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Austin-Healeys - First Page
1955 Austin-Healey "100" BN1
Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, California  1962 - 1963
Starter 1:43 Le Mans Healey model     Thumbnail:  the '55 Healey 100 in San Diego, 1963

On the left, the Starter model of the 1953 LeMans cars, supplied with extra 3s and 4s you may apply to suit your taste. The article on Healey Page 3 et seq, as well as word and pictures from the current Australian owner of one of the actual cars, indicates the color should be a green of about the same tone (after a little correspondence with an influential seller in France, Starter has made the change, and current examples are color-correct).

On the right, posed in the driveway-parking space of a Wilson Street apartment complex off Adams Avenue. Joe Ternes, one of his homies from Palm Springs, and I lived here during the Fall '62 semester. We were in graduate school, Psychology, at San Diego State College (It would not become a University until many years later).

The '55 wasn't a good example of the breed. I bought it the day Kennedy fronted off Khrushchev, and listened to the radio broadcast as the salesman at "Champion Motors" filled out the papers.

On this guy's lot were two Healeys: the one I bought, and a '56. The later one was red, and much, much more desirable, but cost three times what I could afford. I think Joe Ternes went there later and bought it.

"...Today is the Second Day Of Infamy..."

Today is the Second Day Of Infamy. 9-11-01. Joe's two older children, who
were childhood friends of Geneva, live in Manhattan. She called Joe and spoke with him.
He said all his children were with him. They had been visiting, and were about to get in the car and drive back to New York, when young Joe checked his email and was told to turn on the TV to see the news.

The white car had a cheesy red slash that I quickly covered and filled in with flat black, as in the photo. I also razor-bladed off the Porta-walls™ and did the wheels in my "Lotus Mag-Emulation" style, perfected on the TD. On that car I painted the wheels with black poster-paint, which would wash off, if I didn't like it. I liked it, so sprayed it with clear laquer, which lasted surprisingly long.

Someone had filled the Healey's body-to-fender seams with bondo, smoothed it all off, and then painted the car in Appliance White. It had been red, judging by the interior panels. I found some half-inch wide chrome tape and laid it on over the seams where it broke up the uggle somewhat.

There was no top, no rear bumper or trunk lock, the overdrive solenoid was missing, as were the frame brackets and bushings for the antisway bar, there was no heater. It had been reversed polarity-wise, and ran a Ford generator.

I found a pair of NOS front shocks somewhere and an alignment shop where they promised to install the shocks and do an alignment for $45. When he jacked the thing up and the front wheels came off the ground, the left one flopped out, dragging the old shock right off the frame. The car had been run with loose shock bolts for long enough that the holes in the frame were worn threadless. The right one wasn't much better. Since that spectacle I have spent a lot of time torquing shock bolts on British cars (and a few Datsun roadsters) at tech inspections.

The alignment guy welded some grade 7 nuts into the holes, and everything came out well. He worked on it all afternoon, and didn't charge extra. He also surprised me with new brackets and bushings for the front anti-swaybar, gratis. What a good guy. He treated this starving grad student very well.

I drilled a hole in the transmission cover and hooked a sturdy wire to the overdrive lever. A section of bicycle inner tube at the end of the wire and looped over one of the dashboard knobs held it in overdrive. It worked fine for a couple of months while I saved up for a solenoid. And a clutch.

After I had driven it for a month or three the clutch started slipping. I eventually took it to Harry Codianne's place in Pacific Beach. He said the cure
"...Hot CCl4 makes a lethal gas like those used in WWI..."
was to replace the clutch cover and plate, after a line-bore of the block and a special machine-job on the rear main seal. Otherwise the clutch would again fail. I had exactly no hope of coming up with money for that. He replaced the parts and a throwout bearing, all for $95, parts included. There must be something irresistible about an old Healey and a starving student. I found a fellow who tuned the wire wheels for $5 each plus a dollar a new spoke. See what I mean?

Harry told about racing a Healey at Sebring in the mid-50s. He said they connected the overdrive switch to the foot-operated dimmer switch: foot on the switch, overdrive; foot off, straight drive. He also said the clutches in those cars slipped, too. They had not the knowledge nor the facilities for a machined cure, so what did they do? Drilled and threaded a hole into the bell housing, screwed in a tube pointed at the flywheel, and connected a carbon tetrachloride fire extinguisher. When the clutch started to slip a couple of pumps on the handle during a clutch-pedal depression washed off the oil, and it would grip for a few more laps. Hot CCl4 makes a lethal gas like those used in WWI. Could be a killer, even in an open car.
During winter break I drove the car home to San Bernardino (most of the time I had this car, I lived in Tijuana, Mexico), where I removed the cylinder head to do a valve job and port-and-polish. The valves weren't that bad, but the seats were sunken so that the hard surface was practically gone. A shop in Riverside put in new seats, took minimal metal off the head to level it, all for $23. Amazing. I did a good port-and-polish job (had experience with a TD and a TF MG), and put it back together.

I don't remember why there were so many wires taking power off one of the coil terminals, but it wouldn't start until I disconnected all but the ignition wire. When it did start, boy did it run good! Very, very good. So good that I really hated to trade it in on the '60 3000, when that time came.

The transmission stopped shifting, seemed to be stuck in more than one gear. I managed to struggle to a dismantler, where they sold me a used box for $60.

With my brother under the car undoing (and then doing)
fasteners, and me
"...I did love it, though, And it ran good..."
crouched in the cockpit with a rope around my shoulders and the transmission(s), we managed to replace it. The "new" one worked fine as long as I had the car. I also had to replace the freeze plug in the back of the block, through a hole in the firewall apparently put there by someone to solve that problem on a prior occasion..

At about the time I quit grad school and began working at a job the starter stopped starting. I had it tuned so good I could just push it for two steps, sit down and pop the clutch for a start. One of the people at my new job told another, "That guy is a little weird. Every night he goes out and takes his car for a walk before he drives it away." I had to wait three weeks for the first check before I bought a starter. It wasn't much longer before I did trade this car in on the 3000. Now that I think of it, I wonder how I managed to stay in school and nurse this car at the same time. I did love it, though. And it ran good.

Couple years ago, in a PBS documentary about the history of Tijuana I saw some old footage of it cruising the TJ streets.
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