Simanaitis Says

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THE CARS OF DONALD HEALEY

I HAD A SECRET crush on a high-school math teacher who drove an Austin-Healey Hundred. This recollection came to mind while I was rearranging my Automobile Quarterly collection, far from a complete one for this horizontal-format hardbound ad-free “magazine” published between 1962 and 2012.

However, one of my AQs is Volume XXIV, Number 4, Fourth Quarter 1986, and it has “Donald Healey: His Own Way,” by Mike Taylor and Julie Fenster, accompanied by “The Cars of Donald Healey: A Color Portfolio.” Here are tidbits and photos gleaned from these and my own recollections.

Healey Silverstone. Donald Healey piloted a Silverstone to second overall and a class win in the 1949 Rallye des Alpes.

1950 Silverstone. This and following images from Automobile Quarterly Volume XXIV Number 4, Fourth Quarter 1986.

Only 105 Silverstones were built, between July 1949 and September 1950. Powered by a 2.4-liter Riley four-cylinder, the Silverstone was competing, at a £20 premium, with Jaguar’s sleek 3.4-liter XK-120.

Nash-Healey. American automaker Nash supplied its Ambassador 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine to a restyled Silverstone that, according to AQ, was “attractive, more comfortable than most European roadsters, and expensive.”

1953 Nash-Healey.

SimanaitisSays had an opinion as well: “The car went on to best the likes of Cunningham, Jaguar, and Ferrari at Le Mans. It starred in two Humphrey Bogart flicks, one with co-star Audrey Hepburn. It was the motoring choice for TV’s superman.”

Austin-Healey. AQ identified the Austin-Healey as the “star of the London Motor Show in 1952…. Nearly four thousand of the 1955-56 BN2 models were sold, mostly to the United States where it could still stop traffic as other motorists, perched in Detroit chrome and sheet metal, tried to get a look at the low-slung parcel of speed.”

1956 Austin-Healey Hundred.

The four-cylinder Hundred was followed by two other “big” Healey variants, both six-cylinder powered: the 100-6 (1956–1959) and 3000 (1959-1967). To my eye, their styling lacked the purity of line of my favorite math teacher’s car. Hers was red, as I recall.

Austin-Healey Sprite. The original “Bugeye” Sprite, AQ noted, was “Ugly to the point of irresistible appeal, like children in certain television commercials…. Over 48,000 Bugeyes were sold in the three years following its introduction in 1958, a point of pride for Donald Healey.” In its home market, the car was called the “Frogeye.”

1960 Austin-Healey “Bugeye” Sprite.

I knew a guy in Cleveland back then who commuted year-around with his Bugeye topless. The Bugeye; not him.

The Sprite got restyled in 1961 and remained in production through Marks II, III, IV, and UK-only IV into 1971.

1969 Austin-Healey Sprite Mark IV.

I wouldn’t call the restyled Sprites unattractive, but, as AQ noted, “There’s no mistaking a Bugeye. It is today as alien as ever to the uniformity of the cars around it on the road.”

AQ wrote this in 1986, and the sentiment holds true three decades later. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

6 comments on “THE CARS OF DONALD HEALEY

  1. rulesoflogic
    April 23, 2019

    Great post! Love the Nash-Healey, a chance meeting between Healey and George Mason led to the car, as you know.

    https://disaffectedmusings.com/2018/06/17/a-perfect-car/

    • simanaitissays
      April 23, 2019

      Thanks for your kind words. I especially like the Le Mans Nash-Healey styling.

  2. Christian
    April 24, 2019

    My father had a red 3000. Unlike the MGB he had before, the Healey had rudimentary rear seats that we kids could more or less fit into. We had many good times in his assorted convertibles.

  3. Skip
    May 1, 2019

    To my eye there is just nothing like the 100. Add the LM package and you’ve got a car for the ages. The MG B was a better car. Rack & pinion, more power, faster, better handling… But it just couldn’t match the 100 for overall appeal. Slide the windscreen down and it’s impossible to not feel like a million in that beauty. If I ever hit the lottery….

  4. Brian Peterson
    June 16, 2019

    I remember riding in a 3000 back in my youth in Scotland. It was a special car back then, like a Jaguar XK 150, almost.

    I remember my geometry teacher back in the US a few years later Mrs. Pflughaupt, a very attractive and intelligent young blonde lady. She was famous for all the males in the school not for her looks or brains, but for her ’63 split window coupe ‘Vette.

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