First off, I have a confession to make. My car’s not really a Triumph. It’s an Austin-Healey 100-6, 1959 vintage. Unlike the proverbial virtuous maid in the sleaze bar, the Healey has seen its share of “Whoas,” and rust, and car abuse. But in early August, I like to sneak out of Pittsburgh with “Dirty Harry,” as I affectionately call Donald M. Healey CBE’s “Better Idea,” to do a little autocrossing at a big summer shindig.
Now, the crew there drive a lot of MG and Triumph stuff, but I don’t hold anything against anybody these days. I pay my money with a smile and they take my money with a smile. (Or are they really laughing at the rust around the fender cut-outs or the burnt paint around the non-standard louvers punched crookedly into the primered hood?) But, hey, these guys are all right. I think they even let a Ford Falcon sneak in one year. Imagine, a rusty Healey and a Falcon! Heck, I’ve been to events where you practically got thrown out if your numbers didn’t match. I have to tell these dudes that I can’t find my number plate and stamping because of all the grease, grime, and oil sticking to the parts under the svelte skin of my powerful machine. Then I leave!
Actually, it doesn’t bother me if they smile and giggle. Dirty Harry doesn’t run too bad; he’s sort of what you might call a Q-ship. Underneath all that “sin and corruption” he’s a full-tilt, street prepared, autocross Q-ship. Just like those disguised destroyers in the war which blew the unsuspecting enemy clean out of the water when they revealed their concealed weapons! By the time Dirty Harry swings around the last rubber ducky, a lot of smiles have turned upside down and sunk into those guys’ necks. Usually somebody will come over and ask how many Webers does a Healey like that take, or what kind of V8 is under the hood.
Well, anyway, there’s this guy named Jeff who trailers in a TR250 from Buffalo or somewhere, and that is one nasty mean machine. It looks it too, with wide race tires, flares, a hood cut out with three dual 45 DCOEs peeking out, roll bar, you name it! No, it ain’t no Q-ship, but its owner Jeff comes close! Smiles nice, shakes hands friendly, and then goes out and kicks gluteus maximus all over the place! Check out his diamond earring. That’s the Q-ship tip off. I don’t wear mine because the little rascals fall out of your ear when you pull off your helmet faster than parts fall off the Healey’s Skinners Union carbs. ‘Course, Jeff does have Webers, remember?
All this “psych” makes for a pretty good dice for FTD. Besides, there is also a GT6 that is straight out of “Star Wars,” it’s so high-tech, and a Lotus 7 from Pittsburgh, and a couple of V8 MGBs, and last year there was a mean TR4 with gigantic fog lights. Everyone waits around not wanting to make the last run till the enemy makes their move to see who can get FTD, but it usually comes down to Jeff and myself—the John Deere run-alike versus the Longbridge boat anchor!
Jeff won this year because I couldn’t get around that pivot cone at the far end of the runway fast enough. My door popped open a little and I got to sliding out of the seat, harness and all! All I could see was a little bit of daylight through the steering wheel above the dash and the spoke of the wheel looked for all the world like crosshairs on a bomb sight! But, dammit, I was sighting weeds, and pretty soon I was driving into the weeds, then out of the weeds and a cloud of western Pennsylvania dust! When the dust settled, Jeff had FTD and I had second with the red TR4 third. Not too bad for a 30-something car that needs bungee cords to hold the doors shut.
I know what my kid and I are going to do when next August rolls around. I’ve heard about this bunch of guys in east Los Angeles who have these real cool cars all decked out with fancy paint and chrome, and I think they even have neon lights under the car. But the really neat thing is that these cars can hop! That’s right—hop! Those dudes trick out the Chevys to hunker way down on the street then push a button, and as quick as you can say, “Wham-bam thank you…” those little devils go hoppin’ down the street! Then the drivers hit the “hunker-button” again and the car stoops real low and drags a plate, and sparks shoot out and the Chevy hops, and pretty soon there are all these beautiful cars hunkerin’ and spraggin’ and sparkin’ down the boulevard!
My son and I are thinking of taking Dirty Harry out to LA to get lots of chrome and metal flake paint, and a little neon too, just real tasteful. Maybe some neon around the antique license plate and just a little bit under the hood. You know, so it will show through the louvers, like the engine’s real cool but hot into the bargain. And tasteful, like I said. Then we’re going to teach Harry to hop!
Next August, I’ll come around that dang pivot cone, pretend like I’m sliding into the weeds, then hit the button and go hoppin’ and spraggin’ up that last straight throwing sparks off that Healey muffler. (D.M.H. must have known sparks were going to be important and put those mufflers on real low!) Then at the banquet, with real china and silverware, when Jeff and the other pilots tome up and ask how Dirty Harry beat them this year, I’ll just smile, shrug, and say, “Beats me, now just pass the neon. Man!”