Healey marine prototype
Personal boat Donald Healey on the Bahamas and later Clive Baker
Built in marine plywood, the Ski-master was officially the first Healey model, though it's possible some early 55s were built prior to its official introduction. Designed by Geoffrey Lord, and similar in appearance to the 55, it shared the clinker arrangement at the turn of the bilge and forward, though with a more rounded hull shape, and requiring power from an outboard motor. The split cockpit meant that a decision had to be made on purchase whether steering would be performed directly on the outboard handle, from the rear, or via wheel steering at the front - an extra cost. Healey Marine was closely associated with outboard producer Scott-Atwater, though any outboard could be specified, the most likely alternatives being Evinrude, Johnson or Mercury. Early supply of Scott-Atwater motors was beset by problems with spare parts. The maximum recommend size of motor was 30hp and with this the Ski-Master could achieve 30mph, though oars were supplied just in case. Stirling Moss owned one, in addition to his 55, and he featured heavily in the promotional literature. Almost 1000 were built.
Designed by Cornwall-based designer Geoffrey Lord, the 55
was a small, fast runabout that Don Healey intended to
complement his range of Healey cars. Built from
marine plywood and powered by the
single SU carburetted BMC series B engine from the MG Magnate, the 55 had, like all the Healey boats, the ability to tow a water skier, the tow ring being located on a frame erected above the engine cover. The 1,500cc engine was located in a centrally mounted box at the front of the rear cockpit and the throttle was controlled by an accelerator pedal. Cockpit trim was in red and white. First produced in 1956, fewer that 50 of the first edition 55s were sold, the first, hull number 1001, by Dutch dealer Berkelo, to a customer in Holland: this boat is now in the USA. The racing driver, and close friend of Donald Healey, Stirling Moss owned one but sank it when he ran onto a reef in the Bahamas.
In 1957, Healey Marine redesigned the 55, giving it a little more grace and reducing weight by 340lbs. The boat was built of 3/4in marine plywood bottom and side planking on solid mahogany frames, while decks were in teak with white ''pinstripe'' caulking and mahogany capping rails. The rudder and propeller were cast in manganese bronze. Gone are the clinker sections at the turn of the bilge, though it shared the split cockpit layout with the red and white upholstery of the earlier edition. The boat contained a 10-gallon fuel tank and could be purchased with various accessories, such as rear view mirror, tonneau cover, speedometer and toolkit, that were ideas straight from the car industry. The engine cover also sported six ventilator castings taken from the Healey ''Silverstone'' sportscar.
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In his book, my world of cars, Donald Healey implies that this boat was first built shortly after the introduction of the Ski-Masters, with the underwater sections copied from an American craft that he particularly liked. However, Bill Emerson's The Healey Book , which has a chapter on the sportsboats, states that the Sprite was not introduced until 1960. Whatever the truth, the Sprite - deliberately named to associate it with the popular Healey 'Frogeye' car with publicity showing a bright yellow tralered boat behind a duck-egg blue car. It was intended as a fast, fun, inexpensive runabout that would have enough speed and powere to give a water skier a good run. Constructed entirely of GRP, the hull contained just two bucket seats, a open area aft for stowage or additional passengers, and a ski storage locker beneath the forward deck. Promotional material describes the Sprite as having 'jet-like'acceleration from its maximum recommended 65hp outboard power unit - though the outboard's exact type and make could be specified by the buyer. It was depicted as a luxury that many could afford.
With the launch of the 75, Healey moved all-out into GRP production, though the deck was still constructed from 'pinstriped'teak. Similar in appearance to the 55 and the same overall length, the 75 was a little more refined and modification had been made to incorporate the larger twin-carb engine. Seatin was once again in two separate cockpits, though in the 75 the separation was wider due to the full-width, flush-topped engine housing. Upholstery was in vinyl, and the dashboard built from GRP. The extra power from the twin carburetted BMC unit meant that the boat was more capable when towing skiërs, though it still carried a 10-gallon fuel tank. The chrome Healey badge mounted on the dashboard was taken from the Nash-Healey sportscar.
The 707 sportsboat - named after the Boeing jet aircraft - was powered by a Dowty Marine water jet drive that was linked to a marinised version of the 6-cylinder engine from the Austin-Healey 3000 cars. Construction was GRP hull and decks on a wooden subframe with foam buoyancy incorporated beneath the floors. It was the only boat produced by Healey Marine to incorporate the then heavily publicised propellerless Dowty Marine jet drive technology (as promoted by Donald Campbell) A unit attached to the rear of the engine draws up water and forces it out at high speed. Steering is achieved by directing the unit's nozzle. In order to reverse the boat a large C-shaped casting hinges down, directing the flow forwards. Seating was for six in two banks of three in front of the engine, while ateak flush cover aft formed the top of the engine housing. The 707 carried two 10-gallon fuel tanks and could reach 40mph when lightly loaded or 36mph when carrying its six-person capacity.
The all-GRP Corvette had a deeper vee hull and broader beam than previous boats in the Healey range, apparently giving it the ability to be used offshore. This extra performance and its stated capacity for sleeping two adults onboard led to the Corvette being designated as a dayboat, but both these claims are perhaps pushing the market a bit far. The protection offered by the sliding GRP roof with its sliding side windows is very limited, though perhaps a cover was intended as an addition. With a 70in transom, the maximum recommended power of 80hp could be made up from either a single, large or, the most commonly preferred option, two smaller outboards. Once again, the facility to tow water skiërs was incorporated with the inclusion of integral tow rings.