25 June 2010

Our Cars: Jayson Allens British fleet

Jayson Allen is the senior manager for Digital Marketing at Hagerty. He’s been with the company for two years, but he’s been a customer for 10. He was bit by the car bug early on as a kid, and has since collected quite the fleet of British classics.

“My favorite thing to do was the occasional sunny-day drive … 99 percent of the time my dad would find an opportunity or excuse to open it up … that was the hook for me.”

Cars

• 1959 Austin Healey “Bugeye” Sprite (owned five years)
• 1961 Austin Healey “Bugeye” Sprite (six years)
• 1962 Austin Mini Mk I (seven years)
• 1999 Land Rover Discovery II (two years)
• 2003 Mini Cooper S JCW (four years)

Car background

Growing up, our garage – and sometimes our driveway – was always full of cars in various states of repair and restoration. They were mostly British (Lotus, Morgan, Jaguar), but there also were a couple Ferraris, one impulse-buy Mustang and one Italian motorcycle (until a near death experience). Half the time they arrived as “boxes-of-car” that had to be sorted and stored wherever there was room.

My dad completed two ground-up restorations (an Elan and a Super Seven) during my formative years, but I wasn’t in the garage much. Usually I watched from a distance; the expletives generally increased the more I helped out. One thing about my dad growing up: He didn’t have a lot of patience and wasn’t much for explaining things, so it was best to hang out for a few minutes, hand him a few tools, see what was going on and then be on my way.

My favorite thing to do was the occasional sunny day drive. It was a ritual how he went about it: proper temp, pressures, levels etc.; proper posture and foot placement when sitting in the seat; precise door closing and seatbelt connecting; and no touching things! The car didn’t go into gear until all of the above were completed.

The cars he owned were rare so we got a lot of looks, points and smiles. It’s a cool feeling to grab someone’s attention as you drive by. 99 percent of the time my dad would find an opportunity or excuse to open it up. That, by far, was the most exciting part: the sound of the highly tuned engine and the feel of the acceleration. All that other junk aside, that was the hook for me. I would smile from ear to ear when I saw we were turning the corner onto a good straightaway with little traffic because I knew he was going to stomp on it.

Since getting my license in ’87, I’ve always had something interesting to drive (at least I thought so) but I bought my first official “classic” in 1999 after moving to Portland, Ore., and seeing things on the road that had long gone extinct in the rustbelt of Michigan/Ohio: a 1970 Mini. Since then I have traded cars a few times and added volume to what’s currently in the garage.

Why British cars?

I like the classic British economy cars of the ‘60s because they are:
A.) Small/compact: I have an affinity for small cars.
B.) They are affordable. I probably have $15-20K total invested.
C.) They are easy to work on.
D.) Parts are readily available and relatively inexpensive.
E.) They have a lot of character; they are cute and get tons of smiles-per-gallon.

Repairs and Modifications (planned or completed)

I’ve done mostly roadworthiness and reliability work on my cars. I like to drive them so I hesitate to start tearing them apart for an unknown restoration timeline. I would like to sell one Bugeye and restore the other two cars, but sometimes I think about selling all three and buying one that is already restored. I’m not sure what I will do.

Hobby activities (clubs, events etc.)

I’ve been to countless shows. I regularly attended the Portland ABFM and Mini Meet West, when I was still on the West Coast. I mostly enjoy working on them and driving them, but I don’t seem to be able to find the time as much as my dad seemed to when I was a kid. Times are different now, I guess. I’m lucky to get one day a month in the garage, and then half the time is spent cleaning up things from previous home improvement projects.

Interesting Stories

I picked up my first Mini in Tacoma, Wash. On the way back to Portland, I had a flat, lost the headlights and had no wipers (thanks Lucas). Thanks to my buddy Matt, I was able to make it home. I’ve run out of gas a few times (thank you cell phone technology). I’ve lost a throttle cable while under way (thank you Paul and your shoelace idea), and I’ve blown a wheel bearing taking a hard corner. Man, the sound it made was ugly.

Another interesting story: I was redoing the brakes on my ’61 Bugeye with new master, wheel cylinders, rubber and springy bits; it has the front disc conversion. I literally spent days trying to bleed the system, but the pedal was still squishy. Fluid was clear and I just couldn’t figure it out. I turned to the Internet for help and eventually ran into an obscure forum post that said it was possible to install the calipers upside down inadvertently (mixing left with right), which would put the bleed valve on the bottom and trap air at the top of the caliper. I quickly ran to the garage and instantly saw that they were upside-down. The previous owner had mixed left with right. What a relief to finally solve that issue. It’s things like that that can drive you crazy, but it is so satisfying to have figured them out.

Favorite Drive

West of Portland, past the urban growth boundary, there are some amazing drives. I had a nice 10 mile loop from my house and back that took me out past some beautiful vineyards and orchards. Just stunning and fantastically curvy; Minis love curves.

Best and Worst Moment

Best: I bought my first Bugeye sight-unseen from a gentleman north of Seattle. He trailered it down to me and I remember when he first came into view as he approached my house. The car looked amazing and so cool. All of my neighbors came to see it get unloaded. “What the heck is that? Sure is cute!”

Worst: I imported a mini from the U.K., also sight-unseen, and was basically sold a bill of goods. The car turned out to be a “re-shelled” (forged title), MOT failure rust-bucket. It took me several months and a full on web attack on the seller for him to make-good. I posted a screen shot of the ad for the car and all the re-touched photos he had posted and paired it with the reality of the car. He called me begging that I take it down. “What would it take?” He shipped me a new car that was more consistent with what I paid (still a re-shell) but I was happy to get something – and also happy that my web skills paid off in the end.

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