It’s time to find space for another reimagined classic sports car in your lottery-win garage. The Healey by Caton is what happens when the Austin Healey 100 of 1953 is reborn with the exacting engineering knowhow of the 21st century.
It is also the first product of a newly formed luxury British design company called Caton, which is a part of Envisage Group, a bespoke engineering services company founded in 2009.
Rather than a newly-built ‘continuation’ car, like those seen from Jaguar, Aston Martin and Bentley in recent years, the Healey by Caton retains an original Healey’s identify. Caton then blends new and old manufacturing techniques – the latter including use of an English Wheel to roll the car’s aluminum body panels – to produce a car that resembles the Fifties’ original, but is almost all new.
When viewed in isolation, with only the vague image of an original Austin Healey in my mind’s eye, the Healey by Caton seems very familiar. But a glance at a picture of an original quickly changes this perspective.
The reincarnated Healey is the same size as before, but seems wider and more aggressive, thanks to the lack of a front bumper, neater front fenders with their beads and seams removed, and wider rear fenders that give the impression of fatter tires and therefore greater performance.
It’s a neat visual trick that makes the car seem more powerful, while retaining the dainty proportions of a seventy-year-old, two-seat British sports car. Modern flourishes include LED lighting front and rear, and a trunk lid fixed with internal hinges attached to gas struts and operated with a remote key fob.
Tim Strafford, CEO of Envisage Group, a strategic partner of Caton, said: “The Healey by Caton is a car for those who appreciate beautiful objects and exquisite works of art. It is also for those who love the smell of petrol and the sound of a high-performance engine running on carburettors.”
With regard to performance Caton is staying close to the original. This is no pumped-up hotrod; instead, the car is designed to be enjoyed at legal speeds on the public road – something that is increasingly rare among today’s high-performance cars. The Healey is powered by a four-cylinder, 2,954cc engine producing a modest 185bhp and 195 ft/lbs of torque, and mated to a new, five-speed transmission.
There’s also a side-exit exhaust, on the driver’s side for enhanced acoustics, and enlarged Twin H8 carburettors – the latter a distinctly old school addition for a car built in 2022.
Suspension setup remains true to the original, with double wishbones at the front and semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The steering is unassisted, just as it always was, and there’s nothing in the way of driver aids like ABS or traction control. However, larger and more powerful brakes will come as welcome relief to anyone familiar with driving cars from the Fifties.
The interior is all-new but designed to sympathetically resemble the original. The biggest changes include the relocation of the gearstick from the side of the transmission tunnel to a more conventional position, centrally and atop the tunnel.
A sense of increased space is achieved with new door cards that carve deeply into the door itself to enhance elbow room and allow space for storing a water bottle. Caton says a new pedal box contributes to the car now accommodating drivers over six feet tall – something the original struggled with.
There’s no stereo or touchscreen display to pollute the purity of the car’s vintage cabin, but a pair of USB ports, hidden beneath the central arm rest, are offered as an option.
Just 25 examples are to be built, with the price being in the region of $520,000, inclusive of the donor car but not including local taxes. Those lucky individuals can pick whatever exterior color they like, and are given free rein for the interior too. On the topic of personalisation, Caton says it will welcome customers on a “highly personal, one-to-one basis” to its Coventry, England headquarters as regularly as each requires.
Caton also says how the 25 buyers of the reimagined Healey can “add completely bespoke and personal touches to any aspect of the car, from the exterior paint to interior materials and trim.”
Production is set to scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2022 and the car will make its global public debit at the Salon Privé London event on 21-23 April.