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Hello - thinking of buying my first Healey [BJ8]

CooperD

Freshman Member
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I thought I'd introduce myself here, since my first question is going to be Healey related.

I had my first LBC, a '79 Midget 18 years ago. I drove it all over California for 1.5 years, and then gave it to my father when I moved to England to work there for a few years.

I returned to Los Angeles, and bought a new 1994 Miata for daily driving - which I have also driven all over California on many road trips. I do all my own maintenance and repairs on the Miata these days, and it's a great little car. However, a few years ago, I got the itching to see my old MG again - and discovered that my father had sold it a year prior and never bothered to tell me :cryin:

These days I feel the need stronger and stronger to own another LBC - this time, I have my sights set on my dream car, a Big Healey. The wife has finally come around to the idea, but we're not *quite* ready yet, mostly due to a lack of space (a new garage/workshop is on the list of home improvement projects within the next year).

But - as I'm fantasizing and browsing the classifieds, I run across a complete almost original 2 owner, well documented, 1966 BJ8 w/100k, no rust, very good running condition for $36k. The car was repainted (matching red) around 1990, but has lived garaged and well cared for it's whole life.

I'm seriously considering making a trip to see it, and maybe drive it home. It sounds to be in good enough shape to enjoy for a year while the new garage is built, and then I could start fixing up a few things on it, or maybe make a full restoration project out of it. (It's in well cared for shape, but it does have 100k and the years to go with it). It's certainly due for a mechanical freshening up sometime soon. I can make space to keep it garaged during that time (we have a 2-car now, so it would have to bunk with the Miata).

My goals are to own a good 5 footer solid driver that I can enjoy on a weekly (if not daily) basis. I'm not looking for a Concours Diva, just a beautiful work of art to enjoy and drive.

Now I've only been looking half-heartedly up to this point, and I haven't really done enough research about Big Healey's to feel that I know everything I should before buying one. That's where any advice you can offer me is very helpful. I would certainly have the car inspected by a qualified Healey expert in the area before purchasing.

So, is a rust free, original (except paint) and complete solid driver of a 66 BJ8 for $36k something crazy to pass up -- or will there be another one waiting for me in 6-12 months if I'm patient?

Thanks in advance for any expertise and guidance you can offer me!
 

HealeyRick

Yoda
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$36k for a Healey that needs restoration seems high to me.With the economy in it's present condition and the price of Healeys being deflated from where they were a few years ago, I would think you might get a fully restored car for that kind of money under the right circumstances. It's been awhile since I've been in the Healey market and you should pay more attention to recent buyers, but there is no way I'd pay that kind of money unless it was good enough to drive and enjoy everyday.
 
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Well, I don't know that the car needs restoration. If the engine has never been rebuilt, it's probably time, but 100K--of course, the odometer could be lying--on a well-maintained BJ8 is not bad. For reference, my '67 BJ8 (built in late '66) is mostly original, has been painted a couple times--it's due again--and the engine has been rebuilt twice AFAIK. It now has almost 170K miles but still runs strong (I just returned from a 4K road trip). It needs a new boot floor--a common rust point--and another engine rebuild soon, but I'll probably put another 10K miles on it before doing anything serious.

Look closely at the underside of the car--if it's been crunched walk away. If it's solid--the front crossmember and side rails often get crunched by hamfisted types with floor jacks--and doesn't have rust, check the front of the frame rails where the sway bar is attached--these get crunched, too. Check the A-frame attach points--these can get bent if the front end has been hit. Check the floor of the boot (trunk) for rust, if there's none or very little check the 'pocket' in front of the rear wheels--water accumulates here and the fender 'doglegs' rust out (bring a rubberized magnet to check for thick body putty). When you open the boot, smell for gas--this could mean a perforated gas tank.

Of course, drive the car. When you turn the key to start, the fuel pump should cycle 5-10 times and then slow to a click every 10 seconds or so. There's no synchro in first, but the other gears should shift smoothly, if not quickly. The O/D should engage within a second or so, in third and fourth gears. There should be no clunks in the drivetrain, but there's usually a shimmy/shake between 55-60mph. This is typical in BJ8s (perfectly balanced and trued wheels help some). There should only be about one inch or less of side-to-side play in the steering wheel, and the car should track true as a laser. More here:

https://healey.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=55

From what I've seen, provable 'California cars' command a premium--as much as 20% or more--over East Coast or Central States cars (if it has the original black/yellow plates that's worth something, too). If the car is indeed unrestored, that may actually be good--you'll have a mostly original car you can drive, maintain and (possibly) restore as you see fit, and won't be inheriting as much DPO (dreaded previous owner) issues.

Good luck and welcome to the Healey world.
 

why

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36K is a lot for a car with 100,000 miles on it. A fresh restoration mechanical and cosmetics maybe not quite show standards but very very nice should be about that price. Auction prices are suspect. Use as your guide private sales. Also in my experience, driving it home, if it is more than an hour and especially if most of the drive is not freeway where you can go 50 in slow lane just in case of....is problematic. Another 500-1,000 for shipping to make sure you do not have a catastrophic failure, much less a minor issue that leaves you stranded is well worth it. A few local drives seem to inevitably show this or that close to or just another mile from failure. They are wonderful cars to own and work on (Moss Motors up in Goleta can have pretty much any part on your doorstep the day after you call).
Jay
'65 3000
 

Johnny

Darth Vader
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I have to agree with others that the price is way to high. However, if you're serious about this car, consider joining a local AHCA or AHCUSA chapter and have a knowledgable member go with you to look at the car. Also, by joining a local chapter you may find a car more of your liking....
 
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Add $10K for the engine and $5K for a semi-good paint job with some body panel removal but not full body off, etc. You're already upside down and have not dealt with any frame issues, interior, tpp, electrical, etc. You can do better!
 

bighealeysource

Jedi Knight
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Hey Cooper,
Have to agree with the other guys comments. $36K for a BJ8 that potentially
needs the work you mentioned plus the unknowns - that will eat you alive if
you're not careful - make it an upside down deal. As I have been told numerous
times and finally practiced on my BN6, buy the very best car you can afford !
It is extremely satisfying to redo one yourself but even with your free labor,
usually hard to beat buying a nice one already done. The prices at BJ and
others are great to brag about, but now's a good time to be a buyer vs seller.
Regards and good luck finding one,
Mike
 
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I'm going to cast a dissenting vote here. I bought my BJ8 with 64K miles, but the car was in pretty much the same overall condition at 100K (I did rebuild the engine and transmission--mechanical work is the most fun, IMO). My car was professionally appraised at $33.5K with about 155K miles a few years ago. According to the original post, the car under consideration has been garaged and well-maintained--I think CooperD is assuming some work will need to be done, which is a fair assumption, but nowhere do I see it written that the car will need restoration. 'Restored' means different things to different people--new tires and a paint job to some, a complete frame-off to others (I have been told, by a person with firsthand knowledge, that one of the most famous restorers, who commands top dollar, does not rebuild the engine if it's running--he's figured out a pretty paint job sells cars).

I follow Big Healey asking prices on Hemmings, Healey Magazine, Old Cars Weekly and wherever else I come across them. West Coast cars--esp. documented 'California cars'--almost always list higher (20% or more). This is fair since the car will likely be less subject to the ravages of rain, snow, ice, road salt, etc. (my car's floorboards, for instance, are still perfect but I've seen cars with half the mileage with totally rotted-out floorboards). This car has been driven, on average, less than 3K miles a year (granted, a lot of the mileage was probably accrued in the early years). Occasionally, you'll see a car advertised with something like '50,000 original miles.' It may well be this kind of car has sat, not properly pickled, for the last 15 years and you can guarantee you'll need all new soft parts (tires, belts, hoses, etc.), a gas tank, a carb rebuild, possibly a drivetrain overhaul, a new top, etc. I'd personally prefer a car with a few more miles that has been driven, gotten regular oil changes and routine maintenance, etc. Of course, this may not be the case with this particular car, but I wouldn't write it off without checking it out (as a side note, aircraft with low-time engines that aren't flown regularly are actually worth LESS in many cases than planes with higher-time engines that are flown regularly). Also, there are some--myself included--who prefer a solid, well-maintained original car to a restored one (but I drive my car a LOT). Restoration is for when the car has truly hit the end of the road. Yes, auction prices are distorted, but last I checked, cars with total frame-off restorations from reputable restorers are still asking $60K or higher (usually, much higher).

There are some other things to consider. Like I said, if the car has the original plates that adds value (a little to some people, a lot to others). I have yet to see a decent, aftermarket copy of a tonneau or hood cover that compares to the original. If this car has these in good condition that adds a lot of value (my hood cover has some cracking but is otherwise in good shape). If the hood is in good condition that's worth something. If the car has matching numbers--is the BMIHT cert available?--and has not been hacked, puttied, hammered, cut or otherwise abused that adds value. If the owner has original paperwork that adds value.

As for driving it home, if the car's been maintained and driven by a knowledgeable owner you're better off than taking out a garage queen. To write this car off without considering all these points--and others I can't think of right now--could be a mistake. OTOH, check out some other cars too--or do like I did and fall in love with a car at a car show parking lot without doing ANY research. I've never looked back.
 

Marvin Gruber

Yoda
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$36K is in the range if the car is not a cobbled up restoration job. Just have someone knowledgeable look it over. There are more spruced up Healey's out there than original ones so do be careful.

Marv
 
OP
C

CooperD

Freshman Member
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This has been really great information guys, thank you!

Bob - you're inspection checklist is especially helpful. I had been searching around for something like that, but hadn't come up with the right combination of Google keywords yet, or perhaps just didn't browse enough, but thank you for the detailed breakdown.

I did sign up for the AHCUSA (even before BCF), and have been reading up as much as I can on healey.org. I contacted the club here in Los Angeles, and through a series of referrals reached David Nock (of the Golden Gate Healey Club) in Stockton to do a thorough pre-purchase inspection.

My mouse was hovering over the "buy" button for the airline tickets to fly up and look at the car, when my wife and I talked it over some more. We're not really ready to dive into this just yet, and I want to be careful that I'm not getting caught up in the excitement of it when I was really just browsing the ads for fun. It's not an issue of finances, but simply that we have too many other unfinished "projects" hanging over our heads right now to bring another one in. We sort of have a plan lined up of the things we want to get done before we dive into this one.

But - I'm having a hard time letting it go - I don't want to pass this up if it's a great opportunity. I'm sure I can figure out how to garage it safely until a new permanent home for it can be built.

<span style="font-weight: bold">This is the car I have been looking at:</span>

https://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/1809454980.html


<span style="font-weight: bold">Some additional details I got from talking to the seller:</span>

The guy listing the car (Steve Gordon, Vintage Auto Service in Oakland) is a mechanic who has maintained the car for the last 3-4 years when the owner was referred to him. The owner was the second owner of the car, and recently passed away - the car is being sold by his wife.

From the records, most of the mileage was put on early in the car's life. He estimates less than 5,000 miles were put on it in the last 10 years.

Past issues in the records include: rocker shaft, distributor gear

Recent maintenance done by Steve includes: brake servo, rear brake cylinders, tires.

3 years when Steve first started maintaining the car it had overheating problems. He put in a new radiator and took out the freeze plugs and cleaned the passages with high pressure. The car is better, but does overheat in 90 degree weather in stop-n-go traffic.

Steve estimates an engine rebuild needed in 10-15k miles.

If seeing the pictures and reading the brief details from the seller changes your opinions to either "run away" or "you have to buy this now!", let me know :smile:


<span style="font-weight: bold">I also have a few other questions about Healey's to help get me started if you can ... </span>

First, where is a good source for details on the various versions that were produced? I know the various model years of the "Big Healey"'s, and the phases including some of the major mechanical changes. But I was curious about details like interior trims, colors, options, etc. Are there records about how many of each color were produced, ext/interior combination's, etc? The Miata guys have this stuff pretty well documented on the web, but I haven't been able to find anything as succinct for the Big Healey's.


As for mechanical inspections - what are target compression readings and oil pressure to be looking for on an engine like this?

Thanks again for all the great help and suggestions!
 

bighealeysource

Jedi Knight
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Hey CooperD,
I'm like Rick above, after seeing the pictures it sure seems like one to
have David Nock look at for you. David's daddy, Norman was an icon in the
Healey world and David is a great guy to work with and couldn't think of any place better to have a pre-purchase inspection done. See what he says
and assume the seller has told you $36k will buy it, factor in David's findings
and maybe you can negotiate a better price. Interior looks nice based on what you can see and if the repaint was done properly and no rust issues, maybe you can live with a future engine rebuild. Know there are a lot of good places out there for that and David's shop is one of the best. Might be worth that plane trip up to SF to look at in person after all !!!

Try this other site for more info on other models. www.austinhealey.com

Personally I'm kinda partial to the 2 seaters, BN1 & BN2 (100-4's) and
the BN6 & BN7 (100-6 & 3000). But they are all beautiful cars and you will
love it.

You found the best place to discuss Healeys with BCF and joining AHCUSA was
a smart idea.

Let us know what you do and find out and welcome to the Healey club !
Regards,
Mike
 

John_Progess

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A very good reference book is "Original Austin Healey 100,100-6,3000 by Anders Clausager. When you do go and look at it and I recommend that you do, bring a mirror and light to carefully look at the sills, outriggers, frame rails and floor pans for rust/damage. Check the cove line to make sure the doors have not sagged. I did notice that the dash pad looks like it has too much padding ie been replaced. If there is not a bad problem and the only issue is a possible engine rebuild in the next couple of years I would not be afraid of this car. I just finished a complete restoration, doing my own work and the engine rebuild was about $2300. Have a good day!

John
 
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The mileage and price are both higher than originally mentioned, but I still think it's appropriate. Very original--looks very much like my BJ8, except for the engine (mine has better paint). The seller is asking a premium for an unmolested, well-maintained original car.

Couple things:
- engine is odd color--oil+corrosion (could be expected with 120K+ miles)?
- some oil leakage around valve cover and breather hoses (normal--probably caused by excessive blowby in engine)
- valve cover is slightly splayed out from overtightening (typical--can be squeezed back to shape)
- heater hoses should be black
- can't tell what the orange knob is on the engine-to-heater hose--some kind of valve (standard brass valve badly corroded--probably stuck in place)?
- has stainless steel flex fan (noisy)
- non-original radio--no biggee but, holes cut in kick panels for speakers (not good from originality standpoint)?
- don't care for the rock guards on the headlights (opinion only)
- hood and interior in excellent shape (can be major pain points--these are worth several thousand dollars alone)
- screwdriver on console included?

I'd like to know what the mechanic considers 'overheating.' Most Healeys will heat up--to 200degF or so--on warm days sitting in traffic, but be OK at speed. This is normal, but if the car tends/threatens to boil in these conditions this is not good--could be due to crud in coolant passageways from corrosion in the engine. Check the condition of the coolant carefully--signs of rust would indicate this (though mechanic may have flushed system for inspection). The flex fan was probably put on to help with this--they are very effective and if it still 'overheats' could be real problem. If you were to drive it back to LA on a hot day this might get exciting. Given this, I'd plan on doing an engine rebuild--with hot-tanking of block--ASAP, for reliability and peace of mind.

Condition of brake/clutch fluid reservoir indicates DoT3/4 fluid used. If car sits a long time this fluid can gel and crystallize, but if servo was rebuilt fluid was probably flushed. Still, could have problems with master and slave cylinders.

I'd buy this car, if I didn't have one already. Go through the engine and transmission/OD and you've got a very solid original driver, quite possibly good for another 100K miles (proper rebuild should take care of overheating issue). Like Marv said, most Healeys have been 'spruced up'--there's a lot of value in an original car. This seller knows that.
 

nevets

Jedi Knight
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If you can manage it I would also recommend taking a look at at least one other Healey in the same price range, just as a point of comparison. I looked at more than a dozen cars, took a few flights and drove many hours before I finally found what I was looking for. Good luck with your purchase.
 
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The door handles are off and that means the doors have been worked on. The oil on the valve cover may indicate an oil spray under the valve cover. (simply remove the valve cover and start the engine you should only see dribble at each valve rocker arm, no jetting of oil). Not too expensive to get a rocker arm re-done. The brake canister worries me more. I'd trailer it home. I personally think you should not pay more than 25K with the expected work necessary. It appears to be a beauty. (check the panels under the door and in front of the rear wheel for rust. Use a magnet to detect Bondo. You can also tap with your finger nail. It is one that is well worth restoring. If it were a bargain, It would be gone in flash. Bring one of the guys from the local Healey group to inspect it. They are all great guys who own Healeys. You buy a Healey and you get a family.
TH
PS, If you get the car, HOLD ONTO THOSE BLUE PLATES!!! Fight the DVM for them.
 
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Agree, if you can get this car for under $30K it's well worth it. Don't underestimate the cost/hassle/value of a good interior, hood, etc. Even the dash is in good shape, and all controls look original/correct. Little things like original horns--not available in aftermarket--add up considerably during resto.

tahoe healey said:
<snip>
PS, If you get the car, HOLD ONTO THOSE BLUE PLATES!!! Fight the DVM for them.

Would be even better with the original black/yellow plates ... wonder what happened to them?
 
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Why does the guy say that the engine will need a rebuild in 10-15K miles? Does it already suffer from low compression, high oil consumption? A thorough leakdown compression test (not a quick one where you spin over the engine) is definitely in order as it will tell you a host of things about the condition of the combustion chambers, bores,rings, valves, etc.
 

Cutlass

Jedi Warrior
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Just one more point. Depending on serial number, the tags on the rocker cover shouold be stickers rather than the riveted tags appearing in the pictures. The later cars had stickers. Not nearly as cool as the metal tags, in my opinion, but if those tags are not appropriate for the serial number, it may indicate an engine swap. That's not a huge issue, but it could make one question the entire picture. All that being said, the body panels seem to fit well, which is a huge plus. Don't ask me how I know, but ill fitting body panels, doors, boot and bonnet are big dollar consumers. If you can get Mr. Nock to look at the car, that would be the gold standard of opinions.
 

Johnny

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Hey CooperD, pictures do make a big difference. The car does look nice and their only original once. Keeping that in mind a good clean up is a place to start. Things I noticed that may be right or wrong, I'm not sure: The dash top doesn't look original to me, can't tell by the photos but maybe the dash is discolored. One thing that bothers me is what looks like sand in the wheel wells. With such a high mileage car you know your going to need a complete rebuild, maybe the tranny and OD as well, that alone will run about 15K if done professionally. If it were me, and mine you it's not me, I would offer around 28K, then maybe increase to 30K and be prepared to walk away.
 
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