Austin Healey, the well-known British classic car marque, was the inspiration and vision of Donald Mitchell Healey. Healey, a car designer, rally driver and speed record holder, was the winner of the 1931 Monte Carlo Rally, a win that kickstarted his career opening up positions with vehicle manufacturers such as the Triumph Motor Company and Humber. But it wasn’t until 1951, that Healey unveiled his first inexpensive sports car with 100 mph performance that went on to be one of the marques signature vehicles. Production of the Austin-Healey 100 began under a licensing arrangement by the British Motor Corporation at their Longbridge works, which eventually lead to the development of the more famous and powerful Austin Healey 3000.
The agreement between BMC and Donald Mitchell Healey ended in 1967 and Healey became Chairman of Jensen in 1972 to produce the Jensen Healey. Donald Healey was awarded the CBE in 1973 for services to industry.
Let us introduce you to the Austin Healey Club
The Club name came about with the formation of the BMC group in 1952 and its then chairman Leonard Lord’s agreement with Donald Healey to take over production of his new sports car, the Healey 100 to become the Austin Healey 100.
Our association with the Austin Healey Club started in the 1980’s and through our experience of insuring classic and cherished vehicles, we are proud to have helped so many club members find the right insurance cover over the years.
We caught up with John Keener, Club Chairman, to find out more…
Tell us a bit about the club?
Firstly, thank you for inviting us to outline the formation and workings of the Austin Healey Club.
The club formed in 1961 from an earlier group, the Healey Drivers Club which had dealt with the owners of the first coach built cars under the Healey name. In conjunction with the now new owners of the Sprite model introduced in 1958 it was felt a new club should be formed to bring together all the owners of the Austin Healey cars.
Club membership increased rapidly with not only those owning the new model 100, but also those now owning Sprites, until we reach present day numbers of circa 1,850. We operate as a subscription-based club with seven regional Centres and one competition Centre. We run an award-winning website and incorporate a Facebook page.
Describe the club in three words?
Companionship, enjoyment, travel!
How many people are there in the team who run the club?
Each Centre has its own Chairman and committee to organise events in their region with around eight on each committee, plus twelve on the National committee. The roles include membership, website, treasurer, secretary, registration recovery and posts for the registers of each of the models.
For those that might not know, tell us a bit about the vehicles that are covered by the club?
Club caters for Healeys,Austin Healeys, Jensen Healeys,Sprites and the tribute class of IOW Sprite and HMC models. New models were introduced over the years for which we also cater, the 100/6,3000 MKI, 3000 MKII and last of the line the 3000 MKIII. The first 4 cylinder models had a capacity of 2660, whilst the newly introduced 6 cylinder car 100/6, had a capacity of 2639, and the models from 1959 onwards had a capacity of 2912 each with associated increases in power.
Although not so plentiful, we also welcome Jensen Healey owners.
Tell us about RevCounter…
Our main channel for social events is our in-house magazine RevCounter which has been going since 1971. I held the editor post for the last five years and have recently handed over the reins to someone more used to the technical aspects of producing a 36-page full colour 12 issue monthly magazine.
How does the club help members source parts and spares?
Although the club does not run a spares service itself, several companies cater for our needs, one of which was started by Healey Spares manager Geoff Price who had the forethought to purchase all the Healey Company spares when it closed.
Most information about the cars is available with interaction between the members at local noggin and natter meetings, and through our website which carries many technical items on every aspect of owning these great cars.
Do members receive benefits for being part of the club?
Each of the companies who support us by advertising in our Club magazine offer a discount on spares depending on quantity and availability. Club members also receive a 15% discount on their classic car insurance with ClassicLine Insurance.
How about you John, how long have you been involved?
I bought my first car in 1968. A 3000 MKI in which I toured Scotland along with other areas of the UK, finally rebuilding the engine in a friend’s garage in December, what an experience!
Money no object?
A dream vehicle to own you ask, I think one of the Austin Healey works rally cars from the mid ’60’s? Fabulous noise!
Tell us about your club meets…
Under normal conditions each Centre has around two or three local pub meets a month, depending on their geographic locations. This is where members can share experiences of the jobs we are doing on our cars or future planned outings.
What about National events?
We have organised an annual meeting every year since 1978 at various locations, organised by each Centre in turn. In 2019 we were in Bath and this year we will be in Worcester for the annual Healey Weekend celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Club on the 26th, 27th & 28th July 2021. CL: We look forward to sharing some of the highlights from this event!
These events often include a concours competition, however this year we are arranging this aspect at a different location. Coupled with this, a virtual concours is taking place with entries online only and combined later with a physical event at Gaydon.
Other Austin Healey Clubs were started up through Europe, Australia and the USA in the early ’60’s at the suggestion of Donald Healey and with the organisation of his son, who was in charge of sales, Brian ‘Bic’ Healey, as over 80% of all Austin Healey production went abroad, mainly to the USA. To that end a European Healey Meeting was organised in the Netherlands in 1999, followed by St Moritz in 2004, Sweden in 2008, 2013 in Crieff Scotland, and 2018 in Germany. We are due to attend the next one in Norway in 2023.
Do you attend other shows as a club?
We organise a stand at the NEC in November, along with appearances at Race Retro, the NEC Restoration Show, Tatton Park, Donington Historic, Silverstone Classic, Thruxton, Kop Hill Climb, and at Castle Combe.
What makes you proud to be part of the Austin Healey Club?
I am very pleased that we have been able to bring all our likeminded Austin Healey owners under one roof over the years that I have been involved with the club, and with our Regional Centres are able to organise events that they may enjoy in their own area.
We see the club has won a few awards…
Our fiftieth anniversary to celebrate the launch of the first Austin Healey, the 100, in 2002 at Wokingham, with a race meeting at Thruxton and a track day at Prescott Hill Climb, was a great success and brought members from all over the world earning our organisers a special best event award.
We’ve also won the best website award from the classic car press, and our event in 2008 at Goodwood where we hired the track for two days also attracted the statement from the Duke of Richmond’s committee that they would be pleased to welcome us back at any time, an accolade in itself!
What tips would you give to young enthusiasts?
We would love to see younger drivers join the club but appreciate not so many have the ability to strip an engine or set out on a full restoration so have to fall back on expert help, which can itself be quite expensive. There are however many knowledgeable members who can offer help in this direction.
With the help of such organisations as the FBHVC to look after our interests in using our historic cars on modern roads, future fuels supply looks reasonably safe in the short term, but we must not be complacent and encourage other members of society to come along with us in our appreciation of these historic cars and their continued use.
Are there any interesting projects in the pipeline?
Looking to the future, we are initiating a five year plan to see where the club is going and focussing on our core membership and how we can encourage new members without losing sight of the needs of our current members.
As mentioned, our next continental trip will be to Norway, whilst nearer to home our next 2022 National meeting will be in the New Forest.
Many books have been written on the Austin Healey marque and its rally successes, the first of which was an autobiography by DMH on his start in life in Perranporth in Cornwall, his winning of the 1931 Monte Carlo and his subsequent move to Warwick to start the company, in his name producing Healey cars before teaming up with BMC to produce the Austin Healey models.
Thank you for your interest in our club and we would welcome any potential new members. CL: Thanks John for sharing the story of the Austin Healey Club.
For further details on the Austin Healey Club please visit The Austin Healey Club Ltd.
So, these are the people behind one of our favourite classic car clubs. Working hard behind the scenes to maintain a club that provides enjoyment and organising trips for members to make the most of driving their cars. Austin Healey Club, thank you for being our club of the month.
ClassicLine Insurance offer a range of car club insurance schemes that can provide revenue for your club as well as benefits and discounts for your members. To find out more about this and our specialist club liability insurance, visit our car clubs page.