Without question the most striking aspect of the Cooper Healey is the body, for which every effort has been taken to replicate the original. Parked alongside a genuine 1958 Austin-Healey 100/6, they are practically identical.
The body is formed in 4 mm-thick fusion-moulded glass fibre, a process that helps make the open body satisfactorily strong. Basically, the process involves laying down the glass fibre matting in the mould then covering the whole with a sealed ‘bag’ from which a negative one bar of suction is created that sucks the resin out of drums and into the mould, eliminating any air bubbles. The result is a panel of even thickness without any weak areas. The quality of finish is so good that the Coopers are looking at selling bonnets, boots and doors separately to Healey owners.
An interesting feature of the bodywork is the chroming of the grille and bumpers. The grille’s slats are made of brass and bent to shape in a jig, but the surround – and the bumpers – are moulded in glass fibre and ‘chromed’ by a specialist in Cape Town. You have to tap the items to realise that they are not metal – the bright finish really is remarkably realistic.
The dashboard is moulded glass fibre and kitted-out with VDO instruments set within chrome trim rings that, like most of the switchgear, the facia grab handle, side screens, mirrors and badging are original items imported from the UK. (A bespoke Cooper Healey badge has since been adopted.) A BMC Mini handbrake lever looks and acts the part. Door handles on the first cars were Jaguar XJ6 items but will soon be replaced by original style lever arm items. The windscreen, made locally by Shatterprufe and SABS approved, is swept clean by a modified Lucas wiper assembly. Period sealed beam Lucas headlamps are fitted while side, brake and indicator lights are all ex-Land Rover, which are visually very close to the originals. The wiring loom is made up on the premises.
A stainless steel transverse strut is positioned behind the seats to add rigidity, provide upper mounting points for the seatbelts (a choice of three-point or full harness) and help support the tonneau cover, which, together with the waterproof ‘double duct’ fabric roof, are made by Nicky’s Trim Shop, an independent business owned and staffed by deaf and dumb artisans and based on the Cooper’s premises.
The glass fibre seats are moulded on site to the original Healey design and trimmed in leather to the customer’s choice.