Interviews with John Gardner, Terry Westwood, John Harris, Paul Hunt, Paul Stanforth and Roger Beard on working the Geoff and Brian Healey.
John Gardner had various jobs at the Cape Works including working in the drawing office and for Healey Marine, Terry Westwood worked in body shop and experimental division of the Donald Healey Motor Company and John Harris was a works driver for Healey including testing for Le Mans 24 hour race. Paul Hunt was a mechanic at the Coten End site of the Donald Healey Motor Company, Paul Stanforth was an apprentice mechanic and part of Healey Le Mans team and Roger Beard was an apprentice mechanic and worked in the sales department at the Coten End site.
John Gardner: Geoff and Bic didn’t come to work at Healey’s until later on. I remember Geoff coming back out of the Forces being there. He had come there before then, but he was still in the Forces, and Brian was down in Perranporth at hotels down there and they both came up and were working up there now. Geoff was more the one that was more into the engineering side of vehicles. It was one of those things. Each had their own nicknames.
Interviewer: What was Geoff’s nickname? Is it repeatable?
John Gardner: [Laughs] Yes, it is really – Bugwhiskers, because of him taking snuff. It looked like little bugs on the whiskers [Laughs]. Brian was always ‘Bic’ throughout the house and everything, he was called Bic and that stems from his infant’s days.
Terry Westwood: I can recall that every Wednesday my brother used to have The Eagle comic, which was fourpence and Geoff used to, actually, commandeer it off my brother because in the centre pages they used to be a cut-out of either a train or a plane or a car and it actually cut it away so as you could see all the workings of it and that was Geoff’s Wednesday escapade. Usually after he’d scrounged a fag off somebody, because he smoked his pipe in the morning but ran out of tobacco and then he actually obtained his cigarettes then from every source he could.
John Harris: And, you used to see Geoff around the place, always with a cloud of blue smoke from his pipe, and his red socks, and he really, he kept himself to himself. But, he wasn’t, on a Saturday morning he’d got better things on his mind and then, I don’t know, somebody told him that I’d had a good week the previous Saturday at Silverstone, so, he comes over to me and he says “Let’s have a look under the bonnet”. So, Geoff said “Ah, right”. He said “Most impressive. What are you doing for food tonight?” And I said “Well, nothing.” He said “It’s number four, High Street, Barford. We’ll expect you at seven thirty”.
Interviewer: Wow! That was very direct, wasn’t it?
John Harris: Well yes. And, of course, from that moment on, till the day Geoff passed away, we were never out of touch with each other…
Paul Hunt: I can remember one point where we had John Gott’s Austin Healey 3000 and he used to race, if you remember?
Interviewer: Yes, I do. Is that the Police Constable in Northampton?
Paul Hunt: In Northamptonshire, that’s right.
Paul Hunt: He was a legend in his own lifetime… being young and enthusiastic and we’d probably be, what, nineteenish, yes, we’d be nineteen and I said to Tom, I said “We, are we going to try it”. “No” Tom said “No, I’m not”. So I thought, well, why not? You know? Make sure everything works. So I proceeded to get in the car and drive it… So, anyway, then I proceeded to go down the Emscote Road, with Geoff Healey coming the other way.
Interviewer: Ah! Okay.
Paul Hunt: So, anyway, on the return to the Workshop,
Interviewer: And you were driving this car because you wanted to, it wasn’t absolutely necessary for you to drive it?
Paul Hunt: Probably not necessary, no. but, it was just, a want. And it was a race car. And anyway, I got back to the Works and Geoff Healey collared me and I’ve never had such a shellacking in all my life. Well, it was a race car.
Interviewer: And being in the company of Geoff Healey, you were taking him to the airport, what was he like, what sort of character was he in your experience?
Paul Stanforth: Very clever character. A bit like a nutty professor, if one looks at it logically. Sometimes he’d be quite effervescent and quite open and forthcoming. Most of the time, you looked at him and you could see him thinking what he is going to be doing, what projects were coming up, so, he was a cerebral man basically, but a nice guy. A very nice guy to work for
Roger Beard: I remember particularly going to the 1970 Motor Show with Brian Healey on Press day and he did know everybody who was worth knowing in the motor trade in those days and we were walking down Central Aisle, the first chap who spoke to him and had a long conversation with was Stirling Moss. Ten seconds later, we had just got rid of him, when George Abecassis turned up who was the Managing Director of Aston Martin…