Donald Healey flew for the Royal flying Corps in World War I but he was invalided out in 1917 after a series of crashes, including one in which he was shot down by so-called friendly fire on a night bomber mission. After the war was over he opened a garage but was bitten by the racing and rallying bugs. In 1931 he won the Monte Carlo Rally outright driving an Invicta, having already gained a class win the year before! As a confirmed petrol head he sold his garage business and worked for Riley for a while but then moved onto the Triumph Motor Company where he soon became the chief designer. In 1939 Triumph went bankrupt - an all too common fate of car manufacturers - but he really wanted to design and build his own sports cars so after World War II he formed the Donald Healey Motor Company, working from a redundant RAF hangar.
At first the car he produced were very expensive but he wanted to create one that could sell to the masses. The result was the Healey 100, one of which he built for the 1952 London Motor Show.
This prototype caught the eye of Leonard Lord who was the managing director of Austin at the time. Lord was looking for a replacement for the Austin A90; and since the Healey 100 was the undisputed star of the show he realised that this could be exactly what he was looking for. By the time the show closed the car had become the Austin – Healey 100 and Austin had bought the marketing rights.
This beautiful low-slung two seater quickly became very popular; hardly surprising since at a price of £1064 it was the cheapest 100 mph sports car in the world at the time. With a 2.6 litre four-cylinder Austin engine generating 90 brake horsepower this car could hit 60 mph within 10 seconds. Unfortunately for UK drivers however 90 percent of them were built for export, mainly to the United States of America.
A larger 2.9 litre engine was fitted in 1959 and the car was renamed the 3000. Numerous racing successes followed but American safety laws sounded it's eventual death knell in 1967. By then it had been nicknamed the 'big Healey'; partly to differentiate it from the smaller Austin – Healey Sprite, and partly because of the grown up growl that came from under the bonnet!
Financially the car was a success with a total of 14,630 100s built and 42,926 3000s. It is still considered by many to be the epitome of the British sports car.