By Mike Howze
Preface: I look to put a story together per Check Heleker’s request. I want to make it interesting technically and at the same time sprinkle some humor in the final story.
“Why were the following knights: Sir Ess Yew, Sir Whitworth, Sir Lucas AKA the Prince of Darkness, and Sir Yewni Sin not included with the the round table? Because they were relegated to the small square table in the corner of the great hall”.
I came across an old author that I enjoyed in the late ’50’s. His name was Jack Douglas. He was a writer for Red Skelton, Bob Hope, and Jack Parr. He also had the following books: My Brother was an only Child and Never trust a naked bus driver. What was different about both of these books other than the titles. Each page was a chapter. I realize that if I use this format there is the problem of possible plagiarism..I still like the use of one page chapters. It will help me get the point across.
Chapter One: First primer on automobiles, Mechanics IIlustrated– late 1940’s in Alabama. Favorite article was Wilbur Shaw. He tested cars. I wanted to be a car tester when I grew up.
Chapter Two: Learning how to shift floor. Connecticut 1950’s. International Farmall Cub. That is another story.
Chapter Three: Advanced reading Virginia mid 1950’s. Reading Competition Press=Autoweek, Car Life, Sports Car Graphic, Car and Driver, Automobile Life, Motor Trend, and Road and Track.
Chapter Four: First road test The summer of my graduation from high school in Virginia I was cutting grass on base at Langley AFB. My customer had a Austin Healey 100M parked in driveway.. I could not keep my eyes off the car as I finished the final edging of his yard. He noticed by interest in the car and said “want to drive it”? Oh yes. Hopped in car briefly checked the gearshift pattern. Left quarters area on the way to the other side of base where I could go at least 35 MPH. Was wondering why things were going by so fast. Found our I was driving by tach not speedo. No ticket. Learned to check other gauge like the speedometer.
Chapter Five: Increasing your sports car education by listening to them on High fi records. The first record was the Grand Prix of Gibraltar, Riverside records 1960 with Peter Ustinov. He does all auto sounds. Drivers are Von Grips, Atbauer, Orgini, Fandango, Foss and Dill. Race cars Fanfani, Wildfire, Orgini, Schnorcedes, and Pinfall. The second record was Sounds of Sebring, Riverside Records 1956, Sports Cars in Stereo. Recorded at Sebring, Florida. Sound of the straight, the esses, slow turn and fast turns and pits. Cars are Corvette, Ferrari, D Jag, Lister Jag, Aston Martin, Maserati, AC Bristol, Austin Healey, Triumph, Porsche, Lotus, Alpha Romer, Abarth Fiat, and Osca D8. Both records are still available from Amazon. I think that you can listen to samples of both.
Chapter Six: Second test drive of British Sports. This one lasted about 5 minutes and about a block. The car in question was a British racing Green Aston Martin DB4. Car belonged to Exchange Wing Commander from British Air Force stationed at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. Reason for the short drive and distance was that I missed a shift. Loud grinding of gears, not happy “Brit” owner. Ride over. Must practice shifting skills.
Chapter Seven: Got out of the Air Force in 1966. I was tired of driving “people carriers”. I was drawn to Rowland Motors in Seattle. What I found was a Austin Healey Sprite 1965, Tartan Red, red top, red tonneau cover, and Dunlop white walls. It was all mine. I had to make major changes. White walls had to go, replaced with Michelin black walls, Amco gearshift knob, Nardi Steering wheel, Lucas PL headlights, Stebro exhaust, and Raydot driving lights and lens covers. Later purchase was a Thompson hardtop.
Chapter Eight: Joined MG Car Club NW Centre. That is another story.
Chapter Nine: First meeting with Jerry Everett. I was working at a Standard Oil of California service station in Renton. Jerry was a regular customer. My first exposure to a Mini. He asked me if I wanted to go to a SAMOA meeting. I took him up on it and was a member of SAMOA with a Sprite.
Chapter Ten: I bought the “Everett Mini”. What did I get? A modified Mini that was bull nosed, replace the badges or fill in mounting holes with bondo. The rear was decked. The trunk lid trim was removed. My mini had no identification either front or back. My trunk lid with movable license plate holder was removed and filled in resulting with a smooth trunk. Does anyone know where Mike’s Mini ended up? -ed
Chapter Eleven: Do you remember the parts catalogs and auto “toy stores” in the area where you could get Mini parts or “bling items”? How about the MG Mitten , Villem B Han , Mini City, Mini Mania, Bioya Engineering catalogs. The toy stores in Seattle and sounding areas: Aurora Auto wrecking, Exhaust Specialist, BMC of Seattle, British Auto Parts, Roadsport, Auto Via, Rowland Motors, Moss Motors, Greenberg and Lopson, Coquitlam, BC, and British Auto Wrecking. So many choices.
Chapter Twelve: I kid you not, this is not an urban legend. I was driving on West Valley Highway from work in Kent (Western Electric) and stopped for a light near the Boeing Space Center. There was a driver near the Mini (remember no id on car per Jerry’s work) that rolled down window and asked what type of car I was driving. Thought I would have fun and said with a straight face “Shhhhh! I am winter testing the new Ford Pinto! I could just imagine him going home and telling his wife that he saw a funny looking car with 10 inch tires and that it was the soon to be released Pinto.
Chapter thirteen: Now this is an urban legend. Dick Penna was driving his Mini down I-5 on his way to Portland for a meeting. He was stopped at the first exit in Fife for speeding. State Patrol officer did not know what car was. Dick offers a short ride to officer. Dick explained that he was on his way to Portland for an important meeting. Officers quote “as far as I am concerned, you are clear to the state line”. No ticket for Dick. I really want to believe in this one.
Chapter Fourteen: Thoughts- Dick Penna, Chester Duncan (twini mini), Jerry Everett’s modified Moke, Downton Mini, Mini Mother Cross (autocross laid out and spelled MOM) and Mini models Corgi and Matchbox.
Chapter Fifteen: Tuning SU’s. Do not try this at home. Jerry Everett had a mechanic that tuned SU’s without the likes of a Unisyn tool. His method after taking off the air cleaners. He would start the car and stick his fingers down the SU throat, fiddle with piston and adjust each carb. He would go to back of the car and listen for a certain sound (puckety puck) If not satisfied with sound back to the carbs for adjustments. I tried this method even though I had a unisyn. Car ran like crap. Had to call Jerry to come and fix my mistakes. But it looked so easy..
Chapter Sixteen: Kudos to people from the past: Chuck Heleker, Del Gould, Ray Honsburger, Jim Dawson, Ed Sauer and Jeorge Patience. Helped SAMOA get to 25th and beyond. AWESOME group!!
Chapter Seventeen: In fond memory- Jerry Everett, Dick and Carmen Penna, Jim Kirbach and Probiscus (the anteater).
Chapter Eighteen: The end. Car stopped on freeway. Car parked in garages in Seattle, Puyallup and South Hill Puyallup. Why not restore? After ex amount of monies. Became a money pit. Time to sell. More like give it away. Car, Carobi seat covers (front and rear) , Rocci wooden dash (not installed) and Dunlop alloy wheels. Guess it was time to give up my (care taker duties) of the Everett Mini. I don’t think it was ever mine.
Epilogue: What started out as a “quick and dirty report” on my life with BMC cars and finally the mini became a short story. Sorry I lost you at chapter three. I was trying to remember all my experiences with the car both real and urban legends. I realize that I may have missed individuals in SAMOA and also have made many spelling mistakes. I do have spell check on this machine, but I do not have thought check.
I would like to say again the kudos on the past SAMOA members that continued the love and passion for the special car that made it to the 25th. To the new members that joined the team and made the 50th possible. Thank you from a past member of SAMOA.