The Saga of the Barn Healey - Part I
About 18 months ago at a club meeting, Wayne Hedrick related to me that he had run into a guy that had an old Austin Healey for sale in North Las Vegas and he was going to check it out with the possibility of purchasing it. I told him if he passed on it, to let me know and I would like to look at it. It had been sitting in the garage for 25 years, last driven in 89. A few days later, Wayne sent me some pictures and stated it looked solid with only some small dents. He had decided to pass on it, (I think Barbara had some input) and gave me the phone number. I set up an appointment and drove to NLV to check it out.
It was easy to see it had been sitting for 25 years, as it was more brown than red from the dirt piled up on it. I crawled around as much as I could in the small space allocated to the car and actually crawled under as far as I could and could only find one spot that had a little rust. The chrome was perfect, the interior looked great except where the neighbor's cat had got in and scratched the top of the seats. The wheels and tires were shot, but he had five new wheels with never-on-the ground Michelins on them, but they were old. New steering wheel and mirrors were laying in the seat. The paint was old and checked but was in reasonable shape and the hood needed paint, as it was bare metal in places. Top was ok, but the rear window was black from ultraviolet rays and was cracked.
The owner was a retired sergeant from Nellis who had bought the car in 1967. It had been brought to Nellis in 1966 and had only left Nevada for a year, when he went to Vietnam. He was third owner, having purchased it from a woman who decided after only a few months she and British cars were not a match made in heaven. After having some engine problems and clutch hang-ups in ’89, he parked it. He was going to restore it (where have you heard that before?). He got as far as taking the dashboard cover off and decided this was going to be a bigger project than he had allowed for.
One thing led to another, and the car sat 25 years before he decided he needed the garage space. Since he was asking for a ridiculously low price, I, of course, offered an even lower price. We never really came to an agreement because of the zinger he threw into the discussion. Appears he was not sure of where the title was and would have to locate it. Having experienced one nightmare of buying a vehicle without a clear title, this was not something I would do again if I avoid it. He promised to look for it and would keep me posted. This was March of 2014 and now the real saga begins.
After about a month of waiting, I called Tom, the owner, and asked how the search for the title was going. No luck. Apparently, but he would be checking at another house he owned. This went on for a few months, and I was beginning to suspect the title was lost. Not wanting to appear too anxious, as we had not finalized the price, I suggested that he get a duplicate title. A few days later, he called back and said he had contacted DMV and they had told him that he would have to bring car down to DMV to have VIN checked to insure it was not a stolen car, etc. Tom had a few more go-arounds with DMV before he realized he could not fight city hall, so he rented a truck and trailer, and enlisted some help to get it on the trailer.
The car was a BJ7, and his old registration forms said it was a BJ8 - which was not helping matters. A computer check at DMV shows there is no title on record at Carson City DMV. What to do now? Tom calls Carson City but seems to get nowhere. By now, I am suspecting that Tom has a problem dealing with the bureaucratic mind and tends to get hostile quickly. I get the number and place a call to Carson City, where I get hold of a person named Joel who works in the title department. I explain the situation and relate that I really want to buy this car but will not buy it without a clear title. Joel says I can do nothing, but explains how Tom can request a new title, since his was lost, but he has plenty of documentation to show he had been registering the car in Nevada up until he quit driving it. Tom calls Carson City and talks to Joel who says he will send the paperwork to get a new title. A few weeks later, he calls me and asks if I can come and help do the paperwork. We call Joel and he tells me exactly what words to put on each line of this two-page title request. About two weeks later and still no title, I call Joel and he states it is on his boss's desk and should get to us in another week or two.
Tom and I are now in the final negotiation stage and we finally settle on a price. It is now into November and stills no car in my garage. Finally, the title arrives, and it is in my name. Neat. I call Tom and tell him I now own his old car and have not paid a dime. Scared him! We start arranging to get it to my house and he volunteers to trailer it over if I will help him load it. I motor over and help load the car, the new wheels, tires, and many new parts we find as we move the Healey out. After arrival at my house, I took a bunch of pictures of the car before the cleanup and rehabilitation. Stay tuned for part II.