Magnificent Obsession

In the late 60s Donald Healey wanted to return to LeMans and reclaim some of the glory of his early successes. To that end, he aimed to develop a car that could compete at the highest level and, in every respect, be an entirely British effort.

Developed in strict secrecy, the resulting Healey Climax SR was powered by a Coventry Climax V8 coupled to Hewland D300 gearbox. The construction was very much in keeping with other endurance race cars of the day—mid engined configuration, semi-monocoque construction, enclosed bodywork, four-wheel disc brakes, independent front and rear suspensions and the like. Tests on the newly completed car were very promising and there was a good deal of enthusiasm for the attempt.

Sadly, success at LeMans was not in the cards in 1968 for the Healey Climax as it retired in the 4th hour with gearbox and clutch problems. Not to be dissuaded, Donald Healey returned to LeMans in 1969 with a slightly uprated version of the SR.

While the basic mechanical layout of SR #37 remained the same as the previous year’s car—other than relocating the radiator to the front and a few other minor changes—the bodywork saw significant, though subtle, changes in the form of a lower rear deck, more streamlined roof line, and the addition of a rear wing. One of the more interesting changes was the addition of a “Gurney” bubble to accommodate the rather tall driver.

Though similarly equipped as the 1968 car that retired with gearbox and clutch issues, the #37 faired quite well, running as high as 22nd until sent to the garage at 4 hours into the race by an overheated engine—caused by ingesting some accident debris into the radiator. The very definition of “racing luck”.

When faced with the new Sports Prototype rules for 1970, Healey took the first chassis, stretched it by 5″, cut the top off, then stuffed a Repco V8 in it. The XR37 ran as high as 10th and was lying in 14th at 23 hours and 46 minutes when an electrical fault caused the car to retire.

After drawing all three LeMans cars—SR47, SR 37, and XR 37—what astounds me most is the success (however limited) these cars had considering their development budget was a pittance compared to the more established endurance teams. Truly a “men in sheds” effort.

Both fine art and brushed aluminum prints are available for all three cars plus there’s a special “insider” deal if you buy all three of the fine art prints.

From $195 – $625, press run – 25 each