Car: Healey 2.4-liter, 1946

With gas strictly rationed, and most new cars earmarked for export, motoring was difficult in 1940s Britain. So when news broke that Donald Healey’s sporty new 146ci (2,400cc) had recorded a best speed of 111mph (179kph) on the Jabbeke Highway in Belgium in 1947, it was especially uplifting news. Here was something Britain could be proud of: the world’s fastest production sedan and, hopefully, a taste of good times to come.

1946 model car Healey 2.4-liter
The diminutive figure of Donald Healey at the wheel of an early Healey 2.4; with the flip-up headlight covers not featured on production versions.

Donald Healey, exuberant pre-war rally driver and Triumph technical director, had come up with a totally new car. Its light, but rigid cruciform-braced chassis featured advanced front trailing link suspension and was powered by an excellent Riley twin-camshaft, twin-carburetor engine.

Initially there were two models: the open Westland and Elliot sedan, both with hallmark kite-shaped grilles and bodies in “Birmabright” aluminum over an ash wood frame. Healey and other contemporary drivers campaigned the cars with panache in great events, such as Italy’s Mille Miglia, in which one won the Touring Car class in 1948.

1946 model car Healey 2.4-liter
1946 model car Healey 2.4-liter

Healeys didn’t come cheap. The £2,725 luxurious Elliott, inflated by double Purchase Tax because the basic car cost over £1,000 (actually £1,750), put it beyond the reach of all but a few. There were later variations on the original 146ci (2,400cc) cars, but after rights to the Healey 100 were sold to the British Motor Corporation in 1952 (becoming the Austin-Healey 100/4), Healey as a separate marque was wound up.

“If we want to sell to America, we don’t send the sales manager because we don’t have one. I just send myself.”

Donald Healey, The Autocar Magazine, May 1948

Specification model car Healey 2.4-liter

YEAR REVEALED: 1946
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Warwick, Warwickshire, UK
HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
ENGINE: four-cylinder, 146ci (2,400cc)
MAXIMUM POWER: 104bhp
LAYOUT: front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
BODYWORK: two-door Elliot four-seater saloon or Westland tourer
TOP SPEED: 111mph (179kph)
NUMBER BUILT: 165