Hey guys! In this post I’ll be introducing my 1967 Austin Healey Sprite, lovingly called Wilson.
This car has a rather interesting story – it was initially purchased by a British diplomat. The car was primarily used to travel back and forth from the UK and Spain, racking up a fair number of miles in it’s short time on the road. Between 1968 and 1973 the owner managed to cover over 62,000km (38,500 miles). In 1974 the car was parked indefinitely and later sold to a Spanish car collector called Fernando. It was at this point that the car sat in a climate-controlled garage until 2016, when I rescued it.
Fernando had quite the car collection, including another MG Midget in BRG (in a very dilapidated condition – him and his wife would tour Europe in it, before setting it aside for larger, more capable cars). He made it very clear that it was not for sale. The most interesting car in his collection is former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s personal limousine, a black 1952 Rolls Royce Phantom IV. Unfortunately he asked me not to publish any photos of the various cars he owned.
Back to the Sprite, it was in almost pristine condition. He kept it relatively clean and fired it up every few weeks to keep the oil circulating. The car is fitted with an original, if faded, white hard top, wire wheels, tube tires, heater matrix and blower motor, cassette radio and aftermarket speakers. Unfortunately he had misplaced the original soft top, though it would have needed to be replaced anyways. I instantly decided I wanted it and told him I’d be back for it.
Several months had passed with almost weekly phone calls. I was in between jobs and wouldn’t be able to afford it for a while. He told me he would wait as none of the other buyers were as enthusiastic as I was. Seven months later, in February, my Dad agreed to loaning me the money for it. He’s always very supportive of my (sometimes foolish) ideas, if a little skeptical. The following week I had rented a trailer, packed my girlfriend and our two dogs in the car and left to go pick it up. That was the worst experience of my life.
It began with the rental car and trailer – the car’s clutch was out of fluid and the stick wouldn’t physically shift into first gear. The drive from Estepona, Malaga, to Alicante included several long, high inclination roads that truly tested the rental car. Half of the drive was spent wondering if the burning clutch and grinding gears would survive the almost 9 hour round trip. The trailer lacked brake lights and safety chains. The chains are designed to be hooked up in an X pattern, so if the trailer hitch unhooks from the ball, it lands on the chains and doesn’t fly down the road on it’s own. When the car was finally loaded and we were halfway home, a rainstorm struck. The car’s wipers barely worked and the tires were bald. This half of the trip was all downhill. Around two hours from home, one of the trailer’s solid steel stowaway ramps fell off. We heard a loud bang, grinding and sparks behind us and immediately pulled over. Turns out the mounting bracket had rusted through and sheared in half. We never found that ramp.
When we eventually arrived home, several double espressos and 18 hours later, I noticed the car would never actually make it off the trailer without that ramp. I scoured the area and found bricks in the neighboring construction site. A few of those stacked behind the trailer meant the car could roll off without scraping anything. It took another half an hour or so to roll the car down the road and into the garage. Turns out it’s difficult to move a car with seized brakes and flat tires.
Finally, the car sat in it’s new resting place and we were exhausted.
Some of you may be wondering, why name it Wilson? It was mentioned by my girlfriend on the long drive back. Admittedly, we were both incredibly tired and forgot how we even came to it. The name stuck in the end.