Translated article from Oldtimers Klassic
The roadster legend Big Healey, known as the pig.
This widened example is the original prototype X230, so thinks its
owner. Experts of the marque think different: this thing is a forgery,
reason enough to start the research with a white sheet of paper – to
create finally a story by itself.
At first there was only an e-mail contact. When I got the man on the
wire he was reluctant: at that moment he does not think an article about
his car makes sense. First negative rumors about the suspect should die
down – and then he himself would like to find out, what he has in his
garage. I made a point out of the fact that I would be in Illinois soon
and would like to see the car at least and that did persuade him. Okay
he consented, look inside and outside, test-ride and make pictures but I
should not expect
any info from his side. As an independent journalist I had to find out
by myself about this mystery car. And I could write it is a complete
fake, if this would be the result of my visit. A lunatic, this man Peter
Fino? What was the reason behind this tactics? And what did really
happen? So what, I took on the Challenge.
Only ten days to go for the visit between Chicago and Milwaukee. I start
reading into bringatrailer.com, (short name BaT) . This original
Internet-portal presents old timer rarities for sale and the adjoining
comments. For example the prototype Austin Healey X230, recently
discovered there. Ahh, that is the theme, One forum poster- Healeyman,
is his pseudonym, claims that this car is a big forgery. Possibly welded
together in the seventies from the remains of some test cars. As for
example the frontal treatment with
the 4-headlamp configuration of the study X230, already built back to 2
lamps in 1959, as everybody knows. Healeyman who claims that he has
clearly disproved the authenticity
of the offered 4-lamp Healey by thorough research, gets positive
reaction from other BaT
readers and posters. The more so as the one off is offered for the
princely sum of 225.000
$ US. Innocent Enthusiast outing the fraudster-dealer – this story
readily consumable as the good boy bad boy story is so seducing that
nobody tries to look for the truth. Especially as Peter Fino, the vendor
being in the virtual dock, shoots back some bullets below the waistline
like Clint Eastwood in the Django movie. This behavior is not
convincing, the condemnation only accelerated. Fine the forger,
PrototypX230 the forgery.
Bearing this in mind I nevertheless travel to Lake Michigan, horridoo –
curiosity defies doubts. A man in his mid sixties receives me in the
workshop which services his classic cars, mainly prewar sports cars. He
is friendly but distant. Where is the Thing??? Without words he points
to the farthest corner. I crawl around the funny vehicle. Condition so
so. Paintjob careless, bumpers not straight and even worse mounted front
and rear damaged. The seat covers are strangely colored and the tunnel
cover oddly styled, the latter in typical Italian knitted diamond
pattern. But all this is not important against the details which are not
so easy to fake. The thing is much wider than a normal Healey, more
muscles but without proper proportions- because the rear wheel arch is 4
the curvature of the fender. Therefore the side view looks like a
crooked hyena. And the dashboard resembles that of an early MGB.
The strongest impression comes from the frontal aspect with the double
headlamps, as irritating on the Healey front as a Heino [=David
Letterman] without glasses. Are these parts really from an X230? So far
the only thing that is established for sure is that the light blue car
in front of me is not the experimental with this works number. Very
clearly, here Fino is in error.
We then begin the test ride – impressions further on. Then we execute
the action pictures while driving, then I take all possible
measurements, all the differences compared to a normal car. The last
task is to photograph the car’s underside and the inspection of the
chassis and components. Peter Fino stands at a safe distance and
observes what I am inspecting – no comments.
A strange scene, ending only when I say goodbye. There the Italo-American
has only one question: If this is not X230, what is it then??? We will
see, until later on the phone, thanks, bye bye Mr Fino.
Months later I get busy, starting with contacts at the Healey Club
Germany. They point to the controversies the car has created on BaT. I
mail them some pictures requesting a judgment, they answer the same
night: “The thing is a nightmare, nothing is correct, the chassis comes
from a different maker, wherever from. A total fake, never a
x-prototype, never mentioned in any book.” Strong words from one who
Next I emailed Healeyman, real name David Matthews who worked for Healey
in 1964. I ask him for a clarification phone conversation. He answers,
that all has been said, cleared, researched, completely, finally, enough
for Mr Fino and all potential buyers, myself including, nothing to write
about a thing well known to the whole world.
The deeper I dive the more all seems not so logical compared to what I
saw. I mail all over the world and after a while some mails get strange,
I become the new owner of the car, a forger myself, a broker for Fino,
the car is in Germany…….
Suddenly Mr. Matthews calls my employer and asks about me. Now it gets
sporty I think and the next mail drops in my inbox from the German Club:
Your research creates
turmoil in the international Healey community. I repeat the car is a
fake, scrap, not a Healey, the vendor tries for years to find a stupid
buyer, I expect a clarification in the next issue of your magazine,
stop, over, he did not say goodbye……
To this gentleman I can only say, the last guy who tried to manipulate
the press is meanwhile Ex-President of Germany. And I will not be
pressured by anyone about a car who warns me about not being pressured
by someone else about that car.
Back to daily business – checking other sources. Geoff Healey, who died
in 1994 put some pictures of the car in his book The story of the big
Healeys. He writes that this car has the front of X230 but a chassis
X250T with a De Dion back axle. Trials took place in
1960 “we never liked it”. Basta, but an essential word which is not to
be believed in the view of the German Healey Club man and completely
missing in Matthews documentation. Renowned author Bill Emerson says on
the phone, that he thinks that Fino’s car is an original works
experimental, probably no.X300. For his theory speaks the fact that the
car has the chassis number 012X300 stamped in and never doubted (www.historichealeys.com).
Sounds genuine enough to use X300 as working title to this
And the works build, which refutes the saga of the forgery? Typical
making of the Roger Menadue, former chief of experimental department and
practically Healey’s chief designer. A viewpoint shared by Craig
Hillinger, owner of Healey works in Iowa foremost restorer oh the marque
in the US, he identifies the “fingerprints of Roger Menadues old school
workmanship.” [Meaning his modus operandi not actual fingerprints].
Three more experts, preferring to stay away from the internet fighting,
confirm the originality- thesis. Only about the number X are they not
conclusively certain. Maybe one of the many unnumbered trial-chassis,
says Hillinger, Others think it might be study
X224, coming from a stripped Grand Prix Ferrari, donating organs,
showing very similar rear axle and steering. It is not possible to prove
that. In addition must be said that most people have not seen Fino’s car
live. Hillinger and Emerson know it very well and I now do too.
What is my favored point of view? I believe this is a typical guinea pig
modified constantly with a unique rear axle treatment but no chassis as
the normal cars. One day this thing got a provisional body without
proper styling to make road test possible, exactly described by Geoff as
1960. And that’s the way it looks I suppose. A question to
the conspirators: who would actually go to the trouble of creating such
an complex layout to create a fake? And that at a time when real Healeys
were cheap second hand cars. Where is the logic? Ah yes, the double head
lamps are from the Austin 3 litre, 1967 – the front has been modified
later on apparently, to fake X230 so says Matthews. That does
not make much sense, because the car was not sold before as X230. Thanks
to Alan Riley about whom Matthews think, that he made up the car from
Healey scrap. Riley bought
the car in 1971 for 2000 pound Sterling as a funny undefined Austin
Healey. Same as today. And he bought it from storekeeper Fred Wheeler,
who owned the car for some years. 1977 he sold to Umberto Pizzagalli for
same money, son of Innocenti importer for England. You do not buy this
statement from the 81 year old guy – take this Riley does not drive his
Bugatti 51 very often, he prefers his 1961 Triumph Tiger. 1978 car
Romano Bernardoni bought the car, his cousin Stefano Pasini wrote two
articles about the thing in Auto Capital [Italy] and in Thoroughbred and
Classic Cars 1985. Here he mentioned the number X230 the first time. And
offends Matthews who apparently missed buying the car himself. Some
English colleagues say that Mr. M likes to ignore facts anyway.
The coup de grace to his fairy tale about the stolen front X230 is an
important detail which came up during my research while consulting
Jensen specialists. They did some special development for Healey, the
four eyed X230 included, at the end of the fifties. Jensen used
exclusively aluminium up until 1966. The wings on our car are tinware. A
triumph for Peter Fino? Yes, for me it is clear that his car is a real
Healey test car – and
no the car is not X230 and in my opinion not in a condition to justify a
price of 225.000 $ US.
The satisfaction against his enemies on BaT is granted, especially as he
played fair with me, unlike others in this story.
And he let me drive the mystery ship all by myself. How does she drive?
Compared to the standard pig very precisely indeed, rack and pinion,
great brakes – 4 discs, comfy – coil springs, in short…. modern, like an
E-Type. Time for the Healey community to accept this historically and
technically interesting test car. Better than to continue to corrupt the
car by believing in a windy messiah. The evidence of onerous attempts to
keep the marque with a heir to the marvelous big Healey after 1968 alive
almost died out.
Text Wolfgang Blaube
open or closed, the ominous 4 eye Healey has a hardtop only. A soft top
mechanism cannot be fitted.
Page 14 left
Another two dismissed heirs: in the middle section widened,
sphisticiated X400 with 4 litre OHC engine from Rolls Royce
Page 14 right
1962 coupe study, styled by later NSU designer Pio Manzu, built by
Pininfarina, made it as far as serial planning with BMC.
Page 15 upper
Italian dressing: three double Webers on 100/6 engine. The engine
sidewall the shape of which is bespoke makes you think that this
arrangement -in the race Healey since 1962- has been here before.
Page 15 left
Unique, X300 dash, the center of the wheel has no trafficator lever, but
there is a thin wire at knee level. Compare to dash of big Healey below
left a 100M, right 3000 MK III
Page 16 upper
From below X300, totally different from big Healeys, no frame, quick
axle, Hydrolastic suspension experiments? Easy to see the below average
condition of the car.
Page 16 lower
Strange rear axle, variable length halfshafts, not in the picture the
thrust rods, introduced in 1964 in the big Healey.
Front suspension from Austin A99 Westminster (made from June 1959
onwards) with rack and pinion steering
Page 17 upper right
Not a real DeDion axle, a unique ome, maybe to avoid costly royalties.
Page 17 below
Side view in comparison, top a 100/6 1959, below X300, same year. The
latter has a 4 inch longer wheel base but is shorter due to missing
bumper over riders and a shorter back.
2006 Peter Fino bought he car in Italy as X230 prototype
Technical data engine
Sixcylinder engine straight Watercooled, front Crankshaft w 4 bearings
OHV 2 valves
Camshaft w chain drive
3 double Weber horizontal 40 DCOE Compression 9,5/1
4speed w overdrive(optional) Rear drive 3,54/1
Bore/ stroke 79,4 x 88,9 mm
Displacement 26389 ccm
Power ca. 150 hp at 5500 U/min
Torque 20,6 at 3000 U/min
Body Monocoque Dimension
3845 x 1720 x 1335 mm
Weight ca 1280 kg (1124)
Independent A arms, coil springs, telescopic shocks, Removable frame
De Dion suspension w upper and lower thrust arms, Panhard rod,
Telescopic shocks, removable frame (lever shocks)
Rack and pinion (worm and sector)
1422/1372 (1240/1270) Brakes
4 discs (drums)
Topspeed ca. 190 km/h (179)
0-60 mph 10,5 sec (11,2)
Page 18 below
Another mystery X224 with significant similarities to X300, In the front
the 4cyl Ferrari
625 F1, bought by Healey in1955, the same engine which won the Avus F2
race in 1953
Page 19 above
X300 eyes came from Austin 3 litre 1967, the prototype dates 1963
The lamps contrary to what some state do not come from Corvettes,
Flaminias or Maserati Sebrings.
Page 19 below
Fat back, wide back with Healey 300 badge wrongly mounted. If you want
to read the dirty laundry around the car go www.bringatrailer.com X230
Compare the sizes true to scale, a standard Big Healey (here a 3000MKIII
from 1963) versus X300, whch theoretically could be mounted on the 2+2 X
250T tourer even the grill is wider (5 centimeters), flatter (4cms) and
positioned lower (7cm) even more intersting is the X230 grille (below)
which is shaped entirely differently and not of the same size.
Page 20 below
Rare find in the Jensen archives: works-picture of X230 with unique
front lamp frames. Here for the first time in high resolution contrary
to the photocopy quality version on the internet.