Wednesday, April 22

The other convertible

Reader Susan says, “Now it would be the cherry on the cake to keep searching till you find a pic of that OLDER car you started out with in the 1960s...”

The requests keep coming in! Here is the 1960 Austin Healy “Bug Eye” Sprite. (Often spelled Healey.) The picture above isn’t my car, but from a search on Google. Mine had a chrome-plated front bumper. The car had both a cloth top and a fiberglass hardtop. When I priced the car new, it was $1,850 plus an additional $500 for the hardtop. I waited and found a young couple who were starting college and already had a 1953 Chevrolet. Their Sprite, which had 1,800 miles on it and was six months old, was too expensive for them to keep. I got it for $1,850. No charge for the hardtop! To seal the deal they offered me a cup of coffee. It was so weak it was nearly toxic—I could see clear to the bottom of the mug!

The car was really basic. If you wanted to put anything in the trunk (boot), you tilted the seat backs forward and put it in from inside the cab. There was no boot lid. To get to the engine, the entire front of the car lifted up. There was no ashtray. You could stub out your smoke by simply leaning out and using the pavement, you were so close to the ground. The side windows were Plexiglas (Perspex) and were two-piece; the aft piece would slide forward to let air in. The windows simply came off and got put in their bags and tossed into the boot. There was no door handle on the outside of the car; you would slide the window open and reach in to depress the handle inside the car. There was no way to lock the car.

The car was very British. It had a four-cylinder MG engine with twin SU downdraught carburetors. What a farce! They were atrocious and required a weekly dose of two drops of oil in their top chambers in order to keep working. Once on a trip to the coast I was on a downhill grade long enough for them to ice up! I had never heard of a car’s carburetors icing up; airplanes, yes. But I was luckier than my neighbor; he had just bought a Jaguar XKE, the sleekest rocket you could find. Fortunately for him, he was mechanically inclined so he could keep his British prize in running condition, which pretty much occupied his weekends.

By the way, the 1972 Porsche 914 cost $4,300. The 911 model was so expensive—$8,000! To put these prices in context, a tricked-out Chevrolet Camaro was going for $2,900.

3 comments:

Pete S. said...

That car has personality!

Susan said...

Ha ha! Thank you SOOOO much! I love the memory lane trip in the post too - had no idea about the way the car worked, just that it was pretty cool being taken for (short) rides in the car as a young 'un. You were a pretty cool Uncle - he he

Tom Hurley said...

In my role as a cool uncle, I once gave a ride to a young nephew from the Coarsegold cabin to Oakhurst. It was a mission to get to the only market before it closed. Down the Deadwood Grade at 80MPH made the car happy; the nephew was happily hyperventilating.