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Healey Helpers

I have been asked to provide a female perspective about the Tech Team of our Ohio Valley Austin-Healey Club. My credentials? I’m a Healey wife who has observed this team at work. Now I can identify a transmission—when it’s out from under the car, that is. While I prefer things clearly labeled, these fellas thrive amongst various disassembled parts scattered in buckets, trays and other makeshift receptacles. In my opinion, these gearheads are a golden resource performing motoring miracles.

I’m told Healeys can be temperamental, almost fragile at times, but as one owner said, “After driving 3 years without a first gear, a weak reverse and a bent lay shaft, these Healeys are tough old beasts.”

Testimonials and words of gratitude to the Ohio Valley Austin Healey Club (OVAHC) Technical Team are reported in articles in our monthly newsletter, Newsleak. The OVAHC is comprised of members (including the Tech Team), who reside in a wide radius of the Greater Cincinnati OH/Northern Kentucky area.

Seeing this Team in action is impressive. They’re all characters-with-quirks and rugged individualists, who, with common Healey fervor, bond to work together efficiently like the soon-to-be well-oiled machines they are repairing.

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This intrepid Tech Team, possess another interesting trait. While kibitzing during a break, or troubleshooting an assignment, they seem to be happily immersed in surrounding aromas of exhaust fumes, welding incense, leaking oil and smoky wisps curling from wiring…Esprit Parfum de Healey.

In a tech session, there seems to be a hierarchy of specialized skill sets and a natural, unspoken order of assigned tasks for each tech guy. The head engineer guru barks out orders with the precision and presence of a four-star general. Bouts of frustration are nonexistent or quickly joked away. Lots of levity and stubborn perseverance. Team members fall into focused, synchronized action in their Healey euphoric zone.

These supple, seasoned 60-to-70-somethings perform collective hands-on acts in positions envied by even the most extreme contortionists. And of task flexibility: They can execute a wide range of services “as simple as advice on oil types to a complete engine/transmission rebuild.” The Team can not only provide services in their well-stocked garages, but also on roadside shoulders, underpasses, scenic overlooks and parking lots. In the great outdoors, the testosterone really flows, along with techie wizardry. In trip caravan form, there is a high probability of repair success due to expansive supply of tools possessed between all the Healey men. If, incredibly, they don’t have the needed part or tool, adaptive jury-rigging is in their bag of tricks.

Healey boots hold an amazing array of common and not-so-common spare parts that have traveled hundreds, if not thousands of miles awaiting their save-the-day use. No wonder my Healey husband limits me to a tiny toddler-sized soft, crushable travel bag. (Of course, one must leave some space for the marvelous finds one must own.)

I must reprise one particularly memorable bonnet up/hard luck event en route to a Conclave. After hearing a short series of loud backfires, the BJ7 broke caravan rank and drifted (thankfully) onto the shoulder of the road. The Tech guys, reacting with immediate, almost rehearsed action, pulled over and initiated a roadside tech session. Determined to perform diagnostics, one Tech made a swan dive into the engine compartment and, with legs akimbo, seemed to be waving like a dolphin at passing motorists who sped by gawking. The “Healey Huddle” commenced and, after more than an hour of scrambling for various tools and more yoga-like postures in and around the car, victory was announced by the restored roar of the Healey engine, followed by applause and sighs of relief. The bonnet was slammed shut and motoring was resumed. Once again, an amazing tech “leave no man—or Healey—behind” success. A guess that it was the piston was wrong. (It seems one Healey wife, in particular, always blames the pistons.) Actual diagnosis: Bad condenser. (Lots of condensers were in “boots’ stock.”) That experience became one of the many archived motoring tales to be repeated (and likely embellished) among techs and non-tech car enthusiasts alike, whilst “sampling” varietal grain and grape libations.

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Compensation, one asks? This problem-solving team is rewarded with satisfaction of quality work, performance, completion of task and, most importantly, having helped others. (I recall a rather unique payback from a grateful Jensen owner, who trimmed and de-vined some Tech members’ trees.) However, take note Healey owner: Prerequisite to hosting this well-oiled, dynamic group is ongoing fluid and fuel exchange—lots of beer and some pizza.

In Others Words

Not sure why I didn’t think of this earlier. No need for me to say what’s already been said. Our club newsletter regularly glows with comments from grateful Tech Team service recipients:

“Why put your car in a shop? What you have going on sounds like a Tech Session. How about I round up some of our guys and we’ll come fix up your car for free?”

A new Healey owner asks the Tech Director
for shop recommendations for AH work.

“A helluva deal …These guys tore into my car—and I mean that literally—and worked their tails off from 9:30 in the morning to 5:30 at night. All it cost me was about a case and a half of beer and one bottle of Chardonnay. What a great help these guys are!”

New Healey owner (pinching himself
to ensure he wasn’t in a dream state)

One appreciative Sprite owner whose car was the target of a repair wrote an ode to the group’s prowess. Here, in part:

They spoke a few words, to the car they did attend,

Pulled the master cylinder and dropped the rear end.

In just a few hours with the wrenches a’ flying,

The work was done so pizza I was buying.

To all who turned a wrench or touched a screw,

I say from my heart, a sincere Thank You!

And of romancing a Healey: These Tech guys heartily tackled a Lotus-powered owner purchase on Valentine’s Day.

“Several members helped express their love for my Jensen-Healey by drilling holes beneath the trunk to finally release a stuck latch. Many welcome accessories were revealed, sans gold doubloons. With the techs’ collective electrical expertise, some Lucas gremlins living behind the dash were evicted. Thanks a bunch. You really impressed and surprised me with your tremendous support. We had fun, got the damn trunk open, and more…”

Fast-forward to a near future Conclave 2016: Wheels Over the River “Healey Family Reunion” hosted by the Ohio Valley Austin Healy Club. This event is the Austin-Healey Club of America’s annual national convention and celebration of all things Healey. The 2016 site will be held in the Northern Kentucky area “across the bridge” (Ohio River) from Cincinnati. No shades of grey for Conclave attendees wondering if assistance will be available for any car contingencies. Attendees can be assured, if any mechanical, electrical, “mysterical” woes befall their classic British metal possessions there will be a Tech Team of the highest, most dedicated order that will restore calm and drivability. And with a sparkle in his eye, the OVAHC Tech Director will inform you, “All work is guaranteed to be the best that we could do on that given day and worth every cent you are charged for the labor, which is free.” MM

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Disclaimer: There may be other Austin-Healey clubs that have assembled mechanically-savvy members as a resource to assist their members. So the fact that I’m espousing high praise for this OVAHC Tech Team, as among the best, most organized, responsive, reliable and skill-diversified, is completely unsubstantiated, based on no statistical, scientific data. However, I surmise some other AH club folks reading this may experience a shred or two of envy. Perhaps this crack Tech Team should expand their reach.

One more item: Attention to all you OVAHC Tech men (you know who you are). Words to you, o’wise guys: Don’t let all this hyperbole-like commentary go to your heads. You know the driving force behind every good man…

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