Austin-Healey powers back into production

by Nik Berg
13 April 2022 3 min read
Austin-Healey powers back into production
Photos: Caton

The Austin-Healey 100, one of the most popular British roadsters from the 1950s, is making a comeback as a limited-edition £400,000 restomod which will soar past the 100 mph top speed that gave the car its name. And the good news is there won’t be an electronic driving aid in sight.

The new Healey by Caton comes from newly-formed British company Caton, which says it “brings an exceptional harmony of experience, passion, OEM-level technology and craftmanship to bare, focusing exclusively on the sympathetic enhancement and evolution of cherished products for the modern age.” Caton plans to bring its take on craftsmanship and luxury to other products in the future, but the 100 will be the first to showcase its talents.

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Although some six different versions of the Austin Healey 100 were built between 1953 and 1958, Caton has chosen the first, known as BN1, as its inspiration. Surprisingly that includes using a four-cylinder engine, rather than the later straight-six. However, since Donald Healey reportedly preferred the lighter unit and it was easier to upgrade, it honours the original concept more accurately.

New Austin-Healey 100

Caton has certainly embraced Healey’s ethos and gone to town on the engine with the aid of specialists JME Healeys. Based on an original Austin-Healey block the 2954cc motor is stripped down, lightened and balanced. A steel crankshaft, upgraded bearings, high compression pistons and a race camshaft are fitted. Twin H8 carbs and gas flow inlets provide fuelling and there’s a side-exit racing exhaust system. All told these mods add up to 185bhp and 195lb/ft of torque, a far cry from the BN1’s 90bhp.

The original three-speed transmission has been dropped in favour of a modern five-speed unit, and in doing so, the transmission tunnel has been narrowed, which frees up space. A new pedal box design allows tall drivers to sit comfortably for the first time. In a testament to the Healey’s standard suspension the modifications are relatively minor. At the front double wishbones and adjustable coils springs with lever arm dampers are deployed, while the rear end retains its leaf spring system. Rose jointed bars are installed at both ends.

Healey by Caton engine

More sophisticated stopping power comes in the form of vented front discs with four-piston calipers at the front and solid discs with the three-piston calipers at the rear. There’s no ABS, no traction control and no power steering to retain an exciting analogue driving experience.

“To remain true to the car’s DNA, we asked ourselves ‘What would Healey have done when building a car in the Fifties if they had the tools and manufacturing techniques that we are in the unique position to have at our disposal today?’” says design director Darryl Scriven.

New Austin-Healey 100

Taking that approach to the car’s styling has resulted in a more streamlined exterior, with all seams and beading removed. The grille is described as “a piece of jewellery on the front of the car. A piece of art with each slat individually created, pieced together to create a floating look, behind the Caton hexagonal trim, a shape that flows delicately but deliberately throughout the vehicle.”

The bumpers are removed, new aluminium wings and bonnet are formed in the traditional way on an English wheel and the rear end has “more substance”. There’s also less clutter, with the removal of the boot hinges and handle.

New Austin-Healey 100 by Caton

The cabin is trimmed in a mix of shrink-optimised leather for the dash and door cappings, while the seats are natural leather from Bridge of Weir, chosen, not just for its look, but for its smell and the way it will age. It “enriches the cabin with the fragrance of leather, and will develop a beautiful patina over time. That’s part of the Healey by Caton’s authentic appeal, which will only get better and better the more the car is driven,” says Scriven.

With just 25 Caton Healeys set to be built at the company’s base in Coventry, each will be uniquely tailored to its buyer’s taste, with an almost limitless choice of paint and trim.

Caton CEO Tim Strafford says: “It will be our privilege to collaborate with Caton’s customers to specify their car to their exact requirements, whether they choose to visit in person or liaise from anywhere across the globe. No two examples of the Healey by Caton will be the same, but each will be of exceptional beauty and built to the highest possible OEM levels of quality. Each will represent a true reincarnation of the iconic Austin-Healey 100 sports car utterly fitting for the modern age. Our aim is to deliver an unrivalled, immersive, intoxicating and highly emotional driving experience.”

The new Healey by Caton will make its public debut at the Salon Privé in London on 21 April, after which production will begin and Hagerty is promised a drive this summer. We’ll get our flying hat and goggles.

Read more

Buying Guide: Austin-Healey 100 and 3000
It’s alive! Austin-Healey Sprite project car
Why America is falling in love with the Austin-Healey Frogeye Sprite – again

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  • Pierre Noir says:

    I don’t suppose I’ll ever find the front grille agreeable, but a very handsome looker otherwise.

    Can’t wait to read the review later this year!

  • Clive Davies says:

    The grill is ugly. I would prefer a pair of 45 DCOE Webers, even if not original, No wet weather protection? A very nice car, but £400,000?

  • Nigel Griffiths says:

    Too modern for me, but it’s way out of my purchasing power at GBP400 K. Frankly my choice would still be the MkIII with the straight six 3 litre engine and overdrive. A Nice restored one that is still being used to ensure reliability would be my choice. However I would have to move my Alvis TC21/100 on as well as my Triumph Stag before management (aka my wife) would allow me to buy such an example!

  • Gerry Hinde says:

    Nice that it is pared down and cleaned up visually but the grille looks too heavy and gaudy. For that money I’ll take a Maserati Khamsin and a house in the south of France though…

  • Dean Probert says:

    As a bloke who used to own and drive these cars I would like to see bumpers back on it and a boot handle and hinges. The grille is exactly like a cartoon car my grandson used to watch on TV, it could not look worse.

  • Will Grime says:

    Clive: twin Webers wouldn’t work, as the original head isn’t a cross-flow design and the ports required to make Webers work simply aren’t there. The twin SUs are fractionally better anyway until you get to stratospheric revs. The grill is a stinker, though, isn’t it? Always looked a bit weak on the original, although time and nostalgia have made me perversely fond of it, but this heavier, clunkier iteration is frankly grim. The delight in the design of the big Healy was that, while a solid car with real heft, it enjoyed a delicacy of line and detail that rendered it superbly elegant and attractive. It’s not helped by the headlamps, which doubtless work well but look wrong. Three rousing cheers for the lack of electronic fripperies, though!

    It all seems a bit random: would the Healey team really have specified wires if current lightweight wheel technology was available in period? And wouldn’t he have sorted out the perennial exhaust problem without resorting to a side exhaust, almost designed to conflict with the elegant passenger’s silk stockings? I suppose in the fifties the driver would have switched off, leaped out and helped his lady into or out of his car, thus obviating the problem. I well remember the lasses of the fifties and the way they’d approach a sports car with suspicion, only too aware of the conflict between high heels, pencil,skirts, large exhausts and low seats. Happier days…

  • Chris Davis says:

    I hope the company flourishes and does not suffer the same fate as those producing Jaguar replicas and being forced out of business by legal action. Sour grapes! There’s plenty of room for everyone in their respective markets. A buyer spending £150K on a replica is not in the market to buy a £2M succession model and, similarly, a big spender is not going consider a replica, even if they are, in most cases, beautifully crafted.

  • Anthony Curran says:

    I’m not sure it is what I would buy even if I had that much money. As an owner of a 1954 BN1 I would like it to be more comfortable to sit in and drive and better performance from the 4 cylinder engine would be nice. I think you could make better use of a BN1 donor car for less than this and have a better car at the end of it. Then again it’s horses for courses and if you have the money why not. Good luck to them. I look forward to seeing one on the road and hope they join the AHC.

  • Richard says:

    Oh why oh why did they not use the 100S grille at least? Not sure what a real 100S brings now days but 400k is a lot for a restomoded AH!

  • Mes Edwards says:

    The only good thing about it is the lack of boot hinges. As for the grill, I hope Caton revise it before the April show.

  • Peter Stuart law says:

    Looks like a kit car replay, totally lost the grace of the original.

  • Jake says:

    Echoing the 100S comment, a cross flow head and 100S grille would pay nice homage to the racing pedigree.

  • Peter Dulieu says:

    Has an Austin-Healey badge on the front shroud! Who owns the rights to that name? The Chinese company? For that money you can invest in a real 100S with proven history that will increase in value.

  • Vardon Jewell says:

    At the end of the day it’s a replica destined for someone’s expensive collection. How much over and above the £400,000 to make it street legal ? A new modern registration plate will spoil it even further! There’s something about driving an old original classic that gives the owner the feel of the marque.
    Buts it is is nice to see there are still craftsman on the planet.

  • Peter Dulieu says:

    Has an Austin-Healey badge on the front shroud! Who owns the rights to that name? The Chinese company? Total waste of money! For that money you can invest in a real 100S with proven history that will increase in value. This replica will decrease in value as soon as it leaves the show room!

  • Eric Adams says:

    What a shame, this totally misses the point of a classic car. I’m ok with the mechanical improvements and in fact all the improvements under the body are good but tampering with the body shape has completely let it down. The grill and head lights are hideous and look like a cartoon car of which I cannot quite bring the name to mind. The overall body shape looks like a kit car copy that has not quite got the important dimensions right and therefore does not look real. If it had been a true replica then maybe (there are certainly all the right shape body panels available from some very capable panel manufactures) but to have altered the body shape to what someone thinks an Austin Healey 100 should have looked like, is not only personal indulgence but also arrogant to think that just because we can build motor cars to exacting tolerances we are allowed on tamper with the original design shape for some unknown reason.

  • Chris Hatch says:

    In understanding the remit of the the team at Caton, they have done a fantastic job of blending old with new. Customisation is always a personal choice, and blending the new grill in with new LED lights and the potential lack of external driving lights does target the eye to focus on the additional thickness of the grill edge, especially in the absence of a front bumper.
    The one piece windscreen is just fantastic. And as an owner of a ’55 BN1 who is currently looking at making some one piece frameless side screens, I would suggest the design team get a 12 out of 10.
    The side vents on the fenders are subtle in their variation but provide a modern look.

    Excluding price for a moment, and as an owner of a 1955 BN1 with all the original components etc, I would certainly entertain having one of these modern versions in my garage.

  • Bess says:

    How can they use the name Austin Healey name- have they bought the rights to it

  • Geoff Gammon says:

    Why show it as LHD? I thought it was a British car? Never mind, LHD has broken many a back of fine British motoring.

  • Lex Veen says:

    I wonder how this car will ever get a registration. It’s a new built car so I has to comply with modern standards, like safety and emission. With the technique applied it does not meet these standards.
    Besides that, its pretty expensive. Rebuilding an original 100 to the standards as described (highly tuned engine, but with a 100S head), a brandnew frame and perfect body, will cost you half the price.

  • Richard Swinton says:

    As a past owner of a 100S when I was too young to appreciate it fully, I’m disappointed with the change of the grille shape, and I’m not keen on the vents on the sides. the 3000 vent design is neater. Maybe it’s my age, but the boot hinges and other bits and pieces add character. the smoothed body shape loses the vintage feel.

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