SPONSOR PROFILE / Dave Austin of Classic Car Performance and British Starters

dave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Land Rover made an airplane would you fly in it?

If my life insurance was paid up, the pilot didn’t need the instruments to get us to our destination, and if it was a great glider for when the carb vapor locks and the motor cuts out……..

Tell us a little about yourself, family and background.

I’ve been in to cars and trucks since before I could walk.  I was drawn to a Land Rover Series IIa 88 parked in a driveway 1/2 way between Manchester and Arlington, VT on the old Route 7 at the ripe age of 7.  It looked just like the trucks I’d see on Sunday nights on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  So rugged, so much cooler than a Jeep CJ.  I was hooked.

My first car out of college was a 1960 Austin Healey 3000 (still have it) which has since morphed into 14 British cars and 3 Land Rovers tucked neatly into my barn.  My ’73 109 5-door and I had a cameo this year in the opening minutes of a show called “Naked Speed”, episode 2 on the Velocity channel, where I found a free 1972 Norton Commando in a school bus, in the woods, and had it professionally restored into a Cafe-style race bike.  Yeah, I got that British bug pretty bad.

I now live in Saratoga Springs, NY with my lovely (and very tolerant) wife Kim, my inquisitive 5 yr old daughter Mae, and her rambunctious little 2yr old brother DJ.   The kids squeal with excitement when I take them out in the 109.  They sit up high in their car seats and have a panoramic view of the world in the 2nd row.  The wife is still warming up to it.  I sell Medical Diagnostic Services by day, and car parts by night (thank you Al Gore for inventing the internet).  Selling parts has allowed me to meet many wonderful people from around the world with amazing car and truck stories, and it has helped me find the awesome attendees of the Muddy Chef event.   I’ve mingled with MG people, Rolls-Royce people, Ferrari people, but it’s the Rover folks I feel most at home with.  Down to earth.  Fun loving.  Always willing to lend a hand.  Great stories – on, off, and on the side of the road…….

Your business is the world’s number one source for high performance gear reduction starters.  Can you tell us how you became involved in British (and Ferrari) starters?


 The company was started by a physician back in the 1990’s who contacted a machinist friend and asked if he could help come up with a more reliable starter for his 1970 MGB.  The two found a Nippondenso High Torque starter that would fit and they custom machined a mounting plate to fit the MG.  They made 3, and sold the other 2 in less than an hour.  Made 10 more, then 30 more, then 100 more.  Then people were sending him their starter to copy and make into a high torque unit.


Then a Ferrari guy got wind of it, and one was made for his 308, then his Dino.  The medical practice was getting too busy to do both, so in 2010, I bought the company and continued to expand it offerings.  I am expanding into the Porsche, Lamborghini, and Maserati world in 2015.  We sell to restoration shops, brick and mortar parts dealers, online resellers, and shade tree mechanics everywhere.  For LR folks, we now have starters for 200/300 TDi, and 4cyl diesels to go with the 2.25/2.6L petrol starters and the 3.9L – 4.2L v8’s.


We ship 10-30 starters daily to classic car and Land Rover owners around the world.   BritishStarters.com. If you don’t see a starter for your classic on our website, let us know.  Odds are we can make one for you.

 


 

You own a pretty unique Land Rover 109 – can you tell us about it?

While rubber-necking on the back roads of CT, I spotted a neglected ’73 2.6L RHD 5-door next to a garage.  The owner was more than happy to accept my offer and make more space in his driveway.  The rear cross member was rotted, the tranny groaned and moaned with each shift, and the motor needed a quart of oil every 50 miles, but the rest of the frame was solid, body panels straight.  After a season of buying more oil than petrol, I decided on a major change for reliability and safety reasons.


The rear cross member was the first to get attention.  Atlantic British provided a Defender part with extra-long arms to reach up past the spring mounts.  It immediately took the sag out of her rump.  The motor was the next to go.  She was tired.  A diesel would be a good upgrade to pull that long wheelbase series truck around.  Some research found the Aussie military used Isuzu diesels in their Land Rovers.  That would keep the truck in the spirit of “original”.  I found a 4BD1T motor with a stage 1 turbo that was in a 1969 Pontiac Catalina station wagon of all things.


A company called Advanced Adapters helped me mate it to a Dodge Ram 5-speed NV4500.   Next were the axles and brakes.  Hauling my 2 kids around dictated maximum stopping power a necessity.  $200 and a craigslist search later, a pair of Disco 1 axles and driveshaft were in my garage.  Now I had modern four wheel disc brakes.  Online forums told me I couldn’t mate disco axles to a leaf-sprung series truck.  I proved them wrong.   The steering wheel was moved over to the left side so that my wife could drive it comfortably.


A Range Rover P38 power steering box was sourced to improve drive-ability And as the truck was coming together, I kept thinking back to that first Rover I saw in Vermont.  Although my truck was a series III, the IIA nose kept coming to mind.  So, a grill and fenders were sourced through a friend to complete the look I was after.  The size of the motor pushed the Summit Racing radiator right to the back of the grill, so original headlights were out of the question.  LED headlights, with their shallow design, and buckets from an ex-Military 109 I have proved the perfect match.  A $200 full length roof rack from the “British Invasion” car show found its way over my safari top, and the last touch was the $15 of LED ribbon lighting from eBay I added both under the hood, and in the channel along the inside roof line.  My daughter calls them the “disco lights”. (EDITORS NOTE – They are absolutely DISCO lights!!!)


After 15 months in surgery, I have a truck that doesn’t leak, stops on a dime, and gets 23mpg city and 28mpg highway.  I got her up to 92mph on the highway then backed it down because the doors started shuttering and I chickened out.  BUT, like an original series truck, it is still loud, smelly, and it rattles.  It rattles so much from the diesel that I have nicknamed her “The Paint Shaker”.  While purists will balk at the changes I made to her, I love it, the kids love it, and most importantly, I saved her from what would have most likely been a flatbed to a junkyard had I not driven down that quiet CT road………

Tell me about your experience as a Judge during last year’s Muddy Chef Challenge and what you are looking forward to this year.

I was blown away by the ingenuity of the contestants and what they were able to make “in the field”.   It was a fun event and the judges took their rolls very seriously.  2015 promises to bring even more wonderful recipes and presentations.  I wonder if someone will take a door or tailgate off to bring us their entry (the hood was already done in 2014)!!!


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