cars by country
UK cars
Healey history                
Healey 100


Healey history


The Austin Healey owes its name and heritage to Donald Healey, a remarkable man remembered as much for his engineering skills as his success as a driver on international race and rally circuits.

Donald Mitchell Healey was born at Perranporth, Cornwall, in 1898. He joined the Sopwith aircraft company in 1914. Shot down by British anti-aircraft fire on one of the first night bomber missions, he was invalided out of the RFC at the age of 18, and went on to study engineering before taking up motor racing and rallying.

Donald Healey won the Monte Carlo Rally of 1931 and was well placed in other years. He also gained a reputation as a consultant engineer and designer, creating both the renowned Southern Cross and Dolomite Eight models for Triumph.

During the Second World War, Donald Healey was in charge of developing an aircraft carburettor for the Ministry of Supply and also worked with Humber on armoured cars. It was here that he met Achille Sampietro, a chassis specialist for high performance cars who, in 1945, joined him in the newly formed Donald Healey Motor Company, based in an old RAF hangar at Warwick.

The first Healey saloon car, with a 2.5 litre Riley engine, appeared the following year. It went on to score class wins in the Alpine Rallies of 1947 and 1948 and the Targa Florio. A Nash-Healey gained third place in the Le Mans event of 1952. Donald himself drove a GT version in the 1948 Mille Miglia, finishing ninth overall.

Over this period Donald Healey was already developing the Healey 100 sports car. Following the 1952 Motor Show, a contract was agreed between Donald Healey and Leonard Lord of the Austin Motor Company to manufacture the car at the Longbridge factory. The Austin Healey 100 became an immediate best-seller and was exported with great success, particularly to the USA. The smaller Austin-Healey Sprite followed some years later.

Donald Healey's competitive spirit continued well into his fifties. In 1956 he recorded a two-way speed of 203.06 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats, driving a car of his own design. A month later the affordable high-performance 6-cylinder Austin-Healey 100/6 made its appearance and set a standard for sports cars for years to come.

When BMC was taken over by British Leyland, Donald Healey became chairman of Jensen Cars and was made a CBE.

Donald Healey died on 13 January 1988 at the age of 89.


As the 1952 Motor Show approached, work intensified on the building of pre-production prototypes. By now the Riley axles and engine units that Healey had been using were about to be phased out. The race proven Nash engines were an expensive option compared to the Jaguar XK120; the search was on to find an alternative from a high volume, low-cost source. The answer was found in the four-cylinder 2.7 litre 90 bhp unit that had powered the Austin Motor Company's A90 Atlantic.

Ever aware of the need to build up pre-show publicity, the flamboyant Donald Healey pulled off a brilliant publicity coup by taking the Healey 100 prototype to the famous Jabbeke Straight in Belgium where, driving the car himself, he recorded a best average speed of 110.9 mph for the flying mile.

Development features included the innovative folding windscreen and the revolutionary use of curved glass. The first completed bodyshell had 'finned' rear wings, but was quickly altered to the now familiar body shape.

Show Stopper

The Healey 100's Earls Court appearance was a show-stopper, prompting Leonard Lord of the Austin Motor Company to offer to put the car into production at Longbridge. With a competitive price tag of just 750, and backed by the new partnership agreement, the Austin Healey 100 took the world market by storm, particularly the United States of America.

While Austin's Longbridge factory is being prepared for production of the Austin Healey 100, work begins at Healey's Cape Works, Warwick, building the first BN1 models for motor shows in New York, Los Angeles and Frankfurt. A fourth car is prepared for a sales promotion tour of the U.S.

The Austin Healey 100 wins the Grand Premium Award at Miami's World Fair and is acclaimed the International Motor Show Car of 1953 at New York.

A standard production car is taken to Utah Salt Flats and records an average 103.94 mph in a 5000 kilometre endurance run.

By the summer, production at Longbridge tops 100 cars per week.

Donald Healey achieves almost 193 mph over a flying kilometre in a 224 bhp supercharged streamlined 100, while Carroll Shelby goes on to break sixteen U.S. and international speed records at averages of nearly 160 mph.

Record and race achievements result in the development of the famous 100S model, the `S' standing for Sebring. Only 50 cars are made.

Production of the BN2 model commences in August but is not launched until the Motor Show in October. Changes include a new gearbox.

During the period January 1953 to August 1955, approximately 10,000 BN1s are sold.

Production of the 100 BN2 ceases in August, after just one year in which 4600 had been made. Total production of Austin Healey 100 models is 14,600 in a little over three years.

Less than 10 per cent are made right-hand drive and only 3.5 per cent are 'home market' cars, making original UK registered models very rare indeed.

Production of 100/6 models begins in August of this year.