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Thread: Original owner search for 1956 Austin-Healey

  1. #1

    Question Original owner search for 1956 Austin-Healey

    Well my next project car has made it way to my house and I tried to get some serious seat time this summer. However, I would very much like to track down the original owner of this car and I keep running into dead ends. I think the history is important and would really love to potentially get some pictures and just know the full story of this car.

    My father purchased this car about 12 years ago from the widow of the second owner. They had purchased the car in 1963 and lived in State College, PA. She stated that it was raced at Marlboro in Maryland, by the original owner. I was able to find some information on the second owner and I thought it was most interesting, but haven't found anything that would lead me to the original owner.

    The problem is that the destination was not recorded from the Healey factory. I've been told that Hambro & Co. was the biggest distributor on the East Coast, but that hasn't gotten me anywhere.

    Does anyone know if it worth doing a title search for records prior to 1963? If so any recommendations on what site to use? Most that I have looked at look like a scam.

    Also, does anyone know any Heeley club members from around the State College PA area that might remember the car?

    Thank in advance for any ideas that you may be able to pass along.


    Here are pics of the car when my dad picked it up:




    Here is the car now:


    Here is the info from the factory:


    Here is the obituary from from the second owner:

    Last edited by Editor_Reid; 01-04-2013 at 01:55 PM.

  2. #2
    Jedi Warrior
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    Re: Does anyone have any ideas tracking down the original owner of a 1956 Austin-Heal

    Since most states won't hold title records anywhere near that old the DMV probably is a non starter. What you might try, since you seem to know the general area where the car was kept and used look for tracks, clubs, events etc on the web from that time period. You may run across photos, programs, personal blogs and so on that provide leads. Beyond that I'm not really sure what you can do, but at least it may improve your odds.

    Good luck.

  3. #3

    Re: Does anyone have any ideas tracking down the original owner of a 1956 Austin-Heal

    As MikeP says, most states have purged their vehicle registration records older than about 10 years, and I believe Pennsylvania is one of those. There are some exceptions (my state of North Carolina is one). Besides that, the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994 prohibits state DMVs from releasing personal info such as names and addresses except with the permission of the person involved (there are exceptions to this, too, but generally records are not released to individuals not associated with the insurance or legal systems). Obviously, if you could get in touch with the previous owner(s) for permission, you wouldn't need the DMV. I do not know if you could hire someone to navigate through this mess and come up with a valid contact, but I wish you luck.

    I would like to point out that this is one of the primary reasons why EVERYONE should register his/her car with the appropriate registry. There is NO OTHER PLACE where the ownership history of a car can be documented and preserved for the benefits of future owners like cmc140 except for the registries. Would you object to some future owner 10 years from now wanting to talk with you about the car? How will they know you ever existed?
    Steve Byers
    HBJ8L/36666
    BJ8 Registry
    Havelock, NC

  4. #4

    Re: Does anyone have any ideas tracking down the original owner of a 1956 Austin-Heal

    The Pa DMV probably is a non-starter as stated. Many years ago I wanted to search the original owner & mileage to my '70 Vette and the DMV told me that they did not keep records pass 10 years. Since your new article on the 2nd owner said that he was a member of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), maybe you might get lucky talking to the AACA Museum Library & Archives at Hershy,PA. He may have registered the car with them and had some history with it. Since the car spent time in central pa and maybe Maryland and racing venues, maybe newspaper archives could help.
    About TV Shows-
    "...you really can't restore a car in 10 days. I don't want to watch a race where people have to restore it in a week. It's not going to drive, and those cars never work. In real life, it takes years to get it right. " Jay Leno.

  5. #5

    Re: Does anyone have any ideas tracking down the original owner of a 1956 Austin-Heal

    You could try to find some programs from Marlboro during the period it was raced (usually they show up on eBay) and look for Healey drivers from State College.
    Rick

    Nasty BJ7- 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 with 345hp small block Ford
    Nice AN5- 1959 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite with 55hp Stage V mods

  6. #6

    Re: Does anyone have any ideas tracking down the original owner of a 1956 Austin-Heal

    Since most states won't hold title records anywhere near that old the DMV probably is a non starter. What you might try, since you seem to know the general area where the car was kept and used look for tracks, clubs, events etc on the web from that time period. You may run across photos, programs, personal blogs and so on that provide leads. Beyond that I'm not really sure what you can do, but at least it may improve your odds.

    Good luck.
    I feel like I have spent hours crawling the internet, but just can't seem to find anything. I will continue to look though.

    As MikeP says, most states have purged their vehicle registration records older than about 10 years, and I believe Pennsylvania is one of those. There are some exceptions (my state of North Carolina is one). Besides that, the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994 prohibits state DMVs from releasing personal info such as names and addresses except with the permission of the person involved (there are exceptions to this, too, but generally records are not released to individuals not associated with the insurance or legal systems). Obviously, if you could get in touch with the previous owner(s) for permission, you wouldn't need the DMV. I do not know if you could hire someone to navigate through this mess and come up with a valid contact, but I wish you luck.

    I would like to point out that this is one of the primary reasons why EVERYONE should register his/her car with the appropriate registry. There is NO OTHER PLACE where the ownership history of a car can be documented and preserved for the benefits of future owners like cmc140 except for the registries. Would you object to some future owner 10 years from now wanting to talk with you about the car? How will they know you ever existed?
    Thanks for the input.

    As MikeP says, most states have purged their vehicle registration records older than about 10 years, and I believe Pennsylvania is one of those. There are some exceptions (my state of North Carolina is one). Besides that, the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994 prohibits state DMVs from releasing personal info such as names and addresses except with the permission of the person involved (there are exceptions to this, too, but generally records are not released to individuals not associated with the insurance or legal systems). Obviously, if you could get in touch with the previous owner(s) for permission, you wouldn't need the DMV. I do not know if you could hire someone to navigate through this mess and come up with a valid contact, but I wish you luck.

    I would like to point out that this is one of the primary reasons why EVERYONE should register his/her car with the appropriate registry. There is NO OTHER PLACE where the ownership history of a car can be documented and preserved for the benefits of future owners like cmc140 except for the registries. Would you object to some future owner 10 years from now wanting to talk with you about the car? How will they know you ever existed?

    The Pa DMV probably is a non-starter as stated. Many years ago I wanted to search the original owner & mileage to my '70 Vette and the DMV told me that they did not keep records pass 10 years. Since your new article on the 2nd owner said that he was a member of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), maybe you might get lucky talking to the AACA Museum Library & Archives at Hershy,PA. He may have registered the car with them and had some history with it. Since the car spent time in central pa and maybe Maryland and racing venues, maybe newspaper archives could help.
    Thanks for the idea. I had emailed the AACA, but they said they didn't have records.

    Thanks again as I do appreciate the help.
    Chris

  7. #7

    Re: Does anyone have any ideas tracking down the original owner of a 1956 Austin-Heal

    Quote Originally Posted by HealeyRick View Post
    You could try to find some programs from Marlboro during the period it was raced (usually they show up on eBay) and look for Healey drivers from State College.
    Awesome idea. I hadn't thought of that. I did dig through the following site http://www.racingsportscars.com/
    However, I couldn't find the vin and was obviously unsure of the name. Maybe I'll dig through it again.
    I really don't know if the car was originally from State College, only that the 2nd owners lived there and bought it between 1960-1963.

    I also went through this site with no luck. http://www.tamsoldracecarsite.net/

  8. #8

    Re: Does anyone have any ideas tracking down the original owner of a 1956 Austin-Heal

    Quote Originally Posted by cmc140 View Post
    Awesome idea. I hadn't thought of that. I did dig through the following site http://www.racingsportscars.com/
    However, I couldn't find the vin and was obviously unsure of the name. Maybe I'll dig through it again.
    I really don't know if the car was originally from State College, only that the 2nd owners lived there and bought it between 1960-1963.

    I also went through this site with no luck. http://www.tamsoldracecarsite.net/
    The programs will only show the driver's name, hometown and car driven. There won't be any mention of a VIN.
    Rick

    Nasty BJ7- 1962 Austin-Healey 3000 with 345hp small block Ford
    Nice AN5- 1959 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite with 55hp Stage V mods

  9. #9
    Jedi Warrior drambuie's Avatar
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    Re: Original owner search for 1956 Austin-Healey

    Maybe i should not advise this but....If you have a close friend in law Inforcement maybe they will run your vin tag for you, I had cops copy my vin and plate numbers when stopped for speeding tickets when i was a spirited lad! Chances are the original owner received a speeding ticket or two with that cool bomb! I just don't know how far back they can check?

  10. #10
    Jedi Trainee CLEAH's Avatar
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    Re: Original owner search for 1956 Austin-Healey

    cmc140,

    Some good suggestions here. As someone who does lots of historical research (mainly as it relates to old houses), I can tell you that this process is all about following every bit of information you can. The important pieces of data you have are the date (year) it was purchased by the second owner, as well as a few possible places. Key reference materials are newspaper archives (look though the classifieds) and city directories or phone books. Our major newspaper in Cleveland has been digitized back to the 1880's, making searching classifieds easy, but in the absence of that there is always the microfilm. Cross referencing names and hometowns from the race programs with the city directories could also lead you to the owner. Fun stuff this historical research, but also tantalizing and frustrating. You at least have a few bits of information. In my own case, my BJ8 has been in the family since 1978, and I recently tracked down the fellow my dad bought the car from (his name was on the paperwork). Unfortunately, he could not remember anything about the circumstances of his purchasing the car. Good luck.

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