- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2000

While Greg Eden was matriculating at Dartmouth the muscle-car era was racing at full throttle.

Any number of cars on the road in those days were fast, reasonably well-built, and they all had monstrous V-8 engines capable of generating enough power to light a small city.

The one thing those muscle cars of yore did not have was a certain panache.

One of Mr. Eden's classmates owned an automobile that possessed that elusive savoir-faire it was an Austin-Healey 3000.

"With 4 and 1/2-inches of ground clearance it was a ridiculous car to have in Hanover, New Hampshire," Mr. Eden concedes. It was hot in the summer, cold in the winter, the top leaked, and the seats were uncomfortable. In addition to these shortcomings, the car was undependable, too.

Nevertheless, Mr. Eden and his classmate made countless memorable trips in the sexy little British roadster.

Three decades and several cars later, Mr. Eden, now an investment banker, found himself without a collectible car. He had recently been made an offer he couldn't refuse for his vintage Mercedes-Benz 300 SL roadster.

He began thinking of how best to fill the automotive void in his life. Several high-dollar antique autos crossed his mind when he recalled all the fun times he had in his classmate's Austin-Healey.

Case closed.

Now all he had to do was find the right Austin-Healey at the right price in the right condition at the right location.

It sounds so easy.

Within a year Mr. Eden had located a British racing green 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 Mark III in northern New Jersey. The car, with only 32,000 miles on the odometer, had undergone a complete restoration by Northwest Imports in a Maryland restoration shop four years before.

The owner had several cars and, since he couldn't give each one the attention it deserved, he decided to cull his herd and find a good home for the excess cars.

Mr. Eden drove up to investigate and spent the day. He was taken by the quintessential British sports car. He drove home and negotiated the best deal he could via telephone.

In August 1999 he arranged to have his precious acquisition trucked to his Alexandria home.

Once there he carefully inspected the 13-foot, 1 and 1/2-inch-long car from end to end ensuring all was as it should be.

Beneath the engine hood, secured by a safety latch on each side, he found the trusty 3.2-liter, six-cylinder engine, which he calls a refugee from a tractor.

It's actually a 177.7-cubic-inch overhead-valve engine that produces 150 horsepower. "It has a great sound," Mr. Eden exalts

Typically British, the engine is lubricated by seven quarts of oil. Three gallons of coolant keeps the temperature under control, while the dual semidowndraft S.U. carburetors drink from a 14 and 1/2-gallon gasoline tank.

Mr. Eden found the 12-volt battery correctly secured inside the trunk at the right rear. Next to the battery is the standard cutoff knob, which cancels electrical power to the car, eliminating the possibility of theft. The trunk is the only secure location in the car.

"It's a car of contradictions," Mr. Eden said. There are features that were very well thought out and other areas that are rudimentary at best.

Mr. Eden said that for the car to be absolutely correct the 60-spoke wheels should be painted, but the chrome-plated wheels on his car look so much better. Who except the most dyed-in-the-wool purist is going to complain?

Binding those wheels when needed are servo-assisted brakes on the front disc brakes and rear drum brakes.

All Austin-Healeys of that era destined for the United States were similarly equipped with:

• Overdrive.

• Windshield washers.

• Heater and demister.

• Dunlop road speed tires.

• Master switch on battery.

• Knockoff hub wire wheels.

• Laminated glass windshield.

• Adjustable steering column.

• Vacuum servo-assisted brakes.

Of course, the cars also came equipped with Lucas electrics, which nobody was bragging about.

The diminutive size of the Austin-Healey becomes apparent when one shoehorns oneself into the cockpit. With the top raised the car stands 4 feet 2 inches tall and, from door handle to door handle, the sleek car is 5 and 1/2 feet wide. The inside width dimensions are but 3 feet, 9 inches.

Driving along in such close quarters, sitting so close to the highway in a car with a 92-inch wheelbase, gives the impression of great speed sometimes a truthful impression and sometimes a false one.

"Road therapy is better than a visit to the doctor," Mr. Eden said after a turn at the wheel of his vintage Austin-Healey.

At the center of the dashboard is the ignition flanked on the left by the two toggle switches operating the overdrive unit and the windshield wipers. The pair of toggle switches on the right control the instrument panel lights and the headlights.

Since he acquired his prize, Mr. Eden has driven only about 300 miles on a round trip to Charlottesville. He reports gas mileage of about 18 mpg.

The gorgeous Austin-Healey still handles as adroitly as he remembers. The one thing about the Austin-Healey Mr. Eden finds difficult to believe "is that 30 years have elapsed since I've been in one."

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