It was February
of 2001 when I first met him – I was doing a property inspection on
a house being sold due to the owner passing away - and there he was in a
very sorry state partially covered by an old tarp sitting under an overgrown
citrus tree. Curiosity got the better of me so I uncovered him and thought
‘wow – cool looking car – what’s a Jensen Healey?’
Now being English myself I’m embarrassed to say that I’d never
heard of the Manufacturer, of course I’d heard of Jensen and of the
infamous Healy’s but not a merger of the two – then again I
was only 6 when the car ended its short production run.
I talked to the son-in-law handling the property sale and he had no idea
of the value of the vehicle but seeing as he was from out of state he just
wanted all of the financial affairs and assets disposed of ASAP. I think
his exact words to me were ‘the 1st $500 I’m offered gets the
car.’ Luck would have it I had $400 burning a hole in my pocket so
I threw caution to the wind and made him a there and then offer –
we shook hands and the deal was done - #18149 was mine…now all I had
to do was break the news to my wife… worse case I thought I’d
strip the car and sell the parts and hopefully double my money!
I spent most of that night on the Internet searching for relevant info on
the marquee – thank God for the JHPS Website…my fears were put
to rest and the restoration began.
The 1st weekend was spent washing off the years of dirt and tree sap, vacuuming
the interior and degreasing the engine bay. None of the tires held air so
I put a set of inexpensive tires on the rims so that I could at least push
him in and out of my garage. Interestingly there was a boot full of spares
and miscellaneous repair receipts and old registration documents lying around
the car. The same name was on all the paperwork and after further investigation
a previous owner was none other than our very own club President Barry Jensen
(I don’t believe this is Barry Jensen’s old car for a minute!
Editor). I immediately emailed our esteemed Editor and the history of the
vehicle was reveled to me! Barry had owned the car for about 10 years, 6
of which the car had sat unused. Finally he donated it to his local church
for a tax credit due to the poor condition of the car and his lack of time
to properly restore the vehicle. The next owner had bought it from the LA
Mission auction and then I came along. Suffice to say I was able to get
in touch with Barry who was thrilled that I planned to restore the car.
He gave me a full service history for the car and then offered me a garage
full of parts for free ….I didn’t think people like that still
existed. …Thanks again Barry!!
The exterior had multiple dents, dings and scratches and needed new paint,
a drivers side front wing, and the bumpers were dented, the interior was
pretty messed up throughout. I had no idea what the engine, electrics or
brakes would be like. The car hadn’t been started for a few years
and as we all know that’s not good if it’s full of fluids. I
did a Mystery Oil service, fluid change, battery charge and the usual preparation
prior to trying to start him up – and fired up he did straight away!!
He sounded rougher than a diesel tractor but the grin on my face said it
The next stop for me was Pikes Auto’s in Glendale – a fellow
club member and Jensen specialist – as recommended by the JHPS I took
the newly named ‘Jasper’ over to him on a rented car trailer.
The first thing Steve Pike did was put him up on the rack and attack the
underside with a large pointy screwdriver!!! He warned me that the rust
might be terminal and the whole car not worth restoring – but as luck
would have it even though I had floor pans like Swiss cheese the backbone
of the car was solid – Steve offered to go through the car ‘mechanically’
and we agreed to do the necessary repairs. I must state for the record that
if it wasn’t for Steve ‘Jasper’ would probably still be
in my garage under a tarp untouched – he did an amazing job for very
little money – I wasn’t in a hurry for the work to get done
so he worked on the car ‘as and when’ so as to keep the costs
down. By the end of about 6 weeks Jasper had new brakes, a TR6 master cylinder,
Speedo cable, complete valve job and had passed the dreaded CA Smog check
with flying colors!
I registered him with the DMV and ordered my vanity plate – ‘JEN
HELY’ works well I think!
My next big break was finding out that I had a neighbor (only a few miles
from me) who also had a Jensen Healey - the JHPS membership directory pointed
me in his direction – suffice to say I met “Evan Jensen”
yes that is his real last name. A fellow enthusiast obsessed with Jensen
Healy’s and a garage so full of Jensen Healey parts he almost can’t
park his beloved JH in there!! Evan’s subsequent advice and supply
of parts has proven to be invaluable and almost a year later I am happy
to say that we are still good friends and he’s continuing to help
with my restoration.
I loved the look of the rubber bumpers and Evan had a perfect set which
I paid him $300 for – I sold my stainless ones on Ebay for the same
amount so I broke even. Except of course my new ones didn’t fit! The
bumper conversion was a fun weekend project; the rear was the easiest and
only required a larger opening be cut to accept the bumper mounts. The front
was trickier as I had to cut back the front mounts at an angle and weld/bolt
on a new bracket to accept the new rubber bumper. It was a lot of trial
and error and guesswork but the final results speak for themselves.
Once I’d made the decision to do the bumper conversion I’d crossed
the line of purism and the car could no longer be ever considered stock
or in original condition. Fortunately I’m not a purist and although
I had vowed to keep ‘Jasper’ as original as possible my goals
were simply to have a great looking roadster as cheaply as possible.
Next came the body work, which I think totaled about 80hrs over about 6
months, mostly nights and weekends. The exterior of the car was stripped
of trim; lights etc and I thoroughly sanded the entire car, patched and
repaired all of the dings, scratches and dents. At that time I replaced
the drivers side front wing as supplied by Evan Jensen, a bargain at $75!
I had to remove the door to fit the wing but that process gave me a whole
new insight into how a hand made car is put together, correctly aligned
and fitted. Shims were the order of the day and the final panel alignment
was nothing short of a pain in the behind!! It took longer than I had expected
and half way through the job I realized that it really was a 2-man task
– but I struggled on and got it all back together.
I had originally planned on having Jasper painted Black but I’d always
wanted a British Racing Green roadster, so I had to follow my heart and
the decision was made to have him painted a dark BRG which is identical
to the special edition ’91 and 2001 Mazda Miata color. I knew my paint
prep work was good so I wasn’t too worried about getting a cheap paint
job – I found a One Day Paint and Body Center in the San Fernando
Valley whose painter did nice work – so in late October Jasper went
to be primed and painted. They did a nice job with the complete color change
and I’m very happy with the results. No orange peel runs or splatters
anywhere! The lower Delta chin spoiler and the light cowls were painted
separately for later installation. The paint needs to be buffed and there
are a few dust ‘nibs’ on the bonnet and boot, which need to
be either color sanded or buffed out – but not for another few months
– fresh paint needs at least 3 to 6 months to fully cure. Since Jasper
returned from the painter I have managed to put back all the exterior emblems
and stainless trim. Prior to installation all of these parts were straightened,
cleaned and polished. Thank goodness for my Dremel rotary tool – It’s
seen a lot of use recently!
The rubber bumpers got a good polishing with ‘Back to Black’
and they really do look like new. They bolted into place with easy and the
lower chin spoiler was an equally easy attachment. I upgraded the headlights
to the non-sealed Halogen type – again Delta supplied, prior to installing
the headlight cowls. I needed to extend the chrome tips on the rear muffler
so that the stock tips didn’t sit underneath the rear bumper. My local
auto parts store had a pair of chrome sleeves, which fit perfectly and extended
my muffler by the much-needed 3”.
I had a huge wiper blade scratch across the windscreen, which I was able
to have polished out by a local glass pro, a very well spent $60!
The addition of the 15” Panasports with Yokohama AVS 205x50x15 tires
was the icing on the cake and I think gives Jasper a very sporty look.
So there you have it ‘Jasper’ with a completed exterior restoration
in a little under a year. The engine bay and interior is another story and
a continuing current project. I hope this will be a ‘part 2’
of this story. I’ve had an enormous amount of fun doing the restoration
and I am thrilled with the results so far. Even my wife who so affectionately
named him is beginning to accept him as part of the family!
A special thank you to all of you out there who have helped me with advice
via the JHPS message board and of course to Steve Pike, Barry Jensen and
Evan Jensen who’s help and generosity has been most valuable and appreciated.
Cheers and have a great 2003!
| jensen |
tech | people & places |
marketplace | message
board | join |
garage | links |