Note: The following is just a repeat of the text in the above module in case images aren't functioning.

 

Unlike the slightly dished-in hood of the Sterling (and Nova), the hood of both models of the Sebring is more flat / level from fender to fender (although the profile of the front clip is virtually the same). Also different from the Nova and Sterling, both Sebring models have a front bumper cut into their nose. The dimensions of front clip of the Sebring I and II are essentially identical. What differentiates them are their accents. The hood of the original Sebring (sometimes called the "Sebring I" in retrospect) had two rows of little repeating louvers (which were usually "false" louvers insofar as they were rarely actually cut open). ••• The hood of the Sebring II is accented with two long, narrow, rear-facing accents.

 

Shown is another example of a Sebring I with its row of little hood louvers versus the Sebring II with its two long hood accents. Also, again note the front bumper. The bumper on the Sebring was created by essentially lopping off the first two or three inches of the nose (of the Sterling that was used for the original pattern), then fabricating a fiberglass insert that serves, at least visually, as a front bumper. This bumper was fastened directly to the body which, though surprisingly strong and resilient in its own right, does not have any separate energy- absorption strategy. As such, the bumper was mainly intended as a stylistic / cosmetic detail.

 

Direct, front view of the hood and front bumper of the Sebring I vs II. The bumper insert is essentially identical for both versions of the Sebring, but many custom variations exist. Many builders customize their cars with details such as fog lights, different turn signals, builder-designed ground effects, or simply by subtle choices such as whether to paint the bumper black vs the color of the body of the car. Also in this view, note the slightly higher roofline of the Sebring II. This isn't the camera angle or your imagination; one of the biggest changes introduced in the Sebring II was a higher roof with slightly more headroom. (Covered in more detail later.)

 

A collage of front clip photos of the Sebring showing several variations / customizations to the bumpers and hood. Note the nice driving-light package on the black Sebring II, the subtle scoop inserts on hood of the white car, and the accentuated air dam and intake on the red Sebring.

 

View of the open hood and under-hood area of the Sebring. Note the differences in the hood accents between the two as previously discussed. Beyond that, the area under the hood is essentially identical between the Sebring I and II. Also know that all Sebring hoods are hinged at the front, as shown. This is notable only because, on the Sterling (and Nova / Eureka / Eagle, etc), there was never any fully standardized way to mount the hood. On those other cars, some hoods hinged at the front, many hinged at the back, and the hardware and strategies involved varied greatly. Back to the Sebring...note the bar connecting the headlights. Also note the radiator mounted in this "II".

 

One advantage the Sebring as compared to the Sterling / Nova / etc. is that the flatter hood style of the Sebring provides slightly more under-hood space for fun things like radiators for water cooled engines. Shown is one example of a stock, "uncut" under-hood area, followed by four examples of ideas for radiator placement. Note that in the yellow, white, and dull red cars, the builders chose to place the radiator in a very flat orientation on the floor of the under-hood area. (By the way, keep in mind that this orientation will work for the radiator but NOT for an A/C condenser, which needs to be oriented at at least a slight angle). In the bright red car, the builder had a HUGE Corvette engine in the back and thus placed this very nice, upright aluminum radiator in the front. Imagination and ingenuity are the rule, not the exception.

 

The original versions of the Nova, Sterling, Eureka, and Eagle (SA) had the classic "open bay" headlights which were often detailed with a clear or tinted plexiglass cover: Any pop-up headlights in those cousins were typically custom retrofits done by the builder (with the exception of the Sterling "GT"). In contrast, both versions of the Sebring had pop-up headlights from the factory. There are some reports that this was done to guarentee that the headlights would meet minimum height requirements in all 50 states (which was NOT a guarentee in the Sterling with it's incredibly low front clip). Other reports suggest that it was mearly a stylistic call on the part of the re-designer of the Sebring. Either way, these 'tower' style pop-up headlights are a classic feature on the face of the Sebring I and II.

 

Two unique feature of the Sebring's pop-up headlights are 1) the mechanism which raises them and 2) the position of the hinge. Many cars with pop-up headlights have a separate motor for the left and right sides. On the Sebring (as well as a few actual production cars), the right and left headlights were tied together through a torsion bar that ran from side-to-side between them. As such, only one motor was needed...which also guaranteed that the lights would always work in unison. With regard to the hinge, the mechanism was set well behind and below the back edge of the headlights. This creates a headlight that not only rotates open but also 'lifts' open a little as if it is built into a short tower. The cover was custom, and it fit into a flange in the body, thus achieving a much better-than-average fit for a pop-up on a kit car.

 

As with all of its cousins, there are builder-customized variations in Sebring headlights that go beyond the original "factory" design (although it seems that MOST Sebrings utilize the factory set-up, probably more so than their kin do.) In this blue Sebring, the builder chose to hinge the headlights with a piano hinge directly along their back edges (rather than a hidden hinge further back under the fender). With this red Sebring we have an excellent example of a quirky kit car phenomenon: the desire to do the exact opposite of whatever the "factory" set-up was. In Sterlings, the common "modification" is to add pop-up headlights where factory open-bay headlights had existed. In this Sebring, this builder chose to cover over the hole for the factory pop-ups with an acrylic lens instead. With a kit car, the build always adds his or her own touch.

 

By far, the most significant difference between the Sebring I and Sebring II has to do with the height of the roofline; the Sebring II is slightly taller with a tad more headroom. It is no secret that roofline of the original Nova, Sterling, and Eureka is so extremely, exotically, absurdly low that visibility and driver comfort can be markedly compromised. Taller drivers have trouble fitting in, and even moderate size drivers can find themselves becoming a little claustrophobic. Knowing this, the Sebring's "re-creator" first tried to increase headroom by significantly dropping the entire floorboards (seen in all four pics). Although this helped, he decided to take the intended improvement one step further in the Sebring II by raising the roofline by about two inches. Though headroom was improved, this also changed the look of the car...for better or worse.

 

From the rear 3/4 view, you can again see the subtle difference in the height and profile of the roof of the Sebring I vs Sebring II. The difference is also reflected in the size of the rear window, which is notably larger in the Sebring II. Again, although these changes undeniably, mildly improved the driving position, headroom, and visibility from the car, it also changed the overall profile and personality of the car a little as well. Also shown are the typical "factory" taillights of the Sebring I as compared to the Sebring II. (More later.)

 

The canopy of the original Sebring was, for all intents and purposes, an almost exact copy of the canopy of the Sterling (and thus original Nova.) For the Sebring II, in addition to having a higher roofline, the canopy was also mildly redesigned such that it extended lower into the side of the body, presumably to allow easier entry and exit for the occupants. Like the higher roofline, the deeper cuts into the sides offer some subtle improvements in the comfort and practicality of the car. But like the roofline, it also alters the aesthetic balance; the raised canopy of the Sebring II tends to look much "heavier" or "bulkier" than in the original. This difference in canopies is perhaps the easiest and most definitive way to differentiate a Sebring I vs II.

 

Both versions of the Sebring use an "uneven parallel arm" set up as the 'hinge' for the canopy, similar in basic design to that of the Nova and Sterling. But unlike the Nova, in which the actual lifting element is mounted inboard / towards the dash-side of the hinge, the lift mechanism for both Sebring models is housed within the side of the body, behind the hinge, and it emerges through the sill of the body (often through a boot borrowed from a gear shift). Furthermore, in the Nova (etc.), the actual lifting mechanism was usually an electro-hydraulic lift system (with a pump, hoses, and cylinders) or just pre-charged gas struts like are used in a liftgate. In both versions of the Sebring, however, the lift mechanism was usually a jackscrew-type linear actuator helped by a spring. Each lifting strategy has its own unique pros and cons.

 

Regarding side scoops, the most notable observation about both Sebrings is that they don't have any; whereas the Nova and all of its twin siblings (the Sterling, Eureka, etc.) had deep, dramatic side scoops -- one low on the rocker panel and one up high behind the side window -- neither the Sebring I or II had any such side accents. Whether it was to skirt possible licensing/trademark infringements or simply for personal taste, the Sebring's designer decided to smooth out the scoops and simplify the body panels. Doing so created a slick, clean appearance, but also made the car looker thicker / heavier / less exotic in this rear 'hip' area of the car. Other differences from the Sterling include wheel wells that are more filled-in/less "scalloped" plus a subtle ridge that runs the length of the car at the body seam. (See "Roofline" for more pics)

 

The tail-lights of the Sebring I were simple, plain-looking lights which were surface-mounted into a recessed area of the rear. Several lenses could be used, one of which was from a Chevette from the late '70s. Also, a custom fiberglass bumper was surface-mounted to the rear valance. Between the tail-lights was an area for a license plate. In the Sebring II, the rear valance was redesigned to accept a more modern-looking, "inset" tail-light which ran the breadth of the rear and wrapped onto the side of the fender. Similar to the Sebring I, a custom fiberglass bumper was mounted to the body. But for the Sebring II, the bumper had been slightly reworked to accept the license plate. All said, the tail-light scheme in the Sebring I looked more "kit car-y" but was easier to modify. Tail-lights of the Sebring II were harder to personalize but looked very "real."

 

Two more views showing the basic differences in rear styling between the Sebring I and Sebring II. In this instance, the tail-lights are fairly typical for each. In the case of this Sebring II, it appears that the builder decided to forgo the rear bumper for a more clean look. In both cases, the builders have added aftermarket spoilers. In these views, also note features that were previously discussed such as how the wheel wells are more plain and not as "scalloped" as in the Sterling, the rear valence is a little lower and more square-ish than the Sterling, there is a little lip all along the body at its seam, and the roof of the 'II' is a little taller than the 'I.'

 

Again, additional views showing modifications and customizations of the rear clip of the Sebring I and II. For kit cars, customization is the norm, not the exception. Builders create their own subtle differences with their own contributions of spoilers, side skirts, trim colors, wheels, mufflers, and even subtle silly things like...mud flaps! (...And any owner who has driven through a mud puddle with a Sterling or Sebring knows that mud flaps are NOT frivolous!)

 

Shown are three photos of builder-customized tail-lights on a Series I Sebring as an example of how details can affect the personality and look of the car. The first two photos show nicely detailed, alternative tail-lights (off an early '80s Datsun 280Z) which were grafted on the rear of a Series One Sebring. (It appears as though the same tail-lights were used in each car, but they were mounted right-side-up on one and upside-down on the other). Also note the beautiful engine work and extensive modifications to the engine cover on the red car which is undeniably a nice, clean, "believable" build. ...And then there is the black car with an ugly butt and a cautionary tail: a kit car can only look as good as the detail work its builder brings to it.

 

Though it represents only a small part of the overall styling of the car, the engine cover / rear deck / "hatch" of the Sebring I and II differed slightly in their details. For the Sebring I, staying true to the motif established by the hood, the rear deck had two rows of little louvers. In its center was a subtly raised area which faced forward in a wedge shape. The engine cover of the Sebring II was more plain with just a single raised area that opened towards the rear like a rear-facing hood scoop. ••• As a notable difference between both Sebrings compared to the Nova (and Sterling and Eureka, etc.), the rear hatch of the Sebring is much more flat / level from front to back, it is larger in all directions, and it even extends onto the rear lip of the body. All of these subtle differences add up to much-improved access to the engine (described more later).

 

Shown are two examples of builder-customizations to the rear hatch. The first photo is of an otherwise stock Sebring I engine cover with a nice, medium-size spoiler grafted to the deck. The second photo is of a Sebring II in which the builder grafted a forward-facing, bigger-than-stock hood scoop onto the deck. In the Sterling, Sebring, or any of the variants, the builder should make an effort to allow at least modest air flow through the engine compartment, whether it be by trying to force a little air into the top (and allowing it to be sucked out through the rear valence) or by allowing air to enter through side scoops or wheel wells (and allowing it to be sucked upwards through the deck.) Thoughtful design will lead to a reliable car.

 

Unlike any incarnations of the Sterling dash (or Nova dash) -- all versions of which were separate, removable pieces of fiberglass -- both Sebrings had an integral fiberglass dash which spanned the width of the cockpit. In both Sebrings, the dash was essentially just a simple flat plane with only subtle accents. In the Sebring I, the dash on the driver's side stuck out towards the driver slightly further than the portion of the dash in front of the passenger (see photo). In the Sebring II, the dash was just one flat plane. In both versions, the center area of the dash was slightly taller than the outer sections to allow for more gauges / vents / switches / audio equipment as compared to the "straight style" dash of the Sterling. As such, the dash in both Sebrings was stylistically plain, but it was strong and extremely versatile.

 

For both the Sebring I and II, a very popular set up was to have the speedo and tach off to the left of the steering wheel, followed by a row of auxiliary gauges along the top-center region of the panel, and then finally rows of switches, fuses, and/or breakers along the bottom edge of the dash. Such a layout is very practical and functional, and it gives the car a "raw"-yet-complex look akin to an airplane or racecar cockpit. On the other hand, it also runs the risk of looking very flat and "kit car-y." Detailing of the dash and interior tend to be two weak areas in typical kit cars, and the Sebring is no exception. Careful detailing of these areas can mean the difference between a car that is all-out stunning and one that gives away its humble heritage all too easily.

 

Examples of builder-customized dashes for the Sebring. The silver dash shows what can be done by just very carefully detailing an otherwise plain dash set-up. In the red car, the wooden dash is clean and very well detailed, albeit a bit tall and flat-looking without much knee clearance. The black dash has a very clean, simple "race car" look. The last picture shows an impressive gauge cluster that I assume was borrowed from some production car of the day. In total, the dash of the Sebring provides a very adequate blank canvas. Beyond that, it is the individual builder who controls the fit and finish and overall personality of the interior.

 

In the cramped quarters of virtually any sports car, every little bit of extra space counts. This is especially true of the Nova and all of its official and un-official variations in which an extremely low roofline plus a relatively narrow chassis make for a very snug driving experience. When the Sebring's designer set out to restyle the car, one of his main goals was to increase the cabin space as much as possible while staying within the basic parameters of the car. As described in previous sections, one strategy was to increase headroom by a combination of dropping the floor pan (for the entire length of the cabin -- see pics). The second strategy, as previously discussed, was to actually redesign the canopy of the Sebring II such that the roofline was slightly higher (see "Roofline" section for more pics).

 

In addition to dropping the floor boards and raising the roof, the Sebring's designer also created a little more cabin space by moving the rear wall of the cabin rearwards about 10 inches. In the Nova (Sterling, etc), the rear wall drops directly down from the little roof/roll bar section of the body, directly behind the driver's shoulders (which was done, in part, because such a set-up was much easier to fabricate.) As such, the Nova also had a "tunnel" extending back to the rear window. But in both models of the Sebring, the internal cabin wall was extended rearwards all the way to the rear window, thus creating a modest "cove" behind the seats. This not only created a few more precious cubic feet of space but also added a more "production car" look. (However, the gas tank had to be relocated and a custom tank was now mandatory.)

 

The engine compartment of the Sebring I and II are virtually identical to one another, and both were a HUGE improvement over the relatively cramped access to the engine of a Sterling or Nova. In the original Sterling/Nova/Eureka, the only access to the top of the engine was through a relatively small hatch directly above the top of the engine. In the Sebring, the engine compartment itself was a little taller and more level, giving a critical additional inch or so above the engine. Moreover, the engine hatch was much more generous in all dimensions: it was wider, extended rearwards an extra inch or two (actually wrapping onto the rear panel), and also stretched all the way forward to the rear window. As such, engine access on the Sebring was comparatively a breeze, which made engine customizations easier as well.

 

The green Sebring I on the right represents a good view of the basic dimensions of the rear hatch / engine compartment overall (and it is also a good example of a Sebring that used a simple, stock bug engine.) On the right is another Sebring I, this time with a nicely modified, dual carb bug engine. Like the Nova and Sterling, the Sebring was a light car, usually weighing-in below 2000 lbs. Consequently, even a mildly modified air cooled VW engine pushed the car along quite aptly. In both photos, note the custom steel gas tank immediately in front of the engine. Whereas the Nova, Sterling, and Eureka usually used the stock bug gas tank, a custom gas tank was created for the Sebring which, in part, is what allowed the designer to push the rear wall of the cabin back a few more inches for more interior space.

 

Shown are two extremely clean, dual carb bug engine installations. In the first car, note the auxiliary oil cooler with a fan off to the side. In both cars, note again the different variations of custom fuel tanks -- a welded aluminum fuel cell in the first car and a classic, spun aluminum "buggy" tank in the second car. (Prefab tanks are typically easier to implement, but custom tanks typical have more volume / much more efficient use of space). Such custom tanks could be applied to the Sterling or Nova as well, but doing so would require moderate modification of the rear hatch and engine bay area.

 

Although the Sebring didn't necessarily have more total room side-to-side or front-to-back for a different engine (compared to the Sterling, etc), the access to the engine bay overall was undeniably better. This enhanced access -- plus a modest-but-significant, true increase in the HEIGHT of the engine bay -- made the Sebring a popular variant in which to retrofit various water-cooled engines. The red Sebring II in the first photo utilized a water-cooled V6 which fit very aptly in the space available. (Note, however, that the fuel tank apparently had to be modified to gain a little additional clearance.) The vivid red Sebring in the second photo shows a very rare example of this car taken to its absolute extreme: a mid-mounted V8 mated to an Olds Toronado transaxle. At this level, the Sebring becomes a true supercar to match its exotic styling.