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
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