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1948 Healey Westland Roadster
RM Auctions, Automobiles of Amelia Island Collector Car Auction
Amelia Island, Florida, March 13, 2010
Sold at a price of $159,500
104 bhp, 2,443 cc Riley RM-series inline four-cylinder engine with dual high-mounted camshafts, hemispherical combustion chambers and dual SU carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with trailing links and coil springs, live rear axle with coil springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 102"
While he is best known for the Austin-Healey 100 and 3000 of the 1950s and 1960s, Donald Healey, a former RFC pilot and 1931 Monte Carlo Rally winner, began the manufacture of his own automotive designs immediately after World War II at Warwick, near Coventry. For his first models, Healey designed a single steel chassis that carried a variety of coachbuilt bodies including saloons, convertible coupes and roadsters.
The formidable Auto Union Grand Prix cars of the late 1930s inspired the independent front suspension, while the rear included a Riley rear axle with a Panhard rod and coil springs. The modified 2,443 cc Riley engine featured dual camshafts and was mated to a Riley four-speed gearbox. With Westland roadster or Elliott two-door saloon coachwork, these sophisticated touring cars easily exceeded 100 mph, accelerating from rest to 60 mph in as little as 12 seconds. Large Lockheed drum brakes allowed for good braking power. In 1948, Donald and Geoff Healey drove a Westland to a second-in-class finish at the Mille Miglia, vaulting the Healey marque to worldwide prominence. The next year, Geoff Healey, Donald's son, and Tommy Wisdom took the same Healey Westland to a class victory in the Mille Miglia. This was the same year that Donald and Geoff drove from New York to Hollywood in a Westland while organizing the U.S.-based Healey dealer network.
The Westland-bodied Healey offered here is one of just 42 examples that were originally produced on the "B-Type" chassis. It recently received a meticulous bare-chassis, nut-and-bolt restoration, beautifully finished in a correctly matched metallic pearl green finish, with one month spent by the owner in finding the correct paint color alone. When the current owner first located the Westland, it sported interesting period features including a twine-wrapped steering wheel, which Healey favored. Also, Healey was an early experimenter with metallic paint finishes and unrestored areas of the wings and boot revealed the presence of such paint on this Westland. While it was previously thought to be the same car the Healeys drove to Hollywood, conclusive evidence is currently unavailable.
The chassis, engine and running gear were restored in the United States, but David Pike, a highly respected Healey restoration specialist from Bacchus Marsh, Australia, restored the Westland's wood-framed aluminum coachwork. Hides for the interior were flown in from Scotland, while carpeting was sourced from England to complete the interior. The car has the correct "Radiomobile 100" radio as shown in period photos and, of special note for Concours-minded enthusiasts, is the inclusion of the very rare and complete tool kit.
Following completion, the Westland went on to a successful show career, winning Best of Show honors from the Austin-Healey Club of America, as well as taking Best of Show and Best of Concours (Meguiar's Trophy) at the British Invasion in Stowe, Vermont. It also won "People's Choice" at the Euro Fest in Spartansburg, South Carolina, as well as Best of Show at the Southeastern Classic Car Show in Tampa, Florida and the Winter Park Concours d'Elegance. Most recently, in 2009, it won Best of Show at the Celtic Festival in Florida. A proven winner and a delight to drive, this wonderful Healey Westland remains a fascinating touchstone to its renowned creator.