4 Lamp Saga

Home The Cars Memorabilia 4 Lamp Saga News and Views Links

Healey X230 Oldtimers 1 Oldtimers 2

Video inspection 6 hours in all
Video uploaded with permission of Bill Emerson.

This 2 hour video can be purchased here:


X300 Front X300 Rear
Click image to view full size Click image to view full size

Several Austin Healey enthusiasts have emailed me regarding the NEW Classic Car Company now offering this car:-
I understand that this dealer has bought the car and operates from Rhode Island. USA
The original Bring a Trailer blog -

The car is now being described - based open Geoff Healey's letter ( 1983 scroll down to view) ) refuting the existence of the X230, as possibly using scrap parts of the X300 prototype so its nomenclature has now been changed and amalgamated. Geoff Healey's letter can be seen further down. Clearly the car was built by Jensen, then demodified, by Donald Healey Motor Co. then sold as a special ST 260 - None of this car was built in Abingdon or anywhere to do with the DH Motor Co or BMC but by a scrap dealer 10 years later having not destroyed the remaining parts he was paid to do. Controversy ? hardly, it is a pure Bitsa, Alan Riley who owned the car in 1977 has sadly passed away and he worked in the Research Dept at Longbridge as a mechanic, had nothing to do with the Donald Healey Motor Co.


The drawings from Jensen of March 1960 show what the production panels would have looked like, all within the dimensions of the standard AH 3000.


Original 1959 Jensen works photo "Current Car for sale"
click for enlargement and text click for enlargement and text

Healey X230 Oldtimers 1 Oldtimers 2

Letter to Alvise Orso in Italy 

Start of the research 30 years ago into the 4 Headlamp Healey in 1981" ...at this time  I was Chairman of Austin Healey Club Southern Counties, Editor of our Centre magazine  and National Competition Secretary of the UK Austin Healey Club.

See further provenance - follow this link



Alvis Orso sends a full copy of the 1983 Jan. Auto Capital with the article on the 4 headlamp Healey

Geoff's reply after reading Auto Capital article




Thoroughbred and Classic Cars Dec 1985
Healey X230 Oldtimers 1 Oldtimers 2
Home Healey X230 Oldtimers 1 Oldtimers 2
Comparison Sheet dated late August  2007

As a result of Visit to Florida Showrooms at the behest and with permission from Peter Fino 

Comparison sheet produced after six hours of inspection of this 4 Headlamp Healey  by Bill Emerson and Marion Brantley"  Bill Emerson noted authority on all matters Healey and his book http://www.historichealeys.com/  Marion Brantley is the Concours secretary of the Austin Healey Club of America 100/6 section no two better qualified persons to inspect the car"
Order Form MG Car Company 7 July 1958 Shown to owner (Copy provided)

Delivery of Healey 100 Six BN.6 … “(For purpose of Development by Healey Motors of modified front end)”


Letter from G Healey

5 Sept 1958


Shown to owner (Copy provided) Request for …”car number to be fixed on the car.”
Letter from MG Car Co. 9 Sept 1958 Shown to owner (Copy provided without body and engine numbers) Provides body and engine number for prototype above.
Healey Chassis Plate example.

Actual Chassis plate as seen at visit August 2007


Frame Number

(on frame)


012 X 300

Prototype frame number stated in letter from MG Car Co to Geoff Healey on 9 Sept. 1958 indicates different number



click for enlargement and text

Photo of the boot showing Ind Suspension towers boxed in and smaller boot space due to non standard fuel tank"

Big Healey Mystery (extract from 1983  Auto Capital magazine)  

“The Austin Healey 3000 photographed on these pages is seriously a hybrid but not a fake.  This unique car, seen by very few people, recently came to light again here in Italy.  Factory legend has it that two cars were built originally, one was destroyed by fire in Germany and the other is our featured car. 

“This car’s history began in 1960 when a group of BMC designers headed by Geoffrey Healey set about updating the Big Healey for the US Market.  The experimental car known as project X230 on the existing occasional 4 seat chassis type H-BTZ.  The most significant modification and the one which strikes the eye first is the widening of the front end in order to accommodate the 4 headlights.  Consequently, the grille was also redesigned, as were the front wings, which now incorporated small wider wheel arches, necessary for the car’s wider track.  A new style bonnet grille was used, and the front and rear bumpers replaced without overriders.  Other improvements were made to the interior, where the dashboard was now given a complete set of instruments.  The removable folding hood was retained.

 “Other interesting modifications were made to the car’s mechanicals.  Four disc brakes were now mounted instead of the two as on early Healeys, and at the rear a De Dion bridge was installed which interfered with the location of the larger capacity fuel tank, with a consequential loss of boot (trunk) space.  New 3.54: 1 axle ratios were used to cope with the extra power being developed by enlarged SU carburettors.

 Though the car had been extremely modified, the end result pleased neither the BMC design staff nor Healey (Geoff or Donald) himself and the project was subsequently shelved.  After its first road test in August 1960, the car did not surface again until 1971 when it was first registered.  Ten years later it was discovered in Italy.”

 And additional paragraph on page one of the article reads:


 “The surprising front end of the Austin Healey 3000 X230 prototype: twin headlights and rectangular rather than round sidelights and plain bumper.”



The three-page article in this magazine is in Italian, and as Editor of Ten Tenths magazine of the Southern Counties Centre of the Austin Healey Club UK at the time, I forwarded these to Geoff and Margot Healey and asked if they could interpret them so that I could use the article in our centre magazine, Margot being Italian was of course a great help.

 I attach the reply from Geoffrey Healey dated February 1983.  It will be clearly seen that Geoffrey dismisses the car’s existence completely as in fact it was built on a 3000 Mark I (in 1959) standard chassis and when the car’s future was condemned to the dustbin, the modified panels were removed from the brand new car* sent by MG to carry out the design.  (*Source: Bill Emerson’s files.)

 Recently you may be aware of the 2007 Calendar produced by the AHCUSA has in fact an original photo of the car at Jensens and it can be clearly seen the X230 is built on a standard width and length 3000 Mark I.  This then negates any similarity between the original car and the car we see today as the X300 sheet – inspection carried out by Bill Emerson and Marion Brantley.

 Geoffrey’s letter (see attached)  goes on to say that the X230 died when all the items of modification were removed – the car fitted with standard bodywork and a competition engine fitted  and sold  to a customer in the USA in May 1962.  The car was given a prefix ST number.

 The wings, shroud and bonnet were scrapped and sold to Denis L. Smith of Rugby who regularly “disposed” of this sort of thing from the Donald Healey Motor Company.  This was confirmed by Vic Healey and John Wheatley, who in fact gave me the address in Leicestershire -  “The Old Bakery, Main Street, Lutterworth” - where he (Denis L. Smith) lived.  I called there on Wednesday, 10th October 2007, and met the new owner (a Mr. Hurst) of the house for the last 15 years.  He showed me round the outbuildings and also the separated section from the original house (now sporting a new bungalow) and this site was where Denis L. Smith had a large motor and engineering shop.  The new owner introduced me to the next door neighbour, Pat Pickering, who was his (Denis Smith’s) neighbour for 30 years and he (Pat Pickering) runs a small garage today at Bruntingthorpe,  five miles away.

 Denis L. Smith had premises in Rugby which kept all kinds of scrap items and engines etc. from the motor trade.  It was well known it appears – allegedly – that Denis L. Smith sailed very close to the wind!  His premises were raided in the 1970s by the police and many items of subject origin were removed!

 Denis L. Smith had several Austin Healeys throughout his time in Lutterworth and his neighbour confirms even seeing one with a Pexidome Hardtop – clear Perspex - of which only 34 were ever built.  His neighbour considers that Denis L. Smith was more than capable of building such a car.  He incidentally had an Austin 3 Litre as well – and this car’s headlights are what is on the car (the 4-headlamper) today!

 Where then does Mr. Alan Riley come into the picture?  He worked at the Longbridge Research and Development Dept as a mechanic (confirmed by John Wheatley).  He (Alan Riley) brought the 4-headlamp car to Longbridge looking for some supportive paperwork from Austin at Longbridge to give the car some provenance, but this was not forthcoming (source: John Wheatley).

 Alan Riley lives in Hartlebury in Worcestershire, he has been located and I have written to him, but he has declined to reply.  I have also had a colleague call on him, to no avail, and also left my details and telephone number at Hartlebury Post Office (100 yards from his home).  It is the same Alan Riley and his address is also confirmed by John Wheatley.  

 This supposed prototype X230 4-headlamp was dismantled in 1960/62 and the bodywork scrapped.  (It was of course rebuilt with a standard body and sold on in May 1962.)  It is supposed then to have laid under a cover for some 11 years and then sold by Donald Healey Motor Company in 1971.  Worcestershire records office shows that the registration JNP 543K  (not JPN 543K as listed in the Healey Marque article and on the websites of the garage and seller etc.) was issued in Aug/Sept 1971.  By this time the Donald Healey Motor Company were Fiat dealers (source: Bic Healey), and as Sales Manager for the Donald Healey Motor Company, Bic certainly did not sell such a car he confirms.

 Alan Riley advertised this car in Exchange and Mart in 1974 – Joe Jarrick confirms he still has the advert , and he spoke to both Alan Riley and then to Geoff who confirmed it (the 4-headlamp car) was not correct (source: Joe Jarrick).  Alan Riley brought this car to National Healey Day 1977 at Dodington Park stately home, now owned by the Dyson magnet.  This is referred to in Geoff’s book The Big Healey.  However, in Geoff’s letter of February 1983 (attached) he clearly states that the car no longer existed and goes on to say that the chassis is of more interest.  This is probably the prototype X251 De Dion Prototype.  Here is mention in Geoff’s book of the Strignant Ferrari being modified and a De Dion assembly fitted to an Austin Healey.  Geoff’s letter confirms that this prototype was also destroyed after all the useful pieces were removed.

 Again in Geoff’s letter of 1983, clearly this project was also scrapped and would have gone the way of other discarded development ideas.

 As you are aware the car again was the subject of an in-depth report in the December 1985 issue of Thoroughbred & Classic Cars (T&CC) magazine.  As this was in English it was then very easy to check out a number of items:

 The history of the car being bought by Stefano Pasini in January 1978; its time in Italy being restored etc. by Romano Bernadoni at the Emilianauto company in Bologna.  Telephone calls and emails to this gentleman have so far produced nothing, but he is still there at Emilianauto.

 Finally, in April 2002, the Austin Healey Club UK were approached through Mel Ward, the club’s 100/6 and 3000 Register Secretary, by a Gabriele Ansolini requesting confirmation of the car’s legitimate standing.  This request was discussed at the National Executive’s meeting and was declared not to be X230; a photo at the time was sent in with an Italian registration barely discernable but appears to be the same as in the 1985 T&CC article, A52282 BO – unfortunately there is no address for this enquiry date.

 Finally, I attach the comparison sheet produced after six hours of inspection by Bill Emerson and Marion Brantley.  Clearly there is so much that is incorrect about this particular car against standard components of the day – dimensions etc. – that Geoff’s comments sum it up, “No one can be serious in suggesting that this is a Healey prototype.”

 Post Addendum

 As an Austin Healey enthusiast for over 40 years, employed in the motor trade in the 1960s and having worked at the Donald Healey Motor Company and BMC as well as at Automotive Products (AP), and having written many articles for periodicals and authors, as well as running my own International Austin Healey hobby for 25 years, I hope this helps to “solve” the intriguing question set by the appearance of this car.


Final Post Addendum:-
Finally, I was able to meet up with Alan Riley at his Hartlebury home in October 2007 after I had filed the report to Healey Marque. Alan, was almost 80 and although had high recollection of the car - he would not commit to paper the fact that he built it in conjunction with Denis L Smith the official scrap dealer to BMC and DH Motor Co. and who left the country very suddenly in the early 80,s to live in Spain after a messy divorce, his whereabouts today are not known.


David Matthews


Home Healey X230 Oldtimers 1 Oldtimers 2

Home | The Cars | Memorabilia | 4 Lamp Saga | News and Views | Links