- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

It wasn't until after Dean Turner has restored and sold an MG and a Jaguar that he turned his attention toward an Austin Healey.

The retired IBM engineer had seen a few Austin Healey sports cars displayed at various car shows and was impressed by their beauty.

He began looking for a good, solid car in 1996. In July 1997 Mr. Turner saw an ad offering a 1967 Austin Healey model 3000 Mark III for sale in Richmond. A telephone call provided enough additional information to pique his interest.

July 22 came on a Sunday in 1997. Coincidentally that is the wedding anniversary of Mr. Turner and his wife, Sue.

Mr. Turner graciously suggested to his wife that they take a leisurely, scenic Sunday drive concluding with a fine anniversary dinner. Their excursion just happened to take them through Richmond. Since they were there anyway, why not stop to inspect the Austin Healey?

While Mrs. Turner patiently waited in their car, Mr. Turner inspected the Austin Healey and liked what he saw. When buyer and seller agreed on a price, Mr. Turner returned to their car and asked his wife if she had brought her checkbook. He wrote a check for the deposit to hold the car for a week until he could return to claim his prize.

The Turners headed back home to Warrenton, Va. Halfway there, Mrs. Turner reminded her husband of his proposal of a fine dinner. They were almost through Fredericksburg when Mr. Turner spotted a restaurant and turned the car in to the parking lot of Fuddrucker's. There the anniversary couple feasted on hamburgers made to order.

The marriage survived.

A week later Mr. Turner returned to finalize the deal. He drove the well-worn car home with a bit more than 85,000 miles recorded on the odometer. Disassembly began almost immediately.

Research indicates that the original owner lived in Alexandria. Mr. Turner is the third owner of the low-slung car.

The Austin Healey had left the factory in England wearing a shiny coat of British Racing Green but Mr. Turner early on decided his Austin Healey would be black with a silver gray inset panel on the side. To complement the exterior colors Mr. Turner wanted a gray leather interior with black piping.

Unfortunately, the previous owner had reupholstered the car with beige leather to go with the green exterior. After viewing an incredible array of items for sale on the Internet, Mr. Turner, with no hope of a nibble, decided to offer his beige leather upholstery.

To his surprise a Wisconsin man responded with a request for pictures. The inquirer was also restoring a similar car and was painting it British Racing Green and a beige interior would be perfect. After the two men agreed to meet about halfway, Mr. Turner sold him the upholstered interior in exchange for his unupholstered seat frames so that he could cover them in leather the color of his choice.

Mr. Turner took his car apart down to the basics. "I didn't have to do anything with the four-speed transmission," Mr. Turner said. The car was complete, he recalls. The 177.7-cubic-inch, in-line, six-cylinder engine, however, had one valve that kept sticking. With that problem addressed, the 148-horsepower output was restored.

Mr. Turner spent a lot of time cutting out rusted parts and welding in healthy new steel. To alleviate the excessive heat in the cockpit he installed an insulated aluminum foil heat shield on the floor and the fire wall. "It cools the cockpit right down," he said.

Another big help in keeping the engine heat down was reversing the fan. "It had been installed backward," Mr. Turner said.

The silver-colored 72-spoke wire wheels are powder coated and shod with 15-inch tires.

When Mr. Turner got the car it had a single outside mirror mounted in an awkward location on the door. With the mirror removed and the hole welded shut, the car now has a pair of more user-friendly fender-mounted mirrors.

A functional hood scoop is visible through the curved windshield. The glass is kept clear by two electric wipers.

Inside the car he restored the two burled walnut panels that make up the ends of the dashboard. The three-spoke steering wheel is wood, happily discovered when the wrapping was removed. Directly in front of the driver is a 140 mph speedometer. In the center panel of the dashboard near the AM/shortwave radio are four toggle switches controlling the electric overdrive, wipers, instrument panel lights and headlights.

Under the dash is a button to manually operate the windshield washers. Atop the dashboard is the rearview mirror.

Other than the gray dashboard and gray leather upholstery the interior is all black including the carpet, tonneau, top and boot.

Because Mr. Turner's otherwise well-equipped garage is not heated, he worked on the car only in the seven or eight warmer months. Mrs. Turner got caught up in the project and sewed a cover for the 12-volt battery as well as a tool kit to keep the appearance of the trunk from becoming unsightly.

One of the more difficult tasks he had to perform was removing the chips and dents caused by gravel hitting the vertical stainless-steel grille teeth."There are 47 grille teeth," Mr. Turner explains, "each one secured by four rivets."

He had to drill out each rivet, sand and grind away the imperfections, polish the luster back and then re-rivet the part in place.

After almost five years the car was complete in June, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Austin Healey.

Mr. Turner filled the 14-gallon gas tank and he and his wife went for a drive.

They had gone five miles when the left rear tire went down. Because Mr. Turner had left his jack and tire-changing tools at home, he changed the tire using borrowed tools, the knock-off hubs presenting the biggest challenge.

The inner tube had dry rotted. With new rubber on the ground, subsequent trips have been completed without incident.

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