By Ted Eayrs
Most English sports cars of the 50’s and 60’s still being driven have little or nothing in the way of a complete history of ownership. For those that do it is usually oral, with little in the way of actual documented evidence. This was not the case with the 1962 Austin Healey 3000 Mk II I purchased in Houston TX in September of 2019. The car had been in storage for 33 years and was last registered by its original owner, William Poole, in 1986. With 44,000 miles on the odometer, the car came with the original Bill of Sale from Falvey Imported Cars on Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI, early service records and a large box, containing receipts, articles and publications, 1962 – 1990, from Austin Healey Clubs across the country. I should add there was also the obligatory box of new and used spare parts.
The car had been purchased by Bill and Linda Poole in December of 1962, the year they were married, while Bill was in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Port Austin, Michigan. Back then English sports cars were the distinctive way to travel and the big Healey was the most coveted of them all. According to Linda, they drove the car everywhere, summer and winter. On one occasion Linda encountered a “hump” in the pavement, which punctured the oil pan and wiped out the clutch slave cylinder. (It is generally agreed that ground clearance was the Achilles heel of the big Healeys.) Bill was an electrical engineer and the Pooles ended up in Houston TX, where they became active in the local Gulf Coast Austin Healey Club.
The Pooles took good care of the Healey during the 24 years they drove it and recorded only two other mishaps, one, when a garbage truck backed into the boot and another in which a neighbor accidentally backed into the left front fender. The dent combined with mechanical issues relating to failed natural rubber seals and other problems resulted in the car being placed in storage, with plans to restore it when time permitted. Bill passed away in 2016 and was never able to fulfill his dream.
In late 2017 Mike Barone of Houston was able to purchase the car as part of a business deal with Mrs. Poole, after learning of the car from Roger Williams, a well known long time Healey/British car expert, owner of Suspect Racing in Bernard TX and a friend of the Pooles. Over the next two years, as Mike set about rebuilding the failed original components, he became aware that the car was completely original, right down to the lock washers, tool kit, battery cover and side curtain case. The front of the car still had its original paint and the engine, transmission and rear end were completely functional. The years had, however, gotten the best of the padded dash top, the seats, and the carpet.
Mike did extensive work of the highest quality in carefully reviving a long dormant engine and drivetrain. In addition to brake work and hydraulic cylinder repair he sent out other engine components for re-building along with the ever so finicky triple carburetors. While completing this considerable amount of work, he did not register the car and the Title remained in the name of William Poole, complete with a set of 1986 Texas plates. Mike reluctantly offered the car for sale to fund a second career—he purchased Today’s European Cars (a Mercedes, BMW and Audi shop in Houston) and I became the successful bidder.
When I took delivery of the car in Massachusetts, I was immediately faced with decisions as to how and to what extent I should restore a car in original condition and with an unbroken history. Most if not all Healey 3000’s require complete dismantling. Chronic body rust and worn out mechanical components leave no other choice. This car was different and required a different approach.
Dis-assembly did not make much sense for a number of reasons, but the primary one was that the car did not require it, and making it conform to a “concourse” standard would physically erase its history. I have been involved in historic preservation for over 50 years and several projects have involved important, historic horse drawn vehicles, including carriages owned by John Hancock and Alfred Vanderbilt. The approach with these vehicles was to preserve as much of the original as possible and accurately replace what had failed. This was to be the approach I took with the BT7.
Cleaning the vinyl panels, dash, engine compartment and boot, coupled with a vinyl polish, restored these components to acceptable condition. The same was true of the chrome. The seat upholstery, foam cushions, carpet and padded dash were not salvageable and replacements were ordered. Since I was blending new and old surfaces the color match on these components had to be exact. The slightest deviation and the interior would have looked like a patch job in need of total replacement. It is important to recognize Moss Motors and the quality of the parts they sell. This can be illustrated by the padded dash. It was installed next to the original dash itself and blended perfectly. The body itself was in a remarkable state of preservation. There was really no serious rust and what I found could cleaned and encapsulated. Minor rust at the point where the rear quarter panel meets the rocker panel was cut out and spot welded, leaving the panels in place.
The exterior paint was in poor condition and I reluctantly concluded that the outside of the car would have to be stripped and repainted, since any new paint would not properly adhere to the weakened surfaces. It was important to replicate the original paint package, which consisted of a charcoal gray sealer, a red oxide primer and a Colorado red topcoat. Locating the sealer and primer was not a problem, but the Colorado Red was a challenge. Turns out that the color was used on a variety of cars over a number of years. In addition, the color changed over time supposedly from a yellower red to a whiter one. This meant that paint codes even if they could be found would not necessarily be useful. Instead I buffed up a surviving section of a fender and inside the boot had had them computer matched. The resultant shade of red was identical to the original. The finish was applied over a four-day period followed by several days of careful re-assembly.
Since then, driving the Healey has been an absolute pleasure, and I like to think that the car looks exactly like it did when the Pooles picked it up that December day in 1962. The car is not brand new, but most of the car they picked up is still in service. The car is also special because I bought a ’58 Healey 100-6 in 1969, while I was in graduate school at the University of Michigan. I even bought parts from Falvey Imported Cars. Then as now a big Healey was the car to own. At that time my limited budget and academic schedule combined with a limited knowledge of British mechanics made for some “interesting” experiences along the way, but I always loved the car, even after I sold it. This makes the ’62 special because I now have the knowledge and patience to restore it correctly and also the time to enjoy it. Fifty years and nothing beats the sound of a big Healey cruising down a country road on a summer night.