Tracy Drummond fell in love with British cars at age eight while riding his bicycle. He came across a British car show in the Glenwood Springs, Colorado, high school parking lot and was mesmerized.
“They were so different from American cars,” says Drummond. “They had a different sound and smell, wire wheels and tonneau covers with room just for the driver when zipped up. I loved the noise and the smell of burning rubber at the solo race.”
Drummond’s favorite was the Austin-Healey 3000: “There’s something about the car’s lines that I just really love.” Although he had never driven one, 10 years ago he decided to purchase his dream car when he found an affordable abandoned restoration on the Internet. The 1960 restored shell arrived at his house in Morgan Hill, California, on a trailer with many boxes of parts. “I was thrilled. Just sitting still it looked beautiful and fast, and it begged to be driven,” he says.
Drummond thought he could assemble the car and have it running in a weekend or two. But it took three months to get it on the road, and another seven years before he was satisfied with drivability and reliability.
Drivability Leads Upgrades
To upgrade the car, Drummond installed a five-speed transmission conversion kit. It provides a synchronized first gear and simulated overdrive with the fifth speed, plus it’s lighter, quieter and more reliable, he explains. He converted the generator to an alternator to run Lucas driving lights and a CB radio, and added relays in the lighting circuits. He added a stiffer sway bar for handling, and a taller rear end gear for cruising.
Currently, Drummond is restoring the hard top that came with the car. It took seven years to find the missing parts, but his persistence paid off. And he’s just finished restoring an MG Midget for his teenage daughter.
Drummond’s Healey is a daily driver and club cruiser. “It’s not so pristine that I’m worried about a rock ding, but it’s not embarrassing either,” he says. He participates in the Snowball 500 Rally, the Austin-Healey Rendezvous and local runs. “I’ve become popular to tour with since I carry many spare parts and can do repairs,” he adds.
In his search for parts sources and advice from other owners, Drummond attended the annual Rendezvous about five years ago. He got involved in the Golden Gate Austin Healey Club and became the event director and webmaster. He was asked to take over the presidency of the Austin Healey Club USA in 2006.
Austin Healey Club USA
Drummond says his first priority was to launch a new Web site that would be a comprehensive technical resource for members. The new site was launched two years ago, and he admits it was a monumental task that is still only 33 percent complete despite the thousands of technical articles and BMC Service Bulletins posted on the site. They are still in the process of scanning technical articles. “It’s a giant content database,” he says.
In addition, healey.org also features a forum where members can discuss solutions to problems, racing modifications and concours suggestions. Members can comment on articles and join the discussion thread. The site includes current car values, a classified section, registry, online store, a photo gallery where members can upload photos, and a way to contact other members. The vast site content is open only to members as one of the key club benefits, although some information and history is posted on the public portion of the site.
The Austin Healey Club USA also publishes a color magazine six times a year and an annual calendar. The yearly Resource Book includes reference guides, facts, tuning settings, a membership roster and traveler’s network of members willing to assist other members. The club sponsors Rendezvous each year, with four days of tours, concours judging, competitions, tech sessions, a car show and social events. There are often 200 to 300 participants.
Two National Clubs
Although there is another national club for the hobby—the Austin-Healey Club of America—Drummond doesn’t see the two organizations as competitors. In fact, he tells owners they should belong to both groups. He explains that basically the Austin Healey Club USA (his club) is more focused on exchanging technical information, while the Austin-Healey Club of America is more social since it is affiliated with all the local clubs across the country. Both produce glossy magazines. He admits there is often confusion about the two national organizations.
If you work on your car yourself, the technical advice offered by club members can be invaluable, says Drummond. He got advice on the proper way to adjust his steering rack, how to install a window seal, and how to change his positive ground car to negative ground.
Technical know-how on British cars has enabled Drummond to get involved in racing as crew chief for Gary Anderson, who is the longtime editor of the Austin Healey Club USA’s magazine. Anderson races a 1960 MGA in historic racing events. Drummond explains that they went through turmoil with the engine in his first season, and he had to learn to tune a car for racing, but the car is now reliable and competitive.
“The team hasn’t scored any wins, seconds or third place finishes, but we see steady improvement every time we go out. We start in the middle of the pack and we finish in the middle, but we run a clean race and we have fun,” Drummond says.
Driving Is Everything
As much as he enjoys racing with the team, driving his Healey is what Drummond loves most. “Driving a new car is so sterile and quiet. The Healey is real and raw. You sit low to the ground and the asphalt goes by real fast. The exhaust fumes get into your hair. You have to pay attention and listen to the car. You can hear the beautiful sound of the motor echoing in the canyons. You get closer to your surroundings. You just can’t substitute the experience,” he says.
By Kathleen M. Mangan