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1955 Austin-Healey "100" BN1
Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, California 1962 - 1963
'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.
|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
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
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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MEL TORMÉ Tests the Austin-Healey "100" (Old Paper Page 3)
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