What do you do when you've got a project car that lacks good junkyard parts availability, yet you want to keep the budget within reach of 24 Hours Of LeMons qualification? Parts interchange!
Now that the rain has finally stopped, I can get down to making the Sprite roadworthy; such is Project Car Hell when you don't have a garage. One of the showstoppers- in addition to the lack of brake function and any semblance of a wiring harness- has been the terrible steering wheel that came with the car. Any torque on the wheel makes the spokes pull out of the tape, and I don't trust JB Weld to repair it properly. While I'm sure an Austin-Healey fanatic would fire the wheel straight to a wizened old steering-wheel restorer back in England, I'd rather eat a bushel of Circus Peanuts than spend £400 on the correct wheel. Supposedly you can get Mountney hub adapters to get an aftermarket wheel on a Sprite, but that's still going to set me back close to 100 clams, or bones, or whatever you call them. No, my steering wheel budget is more like 15 bucks!
There's no way in hell that any wheel out of Detroit is going to fit my car, and the all-metric German and Japanese wheels weren't going to bolt on either. Got to be British! Casadelshawn of the Faster Farms Belvedere spotted a chrome-bumper Midget (identical to the Sprite) in a junkyard in Sacramento while I was off covering the Gator-O-Rama, but the little MG had been picked clean by the time I got back to Alameda and could make the 90-mile trek to the state capitol. Let's see, what's the only British Leyland product that's plentiful in the cheap self-service junkyards around here? That's right: the Jaguar XJ! My first target was this Series 1 XJ-6's wheel. Sadly, the splined steering shaft on this car was bigger than the one on the Sprite.
But what's this a few cars down in the same yard? Why, it's a 1974 XJ12, which (according to some very headache-inducing online research) used a different wheel than its downscale six-banger sibling. Sure enough, the V12 Jag steering wheel is a direct replacement for the little Sprite's, right down to the rim diameter! The horn button doesn't quite work- a bit of corrosion in the contacts, which didn't really come as a surprise- but I'll sort that out later. Next step: a wiring harness that allows me to fire up the engine without twisting wires together!