by Russell Corvese
Like most good car stories this one isn’t just about the car, rather, it involves a whole series of life events that culminates with a restoration project that takes four years to finish. The car had no business being restored—it was beyond death—but what did I know having never taken on such a project in my life. Thankfully, there were many who supported me throughout the journey.
The story starts like this: My dad buys a new car in 1960. He was a Marine Engineer, coming off a ship following one of his journeys at sea, having saved $3,000, and handing a wad of money over to a sales manager who initially blew off this young pup thinking there was no way he could afford a new Austin-Healey. I enter the picture in 1963—but you should know the man I call dad is not actually my dad. My real dad passes away in 1970. The man I now call “Dad” is my childhood friend’s stepfather who lived across the street.
This man accepted me into his family as if I was his own. He nurtured my curiosity and interest in all things mechanical. All of the experiences and lessons he taught me working on engines, boats, and mechanical things would serve me well throughout my life, and especially during the years restoring his car. And during those four years I can tell you so many memories came back into my mind. Even though dad lives in Maryland and I live in California, through this restoration it felt like he was across the street again.
The car was my dad’s daily driver for years, taking it to and from the Bethlehem Steel shipyard for almost 10 years. Between the ore dust, rain, snow, salt and Mother Nature, the car was on a path to destruction. It sat on the curb across the street from me in constant eyesight—or perhaps a constant eye sore to some of our neighbors—from about 1972 to 1986, never being run and eventually towed to a pleasant waterfront home near Easton, Maryland, where it sat once again until March of 2014. There’s a whole story in and of itself about how I came to muster the courage to ask for the car. It involves a little beer, a Super Bowl Party, and a conversation with my good British friend who owns a whole fleet of Minis—and I should mention he has much needed garage space, car lift, tools, sand blasting equipment, you name it.
When I did finally pop the question to my dad, I’ll never forget him saying, “Okay, but it has a lot of rust.” Talk about the understatement of the century.
Four years of work. As we disassembled the car, I found things that I had long ago fixed as part of the “Kid Repair Crew” when I was in my early teens. I employed help where needed (mainly chassis, body work, paint), but I wanted to do as much of the work as possible myself. I relied extensively on Moss Motors throughout the process—your support and service was stellar and most appreciated, and there were times where I asked for favors and you were always kind enough to accommodate me.
There’s so much more to the story, including the technical challenges, but I’ll leave that for later, in the event you are interested. MM
We’re very interested, Russell! —Ed.