Book reviews, December 1989, December 1989

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Donald Healey – My World Of Cars by Peter Garnier with Brian Healey. 216 pp., 91/2 x 63/4. PSL-Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd., Denington Estate, Wellingborough, Northants, NN8 2RQ. £14.95.

There have been some excellent books about the history of Healey sports cars, including those by Brian Healey, which have included short introductions about the life of the great instigator of these well known and respected cars. Now we have the late Donald Healey’s own autobiography, concluded, after his death at the age of 89 last year, by Garnier and son Brian. Only the last two chapters had to be completed; all the rest of the book is Donald’s own work. His life was a very full one and he clearly wanted to tell of it in his own terms – his RFC flying days, his competition successes gained in cars as diverse as ABC, Riley Redwing, Ariel Ten (Swift-engined), Fiat 509, Rover Ten, Triumph Super Seven, and then with the 41/2-litre low-chassis lnvictas, and all those Rileys and Triumphs, until Healey’s own cars came into being.

As these competition successes ranged from gaining medals in MCC trials and minor Brooklands events to winning the Monte Carlo Rally outright, taking many Glacier Cups in pre-war Alpine Rallies, driving in the Mille Miglia, to taking records at over 200 mph at Utah with the streamlined Austin Healey 100-6 in the 1950s, there is much to tell! Moreover, Donald Healey deals also with the production of his famous cars and with the many famous personalities he met throughout a packed life which he clearly enjoyed to the full. All this is enhanced by the very clear pictures, most of them hitherto unpublished. Peter Gamier was the right person to persuade Healey to write this book, for he has been not only a very accomplished motoring journalist but he co-drove in the works Austin-Healey rally team with Jack Sears. New facts and details emerge from this readable book. I was delighted, for instance, to find therein the true story of the up-to-now mythical straight-eight 2-litre Triumph Dolomite based on the then current, if ageing, Monza Alfa Romeo. Healey debunks any idea that Alfa Romeo objected to this apparent crib, to the extent that lawsuits were brought, and just as I was wondering why one-time personal assistant to Sir Henry Royce Swettenham was set the laborious task of draughting the Alfa engines, when drawings could have been obtained from Milan, Healey explains this, as he does the mistake made by Rolls-Royce that ruined one of the Dolomite crankshafts. He quotes power output of the engine etc, but is generous in recommending the MRP book by Langworth and Robson for a full description of this rare Triumph, of which so few were made, on an incredibly small budget of £5000.

That, I hope, sets the scene for this latest Healey history and will ensure that you read it. The family photographs make this a true personal autobiography, of a very exceptional man, who was so deservedly prominent in so many aspects of the sporting motoring game. WB