In October, 1963, Austin-Healey introduced the BJ8, with an updated interior including a wood-veneered dash. Several months later, the so-called phase II version of the Big Healey was unveiled, with many updates such as dual lenses for braking and winking, and exterior refinements including such advanced features as locking door handles.
SCM is moving at a slightly faster pace. Last month, we presented phase one of our redesign, simplifying the interior look of the magazine without sacrificing any editorial space. With this issue, we introduce our new exterior design, featuring a new logo developed by former art director Scott Abts, working in conjunction with current director Tyler Roy-Hart.
I take full credit, or blame, for the former masthead. It was in September, 1993, that I, acting as editor, publisher, chief and the only auction reporter and graphic artist for SCM, scrolled down a list of available fonts and happened upon Fujiyama Extra Bold Italic. And that's what's been on the cover of every issue of SCM since, often to the dismay of my colleagues who are actually trained in visual presentation.
We've also tweaked the interior a bit more this month, in response to some of the suggestions that subscribers have offered. We continue to solicit your input as we refine our new look; please address comments and suggestions to Tyler at [email protected].


In another change, we are featuring a photograph of a car on the cover this month, an image taken by Scott Williamson. We will resume our tradition of using only works of art next month, but felt that the combination of this Bugatti, its history and the event it is the centerpiece of were worthy of a special presentation.
The French government commissioned this one-off Bugatti 57C, with coachwork by VanVooren, in 1939, as a wedding gift for Prince Reza Pahlavi of Iran. Legend has it that the French, concerned about maintaining a continuous supply of oil in an increasingly contentious world (some things never change), thought that the young Prince would be favorably inclined towards France in response to a gift of this magnitude. Reportedly, the Prince was in fact impressed, especially when he compared his magnificent Bugatti to the tea set sent by England.
Pahlavi became Shah of Iran in 1941. One of his hobbies was big-game hunting, and while on various safaris, he met and developed a friendship with Robert Petersen, founder of Hot Rod, Motor Trend and other magazines, and Bob Lee, founder of Hunting World, a manufacturer of leather luggage and luxury goods.
In 1955, for reasons that remain unclear, the car left the Shah's collection and ended up in Romania, where it remained out of sight for 20 years. It surfaced in the '70s when it was brought to the US and restored. Featured in the Salon section of the October, 1986, issue of Road & Track, it was in the collection of Oscar Davis when it was consigned to the RM auction.
According to Petersen Museum Executive Director Dick Messer, when Petersen saw the auction catalog, he recalled his relationship with the Shah, and thought the car, with its unique coachwork and history, would be a good addition to the Museum's collection.
The car was consequently purchased at auction for $1.76 million and brought to Los Angeles. It is showcased in the Museum's new exhibition, "The Million Dollar Cars," which opens to the public on Friday June 14. On Thursday, June 13 from 6 to 10 p.m., the Museum will host its annual Cars and Stars Gala, a charity event that raises funds to support the Petersen Automotive Museum and its youth and educational programs. Call 323/964-6366 for details.
America is sorely lacking in high-quality repositories for automotive artifacts. The Petersen Museum is a first-rate, forward-thinking organization that is dedicated to preserving and publicizing all aspects of the automotive community, from horseless carriages to sports racers to low riders to the slammed compacts seen today on the streets of L.A.
Ms. Banzer and I joined the Checkered Flag 200 this year, a group that supports the Petersen Museum and all its endeavors, and with this cover, we salute their gala and the new exhibition. We invite you to join us at the Cars and Stars event on the 13th. It's a worthy cause.


During an otherwise harmless conversation, a baited Healey hook was cleverly dropped into my wallet. The simple words were, "There's a nice red 3000 in my garage right now that someone has asked me to sell for them."
A few meaningless obstacles to the purchase had to be overcome, including a) our Lotus Elan, now gone to a subscriber in Florida, hadn't sold at that time so there was no place in the garage (oops, no more carport for Cindy's Mercedes diesel), b) no money (where's that J.J. Best collector car financing application?), c) no first-hand look at the car (what, and ruin the deal?) and d) we already have two convertibles that don't get driven enough (more is always better, especially with cars).
So while SCM was emulating a phase II BJ8, a real, live 1963 Austin Healey BJ7 joined our collection, where it now squabbles for space with Cindy's Alfa Spider and my Mondial Cabriolet.
We've put 300 miles on the Big Healey, marveling at the way the cockpit, under acceleration, fills with a raucous, exhilarating symphony of noise and vibration. I've also relearned the medieval skill of double declutching in order to properly engage the non-synchro first gear.
It's not a fast car, but it feels fast. The front end rises when you press the throttle down, the cowl twists like a snake when cornering, and the steering provides some vague approximation of road feel. The unique sound of the straight-six engine, flowing out of the tiny, twin exhaust pipes, is an aural narcotic from times long gone by.
When our Healey lost power on the interstate, its hood-up pose was like honey to bees for passing enthusiasts. Soon, we were surrounded by new-found friends who removed the fuel pump, adjusted its stroke, cleaned the points, and got us back underway.
I have an affection for these old, imperfect conveyances that keep popping into my life. And I have an equal affection for the people who love these cars as well. Vintage car enthusiasts are generally thoughtful, often entertaining, and always seem to have a self-deprecating sense of humor. The latter must come from spending so much time around machines that keep finding new ways to fail.
A life filled with these funny old cars, and the people who are drawn to them, is a rich one indeed.

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