Update: Ailing Vintage Car Continues 5,000-Mile Charity Drive - NBC Southern California

Update: Ailing Vintage Car Continues 5,000-Mile Charity Drive

As of Wednesday, John Nikas and his 1953 Austin-Healey had made it to Oklahoma on the return trip

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    Update: Ailing Vintage Car Continues 5,000-Mile Charity Drive
    Steve Kingsbury
    John Nikas and his 1953 Austin-Healey 100 before they left on a coast-to-coast-to-coast drive.

    It has been more than a week since John Nikas left Huntington Beach for a coast-to-coast-to-coast drive in a borrowed vintage car.

    Original Story (Posted, Aug. 8): Driven to Help Others

    The Irvine man wasn't expecting a leisurely summer drive in the 1953 Austin-Healey 100. Mechanical mishaps usually come standard on vintage British sports cars.

    But Nikas' 5,000-mile drive to raise money for cancer charities and simply put smiles on the faces of people he meets (Who wouldn't smile at that look of optimism on the Healey's face?) has been an automotive adventure.

    Some of Nikas' Facebook posts:

    1 a.m., Aug. 10: I'm in pain, tired, bleeding and cranky. But thanks to David Porter in New Mexico with an assist from David Nock and Terry we're rolling.

    1:30 p.m., Aug. 10: ...starter, fuel leaks, oil leaks, valves, timing and the rear seal. Ugh!

    Noon, Aug. 14: If David Porter, David Nock or Terry are around can you call?

    6 p.m., Aug. 14: We've looked at our repair options (none are practical) and determined that the only thing left to do is press on regardless.

    Wednesday, 9 a.m.: Smoking badly in cockpit. Visibility impaired.

    The Drive Away Cancer Challenge began Aug. 8 when Nikas set off from Huntington Beach for Charleston, S.C. That was after a two-week rebuild on the Healey that was donated by a member of the Southern California Austin-Healey owners club.

    Nikas is on his way back to California after finishing half of his journey with a stop in Charleston, S.C. earlier this week. On Wendesday, he made it to Oklahoma.

    But the trip isn't about what went wrong, such as the time a rock glanced off his head during a night-drive to Amarillo, Texas. It's not even about what might be accomplished.

    It's about what has been attempted.

    It's also about the 500 names that have been added to the car since Nikas left California more than a week ago. Before the car headed east from Huntington Beach Pier, someone ran to a nearby store and bought a Sharpie marker so people affected by cancer could add names of loved ones to the car.

    Nikas has continued racing vintage sports cars after being diagnosed with cancer. He sees the plucky little car that thought it could as a metaphor for his experience.

    He plans to be in Monterey for the Aug. 17 at the Russo and Steele Auction during the Monterey Motorsports Reunion in Monterey. Click the links below to follow Nikas and the Austin-Healey 100 as they head back home and to learn more about Drive Away Cancer.

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