On a cloudy Saturday morning in mid December, John Hueser avoided the interstate highways as he drove his 1967 Austin-Healey from his Lee’s Summit home to the Waldo neighborhood in Kansas City.
The weather was pleasant enough for Hueser to drive with the top down to the location of the Austin-Healey Club of Kansas City holiday party.
Since getting his 1967 Austin-Healey restored four years ago, Hueser, 75, recalls only one time he drove it with the top up.
“One time we were on vacation in Arkansas and it was early October, and we had freezing rain down there so the top was up that day,” Hueser said. “I absolutely love driving it with the top down.”
There is a good reason why Hueser tries to stay off the highways with the car he purchased new in 1967 from a small dealership in North Kansas City.
“The main reason, if you are going 70 miles per hour, you get passed by an 18-wheel truck whose tires are higher than your car,” Hueser said. “You look up and all you see are tires. We try to stay on two-line highways.”
Hueser and his wife, MariLou, know this car well. They bought it about a year after they were married.
“It was a decision we made together,” Hueser said. “We used it for our kids. The car didn’t come with restraints or seat belts at that time so we had to put those in.”
For 11 years, Hueser drove the car. Toward the end, rust started to take over. It was time for Hueser to get another car.
He never intended to keep it when he first bought it. But when it was time to move on from that purchase, Hueser couldn’t say goodbye. The memories of those early days of marriage with his wife and then going places with his two children had a strong impact on him.
Instead of trading the car in or selling it, Hueser put the 1967 Austin-Healey in his garage in 1978, and it stayed there for more than 30 years.
Hueser eventually bought another Austin-Healey that had been in a wreck. His goal was to have it restored. It sat in the garage with his 1967 Austin-Healey.
“We kept moving, and garage space kept getting smaller so my wife said, ‘You have to do something with the cars,’ so we got rid of one of them,” Hueser said.
It was obvious which one Hueser was going to keep. He had too many memories wrapped up in the 1967 Austin-Healey to let it go.
In 2011, Hueser decided to have it restored to driving condition. He knew the car was still able to run. From time to time over the years, he started the car.
After looking around Kansas City, Hueser decided to have his car restored at JMD Restoration in Platte City. Hueser was very pleased with the job the owner, Jeff Deutch, did on the restoration.
“He worked on the car a little over a year,” Hueser said. “We did a ground-up restoration. We took it all the way down to the frame and had the frame sand blasted. We had all the parts sand blasted and basically redid everything.
“We had to repaint it. It is the original color. Everything is original or as original as we could get it. We didn’t want to make it a hot rod or anything like that. The interior is all original. The dash is the same. The upholstery is all original. Obviously, it was refoamed, repadded.”
When you see Hueser behind the wheel, it is obvious he gets just as much joy out of it now as he did when he first bought it. Of course, the car doesn’t move as fast as it once did, but that is irrelevant these days.
“This car, when it was new, would go over 100 miles per hour,” Hueser said. “It won’t do that now, but it wasn’t intended to do that when it is 50 years old because all the internal parts are basically 50 years old.”
Driving his car to monthly Austin-Healey club meetings and occasionally going on drives in the summer with other club members provide plenty of joy for Hueser.
“The nicest thing, when you are going down a winding road and you see about 15 of them (Austin-Healeys) in a row, it is a blast,” Hueser said. “Every time you stop, people will talk to you and want to know more about the car.”
It happened to Hueser on Dec. 12, when he was driving to the Waldo neighborhood. He stopped for coffee and people came up to him to talk about his car.
“The typical comment is, ‘I used to have one of those,’” Hueser said.
As a member of the Austin-Healey Club of Kansas City for 15 years, Hueser gets to share these stories with other members. On some Saturdays in the summer, the club has tech sessions when they work on each other’s cars.
“The club is really the reason why we keep interested in the car,” Hueser said. “We have great leaders, and it is a great place to meet and to work on the cars.
“I just love driving this car.”
Do you have a car, truck or motorcycle or other vehicle you would like see featured Make It Yours? If you do, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com