February 2018

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.

CR4804/3/186 ** (The copyright for this photo is held by BMIHT) 693 LAC (TFR 2) In “More Healeys “ the caption reads “The 1964 Targa Florio Sprite, showing the raised tail and spoiler”. It was the first of the works alloy-bodied cars to employ semi-elliptic rear springs. In the race it was driven by Tommy Wisdom and Paddy Hopkirk, and broke a halfshaft during Paddy’s first stint putting them out of the running.

CR4804/3/187 **Again 693 LAC – this photo appeared in “Motor Racing” magazine captioned: “Off to the sun! Clive Baker will drive this prototype Austin Healey Sprite in the forthcoming Nassau Speed Week. It is a 1300 coupe version of the car Paddy Hopkirk used in this year’s Targa Florio, and will be entered for the 250 mile Nassau Trophy and 100-mile Governor’s Cup”. In the Nassau Trophy it finished 15th, and 1st in class but DNF in the Governor’s Cup.

CR4804/3/189 ** (The copyright for this photo is held by BMIHT) EAC 90C was initially built as an open car (TFR 3) for the 1965 Targa Florio and, like its predecessor was later converted into a coupe as seen here as TFR 4. In the 1966 Targa Florio Rauno Aaltonen and Clive Baker took it to 20th place, 3rd in class despite damaging its axle.

CR4804/3/190 ** (The copyright for this photo is held by BMIHT)  LWD 959E (TFR 5) built for the 1967 Targa Florio race seen here probably in practice. It was to be driven in the race by Clive Baker and Rauno Aaltonen but in the early laps of the race Clive was breaking for a corner when a spectator ran across the track causing Clive to crash into the guard rails.

CR4804/3/192 ** 7080 AC. Jack Wheeler/Martin Davidson’s much modified alloy bodied car seen here on the 1967 Targa Florio. Capable of 132 mph running a 1355cc engine and with Lotus Elan front suspension the car faired well in the race until the rear shock absorbers gave out sending the car into a series of spins, despite which it finished 10th overall (though unclassified).

CR4804/3/195 ** 693 LAC once again, after it passed into private hands. By this time additional side windows had been added, by either Richard Groves or Alan Goodwin.

CR4804/3/199 ** (The copyright for this photo is held by BMIHT)  770 KNX first appeared in the Sebring 12 Hour Race of 1964 driven by Clive Baker and John Colgate finishing 24th overall. It went on to the 24 Hours at Le Mans that year where Bill Bradley partnered Clive Baker, again to 24th, and last, place. It is said to have suffered from poor aerodynamics due to its tail shape. This car seems to have disappeared from the radar, fate unknown. If you have any information please let us know.

CR4804/3/225 ** (The copyright for this photo is held by BMIHT)  Sebring 12 Hours 1965 the first of 10 streamlined, alloy bodied, cars built by DHMC, this car registered DAC 952C finished 15th overall in the hands of Clive Baker and Rauno Aaltonen – the car was painted Dayglow Orange.

A Photo from ‘Bring a Trailer’ 2009

CR4804/3/226 ** This is LNX 629E (TFR 6) which ran at Sebring in 1967 painted red with wire wheels (No.58) “in the hands of Carson Baird (USA), Roger Enever (GB) and Alec Poole (IRL) finishing in 18th place, 3rd in class and 55 laps behind the winning Ford GT 40 of McLaren and Andretti”.

CR4804/3/240 ** (The copyright for this photo is held by BMIHT)  LWD 959E (TFR 7) again now repainted in a darker BRG (for 1968) having been a very light green originally. By this time it was fitted with fuel injection and a 5 speed gearbox. Information written on the back of the photo says that it shows the car is being driven by Clive Baker whilst testing at Silverstone prior to the 1968 Sebring race.

CR4804/3/193 ** HAN 9 R250 (TFR7) The tenth and last of the Austin Healey Sprite prototypes built by the DHMCo. factory, at Coten End, Warwick. This car has spent most of its life in the U.S., the current owner being Steve Coleman.

CR 4804/2/168 ** Cars being prepared in DHMCo’s workshop at The Cape, Warwick.                 Both 1411WD (1961) and 58 FAC (1963) have interesting but ultimately sad histories. To read further go to sebringsprite .com                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      BMHIT = British Motor Industry Heritage Trust – Gaydon, Warwickshire

People

Maurice Heap

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.

CR4804/2/183 ** Bill Buckingham, metal worker, making some final adjustment to a Healey body at the Cape works.

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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/

Off Topic

 When sorting through the photographs in the Warwick Healey Archive I came across this photo –

CR 4804/2/232 **                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I certainly didn’t recognise the car; because it was in the Healey Archive one would think that it must have something to do with Healey. A special body maybe? But I cannot imagine the Healeys sanctioning such an ungainly design. Elva was the first name that came to my mind, others said ‘Daimler 250’ but no one came up with the right answer. Further diligent research proved successful – It’s a Lester Riley 1.5 testing at Silverstone Probably one of only four of that type produced. Harry Lester was most well known, at the time, post WWII, for building special sports racing cars built on an MG TB chassis fitted with the XPAG 1250cc engine bored out and sleeved to 1467cc. The most famous team to use Lester MG cars was ‘The Monkey Stable’. I think that I have provided enough information for you to do your own research. However, the best source of information would be the book – ‘HARRY LESTER; HIS CARS & THE MONKEY STABLE’ by Stewart Penfound. You live and learn!

 

Nick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Objectives and Legal