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Reassembling the clutch: Austin-Healey Sprite project car

by Kyle Smith
19 October 2020

The steady progress on the 1969 Austin Healey Sprite project car has been a joy in my garage. Things are moving along swimmingly, probably because I expected that something unforeseen would go wrong and had mentally prepared for such headaches. When I discovered that the water pump needed to be replaced, for example, I was glad I had waited to order parts until everything was stripped apart. The hurdle I hit during this last work session could have proved a roadblock – but I got lucky.

With the engine and transmission separated and parts on order, it was time to clean everything. I could do it all at home with some solvents and brushes, but instead I woke up early one Saturday morning and loaded the transmission and a few small parts into my truck and snuck into Hagerty’s Redline Rebuild garage. This is where Davin Reckow and the Hagerty video crew are based, documenting restoration projects for the Redline Rebuild video series. As it was the weekend and they had no projects running, I was free to use the sandblaster and parts degreaser to make my work easier.

Back in my garage, I could start installing new parts. First up, the pilot bushing. I used the tried-and-true grease method to remove the worn-out sintered bronze bushing that was pressed into the end of the crankshaft. Then I tapped in a new one and began to install the clutch. Everything was going smoothly until I started to torque down the last of the pressure-plate bolts. It spun apart, leaving a bolt with no head threaded into my flywheel.

I indulged in a brief internal scream, then reached into the toolbox to tackle the problem. With the pressure plate removed, I put a dimple in the centre of the broken bolt and grabbed my left-hand drill bits from the toolbox. That dimple keeps the drill bit from wandering around and causing more damage, and the left-hand drill bit bites into the bolt and encourages it to thread-out; a standard drill bit could drive the broken bolt in deeper.

This time, I got very lucky and the bolt backed out immediately. I resumed reassembly with a new set of bolts and, in the process, found a torque-value sweet-spot. The Sprite manuals I was referring to did not call for specific torque spec on the pressure-plate bolts, so I was using the 40 pound-feet specified for the flywheel bolts. Lowering that figure to 30 for the pressure plate clamped everything evenly and, more importantly, guarded against broken fasteners.

The transmission went back together smoothly, but there are still a few final touches before the package is ready to be bolted back into the chassis. If you want to witness the reunion of transmission and Austin-Healey, you’ll have to tune in next week. Consider subscribing to Hagerty’s YouTube channel keep up with new videos. There is plenty of cool stuff going on, and you won’t want to play catch-up.

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