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Healey car to be reborn with Smart overhaul

By Christine Buckley, Industrial Editor


HEALEY, one of the classic names in British sports cars, is to be revived by a consortium including David James, the Conservative Party adviser and company doctor, The Times has learnt.
The Project Kimber consortium, which tried to acquire the assets of MG Rover and then the MG brand last year, has bought the Healey name from the family of Donald Healey, the rally driver and the business’s founder, who died in 1988.

The consortium plans to start production — possibly in Coventry — of a new retro-style sports car towards the end of next year, with an annual output of up to 15,000 cars and initially employing about 200 people.

Access Capital, a venture capital group working with the consortium, is believed to have secured funding of £65 million for the first two years of the operation. Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, has offered £1.95 million in grant aid for the scheme, the maximum that it is able to offer, for production to be based in an old Dunlop factory in Coventry.

However, locations in Germany and South Wales may be considered. The consortium is also awaiting the outcome of an application for assistance from the Department of Trade and Industry.

The new Healey car will be based on the technologies and designs of the Smart roadster car, which the consortium has bought from Mercedes, Smart’s owner.

The acquisition of the brand comes after the consortium’s failure to buy the MG name-badge from Nanjing Automotive Corporation, the Chinese owner of MG Rover’s assets. Nanjing has wanted to hold on to the badge in the hope of reviving car production at MG Rover’s former Longbridge plant, but it has yet to find a partner with sufficient investment to begin the project. In July, Nanjing either will have to pull out of a long-term lease with the Longbridge site’ s owner, the property company St Modwen, or commit to it fully.

The revival of Healey comes as TVR, another famous British sports car business, will hold talks with unions today over its plan to end production in Blackpool, where it has made cars for more than 30 years.



Donald Healey, a rally driver, began to build his own cars in 1946. He went on to run a small car works and, in 1952, his 100 model drew attention at the Earls Court show

Austin, the motor group, started to make the 100 at Longbridge, Birmingham, as the Austin Healey 100. It had a 2.6 litre engine.
In 1958 came the Sprite, called “Frog-Eyed” for the headlights bolted on to the bonnet. A more powerful version of the 100 — the Healey 3000 — followed


Austin Healeys ceased to be made in 1972. Jensen, the sports car company, revived the Healey name, but it collapsed in 1975
http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22749-2162093,00.html
 

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Will Nanjing produce MG midget??

New Models: Kimber-Smart Roadster: to wear an AC badge?



The reborn Smart Roadster, to be built by UK firm Kimber in Wales, may wear the AC badge, according to the latest rumours. Kimber - named after the founder of Morris Garages - had originally hoped to do a deal with Nanjing Automotive to brand the car an MG Midget, but has been left without an appropriate British name to use. The Healey and Austin-Healey brand-names are spoken for, ruling out its renaming as a Sprite, though there have also been whispers that Kimber is negotiating to revive Triumph.

Now stories have surfaced that Kimber is to do a deal with Alan Lubitsky, current owner of AC Cars, to use that British name. AC, still building its Cobra but now relocated to Malta, dates back to 1903. AC has not yet commented on this story.

More details have also emerged on Kimber's plans for reviving the Roadster. It is to use the latest 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Mitsubishi engine, which will also be supplied to Smart for the Mk2 Fortwo; this will come in normally-aspirated and turbocharged form. And thankfully, the original Smart clutchless transmission will be axed: the Roadster will receive a Getrag-supplied manual gearbox.

Though it will remain similar to the Smart original, the Roadster will undergo a minor makeover. Former Jaguar designer Keith Helfet has been signed up to restyle its front and tail ends to freshen it up, and to distinguish it from the Smart-built Mk 1.

Kimber aims to start production at its new base in Wales, where it is installing the tooling brought from the Smart factory at Hambach, next summer. It is hoping to build 7000 Roadsters in its first year of production, going up to 11,000 a year once properly up and running.
 

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Just one small problem, the real midget was made in the 30s, so like the modern TF that everyone says isn't a real TF, that's a pretender! :) Nice video, and even better F VVC unit powering it!
In all seriousness, why shouldn't a badge evolve, and a new Midget would be fantastic. While the above drawing is a typical concept sketch, it certainly sports an MG badge on the nose in true MG style of plinth as per the F.
 

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The F/TF always sat in direct competition against the Miata/Eunos/MX5, and in the UK outsold the MX5.

When discussions about the Midget started, this was originally based on the Tata Aria concept. It was thought that with the tie up over the Indica for the CityRover that there would be further models, and so when Tata showed its Aria concept at Geneva in 2003, many journalists started jumping to conclusions.

Later, following MG Rover's collapse, the Kimber project as mentioned in the first post started talking about tie ups with the MG badges and produced a number of sketches for an MGB and a Midget. Consequently Kimber were unable to get access to the MG name and hence the discussion about the AC marque currently.

Austin Healey as a sports car grew out of the project in 1952 for Austin to build a sports car for Donald Healey. This was a larger car than the MGA, but Austin recognised the need for a small and affordable option, hence the Austin Healey Sprite was launched in 1959. It was an immediate success and was built at MG's plant. For it's update in 1962, it was decided to produce an MG option using the Midget name, a name already familiar to many enthusiasts from the 30s and associated with much motorsport success.

To add to the confusion now, there are several projects involving the use of the Healey name. With regard to Healey or Austin Healey, the Healey family are very strict about use of the name, too. The trouble is that the Austin name is also owned by Nanjing, as are the Morris and Wolseley badges, so apart from getting permission from Healey, Nanjing must also be involved, or, Nanjing would need the Healey family to allow a relaunch of the Austin Healey badge. BMW retain ownership of the Rover, Riley and Triumph brands. Therefore, in sports car terms, projects like Kimber's wanting the kudos of a sports car name for an affordable design have either the choice of Triumph or MG or Healey, all of which are tightly controlled. However, it seems that the Healey family have come to some arrangement with regard to relaunching the Healey brand but it is not clear what car they will produce and in what sector it will compete in price/performance.

To be honest, I hope that Nanjing fully use the MG brand with a range of both cars and sports cars. Historically, MG have always had two seater sports cars in both the small and mid-size markets (Midget and B, for example, as well as a Grand Tourer option, MGC and GT V8) They have also had cars in various sizes, usually based on more mundane Austin/Rover models, but tweaked to offer performance. For example, the 1100/1300 and Magnettes, the Metro/Maestro/Montego and more recently the ZR/ZS/ZT.

If they can produce a range of cars for volume sale on the Austin badge in Far East markets but offer a global MG badged performance version, I would definitely look at them as a replacement for both my ZT and my wife's small Rover.

If the Longbridge/Oklahoma sites can produce sports cars then that too would be fantastic to see. So far the talk has been around producing the TF in the UK and a new Coupe version in Oklahoma. There has been talk of the TF being stretched, mainly to take a bigger V6 engine, which would also offer a real Grand Tourer version of the TF, and if that is the case, then it moves the TF above the Miata, and opens the need for a smaller sports car such as a Midget, effectively with the MG models then not competing with the Miata.
 

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Mk3 midget with round rear arch, nice. My Dad and I restored one about 20 years ago. Sadly we neglected to drop in a 1.8VVC engine (not that it existed then).

The world needs more sports cars for sure. Generally the problem for manufacturers is the poor economics of lower production volume. For the chinese, this will be less of a burden because development costs, tooling costs, part changeover costs etc are very labour related and so will be less of a burden for the chinese industry.

The difficulty will be getting international sports car enthusiasts, who want to think they are buying something technically superior and with a bit of pedigree, to buy a chinese sports car.

Of course once they see them on fightingtorque.com bashing Ferraris and the like, should be a different story. Put me down for one, just give me a while to think of the colour.
 

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For me the BIGGEST sector is in the £20,000 to £30,000........A REAL Boxster basher but 30-40% less cost would be a winner.

Mega
 

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NAC and Healey sign historic agreement

Longbridge: Tuesday 12th June 2007

Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation and Healey Automobile Consultants Limited, in conjunction with HFI Automotive Ltd, are delighted to announce their intention to collaborate with each other on the future development of the Healey and Austin Healey brands and sports cars bearing their name.

The agreement puts an end to long standing issues about ownership of the brands and trade marks and expands opportunities for joint trade between the companies.

Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation is the Chinese parent company of Nanjing Automobile Corporation (UK) Ltd which acquired the assets of MG Rover in July 2005. It is engaged in the manufacture and sale of automobiles worldwide and have recently re-inaugurated production of one of Britain’s favourite sports cars, the MG TF, at its Longbridge plant.

HFI Ltd is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing and sale, worldwide, of sports cars and are the automotive partner of the owners of the Healey brand (Healey Automobile Consultants (HAC)), providing automotive design, engineering, manufacturing, logistics, sales and marketing and consultancy services to HAC.

Further details will be made available via the NAC MG (UK) press office at the appropriate time. If you require further information, please email [email protected]

-Ends-

About Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation (NAC)

Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation (NAC) is the oldest, and one of the largest manufacturers making up the backbone of the motor industry in China. Following its establishment in 1947, it successfully produced the first international standard light truck in China on 10th March 1958.

Today, NAC has 32 subsidiary companies and more than 400 affiliated companies, including NAC-MG, Nanjing-Yuejin, Nanjing-FIAT, and Nanjing-IVECO, four whole vehicle companies which produce three series of products, over 400 types of vehicles (excluding MG). Apart from the production of whole units, NAC owns companies which produce automotive components including chassis, brakes, gears & transmissions, in addition to a business providing foundry and metalworking services and vehicle equipment.

In July 2005, NAC successfully purchased parts of MG as part of an international strategy. After its successful acquisition of MG assets in 2005, NAC has gained a higher status in the automotive industry, and support from Chinese national government, the Jiangsu provincial government as well as Nanjing municipal government.
NAC’s mission is to “revive, maintain and develop MG” for the benefit of both Chinese and global consumers, and plans to produce and sell MG cars in the UK as well as in China. NAC has undertaken to “carve out, innovate, strive to be the best and create an iconic brand” with MG.

For further information, please contact:
Martin Hayes / Peter Haynes/ Simon Wittenberg
Automotive PR Ltd.
21 – 25 St Anne’s Court, London W1F 0BJ
Tel: +44 (0) 207 494 8050 Fax: +44 (0) 207 437 7966
Email:[email protected]/[email protected]/
[email protected]

Eleanor De La Haye
Corporate Communications Manager
NAC MG UK Ltd,
Q Gate, Low Hill Lane, Longbridge, Birmingham, B31 2BQ
Tel: 0121 482 4409 Mob: 07850 145797 Fax: 0121 482 6519
[email protected]

For more information on NAC MG (UK), visit www.mg-uk.co.uk
 

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The Austin Healey back on track

Jun 14 2007


By John Revill, Manufacturing Editor

http://icbirmingham.icnetwork.co.uk/birminghampost/business/tm_method=full%26objectid=19296113%26siteid=50002-name_page.html
A return of the famous Austin Healey sports car has moved closer after a deal was signed between the company aiming to revive it and the Chinese owners of MG.

Nanjing Automobile Corporation (NAC) has reached an agreement with Healey Automobile Consultants and HFI Automotive to collaborate on the future development of the Healey and Austin Healey brands and sports cars bearing their name.

The deal opens the way for the development of a modern version of the classic Austin Healey 3000 - as well as joint working on the next generation of MG sports cars.

Nanjing, which acquired the Austin Healey brand when it bought MG in 2005, could have prevented the name being used by another group.

But now the two companies will share design and engineering expertise, as well as reduce costs through joint sourcing of components.

The collaboration could bear fruit with a new Austin Healey and a successor to the MG TF.


HFI, an English-American consortium headed by Tim Fenna, who owns Frontline Spridget - a spares and modification firm for original Austin Healeys - has already produced a prototype model of the Healey 3000.


No venue for production has been decided, although some could take place on the part of Longbridge occupied by NAC, where the Healey 3000 was built during the 1960s.


But the deal will not see Healey versions of the existing MG TF sports car, which Nanjing is due to launch in the UK this autumn.


A spokeswoman for NAC, said: "The idea is to work together on a reciprocal basis on whatever projects we see fit.


"It means we get the opportunity to work with Healey and they can work with us. There has been some confusion over the intellectual property rights to the Austin Healey name in the past.


"This irons out the cooperation for us to work on future projects."


The spokeswoman said it was too early to say when the first results of the partnership would appear, but said any production would create more jobs.


Nanjing said in a statement that the deal ends long-standing issues about ownership of the brands and trade marks and expands opportunities for joint trade between the companies.


HFI is an Anglo-American consortium of engineers and investors which is the automotive partner of HAC, which owns the Healey brand.

It paid more than £1 million to Margot Healey, the widow of Healey co-founder Geoff, and their children Cecilia and Kate to use the name.


The new two-seat sports model designed by HFI has a front three-litre engine and is described as a modern interpretation of the classic Healey range.


It could be followed by a second model which is also likely to be based on one of its classic Healey cars which ceased production in 1972, although Healey's name lived on with the Jensen-Healey.


Mell Ward, secretary of the Midland branch of the Austin Healey club gave a cautious welcome to the developments.


She said: "Lots of different people have tried to bring back Healey over the years, but HFI seems to have the money and may do it.


"I would welcome the return of Austin Healey if they were the same cars as before. I wouldn't like it if they were souped-up sports cars or a rebranded version of the TF.


"They would have to be have to be like the authentic Healeys used to be.


"There is a lot of affection for Healeys still, and depending on the cost there could be a lot of pent up demand.


"You still see a lot of them out on the roads, and there will be new owners who want to buy a new one."
 
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