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Jensen Healey VIN 18149 (aka “Jasper”)
By James Brinkley


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 all!

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!

James Brinkley


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