1949 Healey Silverstone

Long before Donald Healey struck gold with the Austin-Healey 100, he was a well-connected entrepreneur in the British motor industry. Healey made a name for himself as a successful rally driver in the pre-war era, with a crowning achievement being overall victory on the 1931 Monte Carlo Rally, driving an Invicta. He served as technical director for Triumph in 1937 and worked for Humber during the war years, developing armoured cars. While at Humber, he met Achille “Sammy” Sampietro and Ben Bowden, and in their off-hours, the three men worked on a new car to bear the Healey name. Bowden focused on body design, while Sampietro designed the chassis, and Healey secured a deal for Riley’s superb 2,443-cc hemi-head inline-four. Production began in 1946 with the range initially comprised of a four-seat sports tourer bodied by Westland Motors and a two-door saloon by Elliott of Reading, which made headlines for becoming the fastest four-seater production car in the world.

The most significant addition to Donald Healey Motors came in 1949 with the release of the Silverstone sports car. It featured a shortened frame, and the coil spring/trailing arm front suspension received an anti-roll bar to tune the handling. Power came from the same twin-cam, hemi-head Riley 2.4-liter four, and the Silverstone’s calling card was its lightweight torpedo-style body with cycle fenders and a distinctive horizontal rear-mounted spare that doubled as a bumper. The quick and nimble Silverstone proved a hit with amateur club racers, and Healey built 104 examples, a respectable number for a company with only about 40 employees. Notably, the Silverstone established the Healey marque in America, where the budding sports car racing scene was about to explode in a frenzy as British and European manufacturers fought for a slice of this lucrative new market. The versatile Silverstone racked up numerous road-racing wins and impressive results in premier long-distance rallies, including two overall victories on the Coupe des Alpes rally and an overall win on the Liege-Rome-Liege rally in 1951.

While all Healey Silverstones are important collectible cars, chassis number D19 is a particularly significant Silverstone, as it is known to be the second example to arrive on US shores in 1949 and carries fascinating race history from the formative years of the SCCA. The original owner, Mr. Jim Kimberly (of Kimberly-Clark fame), was a highly influential and widely respected early member of the Sports Car Club of America. “Gentleman Jim,” as he was known in the paddock, was a wealthy playboy of sorts and a formidable driver who earned an SCCA National Championship. Throughout the 1950s, he owned and drove numerous Ferraris, Oscas, Maseratis, Jaguars, and more, and he loaned his latest-and-greatest cars to ace drivers like Carroll Shelby, Pete Lovely, Alfonso de Portago, and Harry Schell.

Kimberly purchased chassis D19 directly from Donald Healey and quickly put the car to work on the race track. Jim drove the car himself on several occasions and also hired it out other drivers, including Fred Wacker, the highly-rated gentleman driver from Chicago best known for skillfully taming his wild “8-Ball” Allard J2-Cadillacs. Very early in Kimberly’s ownership, he made one significant change to the car: cutting the front-end sheet metal forward of the cowl, making it removable in one piece via Dzus fasteners. This clever mod allowed the entire nose to be removed in minutes, providing full access to the engine for service between races. This change makes the car easily identified in historic photos thanks to distinct scalloped, polished trim where the nose joins the cowl.

After two years, Jim Kimberly sold D19 to fellow SCCA racer Jim Simpson. In Simpson’s hands, the car was repainted from its original red to primrose yellow and continued to run well in competitive events all around the country, including at Bridgehampton, Watkins Glen, Elkhart Lake, Palm Beach, and other historic circuits. The car’s best-recorded result came on July 23, 1953, when it finished 2nd overall at Elkhart Lake, again with Fred Wacker at the wheel. Incidentally, Wacker finished behind Jim Kimberly’s brand-new Ferrari.

The next known owner is Mr. Anthony S. Carroll of Garden City, New York. A letter on file from Jim Kimberly dated May 21, 1968, and addressed to Mr. Carroll, recalls the car’s early history in Kimberly’s hands. It was restored and refinished in British Racing Green at some point along the way. Tony Carroll raced the Silverstone in the VSCCA into the late 1960s, and in 1972, he sold it to Nat Day of Greenwich, Connecticut. Mr. Day was a long-term and faithful custodian of chassis D19, continuing the car’s long-running race career while also treating it to a high-quality restoration back to its original colors in the late 1980s. Nat Day and his Healey Silverstone were regulars at the Lime Rock Park Fall Vintage Festival for years, and in 1997, he showed it at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, taking home the European Car magazine award for the “Car we’d most like to take on the Monte.”

In 2006, after 34 years with the Healey Silverstone, Mr. Day sold the car to another Connecticut-based enthusiast, who kept it in his private collection until 2022. It is offered in superb condition, with a recently freshened restoration resulting in crisp and lovely cosmetics equally suited for concours or driving events. Now back in its original shade of red with tan upholstery, it retains authentic details, including correct wheel covers, period-correct Avon tires, and hidden lamps behind the grille. Importantly, the numbers-matching Riley engine is in place, ensuring eligibility in a host of prestigious events, including the Mille Miglia. It also retains the removable nose section, as modified by Jim Kimberly in 1949. A comprehensive history file accompanies the car, containing registry information, period photos, letters, and correspondence from prior owners.

Donald Healey’s sublimely balanced Silverstone was a David among Goliaths on the race track, paving the way for its famous successors. This fabulous example boasts outstanding early history with a beautifully detailed restoration and is ready for vintage races, rallies, tours, and concours worldwide.


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