Ted Shelton’s LS-Swapped 1959 Austin-Healey 100-6
Ted Shelton’s 1959 Austin-Healey is a prime example of not judging a book by its cover. The car is so subtle and original from the outside, even hardcore Healey fans may be fooled into thinking this was a stock restoration. Of course, if one noticed the larger 16×8-inch chrome Dayton wires in the rear or picked up on the American V8 exhaust tone, it might signal what’s really lurking under the hood.
Ted has owned this car more than 26 years and most of that time the car didn’t run. Ted purchased it in pieces from a friend who used it as more of a storage shelf, so there’s no telling how long the car has been off the road. About six years ago, Ted and his brother Dick, who owns Shelton’s Upholstery, were talking about the 1959 Austin-Healey and decided they weren’t getting any younger, so they better do something with the British machine.
The Shelton brothers were brought up by a mechanic father with a knack for hot rodding. Both brothers had V8-swap Corvairs in their late teens (as did another brother), which kind of explains the V8-in-a-small-car interest. When the brothers started talking about an LS3 crate engine, Ted felt they could get it squeezed in under the Healey’s long hood.
The brothers stripped the car down and Dick went to work designing a new frame using a 48-inch IFS from Art Morrison. The LS3 was backed by a Tremec TKO 600 trans and Dick positioned a Strange 9-inch rearend using a custom three-link setup. Strange coil-overs were used at each corner along with Wilwood disc brakes.
The body required new rear wheel tubs to accept the wider rear tires. Originally, this car was a four-seater known as a BN4, but the rear cowl was replaced with that of BN6, the two-seater. Dick also built a hard-top roof, using cardboard to create a template profile and working the final form out of foam board to make a mold to create a custom top. Wayne Saunders at Alternative Automotive Design was charged with the car’s bodywork and paint, applying an amazing liquid blue metallic Axalta paint that perfectly suits the Healey.
The interior oozes British styling, though the brothers modified the dash to house Vintage Air controls and vents. Auto Meter gauges fill the dash and are easy to view through the stock banjo steering wheel that was regripped with custom leather work. The stock seats also received updated BMW leather material that was all stitched by Dick at his shop.
With over 410 rear-wheel horsepower on tap, the 1959 Austin-Healey looks and sounds like an absolute blast to wheel through the Rockies. The sports car had only been done a few weeks when Dick, knowing his brother was out of town, decided to take it to the Goodguys Colorado Nationals event last September. We’re not sure how Ted felt about that at the time, but since they received the FuelCurve Pick at the event, it’s all good. Besides, it’s probably not the first time the Shelton brothers shared their cars.
Photos by John Jackson