Healey Motor Company History 1945
|Industry||Manufacture of high performance cars and design consultancy|
|Headquarters||The Cape, Warwick United Kingdom|
|Key people||Donald Healey - founder|
Donald Healey Motor Company Limited was a British car manufacturer.
The business was founded in 1945 by Donald Healey, a successful car designer and rally driver. Healey discussed sports car design with Achille Sampietro, a chassis specialist for high performance cars and Ben Bowden, a body engineer, when all three worked at Humber during World War II.
Expensive, high quality, high performance cars
His new enterprise was based in an old aircraft components factory off Miller Road in Warwick. There he was joined by Roger Menadue from Armstrong Whitworth to run the experimental workshop. In later years they also had a now-demolished showroom (formerly a cinema) on Emscote Road, Warwick, commemorated by a new block of flats called Healey Court. The cars mainly used a tuned version of the proven Riley twin cam 2.4 litre four cylinder engine in a light steel box section chassis of their own design using independent front suspension by coil springs and alloy trailing arms with Girling dampers. The rear suspension used a Riley live axle with coil springs again. Advanced design allowed soft springing to be combined with excellent road holding. Lockheed hydraulic brakes were used.
When it was introduced in 1948 the Elliott saloon was claimed to be the fastest production closed car in the world, it was timed at 104.7 mph over a mile. Unusually for the time the body was tested in a wind tunnel to refine its aerodynamics. In 1949 the most sporting of all the Healeys, the Silverstone, was announced. It had a shorter chassis and stiffer springing and was capable of 107 mph. It is now a highly sought after car and many of the other Healeys have been converted into Silverstone replicas. These cars had numerous competition successes including class wins in the 1947 and 1948 Alpine rallies and the 1949 Mille Miglia.
Government planning and controls required any substantial expansion of production to be for the export market alone. So in 1950 Healey built the Nash-Healey using a Nash Ambassador engine with SU carburettors and Nash gearbox. Initially the 3848 cc unit was used but when in 1952 body construction was transferred from Healey to Pininfarina the larger 4138 cc engine was fitted. The final car was the G-Type using an Alvis TB21 engine and gearbox. This was more luxurious and heavier than the Riley engined models and performance suffered.
Affordable sports cars
A cheaper sports car marketable in large numbers was needed to save the business's future. A car that would fit between the MG and Jaguar cars now selling so well in USA. The answer proved to be the use of low-cost Austin components to make the Healey 100 designed by Donald and his eldest son Geoffrey in the attic of the family home. Sir Leonard Lord, chief of Austin and now chief of BMC, was so impressed when he saw it on the Healey stand at the Earls Court Motor Show he offered to make it in his own factories under the name Austin-Healey.
In 1952, a joint venture with the British Motor Corporation created the Austin-Healey marque and later on the Austin-Healey Sprite. On Donald Healey's death The Times commented: "The big Healey's brutally firm ride, heavy steering and engine so close it would roast a driver's feet never detracted from the superb, timeless styling and classic proportions."
Donald Healey became a director of Jensen Motors in the late 1960s and a result of this was the Lotus-engined Jensen-Healey which appeared in 1972.
Donald Healey Motor Company was finally sold to the Hamblin Group, although Healey Automobile Consultants and the engineering parts of the company remained in the hands of Geoffrey and Donald Haley.