Life on Whidbey: It was a trade made in heaven for one Whidbey car nut

  • Wednesday, May 30, 2007 4:00pm
  • Life

“The trade was not about money,” said BILL WAITE, finding it nearly impossible to wipe the smile off his face. He has a knack for finding interesting foreign and vintage cars, and I got the feeling this one’s the best of the bunch.

Bill has owned a 1958 BMW Isetta and then a classic 1973 Austin Mini-Cooper for several years. The latter handled like a go-kart and he wanted to move on to something a bit more unusual.

“I saw this car listed on eBay at $16,500, but it didn’t make the minimum bid,” Bill said. “When the bidding was over, I contacted the owner and asked him if he would be interested in a trade for my Mini-Cooper and he flipped out. He had wanted one for years, so we decided to meet in San Francisco for the trade.”

After the deal was signed and closed, Waite tied down the sandy beige American Austin to his trailer, amazed at its pristine condition. When this car was produced in July 1930, it was then detailed to be used as the American Austin Car Company’s display car, and was showcased in their exhibit at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.

“It was purchased by one of the directors of the fair in 1934, who kept it until 1970,” Bill noted. “When he died, the gentleman I made the trade with bought it. It had only 12,000 original miles on it.”

It’s about as basic as a car can get. With a top speed near 50, it came from the factory with no heater, fuel pump, oil filter, water pump, turn signals, master brake cylinder, wheel cylinders, not even a brake light. Still, the retired federal fire inspector feels he came out ahead. New, a 1930 American Austin Coupe cost $465, today a nice example will typically sell for $18,000 to $20,000.

DOROTHY WAITE’s 2004 BMW Mini-Cooper shares garage space with Bill’s classic. Don’t judge it by its small size. “It has six air bags and is safer than my truck,” Bill crowed. “She had it built to her specs, right down to heated leather seats and the British racing green color.”

Bill plans to bring his car out for car shows and parades, but asks North Whidbey drivers to be patient if they get behind him. The 14 horse power car is older than he is and both need to be properly warmed up to perform at their best.

Speaking of transportation …

People think I’m pulling their leg when I tell them they can ride a bus up and down Whidbey Island on any day but Sunday and it won’t cost them a dime. I am so proud of Island Transit, a bold venture that began in 1987 with five busses and one maintenance bay. Almost 20 years later, they have 200 busses and two maintenance bays.

Director MARTHA ROSE is pleased Island Transit acquired 7.5 acres of land through an agreement between Island Transit, the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and the U.S. Navy. Island Transit has requested federal funding to assist them with the construction of a new operations base facility on Whidbey, the maintenance portion of which will be housed on the newly-acquired land. Island Transit is committed to preserving all the trees they possibly can for their facility, including attractive landscaping to ensure a healthy green belt between the building and Highway 20.

I love the look of the Little Bulldogs, especially the International grille. Two new 40-foot Gilligs are also on the road. They carry 45 passengers and are equipped so overflow passengers can stand, they are quieter and more energy efficient to boot.

“Instead of waiting a year or two to acquire new vehicles, we piggy backed an order out of Colorado,” said Rose. She explained that grant money to pay for the busses had to be used within a certain time period.

“We ended up buying five and Skagit Transit also bought five, but they added air conditioning and high seatbacks. We decided we didn’t want to lose the sense of community you get while on a bus and ordered ours with standard seats.”

Rose reports that Island Transit Operations Manager FRANK VANDE WERFHORST was on an Island Transit bus on Camano Island the other day when he and the passengers spotted one of the new 40 foot buses heading down I-5 for delivery.

“The passengers asked Frank what it was, and when he told them it was one of our new buses, they wanted to be sure they kept the same low back seats as our regular buses. Regular seatbacks make it easier to have a conversation during a commute. After all, the bus is a community all its own!”

The good fight

The North Whidbey Relay for Life celebrates 20 years of raising funds to fight cancer. The event is set for June 1 and 2 at the North Whidbey Middle School. There will be lots of music, food, games and activities.

Festivities begin Friday with the opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Survivor Lap at 6 p.m. and the Luminaria Ceremony at 10 p.m. The closing ceremony on Saturday is at 3:30 p.m.

Call Linda Kaser at 675-1583 or email

See you back here on June 6. Don’t forget to call me at 675-6611 or write to

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