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Healey Week Best of Show

Lon Bender | Published on 6/1/2022

Healey Week Best of Show

Best of Show, 1954 Austin Healey BN1 Le Mans



Getting a driving license means the opportunity to get a cool car. My dad gave me a VW with one of the rear fenders missing. Looked like a moving tripod; not so cool. But my Healey destiny was about to begin. I had a part time job in the 10th grade; a one day a bright Red Austin Healey appeared for sale at the Vets office across the street. I couldn’t keep my eyes off it, beautiful. I walked right over and circled it several times; imagining the future! Before I knew it, I traded my old Volkswagen, along with $400 and the Healey was mine.


Looked great but, barely ran, and it sounded like a toolbox full of loose nuts and bolts when I went over any bump, no matter how small. I happily drove it to high school and became very good at bump starting the car, especially when I was late for class. And going on dates was particularly risky as I would never know what my wonderful little car would dish out for the evening.




Even after jettisoning the dates that didn’t enjoy my Healey. I was still suffering from my ‘no girlfriend’ state of affairs. I decided to start a lifelong process of having work done on the car, which needed just about everything to improve reliability. I took the car to Russ Thompson for its initial restoration. We started doing simple fixes, particularly addressing overheating problems. I was young and short on funds owing to spotty working income. Each time Russ called to say the car was ready, I'd kick the can down the road and ask him to do more work, including painting the car silver. This continued on and off for a couple of years. Eventually I saved enough to pay him, and was able to take the BN1 home.




Fast forward to 2012; I’m working on the film Winter’s Tale in NYC and the phone rings, a commercial agent tells me he understands I have a silver Austin Healey and he wants to use it in a Ralph Lauren Commercial. The creative client is Bruce Webber, famous for black and white photographs of the beautiful models in many high fashion magazines. I thought that it would add value to my car if I had a signed photo of it from him. Game on. Problem was, the actor was more interested in the actress than the gauges and he cooked the engine showing off for her. Seven months later, my mechanic still hadn’t found a proper crankshaft... hmmm...I contacted the club and got the British Car Specialists phone number.


Me: I’ve been looking for a crankshaft for my Austin Healey Dave: “is it Silver” Me: “yes, how did you know? Dave: “I not only have a crankshaft for it, but I have one with your name on it which has been sitting here since last November after your mechanic ordered it.” Everything unravels for my mechanic from there.. the story unfolds that he’s absconded with the insurance money from the production company, who should have given it to me instead of him! The next step was picking up everything that could be identified as mine and the car went off to Dave’s shop in Stockton. The long and short of it was the car came back from the photo shoot with a burned-out engine and other damage and we got a hefty insurance settlement, including loss of use for a year. At last, I could afford a ground up restoration and Le Mans Dealer Upgrade. Thank you Midnight Romance by Ralph Lauren.




At BCS the mechanical and interior components are disassembled and body parts removed. A long road ahead. A complete engine rebuild begins. The interior is stripped and the frame and body parts are ready to deliver to Kevin Terry at Precision Machine for the ground-up frame and body repair. They worked long and hard and after final masking she was ready for paint by the end of the year.




BCS began the process of installing the various mechanical an electric systems, including the 1955 Le Mans Dealer upgrade. By the beginning of 2017 the car is taking shape, and looks a lot like my Revell models from so many years ago! In 2018 the interior gets intense attention, particularly important is the Dyna Matting, which insulates the cockpit from engine heat. It is topped off with beautiful blue leather seats and blue carpeting, along with rebuilds of the gauges and detailing the blue dash with a silver inset for the gauges. We also completely replaced the Fuel Cell.


May 23, 2018


The exquisite design features of the BN1 really looked amazing now! After all these years she makes it home and I can’t wait to drive and drive! My son, Gray is driving the car often and it looks like he’ll be the next owner when the time comes! I’ve enjoyed drives and Early Rodders with my Healey friends here in Pasadena and getting to know many members of the So Cal Healey Club.


Thank you to BCS Dave Nock and Andrew Nock and Precision Automotive Kevin Terry and Brian Gilbreath.