"My Experience with Donald Healey"

Bill Moseley with Donald M. Healey, 1984

I was very fortunate to know Donald M. Healey in 1984. I was a Navy Commander stationed in Washington, D.C. on Presidential Support duties. One afternoon I returned home to Bolling AFB and received a phone call from my friend, Bruce Phillips, owner of Healey Surgeons. He asked me if I wanted to "come over and see Donald Healey."  I asked if he had a movie or something and Bruce replied, "No, he's sitting right here." Of course I zoomed right over in my '64 Healey Mk III. There, all by himself, was DMH, in person, just sitting there in a long sleeved white shirt! He had only recently arrived. I had some experience with the Royal  Navy and called him "Sir Donald", even though his title, Commander of the British Empire"  wasn't officially "sir".  I walked up the street and bought him a cup of coffee and we really hit it off.  It turned out that we had an important commonality... not the cars, but aviation.  Sir Donald went to great lengths explaining how much trouble he had keeping his Sopwith in the air during WW1. (I don't remember how old he said he was but he was just a teenager.) He often had to find an open place to land the plane, crawl out to made repairs and then back into the air. I asked him how he survived the war (as so many did not). He related that "everyone on the ground shot at everything in the air...great sport" and said it was probably from the British that he took a hit and that wounds received and hospital time probably saved his life.

At the time I hadn't read a lot about DMH and asked the same dumb questions.  I had only bought the car in '81 from a Marine Major who worked for me here in N.A.S. Pensacola. (When I finished Navy Aviation Officer Candidate School in the mid '60's,  I sold my Lotus S2R. After a string of British Cars, no Healeys, I just moved on.) He mentioned that he was flying out to visit Carroll Shelby (CS). I didn't know that CS drove for him. He said that "he drove so hard that he would bend the accelerator pedal". I asked why CS didn't use the Healey to build the Cobra. I recall that he said that he told CS that he  really didn't want to go through all that and recommended the A.C. company to him. I told him that I knew that Sterling Moss drove for him and he related Sterling's dedication and professionalism but mostly that he really knew how to party.

I had my book with me which was written by Geoffrey Healey,  Austin Healey - The Story Of The Big Healeys (1978, Dodd, Mead & Company New York) which I hadn't read over too closely at the time. DMH leafed through it and made comment on the pictures (he said his favorite car was the forge Sprite). On page 117,  he saw a photo of himself with Count Aymo Maggi (the driving force behind the Mille Miglia) seated in a 1958 Sprite.  DMH became curiously reflective and told me how much he missed the late Count Maggi, whose castle-like facilities in Brescia were put at his disposal. When the  Sprite came out, Count Maggi was kind enough to put his considerable weight behind its presentation.  I am looking at my prized book right now.  DMH took it from me and wrote,  "To Bill,  Wishing you many more happy 'Healey' miles."

This led to Geoffrey... I told DMH that, " I saw Geoffrey in the early '60's at Sebring. He wasn't too hard to miss because of his giant mustache. It wasn't something that everybody had back then."  He thought that was funny and related that the mustache was because of a scar that Geoff received when he was a small boy. Playing cowboys and on his front porch, Geoff was shot in the mouth by a home made arrow!  DMH also said that "Geoffrey runs the racing".  (At the time I didn't know that Geoffrey wasn't his only son.)  I asked him what became of the streamliner in which he set a world record. He said, sort of off hand, that all the salt just corroded it away.

DMH wanted to see my car. I was a little hesitant because I had done some "non issue" things. I found that DMH was an innovator, not a museum curator.  If he liked something, he would say so and the reverse if he didn't. For example, I had a pair of plastic rear view mirrors mounted flush on the car and painted to match. He commented that he would have used them but couldn't get that sort of thing back then and had to settle for the ones he did use!  I asked him if he would like to sit in my car and he said,  "Why, I believe I should" and climbed in. I asked him if he wanted to drive it and he said, "I can't reach the pedals".  Fortunately I had my camera and made several photos of him, with a great smile, seated in my Healey.

What an interesting man, indeed.  The more I read and find out about him, the more fascinating and interesting he becomes.  I find it hard to believe that the polite,  friendly,  happy man that I was privileged to know was all of those great things!

-Bill Moseley

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