S21 – Brakes, Springs and Ride Height
by Richard Fritz and Fred Baum in the March 2008 RootesReview:
Richard has three Alpines: a 1953, a 1963 Series III and a Series V. The Series V has not run in about five years and he decided to resurrect it from deep in the bowels of his garage/basement.
We had started to work on the brakes five years ago to rebuild or replace the master cylinder and the brake line from it to the distribution block. Other factors came into play and the car sat partially disassembled.
The remaining pieces of the braking system, as well as the fuel system, were also in dire need of repair. We took the car to K&T Vintage Sports Cars in Allentown, PA. There, owner Ken Beck and his trusted mechanic Eddie reworked the brakes, cleaned the fuel system and got the car into running condition.
Removing the wheel cylinders in the rear was way too easy. It turns out the oval shaped retaining clips were missing, and the only things holding the horseshoe-shaped clips and the wheel cylinders in place were the rubber dust boot, the e-brake lever and the hydraulic lines. Talk about being lucky the car was not drivable. It seemed no one had any of these clips, and Rick at Sunbeam Specialties said they were back ordered for a year.
Ken did some investigating and came up with Austin-Healey parts that would do the job with a little modification to the rear brake backing plates.
|ITEM DESCRIPTION||PART NUMBER||FROM CAR TYPE||VENDOR SOURCE|
|Retaining Springs||582-220||Austin-Healey 3000, Any||Moss Motors|
|Locking Plates||582-210||Austin-Healey 3000, Any||Moss Motors|
|Rubber Dust Cover||582-190||Austin-Healey 3000, Any||Moss Motors|
|Rear Wheel Cylinder||021-151||Austin-Healey 3000, Any||Moss Motors|
|Bottom Ball Joint Boot||C43216, Black or Clear||Jaguar XKE, Any||Any Jaguar Vendor|
|Upper Ball Joint Boot||011-914||Jaguar XK120, 140||Moss Motors|
|Rubber Dust Cover||7-868||Austin-Healey 3000, Any||Victoria British|
The chart shows replacement parts for the Sunbeam Alpine/Tiger rear braking system. The retaining springs and dust covers are not exact replacements, and require the removal of the oval-shaped dust cover receivers attached to the backing plates to allow room for the Austin-Healey spring clips to be installed. The receivers are held to the backing plates with two or three spot welds, which can easily be removed using a small chisel. The Austin-Healey dust covers can then be installed. With care these Sunbeam parts can be saved for future use.
Once out of the car Ken and Eddie tried to remove the pistons from the wheel cylinders, but they were too corroded due to the years of sitting. New Moss wheel cylinders from an Austin-Healey 3000 were ordered, since other parts were also obtained from them anyway.
The question of ride height came up when Richard wanted to lower the front end of the car. The car has 195-14 tires on the front and there was about a 4” gap between the top of the tire and the fender lip. The rears are 205-14, and they fill the wheel well. The front of the car, as Richard says, “The car looks like a John Deere tractor.” The gap between the top of the tire and the lowest point on the fender lip give it the appearance of an old fashioned tractor, with its nose high in the air.
We posed a question on the internet and on TEAE.ORG. We wondered if there is a difference in Tiger and Alpine front springs, and if there is how do you tell without taking them out of the car?
The following answer for ride height was submitted; however, we lost the name of the sender. We thank him anyway for his help.
“Tigers use a heavier spring to allow for the weight of the engine. All Alpines sit quite high at the front, as that’s the way they were designed. The cheapest way to lower an Alpine is to order the Series III Alpine springs from Victoria British. They are well priced, new and will lower the front of the car. Putting even stock Tiger springs in an alpine will stiffen it up quite a lot, and if they are factory height will probably not lower it.”
Putting the car on a lift showed several surprises. The car had been hit on the left front sometime during its life; the suspension cross-member and the frame rail showed severe damage, so much so that someone had used shims about 5/8” thick on one side to make the vehicle track straight. We could see where the hooks and chains had been attached to pull the frame.
Richard ordered the springs from Victoria British and actually got the correct parts. So many times so many people have ordered from VB and gotten the wrong parts. This was a pleasant surprise. However, the Series III springs did not do much to change the tire to fender dimension, and the car still sits level relative to the body.
The ball joints boots were completely rotted away, but the ball joints themselves were in near perfect condition. Rather than buy new ball joints we decided to replace the rubber boots. A problem came up in that no one sells just the boots. K & T was able to cross reference boots from Jaguars that are a perfect replacement. The lowers come from XKE and the uppers from XK120-140.
The car runs great, tracks perfectly and does not seem to have suffered during its hiatus.
Richard is now investigating a frame shop to straighten out the frame and correct all the defects we found up front.
So, here we are with three Alpines and a Tiger to take to this year’s United, but only three drivers.