WHAT’S the earliest you can get away with mentioning Christmas?
I think the cheekiest pre-festive plug I’ve ever come across was an eatery in Ainsdale, which once plugged the fact, mid-August, that it was now taking bookings for its Christmas dinners, but I’m going to go even earlier than that and pick the Wednesday just after Easter. Largely because I’ve just decided what Father Christmas can bring me in his sleigh this year.
That’s because a tiny company in Coventry has just decided to answer a question that virtually no one has asked; what would the Austin-Healey 100 look like if it was rebuilt today, using modern tech?
The result is a sinewy new sports car that’s bob-on in terms of Fifties proportions. Caton, the company in question, has created something that anyone with a copy of the Observer’s Book of Cars, circa 1957, would recognise as a Big Healey, but garnished with details that mark it out as something that’s had a lot of effort put into it. Personally, I think it looks stunning.
Of course, reinvented classic cars are nothing new. Jaguar will happily sell you an E-type that’s completely faithful to the original, or, as Harry and Meghan discovered on their wedding day, one that’s had its XK straight six stripped out and replaced with an electric motor. There are companies too that will sell you Jensen Interceptors with modern-day Chevrolet V8s beneath their bonnets and uprated brakes, steering and suspension, but this isn’t a restoration on steroids.
This is more like what another British company, called RML, has done, when they imagined what a 1950s Ferrari 250 SWB if it was kitted out with Apple CarPlay. They’re clearly inspired by the old cars, but they’re not restorations – they’re hand-built playthings for people bored by the Ferrari 296 GTB and Lotus Emira.
In the Healey’s case you get a brand-new chassis, albeit with all of the original’s weak points ironed out, an uprated four-cylinder engine based on the original’s block, chucking 185bhp at the wire wheels at the back, a marvellously rorty side-exit exhaust and a guarantee that only 24 other people, in the entire world, will have the same car as you. It even has a delightfully pompous name; it is, ladies and gentleman, the Healey by Caton, which makes it sound like a high-end bootmaker. They could have called it the Caton-Healey 100 and it still would have had the right old-world charm to it, but Healey by Caton lets you know from the off that you can’t afford it.
Speaking of which, it’s £474,000. Whichever you put it, that’s an awful lot for a draughty two-seater with less power than a Ford Fiesta ST, especially when you consider that you can have an Austin-Healey 100, the car that inspired it, for less than a tenth of the price.
So as a practical proposition it makes no sense whatsoever, costs a fortune and will still leave you soaked when it rains, but I still want one because it’s a hand-crafted reboot of one of the best-looking cars ever made. I don’t suppose sleighs have room for cars on them, do they?
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly