Warwick Healey Motor Company Archive Bulletin IV

January 2018


CR4804/3/138 ** Louise King, (American)  actress wife of Peter Collins (English) F1 racing driver, with DMH sitting in an AH 100 M in a New York Park.                          For more information on the connection between DMH, Peter Collins and Louise King see the link under ‘Further Reading at the bottom of this web page.

The Healey SR and XR

These sports racing prototype category cars could be viewed as the ‘last hurrah’ for the Healey Motor Company. There would be other cars like the Healey Fiesta by Ford and the I.O.W. Frogeye Sprites but non that combined Donald’s love of competition and Geoffery’s engineering skills and imagination as these cars did.

Sadly, they were ‘heroic failures’ from the same mould as ‘the charge of the light brigade’ and Scott’s attempt to be the first man to reach the ‘South Pole’. In the case of the SR and XR, with just a little more luck or a little less bad luck both cars would have been outstanding successes, from the moulds that created the defeat of the ‘Spanish Armada’ and the ‘Battle of Britain’. But as my wife frequently quotes ” If ifs and ands were pots and pans what would we do for dishes?” Make of that what you will, it just seemed an appropriate summary.     

David Matthews of wwah.org wrote : –

1967 saw DHM Co. lose its licence fees (as a result of the British Motor Holdings Limited’s rationalisation programme in favour of the ill fated MGC ed.) for Big Healey production. They were already losing market share on Sprites to the MG Midget sales.
The next 12 months saw one of the biggest investments and furious development work in the Healey’s history.
They simultaneously devloped the 4 Litre (Rolls Royce) 4000 AH and also the SR for Le Mans ( The forward thinking was that the SR would become a Healey Sports GT if successful.)
The prototype was named SR for “Sub Rosa” ( In Secret). However, the news got out because Club De ‘ L’Ouest published the entries for Le Mans in early 1968 (Jan/Feb)
By Spring – April 27th  1968, Sir William Lyons, at Jaguar, axed the 4000 AH overnight.  Charles De Gaul had a referendum that delayed Le Mans by 4 months until the September of that year. This was fortuitous for the Healey team, it gave more time to develop the car.
The 1968 car (see photos below) was entered as No: 47. This car had water cooled radiators in the rear wings and oil coolers in the front giving it a higher body line from the cockpit rearwards.
John Harris, who first tested the SR at Silverstone,  said that the wheel base to width ratio was over square which produced difficult handling characteristics, scrubbing off speed on every corner. This poor handling charateristics due to the chassis/body dimensions was strange given that DMH’s friends at Ford had liaised with Healey over the Ford GT and should have had the wheelbase that XR37 had. Editors Note: – this was clearly something that troubled David because he got into touch with Rob Harrison who bought the XR 37 in 1971. Rob confirmed via the documents that came with the XR37 from DHMCo., that the SR wheel base was 89 inches and the XR was 94inches. The Ford GT40 had a wheelbase of 94.9 inches (2,410 mm).
For 1969 they lowered the rear end body work by 2-3 inches placing the radiators in the front and oil coolers in the rear I attcah some photos I have of this car.
It was initially entered with the No: 40 later changed for the race to 37  John Harris did all the testing on this car and at Le Mans that year during the March/April test sessions.
To read David’s full article on the SR and XR visit the link under ‘Further Reading’ at the bottom of this web page.
David’s photos
SR1968 Le Mans pits. John Harris standing on the right and Rachael Baker, Clive’s wife, on the left.
John Harris in the Esses at Le mans practice early 1969 with the original race entry number 40
1969 SR No.37 photographed before John Wolfe’s fatal accident in his Porsche 917.
I’m Backing Healey 4 inch dia. roundel gold decal attached to the SR.                                                          Image supplied by Rob Harrison.

    Photos from the Warwick Healey Motor Company Archive

CR4804/2/185 **  Sketch of Healey SR by Maurice Heap
CR4804/2/189 ** Three photos of Healey SR being built at the DMHCo. premises, Coten End, Warwick.  Photo credit – Les Needham, Assoc. Press.

CR4804/3/236 ** Healey SR in the Paddock at Silverstone for A H Club event, August 1968.              Photo Copyright held by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust.
CR4804/3/235 ** John Harris demonstrating Healey SR at Silverstone A H Club event, August 1968.                                           Photo Copyright held by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust.
CR4804/3/237 ** Andrew Hedges demonstrating Healey SR with streamliner AH Sprite alongside at Silverstone A H Club event, August 1968.  The cars have the same race numbers as they had at Le Mans, see David Matthew’s photo at the top of the page. Incidentally, the Le Mans 24hr. race was held in September that year because of civil unrest in France.                                                     Photo Copyright held by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust.
CR 4804/2/188 ** 1968 Healey SR Cockpit LH side.                                                                                        Photo copyright held by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust.
CR 4804/2/192 ** 1968 Healey SR Cockpit RH side.                                                                                        Photo copyright held by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust.
CR 4804/2/191 ** Healey SR Coventry Climax 2.0ltr. V8                                                                          Photo copyright held by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust

Editor’s Note: – There are more photos and information on the XR37 to come but I did not want to ‘overload’ you. So, I am going to publish Bulletin IVA in two weeks time to bring you that                                            car plus anything else that crops up in the meantime. If you have any SR or XR info. please get in touch. I am interested in personal anecdotes rather than magazine articles.

 Contributions from Subscribers: –

David Moore of Stratford – Upon – Avon, U.K. wrote –

When a 19-year old student in Peterborough in 1967, I bought a very second-hand Austin Healey 100/4 reg no. OAC 969 from a dealer in Leicester. I ran the car for about 9 months and then sold it to a student from Loughborough University who intended to rebuild the car but I have never managed to find anything about the car’s subsequent career.

Editor’s note: – Has anyone any further knowldge of this car? If so please get in touch.

It was an early 100/4, registered on 27th November 1953 by Donald Healey Motors according to the Warwick County Council records (copy below).

The hardtop is an unusual one and was identified by John Wheatley (former 100/4 registrar) as made by Universal Laminations, apparently a quite expensive item. It was already on the car when I bought it but I removed it for separate sale when I sold the car.

I again became an Austin Healey owner in 1972 by buying a 1964 3000 Mk 3 (reg no. BRO 606B) which I still run 45 years on.

We received this email from Rick Neville, Ma. USA –

Robert and Nick,

Attached you will find an article written by me entitled “Reconsidering the Demise of the Big Healey” that appears in the January 2018 issue of Healey Marque, the monthly magazine of the Austin-Healey Club of America.  As you’ll note in the article, information obtained from the Warwick Healey Archive was very helpful in my research and provided insight that I don’t believe was previously widely known.  I’d also like to thank Becky Hemsley for arranging a visit by a friend to view and copy these materials at the Records Office and would appreciate it if you could pass this along to her as well.
Nick wrote back to Rick to thank him for his email, he also asked Rick if he would write a piece on how he was inspired to research the Healey Archive held at the WCRO.
By the way, you can read the article, that Rick refers to in his email, in the January issue of the Marque magazine, organ of the Austin Healey Club of America. It will also be reproduced in a future edition of the Rev Counter magazine, organ of the Austin Healey Club.
Here is the piece that Rick submitted to the Bulletin –

by Rick Neville

Seems like I’ve been doing research just about forever, first as a newspaper reporter, then as an attorney and now, in retirement, as a writer about Healeys. And research has changed so much from the days I scanned the microfiche records in the paper’s morgue or waded through dusty tomes in the law library. Of course, it’s just as important as ever as finding that right bit of information can add perspective to a news story, win a legal case, or for Healeys, bring a little-known fact to light. It’s just much easier now, with many records accessible through the tap of a keyboard.

Researching Healeys is a bit more old-school though. There aren’t vast data banks waiting to be mined for the subjects we wish to write about. Like most Healey folks, I have my own library of books that I’ve collected in 50 years of Healey interest. I can access period reports and publications and have a network of friends and colleagues to which to turn.But period pieces don’t always give the most accurate accounts. The items that make it into publication often don’t give the inside story or gloss over certain stories to put the subjects in a better light.

And so, it’s good for a researcher to be aware of as many primary sources that are available. More than thirty years ago I was lucky enough to collect Geoffrey Healey’s records that were destined to an American collector friend of mine from the customs broker. They came in several tea chests and while taking a peek inside, I learned the Healeys were better at building automobiles than organizing records, as important documents like Gerry Coker renderings and Le Mans registration documents were all kind of thrown together without any organization whatsoever. Nevertheless, we should be thankful to those who came forward to save these records for posterity.

I was most pleased to learn of the Healey Motor Company Archive project at the Warwick County Records Office through announcements on online forums and filed that information away for future use. It came in handy soon enough when I was tasked by Reid Trummel, editor of the Austin-Healey Club of America magazine Healey Marque, with taking a fresh look at what caused the demise of the big Healey in connection with the 50th anniversary of the car halting production. The Archive’s online catalogue greatly helped in locating a draft letter from Donald Healey to Joe Edwards, Managing Director of the British Motor Corporation that spelled out DMH’s ideas for a replacement big Healey during the period a badge-engineered MG/Austin-Healey was under consideration. Donald’s letter clearly shows why he was not pleased with the proposed design, including the fact that the new car just didn’t have the individual Healey look. DMH advocated a completely different front end to cure that problem as well as suggesting a V8 engine should be in the mix as Americans viewed the inline six as “obsolete”. Although it has been generally known that DMH was unsupportive of the big Healey replacement, the material provided by the Archive has revealed some previously unavailable insight into exactly what was going on in Donald’s mind as the end of the big Healey loomed.

Further Reading

To delve further into two of the stories covered in this edition of the Bulletin you an click on these links   –

DMH, Peter Collins and Louise King –         http://www.healeyvic.com.au/1309.pdf       page 15!     

The Healey SR and XR37 –                               http://www.wwah.org/wa_03book.htm    

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Objectives –

The main purpose of the Bulletin is to ‘showcase’ items, mainly photographs, taken from the Healey Motor Company Archive held at the Warwickshire County Record Office, Warwick, U.K. The reason for doing this is to keep the Archive’s existence in the mind of Healey, Austin Healey and Jensen-Healey enthusiasts. Hopefully, this will inspire some to come to Warwick to inspect items from the Archive for themselves, or, to order copies of items which have a particular appeal. The key to understanding what the Archive holds is the ‘online’ catalogue.  This needs to be studied very carefully in order to get a better idea as to what material is available. Visit the Warwickshire Heritage and Culture website to learn how to use the catalogue and to order items, there is a link at the bottom of this page.
The other purpose of the Bulletin is for the editor, who is a ‘free agent’ not employed by the WCRO, to introduce Healey related topics for the entertainment and education of Subscribers and visitors.
It is not the purpose or intention of the Bulletin to research the Healey Archive itself in order to expand upon any of the items featured. However, the editor may present non Archive material which relates to an Archive photo or document featured in a Bulletin. If a reader wants to gain further knowledge on any Archive item featured in the Bulletin then they can submit an enquiry via the Bulletin email address or the WCRO website, both addresses are given at the bottom of the page. There may be a charge made for any research undertaken on behalf of an enquirer.

The Legal Stuff

The content in these WHMCA Bulletins is subject to statutory copyright law. Nothing must be used or copied from them without the written permission of the author and publisher (one and the same).
Content will comprise of items from several sources. Those items sourced from the Warwick Healey Motor Company archive and or other files owned by the Warwickshire County Record Office have been vetted by authorised members of staff of that organisation before being allowed to appear in WHMCA Bulletins. These items (marked thus**) are credited on the website as ‘Part of the Warwick Healey Motor Company Archive held at Warwickshire County Record Office.’ If you want to reproduce any item from their collection, you will need to contact them for permission, quoting the image reference number. Details of how to do this can be found here:
To protect the originals’ copyright and authenticity, documents and photographs etc., sourced from the WCRO and shown in the WHMCA bulletins, will not be replicated in their entirety. It is intended that there will be sufficient detail to make them interesting to visitors to this website. Copies of the originals may be purchased from the WCRO, subject to that organisation’s terms and conditions.
Images may also be enhanced for reproduction on this website, therefore their appearance, on a computer screen or a mobile device, may differ to that of  the original.
Save for the authorisation of the publication of Warwick Healey Motor Company Archive material described above, this website is entirely independent of the Warwickshire Country Record Office. Views expressed in the WHMCA bulletins are not necessarily views that the WCRO agrees with. The WCRO or the Warwickshire County Council will not be held liable for any views or material appearing in the said bulletins unless it is clear that they are attributable.
We (this website and the WCRO) operate a ‘take down’ policy in respect to any complaint we receive about a copyright issue in connection with any images featuring in WHMCA Bulletins. This means that images which are the subject of such complaints will be removed immediately until the complaint is resolved.

To see previous editions of the Bulletin click on this image –


Off Topic –

Your next Porsche or Lamborghini?     

As Seen at the Autosport Performance Car Show, Birmingham NEC 12 January 2018



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