Memories of Donald Healey

Interviews with John Gardner on Donald Healey as a designer and setting up his own company and with Tony Marshall talking about Donald Healey’s connections with Fiat.

John Gardner had various jobs at the Cape Works including working in the drawing office and for Healey Marine. Tony Marshall was sales manager for Jensen Motors.


Interviewer: That’s one thing I picked up from reading Donald Healey’s book, ‘My World of Cars’, when he was talking about how he found it was very rare that a designer could actually build what he was designing, whereas in those days you had to build it all yourself because of shortage of parts and things because of the war.

John Gardner: That’s quite correct. You see, as I say, I would say that from my latter experience that there is probably only one in a thousand who has this ability to put it down on paper and work it out and say that’s good or that’s bad…

……He had been instrumental in a great many advances that he had pushed forward when he had his time in Coventry.

Interviewer: Yes. So, I suppose it’s no surprise really that he wanted to then go on and set up his own company, with the experience he had picked up working for various people.

John Gardner: Oh yes.  And because he had done these advances, he was not, while there was money within the family, it wasn’t what you might call a fortune and in a great many cases he was fighting finance with what he could achieve

Tony Marshall: Donald Healey at one stage was a Fiat dealer in Warwick and near his home in Cornwall he had a friend who was also a Fiat dealer and his friend said to him one day ‘Donald, I have a problem. I have a customer with a Fiat 500 who needs new pistons; despite ordering them and pestering Fiat UK, I cannot get any reaction and I cannot get pistons to repair my customer’s car. You, as Donald Healey, not only are you also a Fiat dealer, but with your name you have a little bit of clout and I wonder if you can use a bit of influence’.

Well, it’s not recorded what Donald did, but obviously he must have told somebody because that very same year, the boss man of the Fiat empire Mr Agnelli, I think he was Alberto but I wouldn’t swear to that, announced his intentions to pay a State visit to London for the London Motor Show. Nobody else in his position had done so before, apparently. So there was a lot of rushing around by various people to make sure that everything was right for the arrival of the great man. Come Press day, Earls Court, that year everybody was gathered on the Fiat stand to meet the great man, called him God most people did in those days, and among them was Donald Healey. And his turn came to shake the great man by the hand and the great man turned to look at him and said ‘ah, Mr Healey, I’m very happy to tell you that the pistons for your friend’s Fiat 500 are on their way’.

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