Anthony S Heal

One of the best-known and supportive members of the VSCC and the sporting world of motoring, Anthony Heal died last month after being taken to hospital with suspected heart trouble. He was 88 and went peacefully.

Heal’s active participation in competition events with the older motor cars commenced before the VSCC was formed. For instance, in 1931 he gained a silver medal in the 1931 MCC Land’s End event and a Premier Award in that year’s London-Exeter trial, with his OE 30/98 Vauxhall, followed by a silver medal with the 30/98 in the 1936 London-Edinburgh trial.

When the Vintage SCC was formed Anthony was immediately attracted. He drove the Vauxhall in the 1936 Chiltern Trial and in the club’s early speed events, with good results, and when the Edwardian section of the VSCC was formed he was one of the outstanding performers, with the 1910 10-litre S61 Fiat that he had discovered abandoned and made to run again, very effectively, at Brighton, Shelsley Walsh, Prescott, Poole, etc. He was seen to have expert driving abilities, with a wonderful sense of anticipation, not only in the old cars which he owned, but in modern vehicles.

In 1937 Anthony Heal was elected to the VSCC Committee, and during the war years he acquired some interesting and exciting cars, such as the 1919 Indianapolis Ballot, and the Grand Prix Sunbeam “The Cub”. Heal’s father, Sir Ambrose Heal, was head of Heals of Tottenham Court Road, a London institution, and Anthony’s duties there kept him out of the war, during which time he used a Scott Squirrel motorcycle as a means of transport, on Home Guard service. By the time hostilities ended he had added a 1914 TT Sunbeam, a straight-eight 3-litre TT Sunbeam, and a 1921 GP Ballot to his stable. He also had a 1909 Napier and the 3-litre twin-cam super-sports Sunbeam that was to remain his favourite car and which he drove long distances almost to the day where he was taken ill.

Motor Sport benefited during the dark years of the war when Heal contributed the first erudite histories of Napier (“The First to Wear the Green”) and Sunbeam racing cars. That led to important links with the later STD Register and in 1986 his wonderful book Sunbeam Racing Cars — 1910-1930. His 3-litre Sunbeam became a sort of Heal hallmark, when he was not driving other cars on track or hill; Heal’s knowledge of Sunbeam history was astronomical. It is possible that his driving skills would have made him a formidable racing driver and, running a modern Aston Martin on the road, he did essay Le Mans in 1949, with Dudley Folland, but their 2-litre Aston Martin retired. He might have had another go, but the foreign car/driver he was paired with was terminated when the latter was found to prefer drink to circuit. By this time Anthony had married, using the giant Fiat as the bridal carriage. Continuing his close association with the VSCC, Heal was runner-up to Windsor-Richards for the Lycett Trophy in 1937, which he repeated in 1938, He also proved that the Fiat was about the fastest of the Edwardian racers. In 1946 Heal was awarded the Pomeroy Trophy (no competition being possible that year) for his excellent work in putting the VSCC back in shape. The following year he became Club Captain, but due to his directorship of the Heal business was never, as many thought he should have been, a President of the VSCC. But he had served as its Press Secretary etc. Ever versatile, Heal had taken the big Renault “Agatha” through the 1939 Presteigne Trial, and in 1960 he won an Edwardian race at Silverstone in Lord Montagu’s 1912 Coupe de L’Auto Sunbeam.

Frequently using his 3-litre Sunbeam to attend events long after many people would have given up driving, Anthony Heal’s death has devastated the VSCC and the STD. This friendly and very knowledgeable supporter of the vintage scene will be universally mourned but never forgotten.