It all begins on a lazy early fall afternoon in 1984. My brother has just done this “deal” for a whole lot of VW parts plus cars in various states of disrepair. Sure enough, when I get to his place there is about a quarter acre of VW stuff, and there he was, going through the collection and admiring the booty. It was one of those situations where the price was right but there was a hook; he had to take it all… cherry picking, all or nothing; “where do you want it?”

Well, over to one side of the field is this forlorn little two door nondescript roadster that obviously did not have German heritage. “As a matter of fact”, Bob says, “it was passed off as being some kind of British car”. And, I make the classic mistake of asking “so, what are you going to do with that little car?” And he says “I think you should have it”. This goes back and forth where soon enough it’s decided that the fate of the car, if I don’t adopt it, is on to the scrap yard with the other stuff with no resale or redeemable value. Well….we can’t let that happen! So, I buy it for two hundred twenty-five bucks and proceed to drag it the five miles back to my house.

The next few years (yes, years) are spent continuing to study the lineage and learning the various iterations of the Sprite. This includes projecting pictures on the back of my eye lids of the wife and me tooling across hill and dale in this great little car. A lot of day dreaming goes on in this phase, actually. It is an amazing transition that occurs when you plop your butt down in the seat of a project car isn’t it? The vision through the windshield (yes, it had a windshield!) changes to sunny skies, top down driving, in a perfect British sports car. Of course it’s in perfect condition; and at full chat! My oldest son David actually drew a cartoon with me in the car, making motor sounds, my driving goggles on ……while the Healey is up on jack stands! True story!

We jump ahead and pick up where I have already done much of the work on the car. The body is solid now; the original 950 cc engine has been swapped for the huskier 1275. The early four-speed transmission is replaced with a newer “rib-case” version with the synchromesh gears. The Austin Healey is now in new blue paint with a white racing stripe front to back, and it actually runs up and down the road.

Right about here Mike makes a basic fish-or-cut-bait statement, something to the effect “…if you want to get up in the pack and really be serious about this racing thing you need to get more power”. Translated loosely this means we have to spend some money (actually lots of money) to improve the basic elements of the car that yield performance and reliability. The operative word here is money. In the world of racing at any level there is a direct correlation with speed, performance and the dollars invested.

We put into practice what Mike has been researching, planning and preaching. We acquire a 1098cc long stroke engine with the preferred 2-inch main and Mike begins to mold it into the form that will take us well into the future. Oh yeah, a long way back I said that the car came with a 948 cc and it basically had to stay that way to be period compliant? Well, we discussed this with SVRA and in the Group One car specifications we find some wiggle room. It states that this car, in this body style actually was produced with the 948 and the 1098 engines prior to 1965 / 66. This opened the door for the development of the 1098 drive line.

The number 51 Austin Healey is still performing as I write this, but step back to 2003 and now the car has undergone another transition. The Healey is now a right hand driver, Mike having changed the configuration to suit Julie’s driving preferences. The Healey has officially gone over to Mike and Julie and she will campaign the number 51 car with SVRA and other Vintage venues from now on. Julie has a race team now; DWD Racing (Damn Woman Driver) with her own web site and way cool merchandise by the way. A blatant plug for DWD here! Go buy her stuff!

What about me? What am I doing now that the Healey has moved on? Well, that will be the stuff for the “rest of the story”. Up to this point this has been more a history of the Healey Sprite than of Team 51, but it was always homologous… didn’t get one without the other. Now comes a fork in the road where Team 51 diverges away from the Austin Healey and moves on to new adventures.

Oh, by the way, did you ever wonder where the Team name came from? It doesn’t matter; you’re going to hear anyhow. Back in the days when we decided that we would race the Austin Healy I had a goal to be racing the car by my fiftieth birthday. We missed it by one year and hence the name. Ok, so now you’re doing the math…..everyone does it. And, yes it’s 2009 and I’m still actively in the sport, driving as often as I can. Dreams never die………after all, we’re not old, we’re Vintage!

When Team 51 was campaigning the Austin Healey we were constantly correcting those people that thought the car was a MG Midget! Come on, how could anyone make that kind of lame brained mistake! There is a winged badge on the hood that says Austin Healy for heavens sake! Okay, okay, the two cars were virtually built on the same chassis, with many common parts. But, an MG? We wouldn’t be caught dead in a MG! Yeah, we are die hard Group One small bore guys, plus being loyal to the British marque; cut us and we bleed red, white and blue (in a Union Jack pattern of course). But a MG……come on!

Then it happened…..bear in mind, one of the ways that I have always supported my addiction to my British cars was to buy, sell and trade parts at flea markets. Most notably was my yearly exodus to the Carlisle, PA foreign car spring swap meet and flea market. There I was, nearly through with my wheeling and dealing this one year (1998 as I recall), ready to pack it in, when I eased into my friend Jack Whorley’s spot. He was there peddling some MG parts and other “stuff”. Jack is the Technical Director for the SVRA, and it was natural that we had things in common, so chatting with him would be a good way to wrap up the weekend; right?

Building a race car never moves as quickly as you hope, especially when this is strictly a hobby and you have very limited means to bring it all together. The time to prepare this car for its racing debut took about four years. During that time the car moved from Jack’s garage in South Carolina to storage in Georgia for awhile, moved up to PA, down to VA, back to PA and ultimately settled in Virginia when we physically relocated there. So, this car probably has more miles being hauled around the country on a trailer than it did as a “runner”.

But the time spent building the GT was well worth it. The plan to develop the car to a “factory-works” look alike strayed somewhat but the end results is pleasing just the same. And with the 1800cc plus displacement it really turns up the dial on the old fun-factor gauge! And, in the end, this is what it’s all about, right?

I “retired” in 2003 and we moved to Danville, Virginia lock, stock and barrel in 2004. When we knew that we would be living in VA we decided that we would need a home with more room than the normal two-car garage and full basement. We had to make space for our everyday cars, room for Gale’s hobbies, the race cars and an accumulation of twenty years worth of car parts, tools and all kinds of “stuff”. Well, again fate steps in and offers the perfect solution! It seems that friends of Mike and Julie (they are now living in Danville, too) have this property in the Historic District of Danville that would be perfect for our burgeoning space dilemma!

The property has a four bay garage plus a rather substantial warehouse building. And, the sale price offered is right. We quickly calculate that we can probably buy this property cheaper than we can build a second garage at our future home. So, we make the deal and the short term storage problems are solved. We ease the burden of the final relocation by moving all my worldly possessions to Danville where it finds a prime spot at the Lynn Street property.