The three-year assault
on Le Mans by Donald M. Healey CBE and his son Geoffrey Healey, from
1968 to 1970 was probably one of the last sole manufacturers attempt at
this event which almost resulted in success.
In December 1967 the end of an era was marked by the decision of BMC not
to continue manufacturing Austin- Healeys, coupled with the infamous
withdrawal by Lord Stokes of any kind of support for competition and
also for the sports car clubs specifically MG and Austin Healey. The
in-house magazine Safety Fast came to an end and was replaced by Austin
In November of 1967
Donald Healey decided to have a last attempt at Le Mans with an all
British built entry and also a car built within the confines of the
Donald Healey Motor Co. at Coten End, Warwick.
The car was to be
designed using proven engineering techniques, with a rigid base
construction, built up from single-curvature sheet metal panels which
could readily be reproduced as a series-production job.
Known as the Sub Rosa car (secret) the company worked through the winter
of 1967 and 1968 but before they got more than 3 months down the road in
anticipation of the published Le Mans entries they announced the SR
Healey-Climax with a Press release on 16th February 1968.
By using their
in-house manufacturing and locating a Coventry-Climax V8 engine and
Hewland gearbox this was to be an all British entry which history will
show was to be the last.
The car made its first
outing at Silverstone still in its unpainted Birmabright Aluminium
bodywork, tested by a number of very experienced drivers including
Andrew Hedges, Clive Baker and John Harris.
Time was against the project but due to the now famous (infamous) Oui or
Non! -! referendum by Charles De Gaule, Le Mans that year was postponed
from mid June until 28/29th September, which must have helped the DHM
Co. get the car much nearer to where they wanted to be by the time of
As is well documented Clive Baker and Andrew Hedges were the drivers in
1968. Having practiced in the "spare" engine the week before, by race
day the race engine was installed and Clive Baker took the first
session. Within three hours the car (No: 47) was dogged with Clutch and
gear selection problems and retired.
In 1969 the SR (No:
37) had been modified with a bigger radiator now mounted in the front of
the car instead of by twin radiators on each rear wing, the oil cooler
radiator had been moved from the front to the rear wings, and the air
intakes made smaller, and small aero foils fitted to the rear.Drivers
for this year were Clive Baker and John Harris. Again Clive Baker
started the race, and was involved in the section where a Porsche had a
major shunt. Debris from the crash was attributed to blocking the air
intakes, together with the SR having been held up on the circuit, and
the resulting overheating caused a head gasket to blow and the car once
For 1970 entered as
XR37 (No: 34) it was decided to modify the car dramatically and move up
to 3 Litre engine size.
As was the fashion at the time, the car was modified into an open "Barquette"
or “Spyder” by removing the Coupe' panels, roof and windscreen and
cutting the car basically in half - extending the wheelbase dimensions
by 6" and fitting a 3 Litre Repco-Brabham V8.
This car was driven by Andrew Hedges and Roger Enever, and despite a 1 &
1/2 hour (90 minutes) pit repair to replace clutch/gearbox components,
also the car being involved in a shunt with a Porsche, and Jim Cashmore
the DHM Co. Workshop Supervisor lying in the pit lane bending bodywork
back with his legs!! the car ran extremely well despite torrential rain
for most of the race.
XR37 at one time was 10th overall and with just 14 minutes of the race
left (23 hours 46 minutes) whilst lying in 14th overall a ballast
resister rivet shook loose and the engine expired.
This preview of the
book is supported by all the Press Releases at the time, copied
articles from Motor - Autocar, -Safety Fast - Rev Counter, Healey
Highlights letters from works drivers, contributions from Robert
Harrison (current owner of XR37) Peter Browning, Les Needham etc, etc.
and photographs of the time as well as at the Le Mans race itself.
Publish date – Late Autumn 2006