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Car Tales: The Immortal Austin-Healey

‘The entire Austin-Healey range always has hit an extremely uplifting nerve in me: it’s a marque as redolent as any other of British motoring panache, with a permanent place of honour in its history. 
Donald Healey himself had been a First World War pilot who loved the very idea of cars. In 1931 he had won the Monte Carlo rally, driving an Invicta. Then he designed cars for Riley and Triumph. But he hit the jackpot with the Austin-Healey 100/4 when it was announced in 1952.
‘Without even having sat in one I grew up feeling that Austin-Healey cars were so beautifully stylish in a kind of infinitely timeless way: utterly modern, and also utterly futuristic, but at the same time they looked like cars that could have come from the 1930s, hurtling through Italian Alpine passes or making mince-meat of the vast flat distances of the Great Plains.
‘Also, there was a sense about them of tremendous, very sexy power, only emphasized by the thunderous exhaust note, the physical manifestation of the Healeys’ gutsy engines. And they were great value for money: when it went on sale in 1953, let’s not forget, the 100/4, the only one that was strictly a two-seater, was the world’s cheapest commercially available 100mph sports car. In 1956, it was replaced by the 100/6 which had a straight-six 2.6-litre motor; a pair of tiny rear seats were fitted, making it technically a four-seater – handy for taking the kids to school.
‘I used to get really turned on just by the sight of any of these Healey models: the 100/4s, the 100/6s, even the cute little Bug-Eyes. And then there were the Austin-Healey 3000s, the most powerful of them all, manufactured from 1960 to 1967 – the ‘Big Healey‘, as they became known. 
‘It was in that last year of their production that my father first encountered one, a story he would often tell me. A university student, he was hitchhiking in Yorkshire when a 3000 pulled up to give him a ride – he had never been in one before. The first thing he noticed was that it was in that gorgeous Healey blue, a color that the 3000 seems to own for itself. And the next thing he saw was that it was left-hand drive – and this in a country where all cars are right-hand drive.
‘The driver, who took him 20 miles or so, was American, and was running the car in in the UK, prior to shipping it to his home in the USA. The guy worked at a giant telecommunications base called Menwith Hill, which allegedly monitored selected phone calls from Europe to the United States. Was he with the CIA? Everyone seemed to think so in those days.
‘But it never even crossed my dad’s mind: he was simply thrilled to the gills as the Healey 3000 hurtled along the broad, undulating roads on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales that lead past the historic eighteenth century stately home of Harewood House. It looked like a perfect photo opportunity, he told me later: unfortunately in those days no one had even thought of cameras in phones. A few weeks later he had an opportunity to buy an Austin-Healey for himself – not a 3000 but a Bug-Eye, or a Frog-Eye as they are known in the UK. His then girlfriend’s brother worked in a dealership, which had acquired the Bug-Eye in some part-exchange deal. Dad could have it for the princely sum of £140, around $200. Unfortunately his father – my grandfather – wouldn’t let him do this: dad still lived at home and the Bug-Eye would have to be housed there, which was clearly not going to be permitted.
‘So maybe it’s the rebel in me that makes me love Austin-Healeys so much.
‘Whichever model, they are such fantastic cars to take for a cruise along the southern Californian coast with the top down. When they get going these Austin-Healeys really get motoring: they are pretty fast vehicles – 0 to 60 in just under 11 seconds was quite a coup when the 100/4 first appeared.
1960 Austin Healey Bug Eye Sprite
‘What I’ve also found since I founded the Beverly Hills Car Club is that Austin-Healeys are such a unique taste. And that the people who own them reflect this: they are almost always very unique and charming individuals, grabbing attention at a car event, just as their vehicles do. In total since my company was founded I’ve sold 727 Austin-Healeys, so we must be doing something right.
‘Our goal at the Beverly Hills Car Club is to let people know how much we love Austin-Healeys, and that we are always looking to purchase more. The unique thing about our dealership is that we buy and sell Austin-Healeys in any condition. We have all shapes and sizes – literally: a fully restored 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 from Pebble beach, or a 1956 Austin-Healey 100/4BN2 missing a fender that needs a full restoration. We have both those right now.
1967 Austin Healy BJ8 3000
‘I love the design and craftsmanship of each of the different models. Looking at them brings joy into my life and in our continued search and love of Austin-Healeys we’ve built up a large marketplace. We now sell Austin-Healeys worldwide – even though we only buy them in the US.
‘And one thing I never forget?
‘That in the history of British sports cars the Austin-Healey name is immortal.
-Alex Manos, Owner

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