It Begins

December 2021

"This isn't what I was expecting. I don't know what I was expecting, but this isn't it." - Dara seeing the Austin Healey for the first time.

The very brief story behind the Austin Healey is that my father bought it in about 1982. He drove it to work over the next couple of years. Then during a cross country move in 1984, it started having some trouble with vapor lock, and broke down in Illinois. It was towed from there to Lexington Virginia. There he got it running well enough to go around the block, but not much further. From there it was towed to way upstate New York and spent three years in our garage, then five years in a literal barn while we were out of the country. Finally, it was towed to Colorado in the mid-90s and has spent all of the last 25-years or so in a garage except for one snowy trip by trailer between Colorado Springs and Broomfield. So it has sat for nearly forty years at this point.

Earlier this year I had a pretty good time replacing the timing chain in our Audi, and thought that some sort of project car might be fun. My first thought was BMW E30 because I had a great time driving one a few years ago. Then I remembered the Austin Healey that had been sitting in the garage for so long. I got permission at Thanksgiving, and we scheduled the move for December.


The move went reasonably smoothly. Just one little hiccup getting it on the trailer. Between the car's minimal ground clearance, fifty year old springs, and compression from the come along, it got a little hung up on the exhaust hanger getting it on the trailer. Really not much of a problem at all. From there it was a quick pull down the driveway with a tow strap, and then pulling it up into the garage with a come along. And there it is, in its new home.


Our schedule was a little messed up because of other obligations that came up, so we didn't have as much time as we'd originally hoped. Really just enough to get it into the garage and perform a very brief inspection. From what we could see:

  •  It seems to be largely complete
  • Overall there doesn't appear to be a huge amount of rust. Most of it is surface, though there are a couple of places where it's deeper. The frame seems solid, but needs a closer inspection
  • The previous owner made an absolute mess of the wiring. There's some sort of half-assed negative ground coversion, and what appears to be old speaker wire running all over the engine compartment. He also installed some sort of electronic ignition system. Fortunately, we found a brand new complete wiring harness inside the car
  • The interior is missing carpets, but appears to be mostly there otherwise
  • The brake pedal does nothing
  • The clutch pedal does nothing
  • All of the rubber is completely dried out
  • The engine oil was remarkably clean looking

So, it seems we'll be able to stick with the original plan. The goals are to make sure it's structurally sound and safe (as a car from the 50s with no safety features can be), get the mechanics running reasonably well, and try to prevent what rust there is from getting worse. It's never going to be a concours-level car. And that doesn't seem like much fun anyway. It's meant to be driven. We'll try to keep it original where we can and it makes sense.

The first step will probably be getting the engine running. So something along the lines of - clean out the fuel system, rebuild the carbs, replace hoses and belt, swap fluids, borescope the cylinders, turn over manually, cross our fingers and give it a try. Then troubleshoot and work our way through the other systems.