The Healey by Caton is a new-old £474k British classic

Retro

Just 25 versions of the ‘reincarnated’ Austin-Healey 100 will be built

Cars like the Austin-Healey are a convenient shorthand whenever a general illustration of ‘the classic British sportscar’ is required. This isn’t a car like the Austin-Healey, because it is an Austin-Healey, albeit one heavily restored and brought up to a modern standard.

Meet the Healey by Caton. The latter is a new “luxury British brand” which has used as its starting point a classic Fifties two-seater British sportscar, and has nestled just 10 miles north of the original HQ were one Donald Healey built the first car bearing his name.

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Let’s start with the things you can’t see. Caton takes the ‘100 BN1’ spec (the first Healeys) as the basis for this restored car. Caton has enlisted Healey specialist JME to work on strengthening the chassis, and each car gets a new one, with reinforcements at known weak spots including the front and rear bulkheads, and stronger driveshafts.

The car retains the original suspension setup – double wishbones up front, semi-elliptic leaf springs at the back – but gets custom rose-jointed roll bars all round. Steering’s unassisted, of course, and there’s no ABS, traction control or stability control, but you do get bigger, modern brakes, which are handy.

There’s a nat-asp 3.0-liter four-cylinder engine punching out 185bhp and 195lb ft of torque, based on an original Austin-Healey block but heavily modified here. It was stripped, lightened, balanced, cast with healing spells and fully refurbished. Caton then added a full steel crank, better bearing shells, high-comp pistons, a racing cam, side-exit exhaust and bigger Twin H8 carbs. Yes, carburettors, in 2022.

There’s a new gearbox too – a five speed manual – that uses a narrower tunnel than the three-speeder used in original Healeys, and together with a racing pedal box, has opened up space in the cabin so modern humans can actually sit inside. Says Caton: “Original Healeys were designed and built for a shorter population. Thanks to restyling the rear and a different pedal box fitted, it’s reported that in development a 6ft tall driver needed to move the seat forwards.”

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The front valance has also been lengthened, part of a suite of minor tweaks to the Healey’s design to bring it up to spec. There’s a new grille and redesigned headlights, while the original bumpers have been replaced for a “smoother, cleaner look”. Indeed, all the seams and beading have been removed, like on the front arches built on an English wheel, and the streamlining extends to the rear; the bumpers and boot hinges have been binned.

The wheels survived, mind; lovely 72-spoke classics with spinners and “period correct” (but modern) Michelins. Inside too, there’s leather on the dash and door panels, and better leather (Bridge of Weir hide) on the seats, because that “enriches the cabin with fragrance of leather”. No stereo of course, but there are a pair of USB ports if required, and maybe space for an umbrella because there’s no roof.

Each rich-smelling Healey by Caton will of course be highly personalized to each customer, because Caton is only building 25 of them. Each one starts at £395,000 that includes the donor Austin-Healey, but not local taxes and shipping. “Our aim is to deliver an unrivalled, immersive, intoxicating and highly emotional driving experience,” explains Tim Strafford, the boss of Caton’s partner Envisage Group.

Probably onto something with this ‘polish up something old’ strategy…

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