|Barrie Wills Interview Part 2
When we came to the part in the Barrie Wills interview where the Healey Canadian project was mentioned, I thought that there was a little confusion.
The interviewer was showing Barrie the conents of a file containing information about the Healey Canadian project but this caused Barrie to start talking about Bricklin, Proton and Malaysia etc.
This is very understandable for three reasons –
So, when the interviewer showed Barrie the Healey Canadian Project file Barrie, quite understandably, was trying to link all the facts. But in reality there was no link between the Healey Canadian Project and Barrie’s connection with Malcolm Brickin to be made.
The reason why I picked up on this aspect of the interview is because very early on in my involvement with the Healey Motor Company archive a fellow volunteer told me that he had come across the Healey Canadian Project file(s). The information in them had captured his imagination to the extent that he did some research and tried to make contact with some of the Canadian participants. I must say I couldn’t see what the attraction was, I still can’t but each to his own. For one reason or another the Canadian project kept coming up in communication, to the extent that although I had no interest in it myself its existence became locked in my mind. So, when I noted the confusion around the subject in Barrie’s interview I decided to get to the bottom of it.
To do this I had to visit the Record Office in Warwick to look at the files CR4804/2/77 -78 & 81. All the photos and documents referred to in this piece are from these files. Copies can be ordered via –
In doing so I realised why my fellow volunteer had become so interested in the Healey Canadian project. There were two main reasons that hit me –
As I have already confessed, for some reason, all this abundant and fascinating information leaves me a little cold, or, if we are talking about emotions then, sad, comes to mind. A few days before me looking at these files I had read the obituary of ‘Lee’ Iacoca the man whose name will forever be associated with the highly successful and even iconic, Ford Mustang (happy to say I owned an early one when I worked in Detroit).
When I was looking through the Canadian project files I thought to myself “I can’t imagine that the Mustang files, at the concept stage, being any larger or any more comprehensive than these files.” They are truly impressive and I comment as someone who did this kind of work at Peugeot U.K. One thing is absolutely apparent and that is that a great deal of hard work by a number of people, including Geoffrey and Donald Healey, had gone into trying to get this project off the ground. All the evidence is in these files.
From what I have seen this is the largest of the ‘failed’ projects of which, to my mind, there were far too many. That is why I use the adjective “sad”. That is the feeling I have when I survey the post ‘Austin’ years of the Healey organisation, HACL (Healey Automobile Consultants Limited). Maybe I am being overly pessimistic, maybe I am making too much of a distinction between how successful Donald, Geoff and ‘Bic’ and the products of there endevours were in the 1950s and 60s and the relative failure of the subesquent years. In any case it is the way of most great companies and Empires. The fact that I write these Healey Bulletins is testimony enough that the Healey story will continue to be told for many more years to come.
Here is just a flavour of what I found in the Healey Canadian Project files –
The following Pages are taken from a very comprehensive document produced by the Government of New Brunswick, Canada, which was contemplating investing in a sports car production plant. They had previously commissioned Bricklin to draw up plans for this project, these had not been proceeded with. In this document they were having another look at the project, this time with ‘Aston Martin’ in mind. This also did not proceed either. It was after this that Healey were approaced by a private capital company. The New Brunswick Government document is in the file for reference purposes only but makes interesting reading as regards the thoroughness of the considerations.