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VENTURA : Austin-Healey Still King of the Road to Some

James Bond may have preferred an Aston Martin, but Austin-Healey, another popular British sports car, has its own loyal following here on the West Coast.

About 70 of the classic sports cars are on display this week in a free car show at the Colony Harbortown Marina Resort in Ventura.

Rob Garofalo, chairman of the 18th annual West Coast Meet, said the show has drawn dozens of owners from Washington to San Diego, who have come to socialize and display their unique, two-seater, convertible sports cars. Since the show opened on Tuesday, more than 500 spectators have attended.

“These are true sports cars, true roadsters,” Garofalo said, adding that the cars were constructed in England in the 1950s and early 1960s. He said the small to mid-size cars have “very powerful engines” and have won numerous awards in England and other countries for racing.

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But in today’s meets, Garofalo said, the now “truly classic cars” are no longer raced, but are judged and honored for restoration.

The exterior and interior of the cars, including the engine, he said, are judged by owners who have placed in previous contests, looking for cars that are restored to a brand-new condition.

“The whole object is to restore the car to the original specifications as it was when it left the factory,” Garofalo said. “It has to look like it just came off the showroom floor.”

Garofalo said seven cars entered the competition this year, and were judged Wednesday.

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Fully refurbishing an Austin-Healey, he said, costs thousands of dollars and can run as much as $18,000 after parts are purchased. Buying an Austin-Healey can cost up to $35,000, he said, adding he has seen one sell for almost $70,000 at an auction.

Garofalo said competition winners will be announced at a dinner dance Saturday evening. The car show ends Sunday morning.


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