Feature: can you share memories of the Healey car company in Warwick?

One of Warwick's most treasured histories has now been fully archived and a volunteer who worked on the project has started a blog calling for the help of car enthusiasts worldwide.

Friday, 26th January 2018, 1:13 pm
Updated Friday, 26th January 2018, 4:20 pm

Donald Healey was a Warwick entrepreneur who produced the famous Healey high performance sports cars from a factory in the town from 1945.

Nick Maltby of carsceneinternational.com has been a volunteer for the Healey Archive project since 2016 and started the blog in October in order to promote the contents of the Donald Healey Motor Company Archive held at the Warwickshire County Records Office (WCRO) which is just half a mile from the original Healey factory and showroom.

The bulletin is viewed by Healey and general car enthusiasts from around the world, especially from the USA where the majority of Austin Healeys were sold during the 1950s and 60s.

Readers of the bulletin are encouraged to send in their own experiences of owning or being associated with Healey cars.

This aspect links with the WCRO’s ‘oral history’ project which invites people with memories of the Healey Motor Company or its cars to record those memories for posterity.

More than 20 recordings have been made to date and others are in the pipeline.

In August 2015 the WCRO announced it was seeking funds to purchase the archive from the late Geoff Healey’s family.

The appeal was launched at that year’s Retro Warwick classic car show which is held annually in and around Market Square.

With money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, PRISM (Arts Council), the Friends of National Libraries, King Henry VIII Trust, Friends of Warwickshire County Record Office, Warwickshire Industrial Archaeology Society, donations from Healey enthusiasts from around the world and the general public, the WCRO was able to complete the purchase in 2016.

In order to undertake the identification of the documents, drawings and photos, in the archive and then to catalogue them, the WCRO had to employ the services of a freelance professional archivist on a fixed term contract basis.

They put together hundreds of photographs, letters, and models as well as racing and promotional images and material from the iconic car company’s history.

This work was finally completed in May 2017 when the online catalogue was launched to a group of invited guests which included Peter Healey, Donald’s grandson.

During the cataloguing process, the archivist had started a blog in order to keep enthusiasts informed of the progress being made and to ask for help in identifying photographs that were not clearly labelled.

When the archivist’s contract came to an end in July 2017, Nick realised that this would also mean the end of the valuable blog so he offered to host something similar on his own website.

Rob Eyre, the WCRO senior archivist, welcomed this offer and the first WHMC Archive Bulletin, as Nick decided to call it, was published (it can be viewed at www.carsceneinternational.com).

Those who would like to share a memory of the Healy factory or cars can contact the WCRO or visit the website 

***** Donald Healey, a Cornwall-born successful car designer and rally driver, set up his enterprise focused on producing expensive, high-quality, high-performance cars at an old aircraft components factory in Miller Road, Warwick, in 1945.

There he was joined by Roger Menadue from the British manufacturing company Armstrong Whitworth to run the experimental workshop.

In later years they also had a now-demolished showroom which was formerly a cinema in Emscote Road which was commemorated by the creation of the Healey Court flats.

Lockheed hydraulic brakes, manufactured in Leamington, were used in the cars which mainly used a tuned version of the proven Riley twin-cam 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine.

Healey later worked in collaboration with other companies to create Nash-Healey, Austin Healey and Jensen-Healey from the 1950s to the 1970s.

In his later life, Donald bought the 27-acre Trebah Estate, near Falmouth, in 1961 and carried out many ambitious projects there before he died in 1988 aged 89.