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Obituaries : Donald Healey, British Sports Car Designer

January 20, 1988|From Times Wire Services

LONDON — Auto engineer Donald Healey, who designed and raced some of the world's fastest sports cars, including the Austin-Healey, has died, his family reported this week.

Healey was 89 and lived at Perranporth in Cornwall, in southwest England, where he died last Wednesday.

Healey built some of the most popular high-performance cars in Britain after World War II and then entered into a joint production deal with the Austin Motor Co. to produce the Austin-Healey sports cars that became best-sellers at home and abroad in the 1950s.

Healey was also a keen racing enthusiast and in 1931 became the first Briton to win the Monte Carlo Rally. In 1956, at the age of 58, he drove his 3-liter Healey at 203 m.p.h. on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the 11th person to achieve that speed in a car.

In 1973, Healey became chairman of Jensen Motors Ltd. The company was purchased by a West Coast importer of British cars that then introduced the Jensen Healey sports car.

Healey began his career by leaving school in 1914 at the start of World War I and joined the Sopwith Aviation Co., which made planes.

In 1915, he entered the Royal Flying Corps, precursor of the Royal Air Force, flying patrols against German Zeppelin airships. In 1916, he took part in one of the first night bombing raids. British anti-aircraft fire accidentally hit his plane and he crashed.

Healey went on to study engineering, tested cars and then took up auto racing and rallying.

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