Re-pur­posed road­sters

The Healy Enigma’s styling nods to­wards the ‘big Healeys’ of the 1950s and ’60s, but un­der the skin this kit-but-not-a-kit re­lies on mk3 MX-5 com­po­nents

Total MX-5 - - CON­TENTS -

The Healy Enigma is heav­ily based on the mk3 MX-5 and you’d barely be­lieve it’s a kit. Plus a round-up of other MX-5 kits

The guy in the pic­nic area in Thet­ford For­est got it im­me­di­ately. ‘Is that some sort of Healey?’ he en­quired. Ex­cel­lent ques­tion. To which the an­swer is slightly com­pli­cated.yes, this car is an ho­mage to the Austin­healey road­ster pro­duced in var­i­ous guises be­tween 1952 and 1970 and it’s made by a com­pany called Healy (without the ‘e’) De­signs. Un­derneath, how­ever, large chunks of it are from the mk3 MX-5.

The Healy Enigma is a kit car. In the­ory. And in broad prin­ci­ple. Ex­cept that of the 50 or so Enigma own­ers to date, only a cou­ple have elected to roll up their sleeves and get busy with span­ners. The rest have bought com­plete cars. Packed with re­li­able Mazda com­po­nen­try. And that’s an im­por­tant fac­tor. For many of us, our per­cep­tions of kit cars are based on what we re­mem­ber of the 1970s and ’80s: crude rep­re­sen­ta­tions of cars we could never af­ford, un­der­pinned by me­chan­i­cals scav­enged from shonky, rusted-out old Fords, and with in­te­ri­ors cob­bled to­gether from ply­wood of­f­cuts and sticky-back plas­tic.

Things have changed. Dra­mat­i­cally, in

the case of the Enigma. Healy uses the mk3 MX-5’S 2.0-litre en­gine with ei­ther the five- or six-speed man­ual gear­box, or the six-speed Pow­er­shift au­to­matic; the front and rear sub­frames and many of the sus­pen­sion com­po­nents; the lon­gi­tu­di­nal strength­en­ing frame link­ing the gear­box to the rear, lim­it­ed­slip, dif­fer­en­tial; the door frames and all their as­so­ci­ated pow­ered lock­ing and win­dow mech­a­nisms; the com­plete in­te­rior, in­clud­ing the fa­cia; the fab­ric hood or the fold­ing metal hard-top; and the orig­i­nal wiring loom.

All of these com­po­nents are typ­i­cally sourced from mk3s with less than 30,000 miles on the clock, and each piece is tested and re­fur­bished. Healy can and does dis­as­sem­ble road­wor­thy cars, but buy­ers can save a hefty sum by opt­ing for a Cat­e­gory D write-off – the in­sur­ance in­dus­try junks mk3s with rear three-quar­ter dam­age, even if the rest of the car is fine, be­cause the panel is pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive to re­pair.

The Enigma’s glass­fi­bre body­work is con­structed in a swanky fac­tory in Lithua­nia, for rea­sons of cost ef­fi­ciency and, just as im­por­tantly, qual­ity. Man­ag­ing direc­tor Martin Wil­liamson was pre­vi­ously in­volved in another Healey kit car operation, Se­bring, as well as a pro­posal to res­ur­rect the Austin-healey for Rover, and is a pas­sion­ate Lo­tus col­lec­tor, so he has en­sured that the Enigma’s sus­pen­sion is prop­erly set up so that the car han­dles well from the mo­ment it’s de­liv­ered, rather than – as some of us have seen in the past even from cer­tain vol­ume sports car man­u­fac­tur­ers – re­ly­ing on cus­tomers to do the fi­nal chas­sis de­vel­op­ment.

Even without all this back­ground in­for­ma­tion, your first en­counter with

Be­low: Enigma uses com­plete mk3 in­te­rior

Above: Enigma can be hus­tled yet works best as a rapid grand tourer

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