In my role as Editor and Publisher of Car Scene International, I was delighted to receive an invitation to attend the Practical Classics Classic Car & Restoration Show 2023 held at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre (NEC). As always, I payed particular attention to the Healey cars that are being displayed so that I could report back to you. Here are some ‘Healey’ exhibits that caught my eye. I am sure that you will be particularly interested in Warren Kennedy’s recreation of the Healey Westland Prototype –
Here is the story of that car –
The car exhibited on the Footman James stand at the 2023 Classic Car and Restoration Show is of high importance, as owner Warren Kennedy is rebuilding the first ever prototype Healey that was completed in January 1946. However, for almost 70 years, no one knew it existed. Through sheer luck as a Healey collector and through restoring three different Healey models, Warren uncovered the original A1501 prototype body and chassis, which was later used on two separate vehicles.
Warren purchased the first car in this story in 2008. He thought it was the Westland Roadster that founder Donald Healey had built for his entry in the Mille Miglia in 1948. Warren eventually discovered the car had worn the registration number GWD 43 and appeared to be the same car used by Donald, but it had an even more interesting background that no one had uncovered previously.
When Warren began restoring ‘GWD 43’, he not only discovered that the aluminium skin was a thinner gauge than that used on production cars, but the Ash frame looked as though it had been modified. It was unlike any other Westland Roadster he had restored, so Warren removed the body in favour of a new one, created using the original blueprints. Warren stored the original body away safely, unaware it was the body used on the A1501 prototype – the very first Healey.
Warren purchased the second Healey in this story in 2012, a Healey Duncan Drone, which led to the unlikely discovery of the original chassis for A1501. Having stripped the Duncan Drone and sand blasted its chassis, Warren found ‘A1501’ stamped under the current number on the chassis.
It was confirmed by a forensic metallurgist as the original chassis for A1501, the very first Westland Roadster. The chassis was also made from thinner 20-gauge steel, complete with all the plates that Donald’s son, Geoffrey Healey, had welded in to strengthen the chassis all those years ago.
The third car in this story is the car you will see on the stand, the world’s very first Healey taking shape once again as Donald Healey had originally intended. Warren took the discarded ‘GWD 43’ body out of storage and found that the A1501 chassis that was used in his second purchase of a Duncan Drone matched up perfectly.
To ensure it matches Donald’s original vision, Warren is making the necessary alterations so that it features pop-up headlamps, ‘kite shaped’ sidelight indicators on the front wings, and a fold down flap for the spare wheel. These features were all lost when the production version of the Healey Westland Roadster arrived in late 1946, due to cost-cutting.
Warren’s confidence in A1501’s body and chassis was reinforced by the documented books on Healeys, published by Donald and Geoffrey. The car you will see on the Footman James stand is A1501 with its original body and chassis reunited. It will be restored back to the very first car Donald envisioned his Westland Roadster would be.
I would like to give credit to the stylist who designed all the early Healey cars (except the Silverstone) – Ben Bowden. (Ed.)
If you would like to see all the other photos I took at the show, you can do so by clicking here –
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