Donald Healey was a man with many talents – pilot, mechanic and rally driver. Most notable to the majority of British car fans, Donald Healey was the driving force behind the Austin Healey sports cars such as the Austin Healey 3000 and the bugeye (or frogeye) Sprite. Donald Healey, CBE will be inducted into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame this June.
Donald Healey was born in 1898 in Born in Perranporth, Cornwall. Healey became interested in all things mechanical at an early age, most particularly aircraft. He studied engineering while at Newquay College. In 1916 he volunteered at the age of 16 for WWI for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and earned his “wings” as a pilot. After the Armistice, he returned to Cornwall, took a correspondence course in automobile engineering, and opened the first garage in Perranporth in 1920.
In 1931, Donald Healey won the Monte Carlo Rally driving a 4½-litre Invicta. The rally had multiple starting points with Healey starting from Stavanger, Norway. He competed in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1929 (Times:1929) and was in the top eight places in 1932, 1934 and 1936. In 1932 Healey won the class for unlimited sports cars at the Brighton Speed Trials, driving an Invicta, in a time of 28.8 sec for the half mile course.
He gained a reputation as a consultant engineer and designer and was appointed General Manager of the Triumph Motor Company in 1931. He went on to create the renowned Southern Cross and Dolomite 8 models.
In 1945, he formed the Donald Healey Motor Company Ltd, based in an old RAF hangar at Warwick. In 1949, Healey established an agreement with George W. Mason, the president of Nash Motors to build Nash-engined Healey sports cars. The first series of the 2-seaters were built in 1951 and they were designed by Healey. The Nash-Healey‘s engine was a Nash Ambassador 6-cylinder, the body was aluminum, and the chassis was a Healey Silverstone. However, Pininfarina restyled the bodywork for 1952 and took over the production of its new steel body. The company developed the Austin-Healey and Austin-Healey Sprite motor cars in a licensing arrangement with British Motor Corporation in 1952 and 1959.
For his “services to export”, Healey was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973.
Donald Healey died in 1988 at the age of 89. A memorial window in St Michael’s Church Perranporth was provided by the Austin-Healey Club of America
Credit – The majority of the short bio and photos are courtesy of Healeys Cornish Cyder Farm.
Note: This is part of an ongoing series focusing on the 23 individuals who will be inducted into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame in ceremonies on June 2nd, 2017, at the Hall of Fame in Petersburg, VA.