|I visited the Record Office earlier this month to see what delights I could collect for you.
Lo and behold I came across some photographs of a range of competition Austin Healey Sprites in all kinds of different body configurations. So, this month the Bulletin is going to be dedicated to, mainly, Donald Healey Motor Company Austin Healey Sprites built for motor sport competitions.
My grateful thanks to Martin Ingall of www.sebringsprite.com for providing information on these cars. An active link to that website is given at the end of this Bulletin.
If you want to gain further knowledge on any of these cars you could do no better than to visit Martin’s website.
As most of you know the Austin Healey Mk.1 Sprite was launched in Monte Carlo on 20th May 1958, ahead of that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. So, this is the year of the Sprite’s 60th anniversary.
In the U.K. the Austin Healey Club is organising a celebration event on 20th May to be held at the Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb venue. And the Midget and Sprite club will be celebrating at Wroxall Abbey, just around the corner from me, on Sunday 26th August.
If an anniversary event is being held in your State or Country please let us know.
Bulletin IV featured a very well executed sketch/drawing of the Healey SR. The signature below the drawing read ‘Maurice Heap’. I and others wanted to know more about this talented man. What other work had he done for Healey? Was he a Healey employee or a contracted artist etc. etc. Initial searches within the Healey Archive drew a blank as did enquiries amongst the Records Office staff. But one staff member, Ben Earl did some digging and found that a Maurice Heap was employed by the Lanchester College, Coventry which became and is Coventry University.
Then we discovered that there was a Maurice Heap in the local telephone directory, living in Warwick.
Bingo! we have made contact.
A number of us have now spoken to Maurice who is in his late eighties and as sharp as a pin. I Have made arrangements to interview him for the ‘oral history’ element of the Healey Archive later in the month.
Even in my relatively short telephone chat with Maurice, I found out a very interesting piece of information which is pertinent to this Bulletin – Maurice’s son runs a car restoration business specialising in Morris Minors, MG Midgets and AH Sprites. A link to his website is given below.
Buckingham Sheet Metal Works
Anyone who has delved deeply into the history of the Donald Healey Motor Company could not have failed to recognise the intimate relationship that existed between that company and BSMW. In fact their respective premises were within a short stone’s throw of each other in Millers Road, Warwick. But I am running ahead of myself.
Phil Blake was one of the first subscribers to the Bulletin and a generous donor to the Healey Archive appeal at the Retro Warwick Classic Car show in August 2015. Phil contacted me after the first Bulletin was published to say that he was a near neighbour of the son (Ray) of the man who started Buckinghams, Tom Buckingham, would I be interested in hearing Ray’s story. The answer, of course, was a resounding yes. It turns out that Phil and I only live about six miles apart so it was both convenient and convivial for us to meet in a local hostelry, The Falcon, Warwick Road, Hatton. We did that in early February. I was able to conduct an ‘oral history’ interview with Phil who had done his homework with Ray before our meeting.
Tom Buckingham was a very good personal friend of DMH and they often socialised together, in and around Warwick. That is all I am allowed to say on that matter. However, it was Tom’s brother Bill who was most involved with constructing the body work of most, if not all, the Healeys built for competition, like the Sprites featured above for instance. In fact, at one stage, Bill left Buckinghams and went to work directly for DHMCo.
Although Ray, who was telling this story by proxy, also worked for Buckinghams, as did most of the male Buckingham family at one time or another, he did not enjoy the work, or the working conditions for that matter. He went on to pursue a career in the wholesale fruit and vegetable trade. Bill passed away some years ago but his wife is still alive and Phil hopes that she may have more tales to tell together with some photos. Below there is a photo of the early Buckingham premises in Millers Road, Warwick. You can see it is little more than a large wooden shed, in subsequent years a proper brick building was constructed. The building but not the company, still exists. The motor cycling fans amongst you might be able identify the motor bike. My own guess is a Douglas Dragonfly. The car is a c.1937 Ford model 62 V8, predecessor of the V8 Pilot.
I should mention that Tom Buckingham started his first sheet metal forming business in his back garden in Case Lane, Hatton. By coincidence Case Lane is on one of the cycling routes I have used for the past twenty, or more, years. It’s a very small world isn’t it?
And a little more about Phil. He is a classic car enthusiast, that is what caused him to attend the Healey Archive appeal launch in August 2015. As of yet he hasn’t owned any Healey model but the more Bulletins he reads he may be tempted. Currently he owns a 1960s Chevrolet Corvette and a Triumph TR5. I am most grateful to him for getting in touch to tell the Buckingham story. Hopefully there is more to come.
Buckingham’s first (wooden) building in Millers Road, Warwick c.1948. The car is a Ford Model 62 V8 c.1937.
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These items (marked thus**) are credited on the website as ‘Part of the Warwick Healey Motor Company Archive held at Warwickshire County Record Office.’
See the ‘Objectives and Legal‘ link at the bottom of the page.
| Links –
Warwickshire’s Past Unlocked
(A tip – one that I have found useful when searching for items in the Warwick Healey Catalogue – type the subject you are looking for in the ‘Any Text’ box then press search. I find that it is more successful than trying to search in the Catalogue pages themselves –http://archivesunlocked.warwickshire.gov.uk/calmview/advanced.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog
SebringSprite – http://www.sebringsprite.com/
JLH Minor Restorations – https://www.jlhmorrisminors.co.uk/
When sorting through the photographs in the Warwick Healey Archive I came across this photo –