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British in the Blood

Story and photos by Dick Lunney, Carolinas AHC


Click on photos to enlarge & close pop-up window after viewing

As a young lad in Birmingham, England, Norman Nock was always involved in speed. First as a speed skater and later as a competitive bicyclist, he was always on the move. At 15, he began his six-year automotive apprenticeship, which ultimately resulted in a job with Lucas where he was assigned as the technical liaison to the BRM racing program. Here he got to work on the exotic 16-cylinder monsters that were driven by the likes of Gonzalez, Fangio and Moss.

Norman with Fangio Norman makes adjustment for Fangio

In 1954, while still working for Lucas, Norman immigrated to Toronto, Canada, where he met and married Shona, a young lass who had also just immigrated with her family from Paisley, Scotland. Believing that there was more opportunity for a British automotive mechanic in the USA, they packed up their belongings and headed for Southern California. Their route took them across the country and before they reached their destination they fell in love with the San Francisco Bay area. Norman was immediately hired as a mechanic at a British Motors dealer in San Francisco, and a few years later he opened his first garage specializing in maintenance and repair of British cars. The business flourished and grew, but after 14 years, San Francisco's urban development forced them to look for a new location. Former associates he worked with at BMC found out about his plight and offered Norman a BMC dealership in Stockton, CA, and Norman jumped at the opportunity.

Norman in Bay Area Norman in Bay Area

The family now had grown to include a son, David, and a daughter, Sheila, who fondly remembers sitting in a Chinese diner still located across the street from their future dealership discussing the challenge and opportunity BMC was offering. Their dealership sold MG, Triumph, Austin-Healey, Jaguar, Jensen-Healey, Lotus, and even Subaru. The business grew and prospered, evolving into mostly warranty and service work, as many British cars, with the exception of Jaguar, were no longer manufactured.

Shona has always been active in Norman's business enterprises, doing the books and clerical work. David entered the business after high school as an apprentice attending many of the BMC service schools. Sheila began typing and filing while in high school. Today David runs the shop, known as British Car Specialists, while Sheila manages a thriving parts business which specializes in hard-to-find NOS and reproduction parts, as well as being one of MOSS Motors original distributors. Although they have done several "ground up" restorations, British Car Specialists is best known for mechanical repairs and service which accounts for about half of their business.

Stockton Shop Rear Yard in Stockton

Their clientele is mostly concentrated in the north-central part of California, although they have fully restored a Healey for an original owner from Mexico, and currently have Healeys being restored for owners who live in Alaska and New Jersey. The Mexican Healey was one of three shipped to Mexico in a "knocked down" state and assembled by the Willys factory in Mexico City. Two of the cars stayed in Mexico with the third going to a customer in Cuba. One interesting discovery on the car was four bullet holes in the right rear fender that had been patched.

The New Jersey owner, Dana Olsen Edmondson, is really from Menio Park, California, and the car, a 1956 100-4, was her late father's. She fondly remembers attending West Coast Healey club events with her father, Hank Olsen, who was an active member and officer in the Bay area club back in the 1970s. Deciding to have the car restored by British Car Specialists while at the time living in Houston, Texas, came about from talking to her dad's old Austin-Healey friends who almost unanimously recommended Norman and David. Once the project was started, Dana and her new husband, Ty, became involved in the Gulf Coast AHC with Dana, who was a restaurant manager, getting the club to hold the monthly meetings at her restaurant. Dana remembers Ty's first Healey ride when fellow club member Andy McDougal threw Ty his Sprite keys for him to take it for a spin. Dana says the smile on Ty's face lasted weeks! Now they live in northern New Jersey and are hoping to get an active club going up in that area before her car is finished early next year. They've already begun to plan the trip across the country to bring the car east.

Dana's '56 100-4
Norman on Bike

Norman who is officially retired, still rides his bicycle to work every day over a 15-20 mile course, which keeps him in shape for the time trials and races he still competes in as a senior. His official role at British Car Specialists is advisor and an extra pair of hands when needed in the shop. He has compiled his numerous published technical articles into a booklet, "Tech Talk," created a "Hard to Find" parts catalog, [compiled a Kilmartin sheet metal catalog] and continues to serve as a technical consultant to Healeyists up and down the West Coast and now the entire country by serving as a technical writer for Healey Marque.

One of the real assets Norman provides the shop is his experience, often helping David on tricky technical problems. Norman usually recommends that when a difficult and puzzling problem arises, they stop before proceeding further to think it out clearly and objectively. Norman recalls many a wasted effort caused by pressing on without thinking things through. Shifting to another car in the shop helps clear the mind and often over dinner many hours later the solution to the problem becomes clear.

David has been extremely active in West Coast Austin-Healey Club activities, serving as president of the Central Valley Austin-Healey Club and until recently a member of the Board of Directors of the Pacific Centre. David is probably best known as the Pinewood Derby guru at the Breckenridge and Park City International events and most of the past West Coast meets. His beautiful green-over-white Healey is a frequent award winner at British car events on the West Coast. Most recently, David has helped lead several of the West Coast Healey clubs into affiliating with the Austin-Healey Club of America.

Full Size - No Enlargement Sheila and Daughter

Their's is truly a "family affair," with Sheila's ten-year-old daughter, Laura, now working in the office making copies, filing and preparing customer mailings. With stories like this, it is safe to say that Healeying will be alive and thriving for many years to come across all of America.


© British Car Specialists   2060 N Wilson Way  Stockton, CA 95205-3126