not all that sane to begin with anyway.

    And as we slide over the door and into the seat of our lbc’s there are probably a few that see themselves wearing their masks and capes … just no flames and not a lot of peeling out

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