Healey heart starter

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

IT’S hard to be­lieve, but it is 60 years since the Austin Healey sports car was first re­leased to the public. The low-slung two seater was unashamedly aimed at the grow­ing Amer­i­can mar­ket and for the next 17 years the Healey came to epit­o­mise what a high-end sports ma­chine ought to be.

Don­ald Healey was in his mid-fifties when he de­vel­oped the stylish sports car in con­junc­tion with Austin. For many years pre­vi­ously Healey had de­vel­oped, de­signed, sold and raced var­i­ous sports cars which car­ried his name. They were usu­ally com­bi­na­tions of some­one else’s en­gines, gear boxes, frames and com­po­nents over which Don­ald would wave some of his magic.

Af­ter World War II, Healey re­alised Amer­ica was a vast un­tapped mar­ket for sports cars.

He tried his luck with a bulky grand tourer. It had a Nash six-cylin­der en­gine and styling by Ital­ian Pinin Fa­rina, who had been com­mis­sioned to de­sign the larger Nash pas­sen­ger cars.

Only 500 Nash Healeys had been sold when, in 1954, the ar­range­ment was ter­mi­nated when Nash and Hud­son merged to form Amer­i­can Mo­tors Cor­po­ra­tion.

Mean­while, Austin Mo­tor Com­pany’s chair­man Leonard Lord was hav­ing his own Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence. Lord was re­spon­si­ble for the Austin At­lantic (A 90). Re­mem­ber them? Once seen, never for­got­ten: a Bri­tish-made con­vert­ible, four-cylin­der mo­tor and three head­lights, mak­ing it look like a 1948 Tucker. Lord thought they’d sell up a storm in the US. They did not.

Con­se­quently, Austin had quite a few spare four­cylin­der mo­tors sit­ting around. It re­quired ur­gent at­ten­tion and Lord still har­boured am­bi­tions of suc­cess in the US. So did Healey.

To­gether they de­cided that the At­lantic en­gine would serve as the base for a car to be po­si­tioned in the Amer­i­can mar­ket un­der the ex­pen­sive Jaguar XK 120 and above the cheaper MGTD.

In essence, Healey con­trib­uted the tech­ni­cal knowl­edge and me­chan­i­cal ex­cel­lence while Lord con­trib­uted the mo­tor and the money.

De­signed to be left and d right-hand drive rive from the start,t theth new “Healey 100” reached the 100mph mark in tests and was im­me­di­ately ac­claimed on both sides of the At­lantic. Light in weight, it han­dled as a sports car should. Ev­ery­one loved it. Ev­ery­one still does. >> By David Bur­rell of www.retroau­tos.com.au

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