Touring 50 States, an Austin-Healey With Inspiration to Burn
When John Nikas rolls into town behind the wheel of a 1953 Austin-Healey called Grace, it doesn’t take long to draw a crowd. Be it at a gas station, scenic overlook or fast-food restaurant, the curious approach with questions. Lots of questions.
“How old is the car?” “Where is he going?” “Why is the car covered in people’s names?”
Mr. Nikas, 43, is driving the battered British roadster around the country this year, with the intention to visit all 50 states, on a tour he calls Drive Away Cancer, which Wheels learned about from a blog post on Hemmings.com. The estimated 50,000-mile effort is a follow-up to a trip Mr. Nikas made with the car from the West Coast to the East Coast and back last summer, which was undertaken to inspire his friend Mike Newsome, the owner of Grace, who received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow.
Mr. Nikas, a vintage car enthusiast from Irvine, Calif., thought he could encourage his friend by restoring the derelict 1953 Austin-Healey 100 that Mr. Newsome had bought sight unseen on eBay years earlier and then taking it on the drive. Mr. Newsome intended to restore the car, but when it arrived in California from Michigan, it became clear that putting the Healey back on the road would be a monumental task, so the car languished in storage.
Members of the Austin-Healey Association of Southern California joined Mr. Nikas in an eight-day push to patch the car together and get it roadworthy. Mr. Nikas then headed for the East Coast, hoping to show Mr. Newsome that if a rusted-out Austin-Healey could keep going after nearly 60 years, Mr. Newsome could keep going, too. NY Times Article