Historic Car Brands
The eponymously named Donald Healey Motor Company was formed in 1946, by which time its founder already had a background in vehicle design and engineering, as well as rally driving success. He had previously designed the Gloria and Dolomite cars when working for Triumph and worked at Humber during Word War II.
1947 Healey Sportsmobile – David van Mill
The rationale behind the Healey marque was a top-quality, high-performance vehicle range, based on an in-house box-section chassis, with coil-spring suspension front and rear. Up front was an independent wishbone arrangement and the rear live axle was located by twin aluminium trailing arms.
Well-damped coil springs resulted in a smooth ride, but with excellent handling.
Healy bodywork was done by Benjamin Bowden and was aerodynamically verified by wind-tunnel testing.
1949 Healey Westland – DeFacto
The powerplant was a tuned 104hp version of the proved, Riley 2.4-litre, twin-cam engine that produced enough grunt to see the Healey Elliot become the fastest saloon-bodied car I the world in 1948, being timed at 104.7mph for more than one mile.
It was joined in the initial line-up by the Westland Roadster soft-top model.
In 1949 the most sporting of all the Healeys, the Silverstone, was announced. It had a shorter chassis and stiffer springing and was capable of 107mph. These cars had numerous competition successes including class wins in the 1947 and 1948 Alpine rallies and in the 1949 Mille Miglia.
1950 Healey Silverstone – Brian Snelson
British Government intervention into the car market insisted on increased export proportions of vehicle build rates, in an effort to drag the UK out of its post-War debt. For Healey, that meant development of the export-only Nash-Healy roadster, powered by a Nash Ambassador, 3.8-litre, overhead-valve, six-cylinder engine, fitted with twin SU carburettors. The transmission was a four-speed Nash gearbox.
3.8-litre NashHealey – John Lloyd
In 1952, Nash-Healey production was transferred to Pininfarina and a 4.2-litre engine was fitted. The Nash-Healey models were the largest-selling cars, totalling more than 500.
The Riley engine powered around 600 Healey UK-market models, beside 25 Alvis three-litre powered G-Type roadsters.
Although sales were doing well in niche-car terms by 1952, Donald Healey could see that the company needed a higher-volume, lower-priced model, to replicate the US-market successes of MG and Jaguar.
The solution was the Healey 100 model that was unveiled at the 1952 Earls Court Motor Show.
The Healy 100 was based on the Austin A90 Atlantic chassis, but Donald Healey’s body design was much more attractive than the A90’s.
1952 Austin Healey100 – Audrain Auto Museum
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.
At the London Show, Healey received more orders than the small company could manage, but fortunately the venture had more appeal to Austin than simply suppling powertrains.
On the first day of the Show, a verbal Austin-Healey agreement was initiated by Austin chief, Sir Leonard Lord.
The car had been called the Healey 100 on the opening day of show with a badge designed by Gerry Coker. It was re-designed overnight and the car was rebranded ‘Austin-Healey 100’ for the remainder of the Show.
The formalised deal saw Healey 100 production moved to the major Austin plant at Longbridge, near Birmingham and the traditional Healey narrow grille was expanded slightly.
The aim was for the cars to be produced at Longbridge, with Jensen Brothers taking over the body-building. Development work on future Austin-Healeys would stay at Warwick, as would the preparation and running of all factory entered competition cars, as well as a UK sales concession.
Cars would also be sold at a new Healey showroom in Holland Park, London. After pressure from Austin distributors, the Austin-Healey also went out through normal Austin outlets and the Donald Healey Motor Company got an Austin franchise.
Austin 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 100S model’s third at the Sebring 12-hour race in 1954.
More than 74,000 Austin-Healey 100 models were sold.