Austin Healey 100 reimagined by Caton

We've seen Porsches, Alfas, Jaguars and more brought into the 21st century – now it's time for the Healey

By Matt Bird / 2022-04-13T06:00:00 / Loading comments

Whatever you want to call it, bringing classic cars up to modern standards of performance and reliability looks likely to stay popular. Because who wouldn’t desire something that combines the best bits of classic and contemporary motoring?

Here’s the latest, the Healey by Caton. Caton is a new brand, one established “to lead the industry in design and creation of ultra-exclusive, highly aspirational luxury products in automotive and beyond”; it’s part of the Envisage Group. As for the Healey, well that’s a reincarnation of the Austin Healey 100 that was made from 1953 to 1958, and it’s going to be built in Coventry – not many miles from the original factory. Caton will make just 25 of these cars.

As is so often the way with the restomod style, the spec is properly exciting. The Caton is built around an all new chassis rather than being built from an original car. The build itself is described as nothing less than one “of purification, modernisation, and ultimately reincarnation”, which begins with the design. Kind of like when old films are remastered decades on, this is clearly a Healey 100 to look at – only sort of better. Everywhere. Key details include a redesigned grille, the removal of bumpers, LED lights, the removal of all seams, new wings, a resculpted bonnet (done on an English wheel!) and the deletion of hinges and handles where the same job can now be done by a key. It’s a smoother, cleaner look, but an instantly recognisable one. The press release talks of a more substance, more volume and “a greater sense of dynamism”.

Though the 100 was offered with a six-cylinder engine in time, the Caton car sticks with four-cylinder power that proved so popular. It’s a 2,954cc engine, producing almost 190hp and 195lb ft; though based on an original Austin Healey block, Caton strips and refurbishes the engine – adding some nice little upgrades like bigger cams, a race cam and high-comp pistons along the way – to ensure it’s as close to factory fresh as possible. Power reaches the rear wheels through a new five speed gearbox with the lever in the conventional place (originally a 100 used a column-mounted three-speed) and strengthened driveshafts, while a side-exit exhaust “adds further to the car’s considerable aural appeal. The engine work has been done by J.M.E. Healeys, based in Warwick at the original home of Healey. Who better to do the job?

Underneath, the Caton Healey sticks closely to what underpinned those 50s’ cars, with double wishbones at the front and semi-elliptic leaf springs behind. It’s no mere tribute car, however, with further development by J.M.E. including bespoke, rose-jointed anti-roll bars. Though the steering lacks assistance and the brakes do without ABS, upgraded discs and calipers should help keep a check on the upgraded engine’s performance.

Arguably the biggest change inside for the Healy by Caton, at least for those of us not built like a stocky lad of the 50s, is that a reprofiled interior means six-foot drivers can be accommodated. The pedal box has been moved forward as well. The rest of the interior features the rich materials we’ve come to expect from the restomod genre, with Bridge of Weir leather throughout, albeit not many of the mod-cons some might be used to. There’s no heater or hood, and while USB ports are there for charging, there’s no actual audio output. All part of the purist driving feel, you see. Door pockets have been enlarged to carry the bits and bobs we all have with us nowadays.

There’s plenty more to be excited by with the Caton, too. The car spends two weeks in the paint shop to get the finish spot on, the 72-spoke aluminium alloy wheels are from Borrani and a CNC machine used by the fabricators means panel gaps can be accurate to a fifth of a millimetre. Which isn’t very much. The Caton team pitch this car as the 100 Austin would have made if they’d had the tools of today at their disposal 60 years ago. Arguably the end result looks even better than the promise.

Tim Strafford, CEO of Envisage Group, 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. The Healey deliberately exposes its occupants to the elements and places them right at the heart of a unique, highly visceral, life-affirming driving experience – none more so than the sound of the side-exit exhaust below the driver’s ear. Which sounds pretty damn good to us. The Healey by Caton will be shown for the first time at Salon Prive later this month, ahead of the Bicester Scramble on April 24th and a host of other meets during 2022.

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