Big Healeys are known for their harsh ride, but on a relatively smooth road the car is well composed and absorbs imperfections easily. Shift into top gear and click the dash-mounted switch for the overdrive, and the car lopes along effortlessly. Curves can be negotiated by switching out of overdrive and allowing the big four to take away some speed before rolling back onto the throttle to power out of the bend. It's motoring like it was meant to be and is quite removed from the frenetic attention more modern cars require. The fact that the ultimate limits and speed through the corners can be easily bettered by any modern economy car never enters into the equation.
Big Healeys TodayBig Healeys aren't for everyone. First of all, they've gotten quite expensive, and a perfect car can easily run into the middle of the five-figure range. A big Healey is a difficult and expensive car to restore, so buying a basket case and rebuilding it is rarely economically viable. You should also be aware that these are not cars that you just jump in and drive. They require care and maintenance far in excess of any modern car. And for all of the expense and care they require, they really aren't very fast by today's standards. A Honda Civic is both quicker and more reliable. But for the right person, nothing will ever come close to the distinctive burbling sound and those sublime curves of a big Austin-Healey.
Austin-Healey 100MDon Schneider, whose 1956 Austin-Healey 100M graces these pages, is no stranger to the marque. In the 1960s he owned a 3000 Mk1 that he later traded for a Triumph TR4. Business pressures and a growing family eventually moved Schneider out of sports cars and the bug lay dormant until 1983 when he bought a restored 1965 Austin-Healey 3000 that he still owns. This was followed by a 1956 Austin-Healey 100 that he took to car shows in the mid-1980s.
In 1988 Don Schneider found a true basket-case Austin-Healey stuck in a mechanic's garage. After dragging it home on a rollback truck, he began the long, slow process of bringing the sorry old car back to life. The frame was broken and rusted, the floors and body outriggers had succumbed to corrosion, and the engine was in need of a complete rebuild. Most people would have questioned the choice of a restoration candidate, but the records show that the car left the factory in January 1956 with a very rare color combination of Florida Green over Old English White. Schneider determined that resurrecting the car in its original colors would make it a candidate for concours wins.
After doing most of the rough bodywork himself, Don Schneider sent the chassis to a body shop where it took more than a year to get the paint work just right. In the meantime, Schneider scoured the countryside to collect all of the correct factory parts to turn his standard BN2 Austin-Healey into a 100M model. This modification could be performed at the factory or by a dealer, so as long as he used original parts, the upgrade was appropriate.
After more than six years in restoration, the car was finished in 1997. Although the car certainly can be driven, Schneider doesn't drive it any long distances and he uses a trailer to bring it to major concours d'elegance events. This year at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours, his green over white 1956 Austin Healey 100M proved Don Schneider's faith in his choice of restoring this particular car when it won best in class, winning the only award given to an Austin-Healey at the event.-KM
The Austin-Healey Club of AmericaFrom its beginnings in the 1960s, the Austin-Healey Club of America has grown to a membership of well over 3,800; it is the largest organization of Healey owners and enthusiasts in the world today.
Presently, there are 46 regional clubs of the AHCA, including four in Canada. Each region hosts local meetings, technical sessions, and various events including car shows, rallies, tours, and social gatherings.