In 1997 when the car was
at Absolutely British being partially restored, or resuscitated, as the
case may be, I had a word processor. That made it easy to write and
edit. I started writing about the Austin Healey, making additions as
memories came to mind. By the time I sold the car, I had a computer.
Gathering up all the information and entering it all into the computer gives the following result:
in High School. His father had raced sports cars, and owned an MG
TF. I rode in it a few times when we were chasing the last of
locomotives around Southern California.
I hired out
on the railroad in September of 1955. My father and I went with Lou Ida
Caster's father to an auto auction and bought a 1950 Ford two door
sedan with a V-8, my first car.
Several years later
when looking at sports cars, I asked Bob Trennert's father to look at a
used Austin Healey. He asked why I wanted a used car when he could get
me a new Austin Healey for a good price. Through his racing experience
he knew the people at Gough Industries, the importer. We talked to them
and a new Austin Healey without wire wheels and without overdrive was a
lot cheaper and within reach. The overdrive would have been handy on
long trips. Over the years, the optional hard top would have been
valuable for warding off the Southern California sun. The cloth top was
a good safety measure for listening to traffic around the car. I missed
the additional warning when I bought a VW Rabbit with air conditioning
and radio. Of course, the soft top was useless if you ever got the car
upside down. Also handy was unbuttoning the top. You could place
lengthy objects from the foot well on the passenger side and out the
rear of the car. When my father was participating in a funeral for a
fellow pastor, he took a shepherd's staff from the Christmas pageant
supply and had it hanging out the back of the Austin Healey. When my
mother later came home
with their car, I drove her to the Church and we traded cars so they
would have a car better suited for a funeral procession. The black top
seemed to concentrate the heat from the Southern California sun, and
sweat often glued my shirt to the back of the seat. The car did not
ventilate very well. The fan did little more than to stir up the hot
air around my feet. A disadvantage was the plastic rear window, which
was small and eventually fogged over. Later soft tops had a larger
window, but the plastic window still did not stay clear any longer than
before. I soon put mirrors on the fenders over the front wheels. A
fellow church member by the name of Elton Peterson had a body shop.
After making sure where I really wanted the holes, one of his men
drilled them. A car ahead of me on the freeway kicked up a piece of
plastic. It wrapped itself around the mirror. It turned out to be a
sturdy piece of plastic sheeting. After roaring in the breeze for
several miles without showing any signs of shredding itself, I went off
the freeway to remove it, take it home for proper disposal and to
finish the trip in a much quieter manner. Elton also welded the
Panhard rod bracket when it broke away from
The gate and the
fence along the driveway supported a luxuriant growth of passion flower
vines. If the vines were not trimmed back, opening the gate would
compress the vines enough to where the vines could push the wheel on
the gate up and over the edge of the driveway, freeing the gate to pop
out into the driveway. It happened to my father once when the back
window was difficult to see through. There was no damage to the car. An
old and weathered 2x4 was no match for the bumper of an Austin Healey.
One of the times the
rear window got too fogged over to live with, I drove to Santa Monica
to buy a new top. As I walked down the street, a car pulled over and
the man asked me which way Olympic Blvd. was. I told that I was sorry,
I was not familiar with Santa Monica. With a hearty laugh as he drove
away he said that it was good I had not asked him.
After a few years, I left the top up all the time. The top was hand
powered, and meant folding the top with the plastic window into the
space provided. I doubt that it did any good to the plastic window.
Later, if I wanted the top down, I removed two bolts and left the
entire top in the basement. That helped to save the rear window. Other
than during the rainy season in Southern California, rain showers are
very unlikely and not a consideration.
Since I am 6 feet 1 inch tall, it did not take too long for a grease
spot to form on the top above where I sat. I soon learned to get the
keys out of my pocket before I folded myself into the car.
Sunburn was to be avoided. No one thought about it at the time, but
today a dermatologist would advise always keeping the top up to
forestall skin cancer.
At the time, the car business was good, and I had to wait a month or
two for the car. I bought the car out of savings and borrowing from my
The first trip I made was when my father and I filled the car with
goods collected for migrant work in Fresno. Making small packages and
taking out the bulkhead where the top folded gave more space. The
Gundlachs were fellow members at our church. They had been associated
with a farmer by the name of Greathouse who was interested in working
with the migrants. He had retired by 1958, and we left the goods at a
church in Fresno.
Buying the car direct from the importer and with no nearby dealer
handy, I had most of the work on the car done at a local gas station.
Carter, if I remember his name correctly, handled sports cars. For a
time he was restoring an old Rolls Royce. He had only one arm, the
other ended at the elbow. The only time I ever helped him was to get a
gearbox onto the car he was working on. To get a clutch lined up almost
requires three arms under the best of conditions.
At the time, imported cars were considered 'foreign'. Mechanics often
told me that they liked American cars and did not want anything to do
with foreign cars. You could get a lonely feeling when far from home.
One thing that stuck in my mind from my first trip east was seeing
advertising for the VW dealers when approaching their towns.
Many years later the starter began
to cause trouble. I took it to a
nearby starter and generator shop. As I walked up to the counter, the
owner stated that he did not work on foreign cars. Being a very
and talkative fellow, he talked himself into looking at the starter. He
poked it in several places with his wires and said that it should have
been jumping off the counter. There was a broken wire or it was
shorting out somewhere. With that knowledge, I went to the dealer and
bought a new starter.
Since they were a distinct minority, sports car drivers waved to each
other as they met on the road.
The speedometer stopped working during my first trip east. I had it
repaired after I got home. Even when new, the speedometer needle on
Healeys was not steady. Later I took it to a shop where one of the
specialties was tuning up speedometers and installing a better cable.
After that, the needle gave a rock steady reading. The tach was always
The windshield began cracking on the passenger side. A second crack
started and was going towards the driver's side. A fellow customer at
the gas station said that he had a windshield with a pit from a rock. I
could have it if I wanted, which I did. The pit was not in my normal
line of sight. I tried to put the glass into the frame, but did not
have any success. I chipped an edge. Then I want to a glass dealer and
they had no trouble getting the windshield into the frame. The
windshield had a decal for a fire fighters organization. Later the man
who gave me the windshield asked my why I had removed the decal. He
said that it might have kept me from getting a traffic ticket from the
The S.U. electric fuel pump sometimes caused trouble. I got the very
good advice at the gas station to buy a Bendix pump. You could forget
about them. They lasted a long time and never caused any trouble. One
handy feature of the electric fuel pumps was that you could hear the
pump clicking. I still do not know how one time I had not noticed that
the gas gauge was on empty. The pump started racing as I was going
around a freeway off ramp. I was almost late for a meeting. On the
way home, I stopped the motor at red lights and drove very carefully
until I got to a gas station. In this day of few gas stations, I would
have run out of gas.
There was a born comic at the gas station one time putting on quite a
show as he demonstrated how he drove and shifted gears with one hand,
while beating on the bulkhead behind the seat with his other hand in an
attempt to keep the S.U. fuel pump working.
While I had my reservations about the S.U. fuel pump, I always
appreciated the S.U. carburetors for their simplicity and very few
As it wore out, I always bought a new rubber pad for the brake pedal.
Don't want my foot slipping off the brake pedal. However, since the
clutch pedal had a longer travel, I never replaced the rubber pad on
it. My foot was long enough to conveniently slide over the metal of the
clutch pedal when changing gears.
The Healey functioned as the second family car for a while. My father
was a Lutheran pastor. Sports cars were still new, and people did not
expect to see the Pastor driving up in a bright red sports car. One
family got their movie camera when he left. Another time my father was
visiting a family. Their son had an Austin Healey and happened to be
visiting. My father called and invited me over. The son's wife got into
my car and looked around. She said that our car does not have this. She
got a funny look on her face when she realized that she had picked up
my Ivy League cap that was sitting atop the transmission.
The first long trip I took was in the fall of 1958 to West Virginia to
see the last of the steam locomotives on the Norfolk & Western.
Coming off the hill near Indio with the rear window still being new and
easy to see through, with no traffic and no police in sight, I squeezed
it up to 90 MPH for a mile or so. It was running well, felt stable, and
the tach was getting close to the red line. That was the fastest I ever
went in the car. I had not used it out west, but east of St. Louis,
third gear was handy for getting around slow trucks on curving roads.
In West Virginia, a car followed me for a while. I was driving a steady
speed while they would come charging up behind me on the short straight
portions of the road and then falling back when hitting the brakes for
A cute young girl hired out not long before I left for West Virginia.
One of my fellow employees said that I should cancel my vacation, the
telegraph operator was making progress with her. Being on my way to see
whatever steam engines I could find, I left without a second thought.
When I got back three weeks later, she was gone. The railroad had
disapproved her application. Having grown up in Southern
California, it was different to see businesses closed for the winter.
One waitress had watched me drive up to the restaurant. She asked how
someone as tall as I could get into such a low car. When I stopped for
gas in a small town in Michigan, a woman was bringing lunch from the
restaurant across the street to the attendant at the gas station. Out
of the corner of my eye, I could see her peering at the car through the
gas station window.
Late in the afternoon in Binghamton, NY, the clouds were very dark. The
man at the gas station said that it was too early to snow, and too cold
to rain. The car was always dry inside, and the heater worked well.
elderly relative in Minnesota needed to go to the store. Old age,
arthritis, and a low slung Austin Healey almost thwarted that errand.
Upon request, I was happy to oblige a young relative by driving him to
the front door of his High School. A Nebraska relative drove the car
around her small town, a short drive indeed. Another relative in
Nebraska rode along for about 100 miles to visit one of her daughters.
From what she said years later, she was just as interested in riding in
a sports car. With the low car, I had to drive carefully to get to
their farm. The next morning was one of the few times there was frost
on the car. Her son-in-law sent me on my way with a free tank of gas
from his gas station in Ogallala.
During the benign winter weather of Southern California, with the top
down, the tonneau covering the passenger side, the heater on your feet,
an Ivy League cap on your head, with a good jacket you could remain
comfortable. I never used gloves. Differing temperatures were
noticeable when driving along the freeway past the hills and canyons of
Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
Over the years the car has been as high as the 11,990 feet of Loveland
Pass in Colorado before the tunnel bypassed the top of the hill, as
low as 282 feet below sea level at Badwater in California's Death
Valley, and many places between those two extremes. The trip in 1958
went as far east as Roanoke, VA. In 1965, I
drove east and visited my brother in Oneonta, NY. Two years later, I
drove to his new home in Gettysburg, PA. I drove one time each to
Denver, Durango, CO, and Seattle. The magazine of the Austin Healey
Club printed a series of articles by people that had traveled across
the United States in their Austin Healeys. They printed the article
that I submitted.
While I did not get any traffic tickets for speeding, I did learn to be
careful about speed limits. It was easy to attract attention and hard
to be inconspicuous in a bright red sports car.
I did get a ticket on night on the way to the railroad. It was for
failure to yield while making a left turn. I never saw the Sheriff, and
they may have been watching from a bad angle. There was no danger to
anyone, and the one or two cars on the street that late at night did
not have to do anything to avoid me. The Sheriff caught up with me at
the entrance to the railroad yard after I had gone three blocks,
stopping at three stop signs. It was hard to be anonymous in the bright red
Austin Healey as my fellow employees were arriving or leaving the
railroad as they changed shifts. It took a while to live that one down.
When being examined years later for jury duty, a judge asked me if I
had fought the ticket. I said that I had not, but that I would accept
the ticket for the times I may have deserved one. The operative word
One night I got stopped on Washington Blvd. just east of Alameda. At
that time there was a very sharp curve there on Washington Blvd. Being
in the Austin Healey and starting from a green signal, I did not have
to slow down going around the curve. The policeman may have thought I
was racing the car next to me. He did not do anything.
After looking at the lower radiator hose that had a tee for supplying
the heater, I carried extra hoses. The top hose always went first, and
was easy to change. I changed it once wearing my suit. One time at an
auto show I saw an Austin Healey with a brass tee in the radiator
hose. I thought it was a brilliant idea, you could easily find short
hoses, or cut a longer hose to fit. I complimented the owner on the
idea, but he said that he liked the color of the brass.
always carried tools. Much of the chrome wore off the flashlight from
all the years of bouncing around among the tools. Presumably, my
gizzard has fared better. A large See's candy box, after its initial
use, was a perfect fit for holding small tools behind the seat.
The Healey only quit out on the road one time. I had driven to
Washington D.C. from my brother's home in Gettysburg. Going over one of
the bridges in Washington the motor seemed to miss a beat. I was not
sure, but it was just enough to get my attention. There was no further
problem until I was a few miles from my brother's house. The car
stopped dead, as though someone had turned off the key. It was easy to
find the problem. The wire inside the distributor had worn through the
insulation and shorted out. Bending the wire away from the metal plus a
bit of tape got me going again.
One time my father and I were going to the D&RGW Narrow Gauge in
Durango, CO. At the top of the mountain near Durango, I thought I heard
a squeak. Later there was a noticeable squeak now and then. Then it
started squealing. We stopped several times but were unable to see,
smell, or find any problem. We nervously drove on until it was making a
loud screech, which suddenly stopped. Then we noticed that the
speedometer had stopped. The right angle gear out of the transmission
had seized. It damaged nothing but itself, and was easy to replace
after we got home. A small shaft and bearing made a noise that sounded
as though it had been a major problem.
Late at night in the rain in Oregon, the windshield wipers started
losing their proper cadence. When we stopped for gas, it turned out
that the wiper was leaving a bit of rubber on the windshield. A careful
cleaning of the windshield and a new wiper blade solved the problem.
Quite a few years later the wipers started to pause slightly now and
then. I could not find anything wrong until I left them running and
contorted myself under and around everything to look at the windshield wiper motor. By
the grace of God, I happened to be looking at the precisely the correct
angle and at the right time to see a spark through a crack in the motor
as the wipers started to slow. After taking the motor apart, I could
see where the bearing keeper had come loose and would move out and
short out the armature until it bounced back into place. Peening over a
bit of metal secured the bearing keeper and ended the trouble.
There was a windshield washer, thumb powered, on the dashboard. It got
water to the windshield, but then dribbled the rest of the water and
made a mess on the hood. I did not look for a solution to the problem,
and the washer soon fell into disuse.
The only time the car ever got hot was when I was stuck in some very
slow stop and go traffic on a hot day in Corona, CA. The temperature
went up to the limit. I turned on the heater and since I was going so
slowly, it was safe to pop the hood latch. That gave a bit of opening,
and maybe release some heat. The temperature held and the car did not
Later in the life of the car, a freeze plug began leaking. The plug
with the problem was on the rear of the motor, adjacent to the
By taking off the water pump and radiator, I was able to punch the plug
out with a long rod. There was just enough room to twist a wrench and
tighten a rubber plug in place. The others were easier to reach.
Several years later, I had forgotten about the plugs. One sprung a leak
as I was on my way to the first day of jury duty, just as I was
entering very slow stop and go traffic on the freeway bridge over the
railroad. I would stop the motor, and then catch up with the traffic
after it had moved a bit. I pulled out of traffic as soon as I could.
My father was retired by then. The Highway Patrolman was able to get
headquarters to call my father, and with water for the radiator and
another plug, we got the car off the freeway and back home.
Starting the motor to leave the railroad produced some strange noises
one day. The fan guard on the radiator had fallen into the fan and
punctured the radiator on its way to the ground. Leaving the radiator
cap loose so that it would not build up any pressure, and being about 4
miles from home, I was able to make it by adding water to the radiator
at two gas stations along the way. The radiator shop around the corner
plugged the damaged tubes and soldered the fan guard back in place so
that it would never fall off again.
Another time, after crossing some railroad tracks near home, smoke
started coming from underneath near my feet. Fortunately I was able to
pull over immediately to stop and turn everything off. Everything was
turned off before any real damage was done. The insulation on some
wires had worn through. Moving the wires away from a sharp edge and
winding some tape around them prevented it from happening again.
When I was working at 'A' Yard, the road where we parked was narrow.
One fine morning one of my fellow employees coming on duty was not
paying attention. He hit the left rear of my car. He paid for the
damage without any trouble. Since the car was in the shop, I paid for a
new paint job on the rest of the car. That is why it looked as good as
it did when I sold it.
There was only room
in the trunk for a small suitcase. Using small packages you could pack
more in around the suitcase. With the top up, the space into which the
top folded was available. The car was officially a four seater, but the
two rear seats were suitable only for children. My brother did ride
back from Bible Camp in those two seats. Fortunately he suffered
no ill effects.
The head has been off twice. The first time was when a tuneup indicated
that one cylinder was losing compression. The other time was coming
home from Ojai, CA. The car lost power going up the grade after leaving
Camarillo, an exhaust valve had burned. The rest of the trip continued
using only 5 cylinders. The oil pan has never been off the car. The clutch was replaced one time. A good
friend, Erik Hansen, helped out repairing the burned valve and the
Going downhill in third gear with your foot off the throttle, the
transmission would sometimes pop into neutral. One shop took a look at
it, without notable success. Absolutely British must have fixed the
problem, it also made it harder to shift into third gear. Driving the
car and shifting gears will likely smooth things out and free up the
The Austin Healey was a low car with little ground clearance. The trick
was to go into a driveway at an angle. Of course, someone attempting to
leave a parking lot may never have understood why I was driving in at
an angle. After driving the car for a
while, I had the muffler shop reroute the exhaust pipes and put them
out to the side behind the rear wheel. That saved scraping the exhaust
pipe all the time. With a heavy rain and water deep in the gutter, the
car sounded like a motorboat when the exhaust pipes went below the
water as I backed out into the street.
When the Austin Healey was in the shop for lube and oil, I happened to
come before they were finished. Looking underneath the car, there was a
fresh scar on the frame. I did not expect it to happen at a sports car
dealer. I politely mentioned the scar to the mechanic. He said that the
springs sometimes break. He took a closer look, and one of the leaves
was broken. The office recommended a spring shop that was not too far
away. They put in a new spring while I waited. It was a complete
spring shop. The employees in the back were heating and tempering
steel, with clouds of smoke and a flash or two of fire when they put
the red hot steel into the oil bath. The time passed rapidly, another
waiting customer was in the antimony business. He was friendly and
talkative and I learned about the business from mine to babbitt metal.
The underpass below the ATSF Railway on Atlantic Blvd. sometimes filled
from a heavy rain or when the drains were clogged. One night on the way
to work the water appeared to be high, but not over the curb of the
island in the middle of the street. I had the brakes dragging slightly
in an attempt to keep them dry as I drove slowly through the water. The
water was deeper than it looked. After going about two city blocks the
motor started sputtering. I pulled into a parking lot and dried off the
plugs and distributor, and had no further problems. On the way home, I
took a careful look and saw what I had not noticed before. The curb of
the island in the middle of the street was much higher than the curb
along the sidewalk. After that I was more careful, and knew where to
look to see the height of the water.
One time on a long drive I was going across the Anza Borrego desert. It
was a lightly traveled dirt road. There was sand on the road in several
gullies. In one of the longer gullies, the sand got uncomfortably deep.
It was no time to stop. Fortunately I got through, there might have
been a long wait for help. The two maps I had with me did not show the
road meeting the highway at the same place near Plaster City. A
campground was where the maps showed it to be, so I considered myself
properly on course. However, it would have been embarrassing getting
stuck in the sand out in the middle of the desert with maps that did
not agree on where the road was. Do not worry, this was during the cool
part of the year. Without a compelling reason, summer in the desert was
no place to be in an Austin Healey.
When the car was new, my father happened to be driving. Without
thinking, he drove over a beer can. It made a frightful clatter as it
went under the car. It did no damage, but he learned how low the car
was. Beer cans in that day were much more substantial than they are
One day my father had driven downtown and brushed against the
horizontal telephone pole marking off the end of the parking space.
When he got home, he looked at the car and the license plate was
missing. After the last meeting of the evening at church, he drove
downtown about 10PM. The license plate was still there. I then put
washers under the screws, and we had no further problems.
As far as tires go, I still had the original Dunlop tires when I was in
the rain crossing the pontoon bridge in Seattle. Climbing off the
pontoon portion the rear end of the car started edging sideways as I
crossed a section of metal grating. Being a British car and on British
tires I would have thought the car to be more at home in the rain of
Seattle than in the sun of Southern California. It did not cause any
hazard, but it sure got my attention. It is hazy, but when the first
set of tires wore down, I took them to be recapped by a local shop that
had a good reputation. It may have been a Pirelli tread. After that I
ran with Michelin tires. They lasted a long time. When the first set of
Michelin tires was new we were on a dirt road for at least 25 miles in
the Colorado Rockies. Since the radial tires had a bulge at the bottom,
I thought that with all the rocks they might suffer. The sidewalls were
untouched when we got home. When the car was partially restored, I sent
away for some Michelin's that were a bit taller and gave a bit more
Now and then the rear wheel would pick up a pebble or rock and bounce
it around the rear wheel well. With no insulation or undercoating, at times it would make quite a bang
right by your shoulder.
The rim of the steering wheel was small in diameter. Grabbing the
steering wheel put my finger tips into the palm of my hand. I soon
wrapped some cord around the steering wheel. That made for a larger
diameter. A few pins and some shellac kept it in place for the life of
the car. The steering wheel was much more comfortable for me after that.
On the drivers side a part between the door handle and the lock
eventually broke in half at a dogleg. It was easy to slide the plastic
window forward and use the outside handle to open the door. I brazed it
together later when I got around to it.
There was no effective way to lock the car. The driver's door had a
lock, but not the passenger door. The rear half of the plastic side windows
slid back and forth. There was no provision to lock them. The only
thing that held them in place was the friction of the felt that they
slid in. It would also be easy to unbutton the top to gain entry to the
car. By removing two wing nuts, each window could be entirely removed,
gaining some ventilation. A plastic envelope or envelopes were provided
for the windows, and they fit in the trunk.
The trunk (boot, in
British parlance) had a lock. The battery was in the trunk. There was a
switch on the battery cable inside the trunk. It shut off the entire
electrical system. Turning off the switch and locking the trunk helped
to keep the car where you left it.
jack that came
with the car was lousy. The castings were not machined. You would get
the car halfway up and the gears would jam. I bought a scissors jack
A nuisance in the
later life of the car was the gas tank. A small crack formed in the
weld between the tank and the tube that received the gasoline. I made
several attempts to seal the crack, but none were a permanent solution.
There was a welding shop near the railroad that advertised fuel tank
welding. I stopped there once, assuming that while welding they filled
the tank with some sort of inert gas. The man looked at me as if I were
attempting to blow up both him and his shop. Whatever fuel tanks were
to him, they were not to be found in an Austin Healey. After that I
never filled the tank quite to the top. Don't know what someone from
the Fire Department would say, but I got away with a few gas fumes now
and then. Absolutely British put in a new gas tank, as by then it was
also suffering from rust.
Since the railroad
yards were dusty, I covered the car with a car cover. It also helped
when there was dew. When the top was down, the inside of the windshield
would sometimes fog over when the car was parked.
The Healey was a
cold-blooded car. I nursed the car along by using the choke when I left
for work at midnight. After it warmed up, it was quieter. The choke was
underneath and by your knee, not easily found by someone unfamiliar
with the car. One time I was puzzled when a neighbor down the street
asked if I had been ill. I said no, I had not been sick. She said that
she had not heard my car going by on the way to work. I was happy to
tell her that I was on vacation. I never realized that she heard me
going by every night.
The speedometer has 147,000 miles on it. A time or two the speedometer
broke and I did not fix it right away. The car probably has at least
5000 more miles than the odometer shows.
Since I drove the car from 1958 to 1983, it later began to attract
attention as an old car. A number of people stopped to say that their
father or uncle had an Austin Healey long ago. One time late at night a
car followed me into the railroad as I went to work. The fellow was
telling his girlfriend that years ago his uncle had a car like mine. I
was somewhat suspicious, but he seemed to know about Healeys, and we
talked for a little while before I went into the Yard Office.
The car was getting old. In 1983, one rainy night while going to work
at the railroad, a car made a right turn in front of me from the
extreme left lane at Atlantic and Bandini. We were both almost stopped
when we hit. It did not do much damage to the car. That tipped my hand.
The Austin Healey was retired in favor of a used Volkswagen Rabbit
bought from the Hertz car rental people. It had very much appreciated
air conditioning and a radio. It took a while to get used to the
Rabbit. Driving the Healey, with the motor, gears, exhaust, tires, and
wind over the soft top, cruise control was unnecessary. You could hold
a steady speed without even thinking about it. With 25 years of
progress, air conditioning, insulation, and radio, indications of speed
were much more subtle in the Rabbit. I had to watch the speedometer
After retiring the car to the shed behind the garage, it sat on stands
until 1997. Absolutely British out in Ontario, CA worked on the car and
made it safe to drive again. I never did drive it much after that. The
oil pressure would fall from 55 lbs to 25 lbs after going a few miles
on the freeway. About 4 years ago the car would not start. My suspicion
was that the started relay was the problem, but I never did anything
The car was sold to Kurt Tanner in November 2007. With the car went the
original bill of sale, warranty, owners manual, the two original keys,
and a shop manual that I bought when the car was new. I had scanned
hundreds of slides into my computer. Mainly steam locomotives. I
emailed Kurt about 30 of the better pictures of the Austin Healey and
also a copy of this memoir as it stood at the time.
My brother asked me how I did in terms of money for the 49 years that I owned the car.
To begin with, it was bought as transportation, not as an investment.
The value after 49 years was only the frosting on the cake.
Since the car did not have overdrive or wire wheels, it was not as
valuable as it might otherwise have been. Over the life of the car, the
lack of wire wheels and overdrive had saved on maintenance costs.
In dollar terms money had slightly more than doubled. In compound
interest that is a rate of about 2%. As noted below, that is far below
the inflation rate. It does not take into account income taxes on the
interest, nor does it take into account the cost of having the car
While the stock market has always been around, in those days we did not
have all the investment opportunities that we now have. The money would
have earned much more and become a more significant amount if I had
bought a cheaper and more utilitarian Volkswagen and invested the left over
money in the Templeton Mutual Funds. While I was not aware of them,
they were among the few mutual funds around at the time.
In the 49 years, inflation has eroded my dollars. The last 5 cent Coke
that I remember was in 1954 at Tucumcari, NM. In 2006 the vending
machine in the hallway where my mother and I waited outside the
doctor's office for the van demanded 75 cents for a Coke. That is an
inflation rate a little over 5%. An economist or accountant would know
more about the subject.
Regardless of the above considerations, I put a substantial check into the offering at church the Sunday after I sold the car.
The Austin Healey sitting in the garage was neither a cost nor a
benefit whether I was at home or in the hospital. With the car now
gone, the neighbor's cat will have fewer places to be concealed when I
close the garage door. She has spent several nights and even a whole
day locked up when I did not realize she was prowling around in the
garage as I closed the door.
Recently while prowling around in the computer I found that the car now
has a new home in Italy. My brother, who has far more wanderlust
than I do, considered it a reason sufficient to justify a field trip to
Italy. I will leave any such travel to my two brothers and their