Historic Car Brands
Donald Healey’s background with Invicta and Triumph led to the formation of his own Healey car brand after Word War II. At the 1952 Longon Motor Show, the Healey 100 was shown and Austin’s Leonard Lord struck a deal for Austin Healey collaboration that lasted 20 years.
The Healy 100 was based on the ugly Austin A90 Atlantic chassis, but Donald Healy’s body design was much more attractive. At the London Show he received more orders than the small Healey company could manage. Shortly after the Show closed the Austin Healey agreement saw 100 production moved to the major Austin plant at Longbridge, near Birmingham.
The A90 mechanicals combined a 90hp, four-cylinder, 2.7-litre OHV engine with a three-speed plus overdrive gearbox driving a live rear axle, suspended on semi-elliptic leaf springs. The front end was independent, with wishbones and coil springs. Braking was by drums all around.Austin Healey 100 BN1 Le Mans 1953 – Solitude Revival
Healey sales were boosted further by a bog-standard 100 finishing 12th at Le Mans in 1953, where there were some braking issues, followed by a four-disc-braked model’s third at the Sebring 12-hour range in 1954.
By way of celebration, a special ’S’ model (’S’ for Sebring) with 132hp, four disc brakes, aluminium panelling and a remote-change, four-speed gearbox was given a 50-car limited release. Donald Healey took a supercharged and streamlined 100S to Bonneville, where it recorded 192.6mph (310km/h). That gearbox, with optional overdrive, was made standard in 1954.
Austin Healey 100S – Herrandersensvensson
In late 1956 the four-cylinder was replaced by a new six, in the Austin Healey 100/6. Initially 2.6-litres’ capacity, it was increased to 2.9 litres in 1959 and disc front brakes were incorporated. Donald Healey went back to Bonneville in 1956, with a modified 2.6-litre model and recorded 200mph (322km/h).
The six-cylinder Austin Healeys were longer and had space for a couple of kids, or luggage, behind the front seats.
1965 Austin Healey – archives
The Austin-Healey 3000 was built from 1959 to 1967 and is the best known of the ‘Big Healey’ models. The car’s bodywork was made by Jensen Motors and the vehicles were assembled at BMC’s MG Works in Abingdon, alongside the corporation’s MG models.
During its production life, the car changed from an open sports car, with ‘dicky’ seat option, to a sports convertible. In 1963, 91.5 percent of all Austin-Healey 3000 cars were exported; mostly to North America.
1962 Austin Healey 3000 MkII – Sicnag
BMC merged with Jaguar in 1966 to form British Motor Holdings (BMH) and Donald Healey left BMH in 1968 when it merged into British Leyland. Healey then joined Jensen Motors, which had been making bodies for the ‘Big Healeys’ since their inception in 1952 and became chairman in 1972.
The 2.9-litre 3000 was a highly successful competition car, winning its class in many European rallies in its heyday and is still raced in classic car competitions by enthusiasts today.
1959 Austin-Healey 3000 MkI – Davocano
Austin Healey Sprite
In late 1956 Sir Leonard Lord asked Donald Healey to come up with a small sports car, to replace the outdated Austin Seven Nippy and Ulster sports models. Healey designer, Gerry Coker, penned the lines, based on Jaguar’s C- and D-types.
Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite – Brian Snelson
His design called for pop-up headlights, but BMC’s cost-cutting put paid to that idea, so the compromise was the Sprite’s distinctive ‘frog-eyed’ (UK) or ‘bug-eyed’ (USA and Australia) appearance.
The BMC concept was to use as many parts as possible from the BMC parts bin, so the Sprite employed the 948 cc OHV engine from the Austin A35 and Morris Minor 1000 models, but upgraded to 43hp with twin 1 1⁄8 inch SU carburettors.
Austin Healey Sprite – Dave 7
Its rack and pinion steering came from the Morris Minor 1000 and the front suspension was the Austin A35’s coil spring and wishbone arrangement, with the arm of the Armstrong lever shock absorber serving as the top suspension link. The rear axle was located and sprung by quarter-elliptic leaf springs, with lever-arm shock absorbers and top links.
The wheels were 13-inch, fitted with cross-ply tyres or 145HR13 Pirelli Cinturato radial tyres.
There were no exterior door handles, so the driver and passenger were required to reach inside to open the door. There was also no boot lid, retaining as much structural integrity as possible, so access to the spare wheel and luggage compartment was achieved by tilting the seat-backs forward and reaching under the rear deck.
The Mark II Sprite was launched in 1961, with the same engine, but now with twin 1 1/4 inch SUs that pushed power up to 46.5hp.
The bodywork was completely restyled, with headlights in the front wings and rear bodywork in the MGB style. Also, an ‘MG Midget’ version was announced. Innocenti, in Italy, also came up with a rebodied Sprite, in which the bonnet was shortened and the doors lengthened.
Innocenti Sprite – Brian Snelson
An opening boot was incorporated, but that meant increasing rear body metal strength, so weight went up by 50kg.
In the following year, a longer-stroke engine was fitted and engine output went up to 56hp. Disc front brakes were fitted and wire wheels were optional.
The Mark III saw a minor body upgrade, with a curved windscreen, wind-up windows and exterior door handles, plus semi-elliptic rear springs.
Austin Healey Sprite MKIV – MiataSprite
The 1966 Mark IV Sprite and Mark III MG Midget scored an affixed, folding soft-top, instead of the removable one that had to be stowed in the boot.
The engine was replaced by the Mini’s 1275cc optional engine, but in a lower state of tune, with 65hp. Minor bodywork changes came along, including the round-wheel-arch models in 1972 – the year in which the Healey contract expired and the last few Sprites didn’t have any ‘Healey’ reference.
The Austin Healey Sprite and its MG Midget sibling have been successful international and club level race cars since their launch and continue to race in various events to the present day.
Austin Healey Sprite – Walter Mitty Challenge 2007 – A&K