Words and images from Bob Segui, founder in 1980 of the San Diego British Car Club Council 

THE LAST vehicle to be manufactured that carried the ‘Healey Wings’ that made it to the road is the Healey Fiesta. If you are asking, “The Healey What?” read on.

Built in Germany in 1978 as a standard Ford Fiesta and shipped to the USA, it was selected by the Ford Motor Company to be modified into the ‘Healey Fiesta’. The idea came from auto entrepreneur Gary Kohs of Detroit. He thought the Fiesta would be a good candidate for modification into a car that would be competitive with the Mini Cooper. He had a rendering made by artist Harry Weeks of California and presented the idea to Ford, suggesting that Healey Automobile Consultants Ltd. of Warwick, England would be the best company for making the modifications. Ford bought the idea and made arrangements with Donald Healey and his son Geoff.

A stock American-specification 1978 Fiesta was shipped to Healey and body modifications, engine enhancements, a roll cage and unique paint refinements were made. Some of the work on the car was done by the British Company, Broadspeed. Probably the most obvious visual changes were the oversized spoiler under the front bumper (popular in the late 1970s) and the bright British Racing Green paint with yellow pinstripes, which at first glance may have seemed gaudy, but upon further consideration was found to contribute to the car’s personality. The wheels were changed to 13” x 6” Minilites by the Healeys.

Engine modifications included removing the emissions control devices, increasing the compression ratio from 8.5 to 10.1 by using different pistons, fitting the Ford ‘Mexico’ head and using a different camshaft with considerable more valve overlap. The intake manifold was matched to the ports and a Weber 32/36 DGV 2-barrel carburettor was used. The crossflow head exhausts into a fabricated manifold and the advance curve of the distributor was set for the requirements of the engine. These engine modifications produced around 80 bhp at 5500 rpm. The Healeys estimated a peak horsepower of 105 bhp SAE net at 6200 rpm.

Only one Healey Fiesta was made. About the time the Healey Automotbile Consultants Ltd. completed the car, Ford had decided to stop importing the Fiesta to the USA; so plans for production of the Healey Fiesta were dropped. This must have been a disappointment for the Healeys, as the serial number plate on the car’s firewall gives an indication that they were anticipating making more. The car’s Healey serial number is HF-001, indicating they could have made 998 more before running out of numbering spaces. The car also has the original Ford VIN as well. Before sending it back across the ‘pond’ special Healey winged badges were made and put on the car. The car also carries a badge on the firewall and on the instrument panel stating that the car was ‘Designed and Built by:  Healey Automobile Consultants Ltd. Warwick, England’ with Donald Healey’s signature.

When the Fiesta was sent to the Healeys in England, they modified it into what they thought was to become the Healey Fiesta ‘prototype’. The car came back to the US where it was displayed at four 1979 International Automotive Shows and made available to motor sports journalists. While the car was in Los Angeles, Road & Track magazine was able to have the car for a weekend. This resulted in the Healey Fiesta being the featured cover car on the August 1979 issue of Road & Track. Inside that issue was a four-page article describing its history. The car is also mentioned in two of Geoffrey Healey’s books: ‘Healey - The Specials’, with a reverse image photo of it on the back dust jacket; and ‘The Healey Story’. The Road & Track picture and the picture on the dust jacket of the book Healey - The Specials, are the same picture, only reversed. The Healey Fiesta is also featured in a two-page spread in ‘The Healey Book’ by Bill Emerson

After a short time in Ford Motor Company hands, it was put up for sale when they were clearing out some of their concept and show cars. For a period of time it lived in Massachusetts, then in Ohio before making its way to California.

I am the third private custodian of the car. The second person to have the car stated that, “no one should be the sole owner of such a piece of history.” So, you may be asking yourself; “Why one would want to have a one-of-a-kind vehicle?”

It all started back in the early 1980s when I had the opportunity to meet and become friends with Donald Healey. I was living in San Diego at the time and one morning when Donald Healey was visiting the city, I got up early and went to the home in which Donald was a guest and made him breakfast. To say thank you for making him breakfast, Donald signed and personalised a copy of a book I was reading. He wrote a thank you and that my scrambled eggs were good.

Almost twenty years later, when I heard the Healey Fiesta was for sale, I started to look in my Healey books to find out more about the car. It was then I noticed Donald’s words, which he had written during his breakfast, in the book, Healey - The Specials. I also noticed the picture of the Healey Fiesta on the back dust jacket of this book. That was all it took. I immediately flew to Ohio to see the car firsthand, made an offer, and as they say, the rest is history.

The driving impressions written of the Fiesta in its heyday were that it compared to the standard older Mini. It is definitely quicker than a standard Fiesta and is handles better. A friend of mine who owned a Mini Cooper S and drove the Healey Fiesta on the street, compares it favourably to the Cooper in acceleration and braking, even though the Fiesta is somewhat heavier.

The strangest question I have been asked so far is not, “How did you come about getting the car?” but, “Why do you have it?” After about the tenth time hearing that same question, I came up with two answers. The first being, “I was selected by a panel of six judges to have the car” and the second, “Pssst…. Be quiet…. They don’t know it’s gone!”

So, if you see the Healey Fiesta at a British Car Show sometime soon, please don’t ask me, “Why do you have it?” Just know that I am honoured to be its current custodian. Mark Miller of Ohio was correct in that no one can own a piece of history.

15th Annual Rolling British Car Day, Sunday 18 April
P.F. Chang's Parking Lot, 5621 Passeo del Norte, Carlsbad (take Interstate 5, than Palomar Airport Road East (inland) to Passeo del Norte)
Enjoy a coastal drive, then twisty bits through the back country to our picnic destination, Felicita Park