Donald M. Healey, C.B.E.


Cornishman Donald Mitchell Healey: noted British rally driver, automotive engineer, and speed record holder. 

Healey was born in 1898 in Perranporth, on the northern coast of Cornwall. As a boy, he was always interested in cars, airplanes, and motors; he studied physics at Newquay College. At 16, he became a pupil and apprentice at Sopwith Aviation, then volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps and earned his “wings” in 1916.

After WWI, he returned home to study motorcars and engineering.  He opened a garage, where his interest grew in rally competition. From the mid-’20s through the early ‘50s, Healey was a European rally driver of great distinction, his best finish being first in 1931 in the Monte Carlo Rally.  Immediately after WWII, Healey began to build his own cars; in 1946, his Elliot was the first production saloon to top 100 mph.  Other cars were the Silverstone and the Nash-Healey, which finished third overall at Le Mans in 1952.

Best known of his cars were the Austin-Healeys, sports cars introduced in October, 1952.  Healey had made a number of visits to the USA where he had spotted a large, untapped market for a British sports car between the Jaguar XK120 and the MG.  Various “Big Healey” models, and the smaller Sprites, were produced until 1971 with a total run of nearly 200,000, most of which were exported to America.

In 1953, 1954, and 1956, Healey set American and international speed and endurance records with his cars at the Bonneville Salt Flats; and in 1956, he recorded 203.11 in an Austin-Healey 100-6 Streamliner to join the exclusive 200 MPH Club.

Jensen-Healeys were introduced in 1972, with Healey as chairman of Jensen Motors, and were produced through 1976.

Healer was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.) By Queen Elizabeth II in 1973, for his “services to export.”  And in recognition of his wide-ranging contributions to motorsports, Healey was inducted (posthumously) into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega, AL, in 1996.

Donald Healey died in Perranporth on January 15, 1988, but his memory lives on through his automobiles.  Thousands of members of Austin-Healey clubs worldwide continue to pay tribute to this Cornishman whose talents and inspirational personality created the wonderful, beautiful cars that are still being raced, driven, and enjoyed today.


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