Yes, It Is A Very Rare Car, But Not Quite A Barn-find As You May Imagine
Images: Makarand Baokar
A legend in the history of automobiles, Englishman Donald Healey Mitchell (1898–1988) was a very successful rally driver, an automobile engineer, president of several societies, speed record holder, and eventually a highly acclaimed carmaker. Interested in mechanicals at an early age, Healey joined the Sopwith Aviation Company as an apprentice, then volunteered in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), and served in anti-Zeppelin patrols, before being shot down by the British Air Defence… by mistake!
After the war, Healey opened a garage, but was better known for his rallying exploits: winning the 1931 Monte Carlo Rally (in an Invicta 4.5 Litres S-Type), the Mont des Mules hill climb, the Brighton Speed Trials in 1932, and the Gletscherpokale, in Austria, four times. With an excellent reputation as a consulting engineer, Healey was appointed CEO of the Triumph Motor Company in 1931.
Post WWII, Healey founded the Donald Healey Motor Company Ltd, in 1945, and to power his high-performance sports cars, he decided to use Riley’s four-cylinder twin cam 2.4-litres engine, mounted on a lightweight steel chassis. At the time of its launch, in 1948, the Healey Elliott coupe was the fastest closed passenger car in series production, with a top speed of 168.5 km/h.
The Elliott was followed by the Silverstone, in 1949, which was lighter and even quicker (172 km/h). With just 104 made, the Silverstone is indeed much sought after. Rarer than the Silverstone though was the Westland roadster variant—at most, 70 were made. The car we feature is one of them.
How the current owner Praduman P Asher came to own this car is bemusing. Asher had heard that the princely family of Idar was selling a 1935 Cadillac: “I went to negotiate for the Cadillac, but Rajendra Singhji, the current titular maharaja, was adamant that I had to buy two cars as he was clearing his property of all junk… I paid a little extra and bought both. After researching I found out that the ‘other’ car, the Healey Westland, was much rarer than the Cadillac!”
Asher wrote a letter to the Healey Westland owners association, and they ridiculed him stating that no car in their record had ever been exported to India. They were right, as the car had been acquired in the UK by Paswanji Saheba Feroza (as explained to the author by grandon Karni Singh Idar). She gifted it to Himmat Singhji Dowlat Singhji, the erstwhile Maharaja of Idar, who had the car shipped home to India.
The Healey was fitted with a galloping horse mascot, as the maharaja was an equestrian fan, and the car was used by him to go to Mumbai’s Mahalaxmi racecourse.
The princely family of Idar was always true-blue automotive aficionados, with a passion for rare and highly advanced automobiles, as evinced by the kind of cars they have owned: an extremely rare Farman A6 B that still survives (in Germany) and which was bought new by Himmat Singhji’s younger brother Maharaj Man Singhji Dowlat Singhji, an Auburn Speedster owned by Himmat Singhji himself, as well as a Duesenberg acquired by his son, Maharaj Amar Singhji.
The Maharaja’s grandson Rajendra Singhji was given the Healey eventually, and he sold it to Asher.
Asher’s reaction to the Healey Westland association was only but natural: “Angrily I sent them a picture of the chassis plate. And they wrote back that indeed I had found a missing Healey and made me a member of their association.”
The association sent Asher technical material, based on which he was able to restore the Healey. Entered at the 2008 edition of the Cartier concours award, the Healey deservedly won in the roadster class.
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