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WORLD WIDE AUSTIN-HEALEYS
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SR  1968

XR37   1970

Healey-Climax to Healey-Repco

The Story of the last Healey at Le Mans

   

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 Magazine.
 

 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 the event.
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 again retired.

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

 

Up Print Poster The Book SR in Wood ! SR Replica ! Magazine Article Healey Marque
 


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