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?

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Tire Pressure? We don’t need no stinking tire pressure

Just a quick note here. Long time ago I, like many of us have always stuck to the general tire manufacturer’s inflation recommendation. Typically for a 13 inch tire they’ll say anywhere’s from 28 to 32 psi, correct? That’s based on a car weighing in at around 2,000 pounds. Believe it or not, if you’re running a modern tire of just about any size on a Spridget, you actually want to be running about 18-20 psi cold on the side-curtain cars, and 20-22 psi on the roll-up window cars since they weigh a bit more. Aside from riding more smoothly at the lower pressure, you most likely find it to be less “darty” over bumps and will stick to the road so much better. Give it a try, if you don’t agree with the results, the worst-case scenario is that you’ll have that painstaking task of putting air back into the tires! Also, if you’re really adventurous, try setting your toe-in at zero instead of the BMC called for 1/16″ toe-in. I’d love to hear from any and all of you about your findings if you try it. I might even post views telling me I’m full of horse-hockey, too!

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Some older photo’s

1990 Palm Springs Vintage Road Races. Pretty sure I was being told to check out the Trophy Girl.
Team Healey Challenge – Blackhawk Farms 1990. That’s John Chatham in his famous DD300 leading me during practice. And here I thought no one was quicker than I with a hangover! Probably my most favored trophy was receiving the British Team Healey Trophy. Reflecting on it 20 years later, I think I garnered a fair amount of points with them from my ability to keep up with them not only on the track but more importantly in the pub as well. It’s so nice to be well-rounded in all aspects of motorsport.
Back in 1993 my buddy Jerry Etzel out in Atlanta called me and said “I just FedEx’d you  roundtrip tickets so you can co-drive with me in the Rolex Historic Enduro at Roebling Road in Savannah, GA.  Bring your gear and don’t forget to bring that big ‘ol pair of clackers that makes you the hero Sprite driver you are. Well, we did pretty sweet – 4th overall behind the three fastest Porsche 356’s in the country and AHEAD of Jack Boxstrom in his DB4 Aston. And Jerry’s Sebring Sprite is an honest-to-god 1 litre!
Now this was a classic. 1984 Austin Healey Club Annual Meet. At the time, I’m Parts Department manager of The Austin-Healey Store and supposed to be representing the firm. I show up with my Street/Race Bugeye, towing it with the 1961 (or ’62?) Cadillac Convertible and my buddy who looked like a Chippendales Dancer. Notice in the paint on the asphalt “10 min. Parking”. Yeah, well, we were both in our 20’s, got distracted (hmmmm, maybe by girls?) forgot all about it til about midnight – the towtruck had just showed up when I stumbled out of someones room thinking I should move the cars. The event hadn’t even officially begun and I’m about to either go to jail, lose two cars and a trailer or both, but somehow my boyish charm convinced  the cops to cancel the tow and since I was on semi-private property (gov. owned camping resort) plus they liked the Sprite – they did actually let me go park. And there is NO WAY they didn’t know I was more than just a tad above the alcohol limit. It was a semi-Hunter S. Thompson type weekend, and no question my buddy and I pissed off every Healey Club parent that brought their daughters. Now how’s that for representing a business?!
Yep, it’s not British. Chopped 26T with Olds power – we built the headers and exhaust. Damn I wish I owned  it!Feb. 1997     Yeah, I know critics would say that I’m here holding up a string of cars. WRONG! Some say how great a good day of fishing is, I’d have to reply that while it could be a good day, a GREAT day is showing the way around Phoenix International Raceway to a Lotus 7, two Bummer’s and a lowly 911. Not a good day, but a great day!1997 – VARA Annual Banquet – The Sharkskin jacket helped me pull off George Thorogood’s “If You Don’t Start Drinkin’, I’m Gonna Leave.” Good thing I didn’t quit my day job.1984, possibly 1985. I’m dating the future Mrs. Colby (#1), my folks just happen to be on vacation, they just happen to have a recently painted and drywalled all white garage AND, my dad just happens to be a semi-pro photographer. “Honey pie, sweety, apple of my eye – would you mind posing with my ‘lil Sprite?”   Reply: “Okay, but no nippies!”  I’d watched my dad set up all this junk up before – get out some lights, some more lights, and a few more lights. Damn, wasn’t quite as easy as I thought. Pesky shadows. And it was so frustrating having to spend all that time making sure there were “no nippies” showing. This picture was on the back cover of The Austin Healey Store’s catalog and I was quite surprised by the amount of attention it received. To this day I still now and then get calls about it. What I wonder now is how soon Mrs. Colby #2 will hear about this picture on the website, and how pissed off she’ll be. Hey, a new idea -if she does get too pissed off,  just maybe I can get her to pose for an all new “Miss Austin Healey Sprite picture……………………..I bet this is all a bad idea. Still won’t stop me. Yet.1986 Palm Springs Vintage Grand Prix. Just finished the car with no sleep before putting it on the trailer. Built it out of used parts sitting on the shelves at The Austin-Healey Store. This pic was taken on pre-grid. Pole Position/First Place. Damn did I have great hair!The world famous Kablooie. I wish any Sprite fanatic could have had a chance to drive this car. Over the years I’ve had the chance to drive and race quite a variety of cars, many of which were quite faster. But NONE drove like this Sprite. The top two pictures are when tip-top. Bottom picture when my buddy drove it for two laps. Next day (and after very fabled debauchery the evening before) I won the Blackhawk Small Bore Grand Prix in the condition you see here.

The best driving car I ever raced!
The good ‘ol days

Clockwise from top left: My first Sprite (& first and only mustasche), a model posing with a customers Sprite in 1990 (yep, she’s now 20 years older also!), me and some dude in my newest ride, Speedwell Monza nosed bugeye on April 1, 1990 – this guy years later rolled one of my Sprites at Blackhawk Farms – then gave himself a black eye helping fix it. Colby and Miss Budweiser @ Tustin in 1997. Personally, I’d have preferred to meet her mother – Mrs. Budweiser.

My Eagle Formula Formula Ford at Las Vegas in Nov. 2000. I think this was the first time I raced it. I do vividly recall the pool of fuel after the Saturday race under the car in the paddock. I yanked the seat out and found that the 22 year old fuel cell decided to delaminate itself. Me, being the crafty devil that I am, dumped the remaining fuel to let it dry overnight and on the way to the track Sunday morning stopped at 7-11, bought a 10 pack of Hefty Trash Bags, (yes, I did opt for the higher priced “cinch sack variety”), poured a tube of weatherstrip adhesive all over it, bagged it, bagged it, and after having 10 Hefty bags tied firmly around the rotting fuel cell – christ, I had a perfectly good one time only fuel cell! Five minutes before the Pre-Grid whistle I dumped 5 gallons in the cell, rolled to the line and actually finished! Think I was 1st in class and 5th overall in the open wheel group. Safety First I always  say! And folks, this was MY car – ain’t no way you’d see me doing something that stupid with a customer’s car!

Dan Gurney bought the car, restored it and it is now in his Museum (below)

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SPEEDBLOG !

Okay, so here’s the skinny. Some low-life bottomfeeder hacked the Speedwell website and it has vanished. I highly do believe it was a random act and not aimed at Speedwell itself as what happened apparently is not all that unusual. Well, with the exception that it never occurred to me that maybe learning how to operate the website myself and/or save copies of it because there really are individuals out there that thrive on screwing with other people’s lives. Most likely they were searching for my off-shore bank accounts hiding the fortune I’ve made making Sprite swaybars by hand in extremely small quantities. Afterall, I am relatively certain that when someone thinks of Tom Colby, the next thing to pop into their mind is either Ford, Rockefeller, Edison, etc. Especially Edison since we do share the same first name. The upside of this problem is that since I will first have to learn all about this modern website/blog thing is that at least I can update the site whenever I want or need to. The downside is that price increases will happen when they should as opposed to rarely ever and also the possibility that I may bore Speedwell site visitors to tears.

I would like some feedback from any of you that do find an interest in my musings:

What would you be most interested in seeing here?

Technical blogs?

Columns about some of the more wild escapades of racing Sprites for over 30 years? Honestly, some of which I wouldn’t believe if it weren’t for the fact that these are my own experiences!

Or, “nothing at all Colby – just get your products back up with good clean pictures, we have no interest whatsover in your stupid cross-country adventures.”

Not like you really have much choice though, but I would like to have an idea of what the majority of you would prefer to see here.

One more thing: If you’d like to be notified of any sales and/or updates, please go to “contact” info. on the home page and fill it out. You never know, some information posted here may actually be useful!

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