The Nash Healey LeMans lightweight version was built in a mere two weeks by Roger Menadue and Jock Reid. Menadue was the head of Healey's experimental department and Reid was his assistance. The body was fabricated in less than a week without the use of drawings. This is one of four lightweight Nash-Healeys built for endurance racing, such as Le Mans. Power was from Nash Ambassador engines and the drivelines also used Nash Ambassador sourced components. To boost power and increase durability, the engine received higher compression aluminum cylinder heads, twin SU carburetors, and special manifolds, resulting in approximately 200 horsepower. Non-essential items and components were removed in an effort to reduce weight as much as possible. The slots in the backplates of the brakes were filled and the adjusting mechanism was extended to a small exterior lever. This allowed for easy brake adjustments while in the pits without the need to jack-up the car.
Of the four examples built, three were open versions and one was a coupe. These cars raced in four consecutive Le Mans rances and one Mille Miglia. The prototype was raced at LeMans in 1950 by Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton, marking the first-ever use of an overdrive transmission at LeMans. Of the 66 starters, only 29 finished the race. The Rolt/Hamilton car finished in fourth place, helping to seal the contract deal between Healey and Nash for a limited production run of road-going cars.
Rolt and Hamilton placed fourth in class and sixth overall during the 1951 LeMans race. The following year, only 17 of the 58 starters were able to finish the race. The Lightweight Healey driven by Leslie Johnson and Tommy Wisdom placed third overall behind two factory-entered Mercedes-Benz 300SLs. It later raced in the Mille Miglia, finishing seventh overall and fourth in class. The coupe driven by Donald Healey and his son Geoffrey failed to finish due to a crash.
1953 was the final year for the lightweight competition Healeys at LeMans. The factory paired Johnson with Bert Hadley in one of two cars wearing redesigned bodies. Starting from 27th place, Johson and Hadley steadily worked their way through the pack, eventually finishing in 11th place overall, 39 laps behind the winning Jaguar. The second Nash-Healey driven by Veyron and Giraud-Cabantous retired after nine laps.
The Nash-Healey road-going version was produced from 1951 through 1954, with the 1952 through 1954 models being built in Italy by Pinin Farina. The 1951 Nash-Healeys were British-built with the bodies crafted at Panelcraft Sheet Metal and final assembly was completed at the Healey factory in Warwick. A total of 520 examples were built, including prototypes and race versions.
by Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2021
Related Reading : Nash Healey LeMans Roadster History
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