DIY Serpentine Belt Conversion for all A-series MG Midgets, Austin Healey Sprites, Morris Minors and Classic Mini Coopers
A first step in preparing the A-series engine for our forthcoming DIY intercooled supercharger kit was engineering a serpentine belt drive. However, any naturally-aspirated A-series engine can also benefit from a serpentine belt drive. Serpentine belts last longer, run smoother, and grip better than old-style V-belts.
Another benefit is that you can change or remove the belt if servicing the water pump or alternator in just seconds using a regular 3/8” ratchet handle!
Existing supercharger conversions use a 4-rib belt, which experience has shown is prone to slipping under heavy use. So, we designed matching 5-rib serpentine crankshaft and water pump pulleys, which are now available by clicking here. (Our partner, Smoothflow Pulleys, produces the water pump pulley, which is also linked on the purchase page for our crankshaft pulley.)
On naturally aspirated engines, these bespoke pulleys combine with an inexpensive serpentine belt, compact spring-loaded tensioner, and a simple aluminum mount that you can make in minutes using a hacksaw, file or sandpaper, drill, and a 3/8-24 tap. (Contact us for a free template. We will be adding a downloadable PDF template to our Purchase page in the near future.)
Here is the result, which can be accomplished with a morning’s work:
In addition to the pulleys, you will need the following:
3/8-24 bolt x 1” long, and lock washer
5/16-24 bolt x 1-3/4” long, and lock washer
1” x 1-1/2” flat aluminum bar x 4” long (available at Online Metals and elsewhere, on the web and in many cities worldwide)
5-rib serpentine belt sold by numerous manufacturers such as Dayco (part no. 505335) and Gates (part no. K050335), and which may be purchased online or at your local auto parts store. Prices range from $8 to $18.
Automatic spring tensioner used on dozens of General Motors vehicles, available online or at a ‘brick-and-motor’ store near you. Popular part numbers include 12580196 (ACDelco), 49276 (Continental), 89258 (Dayco), 38158 (Gates), 305258 (Autozone/Duralast); prices range from $25 to $37.
Alternator or generator fitted with a 5-rib serpentine belt pulley. We prefer the CS121D late model Saturn alternator pictured here, but you can use the popular, early model CS130-style alternator many have already fitted to their Spridgets.
You may also use a late model Spridget (Lucas or Bosch) alternator, or even an OEM generator, so long as your choice is fitted with a 5-rib serpentine belt pulley.
The CS121D can be had for $66 brand new, including free shipping, from DB Electrical. Wiring is straightforward, and is essentially the same as with the older, CS130-style Saturn alternator.
Installation is simple, and the only fabrication is making a simple mount for the spring tensioner from a piece of 1”x1-1/2” aluminum bar 4” in length.
Also, depending on the alternator you choose, you may need to modify the mounting ear on the water pump—which can be done without removing it from the engine or draining the coolant.
Step 1 - Preparing for installation.
Remove the old fan belt, steel tensioner strap, and the bolt that passes through the front engine plate’s motor mount extension.
Next, remove the original alternator or generator pulley and replace with a 5-rib serpentine belt pulley. The fastest, easiest method is an air impact driver. Many auto parts stores will do this for you, such as Autozone.
If you are buying a new CS121D or CS 130-style alternator, it will come with a 5-rib pulley already installed. You will have to ‘clock’ the alternator, which takes five minutes and does not require dismantling the unit. (We will be adding instructions to end of this page to show you how.)
Finally, remove the fan and original water pump and crankshaft pulleys. If you are running an original ‘ribcase’ 4-speed transmission, removing the crankshaft pulley may be possible with the engine still in the car. Check your shop manual, but to tilt up the engine slightly you will likely need to:
disconnect the battery ground strap and any engine-to-body straps;
drain the coolant;
disconnect or loosen the radiator and heater hoses sufficiently to allow engine movement;
disconnect the fuel feed line (use caution with any spilled fuel);
disconnect the exhaust down-pipe from the manifold and any support straps from the bodywork or bellhousing;
unbolt the motor mounts from the front engine plate and frame members;
put a block under the oil pan to cushion it from your hydraulic jack’s metal lifting disc.
When jacking, keep a close eye on the clutch slave cylinder’s hose to avoid rupturing it. Similarly, watch the temperature sender and oil pressure sender connections, too.
Step 2 - Modify the water pump ear (some alternators).
In order to afford sufficient fore-aft adjustment to align the alternator pulley with the new crankshaft and water pump pulleys, you will likely need to shave a small amount off of the water pump’s mounting ear. These photos show you how:
Step 3 - Fabricate & install tensioner mounting block.
The tensioner mounting block is a simple parallelogram fashioned from 1”x1-1/5” aluminum bar.
The mount employs a 5/16-24 bolt passing through an unthreaded hole into where a shorter bolt originally held the front engine plate to the block. This is the lower bolt in this photo:
The upper hole gets drilled and tapped for a 3/8-24 x 1” bolt to affix the tensioner’s lower mounting ear. The drill size for a 3/8-24 bolt is 22/64”.
You can round the edges or modify the shape for appearance as you wish.
Use washers as needed at the alternator and mounting block to place the belt tensioner mount’s pulley parallel to the crankshaft pulley. With the CS121D, none were needed between the belt tensioner and its mounting block, and one washer was needed between the alternator’s ear and the belt tensioner.
As you can see, the clearance to the lower motor mount bolt is sleight. If necessary, either file or cut a relief into the edge of the belt tensioner mounting block, or simply cut off any unused/excess threads from the motor mount bolt:
Remove the belt tensioner mounting block to allow you to start the nuts and lock washers onto the motor mount. Then replace the block.
Step 4 - Install & align alternator.
Use an appropriate number and thickness of washers between the modified water pump mounting ear and the alternator to align the alternator’s pulley with the water pump pulley, as shown here:
Step 5 - Install tensioner & belt.
Use an appropriate bolt to initially attach the alternator’s threaded adjustment ear to the belt tensioner’s upper ear (many alternators come with a bolt). You may need a longer than stock bolt to accommodate the tensioner’s thickness. Do not tighten the bolt yet.
Lift the alternator slightly to let you thread the 3/8-24 bolt through the tensioner’s lower ear and into the belt tensioner block.
Tighten all bolts securely—but be mindful that with both the belt tensioner block and alternator, you are threading steel bolts into aluminum. Tighten sufficiently to flatten out and engage the lock washers, but take care not to strip the aluminum (though in both cases, there are measures you can take to salvage either the alternator or tensioner block—drilling and tapping for larger fasteners).
Using a 3/8” ratchet driver, flex the tensioner’s spring, install the belt, and then release the tension.
Lower the engine into place onto the motor mounts and tighten their screws and nuts securely.
Reconnect everything you disconnected, refill the coolant, and double-check the fuel feed line.
Wire the new alternator if not using an existing unit.
Enjoy your new serpentine belt drive!