VTA 115J / BXI 20 ~ the story is told by owner Mark Turner
"The car started off as a slightly ropey, but solid, 1971 MG Midget repainted in red from the original white, with square wheel arches. I was about the fourteenth owner since 1976. The car was lowered by a couple of inches (or had the springs sagged?), had telescopic rear shock absorbers, the engine sporting an LCB manifold while the cockpit had 3 point harnesses.
Having pretty well mangled the front chassis legs and sills in a student treasure hunt I embarked on what was to be a 3 year re-build. I had wanted a copy of the Sebring Sprite since the age of 13 when I had seen Brian Archer's stand at the Classic Car Show. I was initially going to build the car with just a Sebring front end so I ordered a new Heritage shell from the Bromsgrove MG Centre. There followed a very long wait until the shell finally arrived about a year after I ordered it! This coincided well with me finishing university and I had time to modify and paint the car as I felt fit.
Between ordering and receiving the shell I obtained a bonnet and a hardtop from Brian Archer, and had the engine bottom end and cylinder head re-built by Autosprint of Birmingham.
The serious work now began, this revolving around getting the Sebring hardtop to fit the later rear end for which it was never designed. The modifications consisted of removing the hood mounting flange and re-shaping the top of the wings and rear deck to the hardtop profile. The hardtop protrudes over where the bootliud should sit, so a skin was welded in place. While I was doing this I covered the reversing light holes and made a box to fit around the petrol filler pipe so as to produce a fireproof bulkhead between the tank and the car. Because I was now fitting the Sebring hardtop I needed to fit side-screen doors. This entailed re-shaping the 'B' pillar and adding triangular sections to the scuttle. Getting good doors was a little harder but luckily my father had a spare passenger door which was in good order. I couldn't find a good driver's door, only loads of passenger ones, and ended up cutting the whole bottom four inches off, using the later frame repair section and making my own outer skin. All the modifications were lead-loaded using Lard as tallow to stop the wooden paddle from sticking to the lead. The lead was then attacked using a body file to get the final finished shape. Lastly, before the hardtop was riveted and bolted into place the plates for the rollover bar were welded in position. This done the car was rolled over onto its side and the underside stone-chipped and painted. I've since found that stonechip near the exhaust and manifold is not a good idea because it melts!!
Now the hardest work started and probably the longest job of preparing the car for painting. The body was rubbed and filled lots of times and then 2-pack etch primer applied. This stuff blows your head off and I rightly went out and bought an air-fed mask. The etch was then overcoated with primer filler and finally about 6 coats of 2-pack GN25 British racing Green. So many coats were needed because of the effect of kamikaze flies which always appear when you are spraying!
While the car was being painted I had put it on legs with castors on the bottoms allowing it to be pushed around and be able to paint it within a single garage. This was also useful for installing the brake and fuel pipes because the car could be at a decent level to crawl underneath.
The front and rear suspension were installed and the car lowered to the ground. Before the engine was installed I completed the interior so that I would actually get it done rather than driving around in an un-trimmed car. The hardest job was fitting the headlining which was glued directly to the inside of the hardtop using Alphabond high temperature adhesive. The rest of the trim panels were cut from hardboard or MDF. The dashboard from my father's old Mark 2 Sprite was fitted with extra brackets so that it would fit the later scuttle and a centre console was made to fit the radio. Overall the inspiration for the interior came from the Jaguar XK8, and it just so happened that I started working for Jaguar when I was building the car. The inside of the car was kept dry with home-made side-screens without vents so that the car gets rather hot in summer! Traffic lights are great for flapping doors to get some cold air in. The car can only be entered from the driver's side via a lock which when the key is turned a lever pushes down on the door latch.
The rest was now downhill and consisted of fitting the engine and bonnet together with all those little jobs that take an age. One of the hardest jobs was to get the carburettor to fit without clouting the bonnet. This was down to me being a difficult sod and fitting a single HIF44 SU carb. The manifold used was a standard Metro one hacked off the exhaust manifold and then ported. If you use this as standard the carb hits the bonnet so I resorted to making an adaptor so that the carb is horizontal. To this I added a rampipe and an aluminium air box with a cold air vent to the front of the car. [Mark has since fitted the more usual twin SUs]
The cross-flow radiator shroud needed angling backwards with 15mm spacers between the chassis uprights and the top holes of the shroud. An electric fan was added from a Peugeot 205GTI and controlled with a Kenlowe thermostat.
The car passed the MOT and after a running-in period was taken to Hi-Tech tuning at Old Hill for a rolling road session, the result being 80 bhp at the flywheel and a nice flat torque curve.
Originally I fitted the car with a 4.22 diff ratio as the original 3.9 has a mashed crown-wheel and pinion. With this diff 70 mph equated to 5000 rpm. You could judge the top speed by the fact that the engine could reach 7000 rpm in top! This was all put to an end when top gear wouldn't engage, luckily only 3 miles from home. It had cried enough of the 100 mile round trip to work and years of neglect. So the gearbox had to come out and I brightened Rob's day at the Bromsgrove MG Centre when I asked him to supply me with a 3.7 diff and a reconditioned gearbox."
Mark completed the car back in 1999 (when he was a mere 18 years old) since when he has covered some 30,000 miles in it and made various modifications including changing the front suspension back to standard - as he puts it: "the Frontline stuff was not the best and wore out." The car now wears wire wheels and Yokohama A760 standard road tyres, has original twin SU carbs and is fitted with an alloy radiator duct. The registration number was also changed to BXI 20.
As he puts it ~ RESULT: Far too much fun!!!
At the Archers Garage Open Day (?) 2000.
The car has a Heritage round wheel arch shell modified for the Sebring fibreglass hardtop and flip-front bonnet.
Lead-loading the boot cover
Fuel pipe enclosure
Mating top to wing.
Front suspension is: Frontline damper kit with adjustable AVO dampers at front (which seem too stiff). 330lbs springs lowered 2". Thicker front anti-roll bar with harder bushes.
Rear suspension: 2" lowered standard rate springs with nylatron bushes in the shackles, bound with Denso self-amalgamating tape. thinking about fitting a Panhard rod.
The interior has Ridgard seats from Holden on hand-made subframes, with Luke 4 point harnesses. Roll Centre rear cage. Prestige carpets. Handmade interior panels and headlining using material from Woolies. Motalita dished steering wheel fitted backwards to give more arm space.
The engine is by Autosprint 1293cc balanced and with lightened bottom end and 266 Kent cam. Stage 2 Autosprint cylinder head with 10:1 compression ratio. Aldon yellow distributor with Ignitor electronic ignition. LCB manifold and straight-through Mini rear silencer for added noise!
[Photo here at the 2013 Silverstone Classic, now without dipped nose]
Brakes are standard with Mintex 1144 pads. Wheels are KN Minator 5½J with 24mm offset and 10mm spacers. Yokohama A510 175/60 X 13 tyres.
Now back on twin SUs
The car as it is today