(first posted 4/24/2014) Here’s something I didn’t expect to see outside a grocery store in Utah. The badging says Austin Healey, but the flares, louvers and faux wire wheels all say Classic Roadsters Sebring MX.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one of these for real before. I saw a lot of advertisements for them in Road & Track during the ’80s. At the time my teenaged self was rather dismissive of these cars; after all, the big Healey 3000 they mimic is one of the great sports cars of all time.
In the ’80s they were near the bottom of their depreciation curve and as I recall, you could buy a decent A-H for less money than a finished Sebring MX. This did not make sense to me, and I disdained the logic of building replicas that cost more than the genuine article.
Please forgive my horribly glared interior shot, inside we find more evidence for my Sebring MX identification. That stout shift lever is undoubtedly connected to an American four-speed transmission.
It looks like this example has had as long and rough a ride as the Classic Roadsters company itself. There is a bit of history available online for this company, which was apparently started by a Gary Rutherford of Fargo ND in 1979. They began production with a VW-based MG TD, then expanded the product line to include various front- and rear-engined TDs, some very 1970s interpretations of classic 1930s cars, and a couple of Austin Healey knockoffs.
The Saxon shown above follows the original Healey more closely, but doesn’t quite look right, mostly because of the windscreen being too flat and too tall. The Sebring seems to balance the design a little better, with the flares lowering the visual center of gravity.
By the mid 80’s, the original owner had sold the company, which was thereafter not managed well and closed down. The company was then reacquired and restarted in Minnesota as Classic Roasters II, also by the original owner. He later sold out again, and Classic Roadsters Ltd then somehow moved across the border to Saskatoon Saskatchewan in the process. They are still in business, so should you find yourself suitably inspired by this tell them Paul sent you when you buy your Sebring MX kit.
My older and wiser self can now see both sides of this replica car coin. True, the Austin Healey is one of the greats, but great cars sometimes aren’t very good cars. One of my Uncles briefly had a Healey 3000 for his daily driver in the 1970’s. The frequent and expensive repairs consumed his finances and prevented him from getting places. I can now see the case for a Healey that doesn’t rust ferociously, is half reliable, easy to maintain, and built without Lucas electrics.