Austin Healey Owners Club of Qld. Inc.

My Telescopic Shocks Conversion Experiences

by David Baggs

As you will see in other articles on the website, in 2017 we restored a 1966 BJ8 Phase II bought from Joe Day after he imported 3 Big Healeys from NE USA and it was a rusty wreck.

We worked on the restoration with Peter Janetzki's JH Classic Car Restorations. We managed to get it done in about 15 months from start to finish and managed to actually get it ready for the 2017 National Rally, where it won 'Best BJ8' in the Coolongatta Show and Shine. We were ecstatic!

Along the way, I had been asking others, notably Peter Janetzki and Paul Blake about the performance of the lever arm shocks in the Big Healeys as I had nothing but problems trying to get them to work even after restoration in my Mk2A and Mk1 Bugeye Sprites in the past. I was convinced to have mine reconditioned, (thank you Paul!) and give them a go...which I did. That said, based on my previous experience, I was still dubious, but open minded.

So to my added excitement at the Rally, I noticed a set of Putzke's 'Fahrspass' Bilstein telescopic shock absorber conversions (front and rear) in the silent auction and (while keeping my mind open about the lever arms) decided to bid and win...which I did. I later met and had a great conversation with Udo Putzke with Gisela Putzke at the rally and was deeply impressed with the time and effort over so many years that Udo had put into developing the setup.

It is important to understand that this article is in no way a reflection on the system or the kit, rather an awareness raising about the importance of proper assessment on chassis condition.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, Udo started working with Bilstein Shock Absorbers in Ennepetal, Germany and in 1992, transferred to fill a vacant position at the Thyssen Krupp Bilstein of America facility in San Diego as an R&D engineer. After becoming involved with Austin-Healeys, he developed a shock-absorber conversion system to mount Bilstein shock absorbers on Healeys and then with his wife, Gisela, formed Putzkes' Fahrspass (from the German word for "driving fun") to sell the kits commercially, and his position with Bilstein as senior 'ride comfort' technician allowed him to address specific suspension issues and over many trials create the ultimate valving to suit each Healey and purpose. Over 1500 conversions have been done worldwide (and still counting) with kits available for 100-4 100-6, BJ8 and BJ8- Phase 2 models. If desired the cars can be converted back to level arm shocks at any time.

The kits are marketed as "bolt-on application, which do not require any frame modifications (i.e. no drilling or welding)" and while I'm sure this has been many people's experience, depending on chassis rust levels, mine, which started its life with me as a 'rusty wreck' has proven to be a slightly different story.

This is the story of AHB 866. 

So after the 2017 Rally my son Tony and I dutifully drove it to a variety of club events and drives and nonetheless jointly decided we should proceed with installing the Fahrspass system. The task was again given to the Peter Janetzki team and we soon had a different car back. The difference before and after was 'chalk and cheese'...even though I'm sure traditionalists disapprove and say it's not necessary, for me, I felt the car just drove with so much more stability and more importantly predictability.

Here are the installed front and rear shocks installed initially. They literally do just fit right in:

I really started enjoying the drives a whole lot more and over the next couple of years we put about 10,000 kilometres on the car. I have also been taking the car back to JH Classics each year for a safety check, tighten up, touch up, odd tweak and service and on the second such occasion, I received a call from Peter saying he had found some cracking in the chassis and would I come down to have a look. 

On inspection, it was clear that the new shock absorber mounts had created stresses that (we assumed) the rust condition of the chassis had not been capable of resisting longer term and so determined to reinforce the chassis (the Bilsteins were always staying in!), so we instructed Peter to make it all good is the process and the result:

Firstly, a hole was cut in the chassis and a reinforcing buck created for insertion and welding into the chassis.

Then reinforcing plates and gussets were welded to the sides.

The buck was inserted, then both welded and bolted into place with captured nuts.

...and the whole chassis box section rewelded and smoothed down. Then JH's awesome paint team got involved and re-painted, painted, cleaned and then re-assembled the setup.

It looks as good as, actually better, than new. The car is not a Concours car and with new rear springs installed during the process, the whole car behaves like a modern is a pleasure to drive!

Thank you Udo, Gisela, Peter, Brett and the JH paint team...together, the outcome is strong, stable and ready for the next 100,000 enjoyable kilometres!



Austin Healey Owners Club of Qld. Inc.
1376 Old Cleveland Road Carindale QLD 4152
Phone 0405 150 859
Manage your car club online with