|We got off to a good start to edition six of the Bulletin. There have been a number of interesting contacts made by Austin Healey enthusiasts and a couple of visits made to the Warwick based Record Office where the Healey Archive is kept.
There are two Healey topics, contained in the archive, which, I am most anxious to feature in future Bulletins. They are the Jensen – Healey and the Isle of White Frogeye Sprite Company. Both Donald and especially Geoff were closely involved with these projects. These developments came after the contracts that the DMHCo. had with BMC (AH 3000) and British Leyland (Sprite) were terminated.
However, the Healey story is so varied and the contents of the archive held at the WCRO so rich that there are many other topics to share with you before I can indulge myself and hopefully others who have interest in the J-H and the I.O.W. ‘Frogeye’. At least you now know that they are in the pipeline.
This month I have decided to air the ‘Record Breakers’.
What a marathon this has turned out to be, so much conflicting information and down right misinformation ‘out there’. Whilst I do not want these Bulletins to be too text heavy, just sufficient for readers to be able to put the photos into context and hopefully to spur you on to do further research; I do want what I write to be accurate, as far as I am able in this convoluted world that is Healey. I am grateful to David Matthews of wwah.org for loaning me his copy of Geoff Healey’s ‘The Specials’ book.
The Austin Healey Record Breakers – 1953/54 & 56
To Donald Healey, motor cars and driving at speed in competition, either against other drivers or against the clock, were synonymous . Before WWII he had already proved himself to be a formidable and daring driver in Invicta and Triumph cars. After the war his desire for speed and competition was undiminished. This ambition led to him to driving cars of his own design to victories or place wins in many of Europe’s prestigious car rallies, on occasions accompanied by his son Geoffrey.
So, with the launch of the Austin Healey 100 it was not at all surprising that Donald seized the opportunity to expose the sporting and endurance capabilities of the new car at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA. As a consequence presenting Austin with a valuable marketing tool which was especially valuable in the all important U.S. market.
In September, 1953, two cars were used to establish speed and endurance records for ‘stock’ and ‘non-stock’ cars. It is interesting to note that the AAA (see below) insisted on the ‘stock’ car used for the record breaking attempts should be taken from the showroom of a dealer in California. In fact two cars were taken to Wendover, Utah and Donald made the choice of which one to use after driving each of them.
The ‘non – stock’ or modified car had been been prepared at the DHMCo’s Cape works in Warwick. It was based upon on the fourth of DHMCo’s Austin Healey Special test cars. It was fitted with a Weslake four port cylinder head and after Austin Motor Company’s engineer, Don Hawley, had finished his magic tuning work it developed 131.5 bhp at 4750 r.p.m. The standard Jensen built body was stripped out and various aerodynamic aids such as a streamlined head rest and wheel spats were fitted. Numerous record were either broken or set by these two cars two of the most notable being – 142.64 mph for a straight mile and driving for 24 hours at an average speed of 104.30 mph.
This produced the desired effect in terms of publicity material and projected the new brand of ‘Austin Healey’ as a giant killer against more expensive and exotic sports cars.
It would be wrong of me not to bring to your attention the major part that Captain (British Army) GET (George) Eyston played in organising and managing this mission. In his car named ‘Thunderbolt’ he had broken the World Land Speed Record several times, at Bonneville, in the late 1930s. He used that knowledge and the American contacts that he had made at the time, to ensure a successful campaign for Donald and his team. In all honesty it probably wouldn’t have happened without his involvement.
But this was just the start, Donald had really got the bug now and set about the task of securing the outright production sports car record for 24-hour endurance running. Plus the outright speed record for modified cars. These are the cars which the Warwick based team prepared for the attacks on several endurance and outright speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Tooele County, Utah, USA, in August 1954 –
These records were achieved under the supervision and ratification of the American Automobile Association (AAA), Competitions Section.
Donald and Geoff’s desire for breaking world speed records and the attendant good publicity, was not sated and 1956 saw them back again at Bonneville, with two cars, one a modified version of the 1954 Streamliner; the other, a BN2 fitted with a specially designed aerodynamic, ‘long’, nose and extended rear section grafted on to an otherwise standard body. The body for this car had been built by Jensen Motors, West Bromwich, England, who built all the ‘Big Healey’ regular production bodies. The Streamliner’s task was to capture the outright speed record and in particular to achieve Donald’s dream of exceeding 200 mph under observed and ratified conditions. The ‘Endurance’ car as the name suggest was designed to set new endurance records. Here are brief description of the cars –
So that is the basic background to the Healey Record Breakers. Here are some photos including ones from the Warwick Healey Archive –
1953 The ‘Modified’ car at speed at Bonneville Salt Flats. photo from Geoff Healey’s book ‘The Specials’
** CR 4804/3/33 Telegram sent to Donald Healey by Leonard Lord
All the above press cuttings are held in the Warwick Healey Archive under Reference No. **CR4804/3/33
The 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.
Wow! This is going to be a big section for edition No. VI. I can assure you, that’s good news.
Lots of interesting information brought to us from subscribers. Here they are in no particular order –
Dudley Lucas wrote to say, in reference to the Works team Sprite, EAC 90 which featured in Bulletin V –
“The photo must be of TFR3 as in its later guise there was no bonnet strap. I bought EAC 90C from the DHMC and raced it in the UK and also did 3 trips to Mugello. You are correct in that it was broken up after the 1970 race when it was forced off the road and into a bridge parapet by some nameless, incompetent and stupid idiot who was taking part in the same event. There was also an attempt to sabotage the car the previous night. Interesting… Had this not happened EAC would still be in my possession.”
I was able to inform Dudley that last year I had met up with John Harris, a work’s driver for Healey in the 1960s. He responded –
“I look back on the days of the DHMC in Coten End as the golden age. The proximity of the Millwright Arms made for an ideal meeting point on a Saturday morning and – depending on the time of year – you could guarantee to find a selection from: Brian Healey, Geoff Price, Wally and Ethel Hassan, Richard and Bill Hassan, John Harris, Cecil Winby, Peter Wilkes, Andrew Wilson-Gunn, DMH and GCH if the skipper was up from Cornwall, Arthur Appleby, myself, Clive Baker… Wonderful times.”
Thanks for sharing your memories Dudley, feel free to tell us more anytime ……
Peter Taylor got in touch to ask how he could get obtain a copy of the Sprite reg. no. HNX 456B because he hadn’t seen that particular one before. I was happy to put Pete in touch with the Warwick County Record Office for him to obtain a copy. Pete went on to tell me that he and his son Paul had built a replica of a mid 1960’s Sprite Streamliner. He also gave me this information which may be of some interest to readers –
“In all there were 10 Works cars of this generation, here is some, but not definitive info on some of them.
There were three cars of this type for the 1965 year. The first one appeared for the Sebring USA race that year. This car was purchased some time after by Gary Kohs of Detroit , and he owned it until very recently. When it was purchased by Bruno Verstraete. It resides in the Healey Museum in the Netherlands . I visited Detroit a few years ago when Gary Kohs still owned the car and took many photographs to aid me in the quest of producing a faithful copy of the body , instrumentation, and running gear.This car was registered DAC 952C and chassis number Han8-R-65-5
Two more cars of this shape were produced for the Lemans race of 1965 and I chose to model our car on one of those. Our car differs from the originals in as much as the fact that they ran ‘dry sump’ Cooper S XSP engines , turned inline instead of transverse. Registered ENX 415C chassis HAN8-R-65-52 ,and ENX 416C chassis HAN8-R-65-35. Our car has the tank for the dry sump oil reservoir located in the passenger footwell as per the original ,but does not have a dry sump engine.
Two cars were produced for 1966 Sebring and Lemans ‘66, one these cars also raced Lemans in ’67,’and ‘68. This car is the Fuel injected and 5 speed gearbox) HNX456D chassis HAN9-R-237
This is the car in the picture I am after and is owned by Joe Armour in Australia. There appears to be 6 cars of this particular design at the front and 4 others with different headlight arrangements.”
Here is Peter’s story on how the replica was built, it first appeared in the AHC – Eastern ‘Mutterings’ magazine of December 2017.
THE 1965 LE MANS STREAMLINER RECREATION – A HAPPY ENDING
This is a faithful replica, owned by Pete Taylor, of one of two identical cars that raced in the 1965 LeMans 24 hours. The original car numbered 49 finished a creditable 12th place overall. Drivers were Hawkins and Rhodes. The following article is taken from the Dec 2017 of Mutterings.
Well it has been eight years since we made the decision to buy what appeared to be a completed aluminium shell from the Gibson brothers who had a workshop opposite the Archer‟s Garage in Oldbury. The shell had been constructed for them in Scotland. As it turned out, problem after problem was identified with the shell and after having the rear chassis legs removed and re -sited, the floors dropped by 2 inches and roll cage fitted, the car sat a long time. It was apparent that the roof was too flat, the windscreen opening would not be suitable for fitting the glass, and to top it all, the car was not symmetrical. A decision was made with heavy heart to scrap the Aluminium body and request the services of Colin Sandwell and Brian Wheeler to construct a complete new Aluminium body.
From then on things started to speed up; formers were constructed and measurements taken in order to make the new body. We then took the bare chassis home to fit up all the running gear and engine, and then brought it back to Wheeler‟s workshop. Brian and Colin did a wonderful job on the body, the roof was now good and a Mini windscreen fitted perfectly. Side Perspex windows and the massive rear one were manufactured and fitted. We picked her up and took her home to cut the holes and fit (temporarily) the rear lights. The front light covers we had made in Perspex locally, trimmed to fit, and the 4 headlights temporarily fitted. Dashboard clocks and switches installed, emergency power off and windscreen accoutrements fitted.
Finally an excellent paint job was done by a good friend Brian Bedford who had helped tirelessly throughout the project and the engine prepared by long-term friend and racing colleague, Pat Harris. First time out was to the Austin Healey Club stand at the NEC Birmingham on the weekend 10th – 12th November. The car was very well received and was awarded the Brian Archer Shield, an award dedicated to the memory of Brian Archer who died in 2008 and who was responsible for making Sebring coupé bodies.
In March David kindly invited me to visit him at his and Liz’s charming home in a village near Stratford – upon – Avon, Warwickshire. The purpose of the visit was for me to conduct an interview for the Healey Archive’s ‘oral history’ project. David has owned his Austin Healey 3000 Mk. III for over forty years so you can imagine that he had numerous stories to tell about his experiences; some good, some not so good but all recalled with a fondness for his treasured automotive partner of many years. When the transcript of the interview comes to hand I will share some of those moments with you in a future Bulletin.
David spent a somewhat peripatetic but successful career with commercial vehicle engine and transmission component manufactures in the U.K. He is now retired but very active as the Archivist for the Midland Automobile Club owners and operates of the famous Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb, Worcestershire. A very scenic location if I may say so. The Austin Healey Club is holding its AH Sprite 60th Anniversary event there, appropriately on the 20th May. But for me the most interesting story David told concerned the discovery of a unique WSM 3000 GT, that was thought to be lost for all time and the part that he played in the story. Maybe I am a romantic but every aspect of the tale, including the attractiveness of the car itself, had me in thrall.
Here is the story in words and pictures –
The rediscovery as told in a Classic and Sports Car article
The David Moore connection
Tony Wilson-Spratt of wsmcars.com kindly agreed to this material being reproduced in the Bulletin.
The well known Australian Austin Healey enthusiast (understatement) got in touch but I will hold Joe’s delights for the next issue. I know that you will be back!
If you have got a Healey related story that you would like to share please send it to –
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|Links to further viewing and reading –
The 1954 Endurance car at Bonneville http://youtu.be/o2KuaKt2uDg
The 1956 Speed attempt – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOVJeJkhQUo
WSM Cars – http://www.wsmcars.com/
Classic Car & Restoration Show Birmingham NEC March 2018 – Lots of Austin Healeys and MGs here – http://www.carsceneinternational.com/classic-car-restoration-show-birmingham-nec-march-2018/
Warwick Healey Archive Catalogue pdf – https://apps.warwickshire.gov.uk/api/documents/WCCC-863-738
|Off Topic ……..
Discovered in the Healey Archive with no covering notes, this stunning c1938 Mercedes -Benz 540K Cabriolet.
That’s my guess but I would be delighted to be corrected if I am wrong. It looks as if the photograph was taken at Healey’s Coten End, Warwick, premises. Anybody recognise this car or know why it was there? Please get in touch at –