Austin Healey Sprite Mk I 'Frog Eye', 1959
Austin Healey Sprite Mk I 'Frog Eye', year 1959. Colour red with a black interior piped red. This fabulous Sprite features the original 'disc wheels' and a motolite steering wheel with wood rim.
Austin Healey history
The "Austin" Healey was created by Donald Healey.
Donald Healey was a "petrol head" of the purest kind and one of the great names in British car and sportscar history.
Donald Mitchell Healey was born in Cornwall (GB) in the year 1898. He had a very good feeling for mechanics and he started an automobile garage in Cornwall. In the year 1930 he started a career as competition driver for Invicta. Donald Healey was a successful driver, after competing in three Alp rallies he managed to win the famous "Coupe des Alpes". Highlight in his driving career was the victory in the Monte Carlo Rally of 1931. After Invicta Motor Company closed down Donald Healey found a job at Triumph as chief engineer.
At Triumph Donald Healey was responsible for the development of the magnificent Triumph Dolomite racing car, with eight cylinder engine, which was presented in 1934. During his years at Triumph Donald Healey continued driving rallies. In the year 1934 he finished third in the Monte Carlo Rally with a Triumph Gloria.
Donald Healey Motor Corporation
After the second world war Donald Healey decided to start his own Motor company to built sportscars carrying his own name;
Donald Healey Motor Corporation. Healey managed to start up a sound car production. The cars featured chassis and bodywork designed by Healey, mechanics were bought from other companies. At the start Healey bought the engines, gearboxes and rear axles from Riley, later Healey also used Alvis and Nash mechanics.Between the years 1946 and 1950 the following Healey cars saw the light of day: Healey 2.4 Litre Westland Roadster, Healey 2.4 Litre Elliot Saloon and the Healey 2.4 Litre SportsMobile.
The most famous Healey motorcar was the Healey Silverstone. The Silverstone was a pure racing car, a two seater with a full aluminium body, cycle wings and a 2.4 litre Riley engine with two camshafts. Racing successes followed: in 1948 Count Lurani wins the Mille Miglia in his class with a Healey and in the year 1952 Tommy Wisdom breaks the world hour speed record with a Healey on the circuit of Monthléry.
The birth of the "Austin" Healey
Healey Motor Corporation was going to show their new Healey 100 at the "Earls Court Motor Show"of 1952. Austin Motor Company discovered the beautiful car on the Healey stand before the show opened. Austin Motor Company desperately needed a sportscar to have an opponent for the MG sportscars and the brand new Triumph TR 2 and the Jaguar XK 120.
Austin Motor Company director, Leonard Lord, saw the Healey 100 which was built around Austin mechanics and realized that the car could be taken into production very soon.
At the "Earls Court Motor Show" the Healey 100 was the star
of the show.
Leonard Lord and Donald Healey came to an agreement on very short notice and a few weeks after the show the name
"Austin Healey" was born.
At the Healey factory in Warwick the first twenty pre production cars were assembled. In the year 1953 the production moved to the Austin factory located in Longbridge. All chassis and bodies were manufactured by Jensen.
The Austin Healey 100 BN-1 was built between the years 1953 and 1955. The BN-1 was succeeded by the Austin Healey 100 BN-2 in the year 1955. The BN-1 featured a three speed gearbox with overdrive on second and third gear. The BN-2 featured a four speed gearbox with overdrive on the top gear.
In the years 1955 and 1956 two special Healey 100's followed: the 100M (production car modified to Le Mans specification) and the 100S which was a pure racing car with a full
In the year 1956 the 2.6 litre four cylinder engine was banned in favour of the 2.6 litre Austin Westminster six cylinder engine.
Additionally the interior (two little seats were added in the back) and the grille changed and the Austin Healey 100/6 (BN4) "four seater"was born.
In April 1958 the "two seater" version of the 100/6 was introduced (BN-6) because the "four seater" design of the 100/6 was not as popular as the design of the "two seater" 100 models. After the 100/6 was introduced the old four cylinder "100" was named 100/4 by the public. The factory never used the name 100/4.
In March 1959 the Austin Healey 3000 was introduced. The
3000 is also known as the "Big Healey". The 3000 is a evolution of the 100/6 model. The engine was given a larger cylinder capacity of 2912 cc. and the 3000 was fitted with disc brakes at the front wheels. This first Austin Healey 3000 is currently known as the 3000 MK I model.
In 1961 the 3000 MK I was succeeded by the 3000 MK II. This model was fitted with three S.U. carburettors instead of two which increased the engine power (and thirst).
Januari 1962 saw the introduction of the Austin Healey 3000
MK IIa (BJ7). The Austin Healey 3000 MK IIa was fitted with two (larger) carburettors again, which were easier to synchronize. The engine capacity remained the same.
The Austin Healey 3000 MK IIa was the first Austin Healey with roll- up windows.
In March 1962 the beautiful MK II "two seater" was taken out of production and in June 1962 the MK II"four seater" was taken out of production. The Austin Healey MK IIa is a 2+2 "convertible". The car has two tiny seats in the back and a soft top fixed to the car. The hood easily folds back on the rear of the passenger compartment. Together with the roll-up windows the convertible hood adds much comfort of use to the Austin Healey 3000.
The former Healey models were more Spartan and featured fully detachable soft tops with separate side screens which could be stowed away in the booth.
In October 1963 the Austin Healey 3000 MK III was introduced. The MK III was just like the MK IIa only available as 2+2 convertible model. The engine was fitted with a new camshaft and other valve coilsprings. Additionally two larger 2 inch S.U. HD-8 carburettors were fitted. Other changes were applicable to the interior, the dashboard was redesigned entirely and a center console was added. The back rest of the rear seats could be folded forward to be used as a floor to pack luggage on. Another change was the deletion of the "start button", the 3000 MK III fired up only using the starter key.
In may 1964 the Austin Healey 3000 MK III was modified on some details which resulted in the "phase 1" model. The chassis was modified to give the rear axle more vertical space in order to enhance driving comfort. The leaf spring package was uprated and counted six leafs. The disc brakes were modified and the flasher/ attention lamps at the front were enlarged.
In March 1965 the last modifications are carried out. This model is the 3000 MK III phase 2. Now the lamps at the rear are also enlarged to match the lamps at the front of the car.
The last full year of production is 1967. 3051 Austin Healey MK III phase 2 models were produced that year. All the cars in the last production run (November/ December 1967) were painted metallic golden beige with a black leatherette interior and black carpet. The seats were trimmed with chrome "piping". The photograph hereby shows a perfectly restored 1967 "Golden" Healey 3000 MK III phase 2.
In 1968 the curtain falls for the "Big Healey". In March 1968 only one right hand drive Austin Healey 3000 MK III phase 2 was built. We are curious for whom the car was built for...
These days the Austin Healey is one of the most popular classic cars. The excellent looks, the character, the sound and the impressive cast iron engines make the hearts of many enthusiast beat louder and faster.
© Marc Vorgers