Remember that Fiat tachometer I scored at Junkyard Half Price Day? Well, it and many other scavenged pieces have found their way into my Toyota-engined '67 Austin-Healey Sprite.

Cutting to the chase, the Sprite starts and runs now, so now I've just got to do some major minor to-do list items such as rebuilding the entire braking system, mounting those Miata seats I grabbed cheap, cooling and exhaust system assembly, and so on. Since the hardest part of any Hell Project (the registration paperwork) is taken care of, should be utter torture smooth sailing from this point forward! Continue with this sequential gallery thingy to hear my tale of Wiring Hell:

The reason I got the car so cheap in the first place- other than the fact that it's a beat-to-crap basket case with a ridiculously oversized engine installation- was that the original wiring was completely hosed. Hosed so badly, in fact, that even the brownout-inducing spirit of Joe Lucas, Prince Of Darkness felt uncomfortable hovering around the car. What little unburnt Lucas wiring was left in the car took a one-way trip straight to the garbage can… or into a decoy wiring harness in the thief-proof Toyota truck stereo project.

Best to start over from scratch, in this case. Fortunately, I've done a fair amount of car wiring over the years, not to mention building several instrument panels from scratch. Doing all the electricals in the Black Metal V8olvo made this project seem less daunting than it might have otherwise.

I've learned from extremely painful experience that it's a lot easier to wire a car if you sketch out some sort of diagram. It also makes it much easier when you have to repair or modify your wiring later on, because it's impossible to remember the super-redneck workarounds you rigged up after a few months go by.

The guy who engineered the engine swap also rigged up a nice powerful Delco internally-regulated three-wire alternator, so no maddening Toyota charging system mysteries to unravel here. Just put a charge light in the dash and it should work fine.

Using split loom and a bunch of leftover Painless Wiring harness wire from Black Metal V8olvo crew chief Hellhammer's shop, I wired up the car. Even in a no-frills machine like the Sprite, there's always more stuff to wire than one might expect. Gauges and idiot lights, turn signals, horn, et cetera- all of it requires wiring going through the firewall. Sadly, John Law mandates stuff like horns and headlights, and one look at the car tells me that I'll be having frequent conversations with members of the law enforcement community as soon as I take this thing on public roads. And they call this a free country!

99 million stripped wires later, I had the somewhat-modified factory instrument panel rigged up with all the stuff I needed

Also learned from painful car wiring experience was the reality that I will have to completely remove the instrument panel at some point. For this reason, all wires go through pairs of harness connectors, in this case scavenged from race-car parts Volvos. Tip: it's pretty easy to pop out the connector pins and concentrate all the ones hooked to heavy-gauge wires into the connectors you plan to use.

Tachometer, gas gauge, wiper switch, engine cooling fan switch, ignition switch, ignition lock, horn button, starter button, headlight switches (separate for low and high beams, because I couldn't find the right kind of switch in my stash), turn signal switch (I don't want to screw with crappy British Leyland steering column switches, so I put a 3-way switch on the dash), charge and oil pressure idiot lights, and turn signal indicator lights (a '63 Ford pickup hazard indicator light for left, Volvo 164 Fasten Seat Belt light for right).

Yeah, I love junkyard stuff and general beater-y wretchedness. The idea is to build this car on a 24 Hours Of LeMons budget, though I think it might be tough to find anyone willing to take this thing out on a race track with the likes of the Size Matters '67 Plymouth Fury. Here's a Pick-N-Pull battery mounted in the trunk, using the tried-and-true BMW E30 battery-cable hardware. I still haven't rigged any kind of battery tie-down or hydrogen venting system, but that's not so important in a car that has no brakes yet. Add it to the Hell Project to-do list!

The positive battery cable and the bundle of wires going back to the rear of the car (turn signals, taillights, brake lights, fuel pump, fuel gauge sender) come into the passenger compartment via these hardly-rusty-by-British-Leyland-standards channels. There's just barely room for the Miata seat to clear this stuff. In fact, there's just barely room for anything to clear anything else, given how tiny the Spridget is.

I picked up a 1970s Toyota truck speedometer to use- not wanting to deal with weird speedo cable adapters or fabrication, I figured it would be best to match the gauge to the Celica transmission I've got- but I decided not to use it in this dash. That's because it only goes to 85 MPH, which wouldn't be a big deal except for the 4.56:1 differential gear ratio and small-diameter tires; this speedo will be pegged before I'm even off surface streets! I'm going to pick up a later 120 MPH Celica unit and manually calibrate it (i.e., use the cop-grade speedometer in my Crown Victoria to clock it at various speeds, then print my own speedo faceplate label).

I figured that Italian gauges would add sportiness to my ride, and would you believe that this Alfa Romeo Spider Benzina gauge works perfectly with the Healey's fuel sender?

In fact, the only junkyard gauge that doesn't work right is the metric VDO temperature gauge I pulled from some sort of Audi. I have the right sender and it's wired correctly- I think- but it doesn't care. No problem, though, because rather than buy a new 2-1/16" gauge for, oh, $9.95, I've fabricated my own using a dead Volvo clock (obtained free from the V8olvo) with its innards replaced by a Celica temp gauge crudely busted out of a cluster unit at the junkyard and epoxied into place. It works fine using the Toyota gauge sender that came with the car, though I still need to rig up some kind of faceplate glass to protect the needle. You learn tricks like this trying to stay under that daunting $500 LeMons budget!

So now I can climb into the driver's seat (which isn't actually, like, bolted down or anything) and fire up that 20R, much to the delight of my long-suffering neighbors. The car came with a pretty decent exhaust system, but I removed it to get access to the fuel pump wiring and haven't gotten around to reinstalling it. Open headers rule! Note the illuminated switches, courtesy of the too-awesome-to-describe-here HSC Electronic Supply surplus store in ultra-geeky Milpitas.

One major problem is the points ignition system (Toyota didn't go to electronic ignitions in US-spec R engines until '78 or so). It works fine for now, but points suck. Period. Don't even try to defend points ignitions here, because even the most rabid fan of non-electronic ignitions has only one leg to stand on, debate-wise: protection against the EMP pulse of a nuclear explosion... and I figure I'll have bigger problems than an engine stall if a nuke goes off in my line of sight, anyway. Fortunately, I picked up a nice 20R electronic ignition system while I was junkyard shopping for Japanese fuse boxes.

A few bits of wiring remain; I have yet to hook up the headlights, horn, and engine cooling fan, since I've been bashing away at the front of the car in an attempt to get the extremely, uh, innovative cooling system that came with the car to function properly. This should be wrapped up pretty soon, and I should have the brakes together any year day now. Check in later for more 20R Sprite adventures!