Monday July 3, 2017
To many people, including myself, Sherborne Castle is one of the most stunning buildings in England, and that is without considering the display of rare, desirable and downright magnificent cars that will be taking part in Classics & Supercars Show on the 15th and 16th July. And one of the vehicles that will be gracing the stand of the event’s sponsor, Lancaster Insurance, is a truly exclusive post-war British sports car – a 1952 Alvis-Healey G-Type.
This elegant convertible was yet another brainchild of one of the heroes of the British motor industry - Donald Mitchell Healey. In 1931, he became the first Briton to win the Monte Carlo Rally and in 1946 he created the Donald Healey Motor Company Ltd. At the end of 1949, Henley visited the USA on an ultimately unsuccessful mission to strike a deal with General Motors to use Cadillac V8 engines in his cars. On the journey, one his fellow passengers aboard ship was George W Mason, the president of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation who wanted a sporting model to enhance his brand’s somewhat sedate image.
The result of this chance meeting was Donald Healey being commissioned to create an open two-seater with the 3.8-litre engine from the Nash Ambassador sedan and the chassis from the 1949 Healey Silverstone. The Nash-Healey debuted at the 1950 Paris Salon and was greeted with great enthusiasm – the famous US motoring writer Tom McCahill stated that ‘I want to go on record right now to say that I have ‘never driven a sports car that handled better '.
A very high price meant that only 504 examples of the Nash-Healey were ever made, but an even more unusual sight is the Alvis-Healey G-Type on the Lancaster Insurance stand. As the Nash-Healey was never officially sold in the UK, Healey introduced the ‘Three Litre Sports Convertible’, as it was formally known at the 1951 London Motor Show. It looked similar to the US-market car but was longer, slightly narrower and had a subtler radiator grille. Beneath those rather dashing lines were a new chassis and an Alvis 2,993cc engine and four-speed transmission.
The Alvis-Healey’s 100 mph top speed was highly respectable at a time when some family saloons would struggle to achieve 75 mph, while the bench front seat meant that there was space for an occasional third passenger. The specification was extremely refined by early 1950s sports car standards, as the Alvis-Healey was fitted with a radio, heater, winding windows and external door handles complete with locks. Such items were often regarded as signs of extreme decadence by certain sports car drivers of this era but the G-Type was more of a prestigious, and highly desirable, Grand Tourer.
A mere 25 Alvis-Healeys were made to order until 1954, in addition to a trio of Riley engine versions. It was to be the Healey Motor Company’s last car prior to the Austin-Healey 100 of 1952 and today the G-Type’s survival rate is believed to be in single figures. For any classic enthusiast, the chance to see one of Donald Healey’s rarest products should not be missed – especially when it is accompanied by so many other fine cars on display…