You are here

History


AHCA founders, from left to right, Chuck and Edie Anderson and Jeanette and Walt Blanck.

History of the Austin-Healey Club of America

In 1958, through the efforts of Clyde Anderson and Jim Engle, word spread around the Chicago area that an Austin-Healey Club would be formed as a regional club of the Austin-Healey Club of America, whose national headquarters was located in Bethesda, Maryland. At the first meeting in Chicago, a steering committee was given the job of setting up the Club. The committee wrote preliminary by-laws and addressed other matters in preparation for a March 1961 meeting, at which officers were elected and the Club was given the go-ahead to begin incorporation of the Midwest regional club.

The first official Club meeting was held May 8, 1961, at the Como Inn in Chicago with 29 charter members in attendance. The first Club officers were Chuck Anderson, regional director; Kenneth Rochocki, vice regional director; O.M. MacLeran, deputy regional director; Robert Flaherty, secretary; and Ernest Rysso, treasurer. The first regional Club newsletter, Healey Chatter, was published in June 1961 with Chuck Anderson as editor.

AHCA Shield

We used the insignia of the national Club, a quartered shield, as our insignia.

  • 1st quarter: checkpoint, symbolizing rallies
  • 2nd quarter: a trophy mug, symbolizing competition and social activities
  • 3rd quarter: a rod and piston, symbolizing technical activities
  • 4th quarter: an autocross or race course, symbolizing the four- and six-cylinder Healeys, with an “S” for the Sprites.

Shortly after incorporation, the national Club in Bethesda ceased operation. The Midwest Region took on the duties of the national headquarters and became stronger because of it.

The real start of the present national AHCA began in 1974 with a new format for Chatter, initiated by Roger Sutfin. The revamped newsletter attracted members from outside the Chicago Club. Healey owners from all over the country were hungry for any news or information they could get on their beloved sports car.

In 1974, under the able leadership of Walt Blanck, the Club took on another characteristic — a dedication to preserving the marque through car restorations. The excellent content of Chatter continued to draw interest from outside the Chicago area, increasing numbers of associate members to the point where they outnumbered active members 2 to 1. As of June 1976, membership was set at 375 members, up from 20 members in 1974.

Walt Blanck was also responsible for forming new regional Clubs. In July 1975, the Detroit Club was formed with Mike Yancheck as its president. By mid-1976, Clubs had been formed in Minneapolis and Indianapolis.

Because of the growth of the associate memberships and the formation of new regional Clubs, the Executive Council voted to drop “Midwest Region” from the name of the Club in Chicago and make it the official National Club, although it would continue to operate as before. The new Club insignia was designed by Dudley Campbell from Cincinnati, Ohio, with modifications by Chuck Anderson and Walt Blanck. Chatter was also given a new look.

The idea for a national conclave was conceived by Walt Blanck in the summer of 1975. It became a reality on July 17 to 18, 1976, at the Inn of the Four Winds in Bloomington, Indiana. With 76 Healeys and Sprites lined up for inspection and pictures, and 250 Healey enthusiasts attending, it was a sight to behold. Seventy-one cars entered the Back Roads Bonanza Rally and all finished in time to enjoy the hospitality suite and barbecue dinner to go along with the event awards. That Sunday, the participants had a chance to drive in the Pylon Pussyfooting Gymkhana before leaving for home. The event was the first of its kind for the Club, and it was a huge success. The resulting publicity helped the national Club grow from 350 to 543 members and led to more area clubs being formed. Clubs in the Carolinas area; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; and Ontario, Canada, all formed around the time of Conclave 1976.

The next memorable event was Donald M. Healey’s visit to the Midwest Club on August 31, 1976. A testimonial dinner was held at the Marriott Lincolnshire Hotel near Chicago. More than 100 people attended, including members from Chicago and Evansville, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, Indiana; Mayfield, Kentucky; Detroit, Michigan; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Charlotte, North Carolina; Toledo, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Ontario, Canada — a truly national representation.

By the 1977 Spring Roundup event at Pokagon State Park in northeastern Indiana, the Club had grown to 690 members. This event was orchestrated by the Fort Wayne Club and such notables as Tom Busch, Jon Needler, Bob Nissley and Jim-Bob White. With a rally on Saturday afternoon and a field gymkhana on Sunday, it was a good breakout for spring and a warm-up for Conclave 1977.

Close on the heels of a successful Conclave in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, came Donald Healey’s second visit on August 30, 1977, hosted by the Chicago area Club in the home of Bill and Sharon Bruhn. Donald showed interest in building another Healey and thought American safety and pollution standards could be met. That certainly would have added a new dimension to our history — too bad it did not happen!

With the growth of the Club came growing pains. Most of these were alleviated at the national board meeting held in Fort Wayne, Indiana, February 18 to 19, 1978. Representatives of all 12 area clubs were there to accomplish several things: (1) adopting by-laws for the national Club; (2) electing officers to lead what was now a national organization; and (3) planning Conclave 1978 and delegating responsibilities. The first national officers elected were Walt Blanck, national president; Chuck Anderson, national vice president and events coordinator; Jeanette Blanck, national treasurer; Edie Anderson, national secretary and membership. Walt Blanck continued as Chatter editor.

Also in 1999, a new chapter of the AHCA was formed to recognize the marine portion of Donald Healey’s motor sport activities. Called the Austin-Healey Sportsboat Club, it quickly grew to over 60 members internationally. Known informally as the Sportsboat Chapter, this group of enthusiasts is seeking to gather information on the history and products of Healey Marine, originally headed by Brian “Bic” Healey. Several examples of Healey Boats have been found, documented, catalogued and in some cases, restored.

Presidents of AHCA since 1976:
Walt Blanck (deceased) 7/76 to 7/79   Bob Gilleland 1/96 to 1/2000
Tom Busch (deceased) 7/79 to 12/81   Gary Lowndale 1/00 to 1/03
Chuck Anderson 12/81 to 11/85   John May 1/03 to 1/07
Rudy Streng  11/85 to 1/90   Carl Brown 1/07 to 1/10
Bonnie Ayer 1/90 to 1/93   Gary Brierton 1/10 to 1/14
George Feild  1/93 to 1/96   Fred Dabney 1/14 to 1/17
      Gary Feldman 1/17 to present
Conclaves held since 1976:
1976    Bloomington, IN 1998    Boyne, MI
1977    Seven Springs, PA 1999    St Louis, MO
1978    Louisville, KY 2000    Indianapolis, IN
1979    Asheville, NC  2001    Grand Rapids, MN
1980    Toronto, Canada 2003    Tyson Corners, VA
1981    Fredricksburg, VA 2004    San Antonio, TX
1983    Oconomowoc, WI  2005    Winston-Salem, NC
1984    Snowshoe, WV 2006    Akron, OH
1985    Charlotte, NC 2007    Burlington, VT
1986    Cincinnati, OH 2008    San Diego, CA
1987    Harrisburg, PA 2009    Kingston, ON
1988    Shangri-La, OK 2010    Galena, IL
1989    Niagara Falls, Canada 2011    Colorado Springs, CO
1990    Rockford, IL 2012    Louisville, KY
1991    Sturbridge, MA 2013    Charlevoix, Quebec
1993    Louisville, KY 2014    Hot Springs, VA
1994    Atlanta, GA 2015    Gettysburg, PA (Enclave) Co-Hosted with AHSTC
1995    Montebello, Quebec 2016    Cincinnati, OH
1996    Asheville, NC  
International Meets held:
1982    Snowmass, CO
1992    Breckenridge, CO
1997    Park City, UT
2002    Lake Tahoe, NV