Orvar Litsjo never lost the faith.
Not when the brand new wiring harness began to smoke.
Not when the fuel tank leaked like a colander.
Not even when the newly-rebuilt engine filled the bell housing with oil.
“I knew I could get the problems whipped,” he says. “It just took a lot longer than I anticipated.”
But what the Seattle-area enthusiast ended up with is a better-than-new example of a classic British roadster.
This Austin-Healey line began with the rather Spartan 100-4, a smaller, lighter version that featured a raspy four-cylinder engine, a fold-down windscreen and plastic windows. It was light, nimble and masculine.
It ended with the Austin-Healey 3000, an elegant roadster with wind-down windows and all the creature comforts for touring.
“The 100-6 is the ‘in-between car’,” he says. “The body is identical to the 3000, but the engine is a 2.6 liter 6-cylinder.
“It came with two jump seats in the back, so the husband could convince his wife that it was really a family car,” he jokes.
“Look honey, we can put the kids in the back,” he says.
The saga of the Austin-Healey 100-6 is long and somewhat convoluted. And like most British cars, it is a story that adds another chapter with almost every road trip.
The car was built in 1959 when most cars from the British manufacturer were headed to overseas markets.
“They are actually kind of rare in Europe,” he says.
An export version, his Healey made its way to Texas, then made the trip back across the Atlantic to Belgium. It had been purchased by a successful Brussels-area businessman who owned a small collection of restaurants.
“He sent it to a shop -it is the kind of place that will work on anything that comes in the door -for restoration.”
Litsjo says the shop did much of the work on the car in-house, but farmed out most of the mechanical work to specialists in English machinery.
Work progressed while the owner sent regular checks to cover the restoration.
Then, the checks stopped.
The businessman’s restaurants fell on hard times. His marriage went sour. And he attempted suicide.
And the mostly-completed roadster was shoved to the corner of the shop.
That’s where Litsjo found it while looking for a project.
He had been in Brussels for more than three years, and was “suffering from car withdrawal.
“At home I always had something to work on, and I was missing time in shop, working on a project,” he says.
The shop that was working on the car belonged to the relatives of a co-worker. The shop owner, looking forward to retirement, was selling off a collection of about 30 cars.
“He had Jaguars, American cars from the ‘30s to the ‘50s and some motorcycles.
“At the time, the Healey wasn’t for sale, because the owner was still alive and the shop didn’t own the car.”
By the time Litsjo checked back a few months later, all that changed, and a deal was struck.