The other day, upon leaving the local supermarket, I noticed a sign reading "Hybrid Parking Only." Good, I thought, 'cause that's what I drive.
My Nash Healey is a real hybrid, pretty, desirable and, by golly, irreplaceable! Its sleek Roadster body was hand built by (Pinin) Farina in Italy, fitted with Le Mans racing-derived suspension and Nash mechanicals at Donald Healey's factory in England, and finally shipped to the USA.
A labor of love, just a couple of hundred Nash-Healey Roadsters were ever completed. More expensive than a Jaguar XK120 or Chevrolet Corvette it its day, many were owned by celebrities, and quite a few were raced competitively throughout the 1950s, culminating in a 3rd overall at Le Mans in 1952.
The unique 1953 Nash-Healey presented here was owned for over 40 years by Archie Moore, undefeated light heavyweight World Boxing Champion of the 1950s and all-time leader in career knock-outs (131). In San Diego, his adopted home town, a freeway is named after Moore, the boxer, actor, and champion of racial integration.
Mr. Moore was very fond of exotic machinery, as evidenced by this photos of one of this other toys, the magnesium-bodied Jaguar purportedly worth $25,000.00 that met its tragic fate during the infamous fire on Dec 7, 1957 at the Barris Bros.' Lynwood, Calif. shop.
With its clean-shaven face, the Barris Nash Healey features a smooth, very likable profile, not unlike a Ferrari of the early Fifties. Unique and beautiful!
Note authentic black-and-yellow California license plates, issued to the car in 1963, during Mr. Moore's ownership.
Let's have a closer look at this highly unusual automobile, starting up front.
The first thing you notice when lifting the bonnet is the lack of weight. Yes, it's made from aluminum, just like the deck lid.
Residing between the fenders is a 1967 Ford 302 cu.in. V8 engine, installed by Moore, that was the recipient of a complete rebuild in 2009. An Edelbrock carb and aluminum intake help push the power output beyond twice the original figure attained by the Nash straight six.
All ancillaries are new, radiator and brakes have been serviced, and the auto trans has been rebuilt, too.
Surveying the N-H's sleek coachwork, we are impressed by its excellent state of preservation. The body panels, hand-formed over wooden bucks in Torino, Italy, survived six decades without being attacked by the deadly tin worm. Apparently, the car was never in any major accident, either. No restoration worries here!
Note original PininFarina fender emblems.
Alpine White paint is old, very old. It still appears very glossy and smooth, but there are many imperfections, mainly chips and some paint crazing. Fascinatingly, we found some of the car's previous finish lurking under the hood. In the best Barris tradition, the Archie Moore roadster seems to have been originally finished in a golden bronze, with some pearl added. If we'd keep it, we certainly would paint it back to "original," just the way it left the Barris brothers' shop in the 1950s.
The dash layout can only be descibed as fantastic, with a full array of vintage Stewart Warner gauges -- most of 'em work -- dazzling the eye of the beholder. Original roadster steering wheel features an adjustable column.
When we first purchase the car iun 2007, the original, worn Barris upholstery was still present and we used it as a pattern to have Maestro Hector Larios replicate it. White-and-turquoise material looks and feels wonderful.
Click on any of the above images for a full-size view
Although primarily a fair weather car, there is a new, zippered, full tonneau cover to protect the interior from sun, rain, and prying eyes.
Ready for a test drive?
So are we, but before we leave, let's check out trunk and luggage compartment.
Roomy trunk is clean and rust free. There's no spare, though.
Original side curtains are present, yet haven't been mounted in decades. In fact, it's unlikely that this California car has ever been driven in the rain.
Car's underbelly looks clean, dry, and unmolested. No work needed here!
Click on the image to the left for an XXL-sized view
Click on any of the above images for a full-size view
Details of undercarriage. Check out the unique Healey Silverstone front suspension.
Monday, April 23, turned out to be a lovely spring day here in our serene mission town of Ventura. The perfect day to drive a roadster!
The Nash Healey starts on the button, literally, and immediately settles into a confidence-inspiring, rumbling idle. Throttle response is instantaneous, the accompanying sound just marvelous. Put the pedal to the metal and the hybrid surges forward with the determination of a teen trying to reach the mosh pit at a punk rock show.
It's hard to wrap one's mind around the fact that this motorcar will celebrate its 60th birthday during the coming year as it is perfectly suited for daily driving duty, and emanates a sure-footed confidence that meshes well with the undivided admiration it receives from other motorists and pedestrians wherever you take it.
Surely you could restore this car. You could sink thousands of dollars into it in a pursuit of perfection. But why would you want to do that? Drive it just the way it is, to work, to the Farmers' Market, to the beach, to every car show and coffee-and-donut meet you wish to attend, without worries that you'd be collecting another rock chip or two. Perhaps paint it pearl gold if you are a Barris aficionado, but that should do it.
It's not every day that you have the opportunity to acquire one of the most desirable Italo-American specials, featuring an amazing celebrity pedigree, sensible mechanical upgrades, and a virtually unlimited appreciation potential, at a very realistic price point.
We sold this unique Nash Healey in 2012.