Talk Healey To Steve

There’s a sign in some antique stores that reads, “The only person who cares what your grandma had is your grandpa.” It’s not that the antique dealer is a mean person, but that they know what they’re selling is an item that was once common and now old. The desire to tell the story of how you remember it when grandma had it is common as well, and beyond pointless and boring. There is just nothing of interest about it.

How do I know this? Meet my Healey.

On most Tuesdays in the summer, I take it to cruise night in Oyster Bay, where I meet up with Steve. Steve used to have a Healey, what we call a 50 footer, but lost it to Hurricane Sandy. Still, he comes to hang out with me. Steve is divorced, has no kids and lives alone. He is, well, bored, and looks for any opportunity to talk to people.

We park our cars, nose out on a diagonal, on Audrey Avenue, while people stroll and look. There is a rule of etiquette that no one touches the cars uninvited, and it’s a pretty hard rule. Between guys with chains hanging out of their back pockets and women whose very large bags bang into everything, keeping the tourists from scratching the cars is a constant issue.

Then there are the parents who carefully watch their kids, reminding them to keep their hands to themselves. Whenever one of these youngsters ogles the Healey, looking hard without touching, I invite them to get into the driver’s seat as the parents take a picture of a kid grinning from ear to ear. There are few things that warm my mean old heart more than making a kid happy in the Healey.

But the adults? Most give us a wink, a thumbs up, and a “nice car.” We smile, wave and thank them. Some want to tell us about how they had a Healey, which is pretty much what the sign in the antique store is about. You had one. Lots of people had one. I have one. Point? But I listen dutifully, nod and occasionally utter “hmm” or “ah.” Then they go away.

But then there are the people who feel that same compulsion to talk, with two basic variations.

  1. They didn’t have a Healey, but someone they knew had a Healey 50 years ago.
  2. They didn’t have a Healey, but had a car that wasn’t a Healey (say an MG) but they still feel the need to tell you about.

This is where Steve is my savior. Steve will sit there, listen attentively, nod his head whenever appropriate, and even exclaim amazement at the fact that this individual was one of the 50,000 people who owned a particular model car years ago. Some talk about how much they loved it. Some will talk about how theirs was a mess, and assume that all Brit cars were exactly like theirs so as to seek confirmation for their decades old feelings of inadequacy.

Last Tuesday evening, I was sitting there, behind the Healey, when Steve took off to hit the john and left me alone. A fellow who was looking at the registration sticker called over to me, “is this your car?” These are the dreaded words.

“Yup,” I said, knowing that I should have denied any knowledge of the car.

He walked over to me and launched into a story about how he almost bought a Healey twenty years ago but bought a Triumph TR-4 instead. Oh crap.

Triumphs are nice cars. I like to look at them, although you don’t see many as they rusted out, fell apart and most disappeared off the face of the earth. But they hold no fascination for me as a subject of discussion, and why would they? The fact that I have a Healey doesn’t mean that I have some deep interest in discussing some random guy’s story about a Triumph.

Still, I dutifully listened and nodded, in that way that sent a social cue that I couldn’t care less but wouldn’t be rude enough to tell this self-absorbed dolt that his story had nothing to do with me or anything that could possibly be of interest to me. Until he crossed the line.

“Where do you live?”

Huh? What part of your boring me with your Triumph story made you think I’m now required to give you personal information? That’s when he finally took the cue from my glaring eyes, reinforced by my saying “what the hell business is it of yours where I live?” By that point, Steven came back from using the bathroom and I looked at him with pleading eyes to save me.

Triumph guy, sensing that his question would neither be answered nor met with the interest he expected toward whatever point he would eventually get to, then said, “Fine, I’m bored with this too,” and walked away.

Steve shook his head at me and reminded me “they need their catharsis.” He’s right, of course. People need to get this stuff out or it will burn within them, but must I have to listen, for the thousandth time, some random guy’s story that means absolutely nothing to me?

“That’s why I need you, pal,” I replied to Steve. And I do. Thank you for being there, Steve, and saving me from the stories that make me want to stab my eyes out. I don’t know what I would do without Steve.

65 thoughts on “Talk Healey To Steve

  1. Rendall

    If the fellow said “I have a Healey! It’s parked around the corner!” would that be more interesting? I cannot imagine.

    You’re a more patient man than I. I would not park such a thing where people would likely talk to me about it once, much less regularly, as you do.

    1. SHG Post author

      One of my favs is when some guy is showing it to a woman and explains, “yeah, this was the James Bond car.” Years ago, I used to correct the guy just to screw with his man card, but now I let it slide. At least I get to enjoy these occasional moments of humor.

  2. Guitardave

    DUDE!!…cool car!…I got a totally rust free, un-restored 76 Spitfire i found in a barn last year for $500, it’s….

      1. Bear

        Of course you warning everyone not to do something resulted in me doing the opposite. I just had to look. I’m reminded of what my dearly departed father had to endure.

      2. Casual Lurker

        Nice to see the folks down in the ER have posted a new training video.

        For those of you feeling nauseous, we’re offering a Compazine and Xanax combo.

  3. Michael D McNutt

    Same only different, was walking a Porsche rally in Minnesota when a owner doing something else turned back to the car and saw someone with large belt buckle leaning into car while rubbing said buckle on door top resulting in (as I watched it unfold) scratches and a actual s mall dent in door. Screams, advanced cursing, f you followed by wrench in hand approaching said member of pubic before cooler heads stepped in. Police were (of course) called and took names, information. Funny that beltbuckle guy could be so clueless. Hey tho I once owned a Citroen I 19 …..

    1. SHG Post author

      You really can’t believe how clueless and selfish people can be. But as a group, we protect each other’s and our own cars from damage. If a tourist wants to start a fight, it will not go well for him.

      And I’ve always loved the 2CV, mostly when I’m going downhill.

    1. Guitardave

      Sorry about the loss of your baby, Steve…fucking hurricanes.
      I’m pretty well informed about old cars, but not quite as much about Brit stuff…but I’ve never heard the term “50 footer”….whats the deal?…did it handle like a yacht?

      1. Dan

        I’d assume the meaning to be that it looks great from 50′ away–from closer, not so much. That is at least the context in which I’ve heard that expression used.

            1. SHG Post author

              Of the later Triumphs, I always thought the Spitfire was the coolest. It’s all about the hips, and the Spitfire has sweet hips.

            2. Guitardave

              Giovanni Michelotti knew what was what, when it comes to style. I liked TR-6’s when i was young…big wheels, and a six…but a bit boring style wise. Never paid much attention to the Spits till i saw the one i bought under a pile of junk in a friends barn. After 4 hrs. clearing away junk and freeing up the frozen brakes, i drug it out into the light, and washed off 26 years of barn shit. I kept walking around it, and with each lap thinking, man, this little car has some great lines….and i was hooked.

            3. SHG Post author

              The TR-6 has the two cylinders missing from its earlier siblings, but had no soul. And don’t even talk about the 7, the most hideous Brit car ever made and the death of a marque.

            4. Guitardave

              Remember the advertisements for the 7? “The shape of things to come”…that was quite prescient when you consider all the butt ugly stuff on the roads these days…it seems the design studios are all inhabited by video game kids who watched too much transformers.
              I have seen a few modded TR-8’s that didn’t look too ug, and would definitely be a blast to drive, though.

  4. Hunting Guy

    Nice car.

    I had an English sports car once. It was an Alpine Sunbeam with the four cylinder. I got it for $300 because the owner tried to jump it and didn’t know that it had a positive ground. Did you know that Lucas Electrical only put one fuse in the cars?

    It came with a hand crank like the Model A. I tried to crank it once but the compression was too much.

    I had to replace the convertible top and interior because it had sat in the sun for years and I repainted it British racing green.

    I had to put a quart of oil in it every two weeks, but you know how all British cars leak oil.

    Fun car, no power, I had a real hard time finding parts. I finally sold it because the transmission went out.

    Been nice talking to you, guess I wander along and look at some of the other cars.

    Have a nice day.

      1. Patrick Maupin

        Lucas, prince of darkness.

        I spent 4 months at a tiny hotel near Manchester back in the 80s. One day after work, I went to the hotel bar and asked for a Perrier and ice.

        The buxom barmaid put her hands on her hips, and lilted in her Irish brogue “Now, Pat! Ye know the icemaker doesn’t work when it gets above 70!”

        1. SHG Post author

          I have a number of badges on the grille, all of which are legit, plus this one.

          And then there’s my driving t-shirt.

          1. Earl Wertheimer

            I suspect more Lotuses (Loti?) died by fire than any other cause. A combination of Lucas eclectrics (sic) and a plastic body.

            This was my car:

            but without Emma… my youthful crush

    1. rojas

      I never had a British car, but I did acquire and do maintain an old classic of about the same vintage as Scott’s Healey. It too has a naturally asperated straight six although displacement is a mite larger.

      It made it’s public debut in Dallas fifty nine years ago this month and proved it’s meddle on the Nebraska proving grounds shortly after. Final output was measured at 84 horse power at 2200 rpm, five percent grater than advertised.

      Some might say the hips are more Kardashian like and this has spurred much debate about fender lines on over the years. I never thought about it much as form follows function and it was a 10 no doubt.

      Also of note is that Elvis acquired a 1961 model in 66. It was said to be one of his favorites and now resides at the auto museum at Graceland. Some may doubt his acumen as an automobile aficionado, but he spent his entire career surrounded by some of the best hips in the business. It’s also been documented that the Nixon administration may have recruited him as a special agent of some sort but it has not been confirmed if that position came with a license to kill.

      These models also have a funky electrical system consisting of two twelve volt batteries used in series to provide isolated 24 volts to the starter with a 24 charging system. Lights and accessories are twelve volt, comprising two circuits split between the two batteries, with a mid grounding point. More than a few have gone up in smoke over the years when the isolation breaks down for one reason or another.

      I only mention it here because you noted that you repainted your car green and green is the only color these ever left the factory with.

          1. Rojas

            Mea culpa, John Deere green.
            I thought HG might catch the inference if anyone.
            Those old tractor proving grounds were in the Judges back yard.

    1. Bear

      Guitardave, I enjoy your comments, including music videos. But, in this case the Healey was best appreciated with the sound muted.

  5. Kathleen Casey

    Your Healey is a thing of wonder. What’s fulfilling to you about the cruise nights?

    1. SHG Post author

      Getting out, driving the Healey, hanging with my car buds. And the kids. I love the kids who glow seeing the Healey.

    2. Mike T

      Great. I’ve been waiting for a chance to tell you all about *my* Healey. Uh, maybe some other time.
      Nice car BTW. Even if it does have those sissy wind-up windows.

      1. SHG Post author

        I used to keep an MGB in the trunk of the Healey, until it started to rot and smell become too unpleasant.

  6. Allen

    When a group of people gather that have British automotive products there always seems to be one person that wants their particular electrical system problem diagnosed, sight unseen and for free, they will also tend to tell you why you are wrong with any suggestions you might foolishly make. A good stock answer to this person is, “have you tried reading the electrical schematic in a mirror, the British use the left hand rule.”

  7. Mark L

    I suspect the rambling, semi-related stories come from an a strong desire to express appreciation for something that truly excites another by connecting it to your own passions and memories.

    Every time you post your car stories, I fondly recall my first truck. I was the second owner; it spent its first 33 years first as the go-to-town truck for a local farmer and was later relegated to a runabout for the fieldhands. I paid $500 cash and six months after my 14th birthday was one of the first kids in my class to get a hardship license. It took about a month of tinkering with the help of a nearby mechanic to get the brakes working right. Another guy showed me how to weld and fix the floorboards. I replaced the bed with lumber from Home Depot and inadvertently stained part of the body when sealing the wood. I lined the bed with a tarp and filled it with water one summertime Friday night and cruised the boulevard with cute girls sloshing about in the back. I crashed it into a telephone pole when the brake line ruptured, and only slightly dented the front bumper (but completely destroyed the telephone phone – it was cut free from the earth and dangled from the power lines – repairs cost my insurance quite a bit of money).

    Wish I’d never sold it. After the brake line thing my mom wasn’t going to let me keep it. The dash was steel and there were no seatbelts. My forehead proved that it may not have been the safest design. The buyer lowered it and did all sorts of horrific stuff to my beloved truck. Fortunately, it didn’t stay in my town for too much longer in that condition. The Civic I owned after that was certainly more practical, but not anywhere near as fun.

    Every time I see a line of classic cars that have been carefully loved and treated, I remember my old truck and smile. Thanks for sharing your car stories.

  8. Turk

    Now let me tell you about the time I rode on a track in a McLaren. It’s British, so I know you’ll be interested.

    I intend to tell the story with full orchestration and five-part harmony…

    1. SHG Post author

      The other evening, when we went out to dinner, I pointed out a McLaren in the parking lot to Dr. SJ. She asked me if it was made by Ford or Chevy. You were saying?

          1. Turk

            It’s OK, my teenage son will tell me everything I need to know, whether I actually need it or not.

  9. Casual Lurker

    “He walked over to me and launched into a story about how he almost bought a Healey twenty years ago but bought a Triumph TR-4 instead. Oh crap.”

    Just to be clear, I’m not the [former] TR4 owner referred to in SHG’s story.

    SJ: Short Take: Nothing To Hide
    Dec. 19, 2018

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