History of The Austin Healey Club of Oregon
by Richard Mayor (member since 1978)
Its roots began in January 1970 with the formation of the Austin-Healey Club, Pacific Centre, in San Jose, California. In the following years it became the largest Austin-Healey club on the West Coast and many Oregonians joined.
In Oregon during the early 70’s, a young man by the name of Joe Mengis became a focal point for many Healey people. Joe was parting out Austin-Healeys at “Healey Heaven” on his property in Tigard. At one time Joe had over 20 Healeys on his property. By that time many Healeys were very tired or just plain worn out and were now more affordable. Young folks could now afford to purchase a more desirable British sports car and Joe had the needed spares. By 1973 he had moved his operation to S.E. Grand Avenue at Stark Street in Portland, calling it “Austin Healey Spares,” parting out Healeys and doing some repair work. By 1975 Joe had moved his business to S.E. Powell Blvd at 7th Avenue. Joe’s business became the center of interest and meeting place for many Healey enthusiasts. Friendships were forged, tours on the weekends, and many kegs of beer were consumed.
Two of those enthusiasts were Bill Bolger and Dennis Howell, both owners of BN1s at the time and also members of the Pacific Centre club. Although there had been talk going around for some time of forming an Oregon club (Joe always thought “it would be good for business”) no serious efforts were made until 1975.
That spark occurred in the summer of 1975 when Pacific Centre held its first “Austin-Healeys West” meet in Grants Pass, Oregon. Although that first meet was not well attended, it was an inspiration to create an Oregon chapter. Healey fever was in the air and three young men from Portland were catching it in a serious way.
Bill Bolger had previously owned a couple of Healeys and was driving a BN1 at the time. He was the current proprietor of Ray Bolger’s Clothiers, a business in downtown Portland that he had taken over from his father.
Dennis Howell, also into Healeys, was into racing a Formula Ford at the time and also driving a BN1.
However, as fate would have it, Bill and Dennis did not meet through Joe, but met one Saturday afternoon while quaffing some adult beverages at the “Veritable Quandary” in downtown Portland (commonly known in local circles as “the VQ”) and struck up a conversation. The next stop for more libations for the new acquaintances was the Goose Hollow Inn. On the drive over, Bill and Dennis discovered that they both driving 100/4 Healeys. Thus began a very long relationship between the two.
So, it was Bill Bolger, Dennis Howell and Joe Mengis that finally took the first positive steps to start a club. Bill Bolger took out an ad in the September 14, 1975, edition of The Sunday Oregonian asking Healey owners to meet on the following Wednesday evening at his home at 36 SW Bancroft Street in Portland. It was a very informal meeting with a turnout of only about 8 to 10 people. However, as a result of that meeting, Dennis Howell drafted a letter and a flyer inviting all Healey enthusiasts to attend the “first monthly meeting” of “an Oregon Chapter of the Austin-Healey Club, Pacific Centre” to be held on October 15, 1975 at the Elephant & Castle restaurant in downtown Portland. Dennis put together a mailing list and sent out many letters and flyers to people he knew and also personally delivered them to FASPEC, the BMC dealer’s parts department, BAP, Harold Dick’s Automotive, Noel Broderick’s shop and other businesses catering to British cars.
That first meeting at Elephant & Castle had a respectful turnout of at least 18 people. Sixteen of those attending paid $5 on the spot as membership dues to join the new club. Bill Bolger was elected president, Joe Mengis as vice-president and Dennis Howell as secretary.
The plan was to organize as a chapter of Pacific Centre which, in part, would save on the logistics and cost of producing a newsletter. At that time the San Jose group was putting out a good monthly newsletter. However, the fledgling club needed to attract more members if it was to be successful. As part of it’s membership drive, anyone who joined the club and paid their $5 membership dues before June 1, 1976, would become a “charter member”. By March 14, 1976, the club had 33 paid up members and when the June 1, 1976, deadline rolled around, the club had 87 dues paying “charter” members.
In the months following that first October meeting, the club anxiously awaited word from Pacific Centre about its bid to join them as a chapter. As fate would have it, our request was declined. In the Healey Northwest newsletter dated April 21, 1976 it was reported that: “Our secretary (Dennis Howell) received word from the Austin-Healey Club Pacific Centre and after a club discussion it was agreed that our Austin Healey Club of Oregon was not to be a sub-chapter of that club….”. At that point, we became “The Austin Healey Club of Oregon”…totally independent and on our own! Many years later, in 1996, in a letter from Dennis Howell to Bill Bolton regarding the response from the San Jose group, he recalled: “They weren’t too interested in having us as anything beyond individual members and offered our group no special recognition. We were generally offended…..”.
On November 10, 1976 the club was issued a Certificate of Incorporation by the State of Oregon as THE AUSTIN HEALEY CLUB OF OREGON. In later years the corporate status of the club and its legal name were lost when the requirement to file an annual report with the State of Oregon went unfulfilled for many years. It then became necessary to file new incorporation papers to regain the club’s legal status. In the new Articles of Incorporation filed with the State in 2008 the wording of the club name now omitted the previously used word “THE” in its name and became simply AUSTIN HEALEY CLUB OF OREGON.