Huge progress was made in the last blog post in the engine compartment. We were gathering momentum and the progress made in the engine bay began to slowly spill over into the interior of the car. It started with installing the pedals to tie into the brake and clutch master cylinders and ended with installing the seats. The interior of a Sunbeam Alpine is rather spartan and really only consists of a few vents, basic gauges, a glove box, and a center console.
However, if you’ve been following this blog, you would know I ripped everything out of the car years ago with hardly any pictures and the journey to understand how the car goes back together will now take even longer. Even though I had no idea how much of the car went together, most of the time I could stare and think about how I would do it, and the solution presented itself. When this didn’t work I spent hours on forums trying to find that one missing piece.
The firewall is where I began with the interior. We purchased a modern Sunbeam Alpine wiring hardness from Rebel Wire for around $300. The wire harness has all of the modern features such as fuse block and relays. The kit also came with a dashboard wiring harness which allows the harness to unclip if the dash needs to come out for any reason. I ended up mounting the fuse block with rivet nuts to the left of the steering column. This is the perfect accessible location while still keeping the block away from the heat of the engine bay. Some wires had to eventually be extended because by design the fuse box is supposed to be mounted inside the engine bay on the left fender.
The pedal assemblies were mostly stock. The clutch master cylinder is stock and bolted up directly to the stock pedals. I ran into a few unknowns of how the springs in the pedal assembly worked with the clevis hangers. Turn out I was missing an elusive clip that retains the pedal return spring which I had to source from a parts house in San Diego. That took a good couple of weeks on forums and talking to several parts houses to find but it’s all part of the fun.
The brake assembly wasn’t as easy as the clutch. The brake master cylinder I purchased originally was bolted to a brake booster so there wasn’t a push rod for this assembly. I had to scour the parts catalog from Summit and JEGS to find a clevis and push rod which work for our application. I eventually found the correct pushrod after many failed purchases. I also found a great brake light switch on the Sunbeam forum. Uses a muffler clamp on the steering column and works perfectly with the pedal setup and will clean up the engine bay by keeping the switch inside the car.
With the transmission in the car, we decided to finalize the shifting position and mechanism. We learned of a short-throw shifter that was designed for our transmission. A quick search discovered the recommended short-throw shifter
sold by Jegs. The shifter was a Pro 5.0 unit and was compatible with our T-5 transmission. When the short-throw shifter showed up I could tell it was a great quality unit. The kit went in with no problem and felt well made. We then decided to purchase a Steeda shift arm and a retro-style shift knob. My dad wanted a Shelby Cobra-type to look for the car and I think the look we landed on fits the bill. The only issue with the shifter arm was it was close to our legs
since both my dad and I are over 6’ tall. We decided to revisit the shift arm later when things were progressing
along. This is well-used transmission and there are tons of options to choose from.
The next purchase was a shiny new instrument panel for the car from Prestige Autowood. This wasn’t a cheap purchase but it was the right purchase… if that even makes sense. The fit and finish of the instrument panel are second to none. The Rebel Wire segmented wiring harness will eventually tie into the back of the panel to help with disassembly. I purchased a cigarette lighter, blinker lights, and all the panel switches in order to tie part of the harness in.
We decided on an MSD 6AL ignition module. This unit is widely used with this type of project. The module also has a rev limiter which will help keep the engine safe. We decided to install the module behind the footwell panel on the passenger side. Rootes who made the Sunbeam made the cars interchangeable from left-hand or right-hand drive. In order to hide the openings in the firewall and make the compartment more comfortable for the passenger, there is a removable panel to rest one’s feet on. The distance between the floor and the back of the panel allows for the MSD box to be installed.
The tired old wiper motor needed to be refreshed. On eBay, I found a Jaguar shop that specializes in refurbishing old electric motors. The British car market was notorious for using parts from the same parts bin as other cars. For example. the wiper motor from our car was also used in Jaguars. The eBay shop specializes in Jaguars and was able to refresh our unit for a fairly reasonable amount considering the unit was from the 1960s.
The gauges we had were a mixed bag. There are subtle differences between the different series of Sunbeam Alpines. We had 2 sets. One from our car and the other from the parts car. From the two sets, we made one “authentic” set. Since we live in Southern California we are very fortunate to have the auto resources to make restoration possible. We found a speedometer repair shop, Speedo Check, right in our hometown of Whittier. They were able to completely refurbish all of our gauges and convert our RPM gauge to a digital signal. The trim rings were re-chromed and the needles were cleaned up and repainted. The gauges look amazing and combined with the new dash, the interior of the car looks amazing. Well… at least the dash does.
We decided to forego the Rootes logo in the middle of the dash and replace it with a new Smiths clock. Our Rootes emblem has seen better days and we decided the clock was a good compromise. It also went well with all of our other Smiths gauges.
In searching the internet, I came across an upgrade from the antiquated Amp gauge. Originally Sunbeam Alpine’s came standard with an Amp gauge. Modern cars these days only have Volt gauges. This helps modern cars track whether batteries and alternators are dropping below the 12-volt threshold. I discovered the gauge on eBay and matched the fit and finish perfectly with the other gauges.
The heater/fan setup also needed to be upgraded and refreshed. We purchased a new fan motor and blades which pull air from outside air or through the heater core. It is almost laughable how crude these air vent systems are. We also repaired the two outside air vents that let air into the cabin. These were made of plastic and were riveted together. I had to buy a rebuild kit from Sunbeam Specialties which was repaired the vents without too much fiddling.
The parts car also came with two fully refurbished seats. The seats had new leather and foam. The seats have a red accent which we aren’t in love with but it actually looks good and we agreed it would go well with the green paint.
The interior step of the project was a huge step to getting the car driving. Pedals, wiring, dash, gauges, ignition, windshield wipers, shifter, and seats were all painstakingly researched, repaired/refreshed, and installed. The result produced an interior that resembles a fully functioning car. The completed dash was for me the most rewarding job. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It looks amazing in person.
Next up is the rear differential refresh where we dive into gearing ratios and tire size. Motor on.