Long Drives With Dad: The Vintage Austin Healey 100-Six

Mar 05, 2014

 

If you are an Anglophile looking for a roadster with dashing looks, Le Mans racing provenance and a major dose of English charm, then an Austin Healey may just be the ideal choice.

Austin Healey occupies a unique niche in the hierarchy of British Sports Cars.  With classic Aston Martins now commanding stratospheric prices, and vintage Jaguar XKs climbing confidently into the six figure range, the Austin Healey is the sensible alternative, yet still far more rakish and rare than the MGs and Triumphs which populate the more affordable end of the spectrum.  The later Healeys had a brawny straight six engine, which produces a sound just as memorable as the gorgeous shape and sloping rear of the car’s voluptuous body. The Healey didn’t have the aristocratic pretensions of the Jaguar XK, but they competed successfully both in the States and in Europe in the 1950s, including Le Mans and the Monte Carlo Rallye. A streamlined Healey special even set world land speed records at Bonneville in 1953.

If I sound partial to the Healey, there’s a very personal reason: My father had an Austin-Healey 100-Six when I was a very small lad, and like many car aficionados, my early fascination with automobiles centered around my father’s garage. The car was silver-blue metallic with creamy white flanks and a falling beltline that tapered all the way to the tail.

As a small kid, it wasn’t hard to fall in love with something so beautiful, where all the glorious detail happens right at the eye level of a 4-year-old.  Any classic British car is a feast of smells, sounds, and sensory inputs that imprint themselves very indelibly on a young mind.

The Healey is a magnificent machine to look at and to drive, but it’s not without quirks and problems. Heat is the primary bugaboo of the Healey. My father recalls vividly the occasion when he and my uncle were so unbearably hot that my uncle felt compelled to remove his pants and use them like a wind sock to funnel air into the footwell of the car, using the waistband to capture air from over the windscreen and direct it down each leg and into either side of the cockpit! The gambit was only partially successful—my father’s new gum sole shoes still melted from the heat in the pedal box.  Still, he spins many positive memories of the car; its heavy, solid steering feel, and magnificent carbureted engine note, the fond memories of driving it in the Fourth of July parade in our hometown. If you are a dad thinking of a classic car to share with your child, why not pick up a Healey and make some memories of your own?

Words by: Bradley Pricea New York-based designer, car nut, racing history buff.  He founded the Autodromo brand in 2011, and divides his spare time between his stable of vintage Italian cars and running the car blog Automobiliac.


Related Posts

Taavo Takes New York
View Feature
Taavo Takes New York   How the founder of Freemans built the city of his dreams.
American Hustle
View Feature
American Hustle First-Amendment warrior Larry Flynt on Trump's lies, the wonders of sex, and his one true regret
Scosha
View Feature
Scosha On a warm summer afternoon, we met with Australian jeweler Scosha Woolridge at her Williamsburg storefront and studio on Grand Street in Williamsburg. Since 2013, she has been meticulously handcrafting her eponymous Brooklyn-based jewelry collection with the help from her husband, Joe,  and team of classically trained artisans.
Mexican Mule: A Spin On A Classic From South of the Border
View Feature
Mexican Mule: A Spin On A Classic From South of the Border The heat is on. Barbeques are on the horizon. Time to take a day off, and pour yourself a cold one. If you’re in the market for a new drink, we recommend a new spin on a classic, a Mexican Mule.  
Back to the Future, Italian-style
View Feature
Back to the Future, Italian-style A coffee-table book with all the right curves.
Back to The Journal
Liquid error: Could not find asset snippets/modify_lightbox_snippet.liquid