BJ8 - Michael Olive
From my late teens through my twenties the car I really wanted was a 6 cylinder Austin-Healey, I settled on an MGB. The Big Healey was relatively scarce in Australia at that time but not so much these days as lots have been imported from England and the US, with most of the US cars converted to right hand drive. Approaching 60 years of age I realized that it really was about time to finally own one, even if I could barely afford it.
My knowledge of the value of Healeys was actually pretty sparse at that time and the prices seemed very high to me. I finally located what seemed to be a reasonable BJ8 for a fair price on Ebay. A large drawback was that the car was located in the US and with only landed residence papers I could not travel to the States under the new border crossing rules. So in June 2007 I purchased the car in the worst possible way; on Ebay, from a dealer, sight unseen. The dealer sent me a lot of photographs but of course they are certainly no substitute for actually inspecting the car. It was described by the salesman as an 8 out of 10 car but was actually more a 6/7. Stupid of me - yes, potentially disastrous - also yes, typical of some of the rash things I often do - definitely.
Sensibly, I used a customs broker to import the Healey which solved a lot of potential problems. It would be nice to relate that when I first saw the Healey in July I was really impressed. However, it actually looked a little forlorn as the front bumper mounting was sprung and it was noticeably askew. Also, the upholstery was not in great shape, the body looked reasonably good though.
Now a convoluted story gets even more so. I hired a tow truck to take my car to a good specialist mechanic in order to have it prepared for inspection and registration. I knew absolutely nothing about where to take the car in Vancouver but eventually narrowed it down to two workshops. This was Friday afternoon and the place I preferred was closing soon and not open on Saturday. I was not too keen on leaving the Healey on a Vancouver street over the weekend so I chose the other place - big mistake. To keep it short, they had the car for so long that I had to leave it there over Winter as there was no way to drive it back to Trail in Central BC. In the meantime, my family had found an online article about Roy Moore “Mr. Austin-Healey” and I immediately phoned him. Roy was great and we arranged for me to drive the Healey to the Island for him to check it out.
When I finally picked my car up (paying what i thought was an inflated bill) it appeared that the workshop had done almost nothing as it was really out of tune and would not idle. In addition. the brakes seemed really soft and how it passed inspection is totally beyond me. Needless to say, the drive though Vancouver traffic to the ferry terminal was a nightmare but we finally made it to Roy's in one piece. Roy’s help and hospitality were absolutely amazing, he worked on the car for hours and fixed all the numerous problems. I am proud to say that Roy and I became good friends. After the repairs, the 630 kilometre drive back to Trail was great fun and I finally able to appreciate just how incredible this 40 plus year old car is.
I arranged with Roy to bring the Healey back before next Winter for the first stage of a restoration - a full mechanical rebuild. I drove the car to the 2008 Northwest meet at Harrison Hot Springs and on the way there the tachometer stopped working, the main muffler blew out and the right hand rear wheel started an alarming wobble. Driving quite slowly, I got the Healey to Vancouver and Roy picked it up there, wisely using a trailer. The engine was completely rebuilt, including the carburetors, as was the gearbox, brakes and a tubular exhaust manifold that I purchased installed. In addition the radiator, exhaust system and gas tank were replaced and a set of 5 1/2 J chrome wheels fitted. When I picked up the Healey it was far more powerful and drivable with Roy declaring that it was the strongest six cylinder engine he had built. The cost was very reasonable considering the extensive work done. At this point I would like to state that the help given to me by Roy went far beyond what could be expected, he was a valued friend and his untimely passing saddened me greatly. I still think of my Healey as “Roy’s 3000” ,
Since then The Healey has given me miles of pleasurable and exciting driving, including several trips to Vancouver. I have never for a moment regretted my purchase. Since the rebuild the upholstery has been redone and Michelin XAS tires fitted but body wise the car is still much the same as when I picked it up.
The accompanying photo was taken on the day I picked the Healey up from the customs broker.
Editors Note: Michael moved down Under to Melbourne Australia. He took his car with him and is currently having it converted to Right Hand drive. Michael continues to be a club member and we look forward to his articles for Wings.