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J & M Classics Healey Elliott

This article and review appeared in the Diecast Collector Magazine for May 2006 under the title J & M Classics Healey Elliott

A new departure for J & M Classics, which has previously concentrated on its fine range of Alvis models.  This is the first of a range of Healeys, another marque hitherto rarely modelled.

Donald Healey was a top-class engineer, before World War Two a technical director and later general manager at Triumph.  He moved to Humber during the war, to become involved in the development of armoured cars and met several people who could help him produce his own car.  Stylist Ben Bowden designed the car, which became known as the Elliott saloon, along with a drophead coupe version, the Westland.  They tried without success to sell the design and project to Triumph.

One of the friends Donald made was a director of Hereford Humber distributors, Westlands, which had a metal-forming machine.  The first chassis was fabricated there, which led to building chassis frames and bodies – hence the name ‘Westland’, of course.

Riley agreed to supply engines, gearboxes and other mechanical components, with assembly arranged, via another friend, at Benfields concrete mixer workshop in The Cape, Warwick.  Despite Westlands’ enthusiasm, it was soon apparent they could not cope with the growing demand for bodies, and contact was made with Reading firm Elliotts.  The company had made a car body or two in the past, but was currently building shop fronts!  However, they agreed to supply saloon bodies (yes, you’ve got it, called Elliotts) while Westlands could manage the dropheads.

The cars were introduced in October 1946 and a success from the start in car-starved early post-war Britain.

The modern, streamlined body was magnesium alloy over a timber frame, for lightness and rigidity.  The Riley four-cylinder, 2443 cc engine developed 104 bhp, giving a 100 mph top speed.  Indeed, in December 1946, a standard Elliott managed a standing quarter-mile in 17.8 seconds, and a flying quarter-mile at 104.65 mph, on an Italian autostrada near Milan, to allow Healey to claim the car was the fastest British production car.  A further ‘first’ was achieved in October 1949, when an Elliott was the first production saloon to cover over 103 miles in an hour at Montlhery circuit in France.

Donald Healey was a respected racing and rally driver, so naturally competition was part of the cars’ development and promotion.  In spring 1948, Italian racing ace Count ‘Johnny’ Lurani entered an Elliott in the Sicilian Targa Florio race and finished 13th, against full racing teams from all over Europe, in a relatively standard and unprepared car, collected from the factory in England and driven across Europe to Sicily only days before the race!

The same car was entered in the 1948 Mille Miglia along with a second Elliott for Nick Haines and a Westland driven by Donald Healey himself.  The Haines car retired with a gearbox oil leak, but the Lurani car finished 13th and second in the Unlimited Sports Car class, making it 9th overall – again against the cream of European works teams.

The Haines car was then entered in the Spa 24-hour race, finishing an excellent runner-up in its class, second only to a full-race works Delage, which only just re-passed it at the end of the race.

The same car was re-sprayed British Racing Green – it was originally light copper metallic – to form part of a British team sent to Montlhery, along with another Westland, two Aston Martins and four HRGs, to do battle with a team of French Simcas, Gordinis and Delages.  Sadly, both Healeys retired because of suspension failure, caused by the banked track and poor surface, although a month later at the same circuit, the 100 mph record was achieved.

Several Elliotts were entered in the first race meeting at the new Goodwood circuit in Sussex in September 1948, two shared the front row of the grid and finished 2nd and 3rd, while another set the first lap record.

The Elliott and Westland models were replaced in October 1950 by the more luxurious Tickford and Abbott saloon and drophead models.  The Healey range had now widened with the Silverstone sports-racer, and the Nash-Healey project was under way.  A couple of years later, the Healey 100 became the Austin-Healey, but that’s another story.

The reason I have detailed the Elliott’s early competition work is that there are two versions of the model, the road car and the ‘works’ competition version, modelled on the car which entered the 1948 Mille Miglia, Spa 24 Hours, Montlhery 12-hours and the Goodwood event.  This car has survived and the current owner has helped with the production of the model, including an illustrated history of his car, detailing the competitions and results, in a folder included with each of the racing versions sold, which also serves as a guide to affixing the waterslide racing-number decals included, so you can have whichever version you wish.

Overall, the model is excellent and has been very well-received.  The crisp casting catches the streamlined look of the original to perfection, and the low-slung stance is absolutely right.  All the panel details are there, and the plated details include the grille, headlight surrounds, bumpers (road version only) and hubcaps, with photo-etched door handles, windscreen wipers and window surrounds.  Finish is very good, and there are a number of colours from which to choose.  The racing version comes in either light metallic copper or British Racing Green, and the road version comes in these colours, plus black, metallic light green, two-tone silver/grey or two-tone silver/very dark green.  All are authentic, of course, and the examples I have seen make it a tough choice.

The review example is the road version in light metallic copper, with the interior in mid-tan.  Interior detail is excellent, as we expect from J & M Classics, with correct-pattern seats, black/silver three-spoke steering wheel, well-detailed dashboard and all the interior door fittings.  These details can easily be seen through the front windows, left unglazed to look ‘open’.  Underneath, the main chassis members, drivetrain and exhaust system are all cast into the baseplate, which carries the model’s individual number, while the exhaust tailpipe is a separate fitting which extends out under the rear bumper.

A very fine model, and we can expect more in the Healey range from J&M, including the later version of this car (with the headlights set higher and in front wings) and the Westland drophead.  Priced around £130, it is not cheap, but the quality of the model is well worth the money.


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