A Mostly British Obsession

17 Cases of Oil

1959 Austin Healey 100 Six

I bought this car in 1989, when I was 22. It was a rattly, smokey, tired old car–I loved it anyway. I went through 17 cases of oil in the year I owned it; about half went out the tailpipe and half went onto the ground. Environmentally sound it was not.

How did I get it? I was working on a local British car show at the time, and been wanting a “big” Healey forever (it seemed). They just looked great and made a wonderful sound. They weren’t really much more powerful than an MGB, but the style was enormous. This car came to my attention because the owner was entering it in the show in the “for sale” area. He wanted $4500, cheap for a big Healey even then. I had about $3500 in my current MGB, and managed to convince a friend to loan me the remaining money (not the smartest thing they’ve ever done…).

It was a bitsa, but pretty, with the tri-carb engine out of a later 3000 in it. It had lethal brakes, which make me wince thinking about them now–you had to pump the pedal twice to get any pressure. It also had about 90 lbs of compression across all six cylinders. In other words, it was totally worn out.

When people talk about certain old cars being hot inside, I always think they don’t know hot until they’ve been in a Healey in the summer. I used to keep a thermometer in the footwell, it would regularly hit 165 degrees in there.

But it was a great car, none-the-less. It made a wonderful sound, and was pretty much dead reliable, even for being worn out. I drove it for a year before finances forced me to sell it to a friend, who subsequently restored it.


  1. automobiliac

    My dad had the same car and complained about the heat in the footwell also! He claimed to have burned his foot on the gas pedal once. One summer he bought a bunch of white plastic ducting and taped it in place next to the windshield to force air down into the footwell.

  2. enthusiast

    It’s good that you sold it to a friend that restored it. I always wonder what happened to the cars I’ve owned that were kind of cool (Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT, Triumph TR-3). At least you got to know it was taken care of.

  3. jack bettis

    Thanks for posting the pics. My ’59 100-6 was the funnest and best-responding car I ever had…and I’m 77 now. I still dream about it.


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