We were getting fairly close to driving the Sunbeam. It was Winter of 2020 at this point and we had just about everything prepared to get the car running. The main components we were missing were the fuel lines, brake lines, wire harness, and coolant lines. I was a gear head but I knew I was well out of my depth on most of these items. I started looking for a shop that could start with the wiring harness. Luckily in Southern California, I didn’t need to look very hard, since you can practically trip over classic car shops around here. Some shops didn’t want to touch it because I had bought the harness and it was aftermarket but after some digging, I eventually landed on a shop in Brea, CA. Brea Auto Electric was the perfect shop to get the car up and running. I brought the harness over and showed them tons of pictures and they said they could handle the job. Not only could they do the harness but they could help with the brake lines, fuel lines, and even would help with the cooling system.
After about 2 weeks, the car was ready to pick up. There was a few hiccups along the way when the car was at the shop. The water pump was missing a few gaskets and during startup poured fluid all over their shop. Luckily Brea Auto Electric took the time to install the gaskets and solved the problem. At this point, the fuel pump, fuel lines, clutch line, distributor, coolant hoses, and wiring harness were installed. The car was far from road worthy but it was close. The engine was running but was far from ready to hit the road. However, my excitement could not be tamed and of course I had to take it for a fear inducing first drive. I rigged up the throttle cable to control the revs by hand since the throttle pedal wasn’t quite ironed out. I soon decided I was going to take this thing for its first drive.
As you can tell from the video I was having fun. Somehow I convinced my wife to join in the fun and she decided to be my cameraman. We took the car around the block and at one point I got the car in third gear. The car was running great. After years of fiddling and part searching, the effort had finally paid off. If anyone doesn’t know the feeling of getting a project car up and running, have you really lived? There were wires everywhere, a hole in the floorboard, not hood or trunk and I could not have been happier. This was the most fun I had in years.
After the adrenaline had worn off, I realized I was driving a death trap. I had no brake lights and no bumpers. I quickly decided to stop driving the car and finish putting all the parts and pieces together. I started with the rear of the car. After some time on forums and websites, I found a license plate bracket from the California Association of Tiger Owners which placed the license plate perfectly under the bumper. I also joined their club, which is a requirement to purchase their parts, and met a crucial person in the build. I also installed brand new Sunbeam Specialty rear tail lights. I wired them up to the new harness and they worked perfectly. Albeit a small step, I had taken my first steps to street legality.
The installation of the lights egged me on. I just had to get the trunk and rear bumper on the car. My dad had the bumpers chromed years ago and with the help of some Sunbeam Specialty bumper brackets, the rear pumper went on without a fight. I decided to not install the rear bumper override guards on the rear because I like the clean bumper look in the back. I also decided to install the trunk to complete the look of the rear end. The right trunk support bracket needed to be removed due to a conflict with the gooseneck on the fuel tank. This was an oversight on the installation of the gas tank but was purely our fault since the fabricator didn’t know the brackets would be there. The car was starting to come together fast. It was only a few months ago the rear end was sitting on the floor and now the car was running and drivable with working brake lights.
I was incredibly happy with the progress I had made but their was a long way to go in order to get the car street legal and safe. I needed to install the front lights, front bumper, wind shield, hood, and tie in the gauges. There was along way to go, but it was starting to feel like a car. Motor on.