Auto Express has another take on the 'return' of Austin-Healey and the Fenna vs GBSC debate
Originally Posted by Auto ExpressOne of the most famous names in British sports car building is back! The legendary Healey badge is set to return in 2007 after an absence of more than 30 years.
New company managing director Tim Fenna has described himself as "ecstatic" with the achievement, which is the culmination of at least two years of negotiations between himself, the Healey family and investment group HFI.
Fenna is an engineer and well known Healey fan, and runs a firm producing performance and replacement parts for Austin-Healey Sprites. However, the process of relaunching Healey with a new range of cars starts in earnest this summer, with the unveiling of a concept described by Fenna as a spiritual successor to the Healey 3000.
Although there's no official confirmation, the car could possibly make its debut at the British Motor Show in London in July, and be delivered to customers in 2007.
"The new roadster is a modern design, but when we put it on show, it will be immediately obvious that it's a successor to the 3000," said Fenna. "The car will be powered by a 3.0-litre straight-six, and we've already got a prototype under development."
Firm details on the car are still scarce, but it's expected to be pitched as a British-built alternative to the Porsche Boxster and Mercedes SLK. However, there's no word yet on the vehicle's price. As with the Healey 3000 from the Sixties, the new machine will be a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive two-seater. It's expected that the chassis will be hand-built, as will much of the bodywork.
"Our business plan is still confidential," said Fenna. "However, we are looking at factories in Wales and the Midlands." Once the firm is at full production, it expects to hire at least 400 employees. "The exact location will ultimately be decided by the skill set of the local people," confirmed Fenna.
Rumours suggest that the firm could choose Warwick as its home, taking the company back to the city where it was first established by Donald Healey. The announcement of the Healey family's deal with HFI and Fenna is likely to have a major impact on the GB Sports Car Company's pitch to revive the Austin-Healey brand with the help of Chinese company Nanjing Automotive. There had been speculation that GBSCC would reveal a concept based on the MG SV at the British Motor Show.
Despite the obvious rivalry with GBSCC, Fenna said: "I don't want to talk about its plans because it's not in anyone's interests to get into a slanging match. I would rather focus on the future of our company. We've got a running prototype for a first car, and have started work on a second vehicle."