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Our 1948 Duncan Healey – A Healey before Austin!

It all started with a phone call which began “do you buy Healeys? And I mean HEALEYS not Austin Healeys”.

The Donald Healey Motor Company had long been building sports cars and grand tourers way before the mere idea of the first Austin Healey 100 was conceived. In fact, the Donald Healey Motor Company was founded in 1945 but Donald Mitchell Healey – founder of the illustrious marque – began dreaming of a new sportscar platform during the later years of the second world war.

Fast forward to 1948 and coachbuilder Duncan Industries of London was building a number of body styles (a Saloon such as ours, a drophead and the coveted Duncan Drone racer) onto a total of 38 Healey chassis.

Our Duncan is one of those cars and features some very unique quirks! These include a plexiglass covered painted dashboard (sounds strange but a new and exciting material at the time), front wings which flow through the doors – surely a coachbuilders nightmare – plus suicide doors and a long options list which amounted to a purchase price of over £2978 (the equivalent of £109,000 in 2019), quite extortionate at the time with a massive purchase tax of 55.6%. It was this taxation that inevitably killed off sales and indeed the Duncan Healey.

Surprisingly, the Duncan is quite rapid considering its age and heft with acceleration comparable to an early 100. Its 2443cc twin-cam Riley engine is actually much more advanced than that of a 100, with 104 B.H.P – a big number at the time. The car steers nicely although its weight and large shape is instantly recognisably when backed into a corner or if you push for the brakes.

That said this is an exciting car we hope to get out in more and display at some of our events such as our Open Day, scheduled for the 10th October in 2020.

Ian Duncan stands by his creations: a Duncan Saloon and Duncan Dragonfly (in foreground). Image credit Patrick Quinn. First article image shows our car ‘JYP 98’ as featured in Bill Emerson’s ‘The Healey Book’.