by John Nikas with Gerry Coker
2020 review by Anders Ditlev Clausager
There have over the years been many Healey and Austin-Healey books and I guess I probably have most of them. So why another book on this well-covered subject? For a start, author John Nikas has worked with Gerry Coker who was the designer of the original Austin-Healey 100 body and who later went to the USA where he worked as a body engineer and stylist for Chrysler and then Ford. The book clearly benefits from featuring his insights and memories, as well as items from his archive. The author has also used the Healey archive now preserved in the Warwick County Records Office, and other collections.
However, rather than just telling the story of the 100, the book ranges throughout the entire life of Donald Healey and his company. It is well researched and well told. The author knows his stuff, and writes with diligence and enthusiasm. Some of the illustrations (thankfully all from archives, no modern stuff here) are well-known but equally many were new to me. There are exhaustive and very useful appendices. If you only want one Healey book, this makes a good claim to be it.
And yet… There are a number of shortcomings, although perhaps more for the scholarly researcher than for the enthusiast reader. There is no index of personalities. There are copious endnotes after each chapter, which unfortunately contain additional information rather than references to source material. There is an exhaustive bibliography which sadly does not tell us where to find the original records consulted, and is apt to give the title of a magazine and issue number, rather than the name and author of a specific article contained in that particular issue.
What will disappoint all readers, is that the illustrations are mostly reproduced quite small, and this is such a shame when so many of them are never-seen-before design drawings by Gerry Coker, Eric Neale, and others. Other than that, the design and quality of the book are beyond reproach, straightforward and sensible. So, all in all, a mixed bag. On balance I welcome it for the new information and insights which it contains, but it will still continue to irritate me!
Publisher: Herridge & Sons (2019)
Price: £50 (UK RRP)
Description: Hardback in dustjacket (280mm x 220mm), 326 pages, over 350 illustrations (mostly black and white).