Story and Photos by Joe Greeves

The romantic lore of the Austin-Healey 100-4 first began attracting enthusiasts back in 1953. With sketchy weather protection and primitive sliding Perspex acrylic side windows, this two-seater roadster was the epitome of minimalist British sports cars. It built a strong following with the “wind-in-your-hair” crowd during the week and the serious racer on the weekend. The 3-liter 3000 was a strong competitor in European rallies, as well as most major racing circuits around the world, regularly making its way to the winner’s circle.

Although the cars were assembled at British Motor Corp.’s Abingdon Works facility in the U.K., more than 90 percent of the cars were exported, with the U. S. receiving the lion’s share. Although the 14-year production run ended in 1967, the replica market rose to the challenge, making this unique vehicle available to enthusiasts once again.

Candido Cavaliere from Port Charlotte, Florida, has been building replicas for almost three decades. His very first car (and a design that he has been refining over the years) was the Austin-Healey, emphasizing its vintage lines and character while incorporating the latest in modern automotive upgrades. Summing up his design philosophy, he feels that, “The replica is about making a practical classic, one where reliability is an essential part of the build. It’s designed to be an everyday driver with a combination of vintage looks and modern technology.”

This means you can get behind the wheel and travel in confidence, insure your car at a reasonable rate, and have repairs or service done at your local dealer — things that would be impossible with a 70-year-old original. It takes the worry out of driving a classic and puts the fun back in.

For Candido, the initial choice of cars was simple based on a threefold philosophy. “British roadsters are still unbeatable for classic design, and American powertrains are the most dependable and powerful,” he explains. Proud of his European heritage, he modestly adds, “... and Italian design and craftsmanship have made history.” Therefore, the British Healey, powered by an American V8 and guided by an Italian craftsman, becomes a wonderful mélange if you’re searching for a satisfying driving experience.

Since the best rides always begin with a firm foundation, the 92-inch wheelbase, jig-welded frame is a custom design, utilizing 2-by-2-, 2-by-3-, and 2-by-6-inch rectangular steel. Suspending the chassis are tubular A-arms up front and a solid 10-bolt GM rear axle that’s held in place by a four-link suspension with Panhard bar.

Carrera coilovers and Corvette disc brakes on all four corners, along with manual rack-and-pinion steering, are quite an improvement over the original Healey suspension setup. The car initially came with drum brakes, a worm-and-peg steering system and a leaf spring rear end.

Today, style and traction come from the 16-inch, five-spoke American Racing wheels with General tires, 60-series up front and 55 in the rear. Although there are plenty of powertrain options, this car runs a small-block 300 hp Chevrolet 350 ci V8 with a 600 cfm Edelbrock carburetor, GM HEI electronic ignition and ceramic-coated, Sanderson Block Hugger headers that feed a pair of rumbling glass pack mufflers. Power is multiplied by a 700R4 automatic, providing neck-snapping acceleration in this lightweight package.

The fiberglass body is produced from Candido’s custom mold. It’s close to the original 1967 Healey, but with a few changes that reflect his personal touch. The wider fender wells help accommodate larger tires; it’s a subtle change that adds an aggressive look.

When the rigid one-piece fiberglass body comes out of the mold, it does not flex, thanks to the drive shaft tunnel in the center that connects the front and rear. The combination of the carefully engineered fiberglass body and steel-tube chassis creates a rock-solid platform that allows the suspension to work effectively, whether you’re in a road rally or tooling along an interstate.

The overall appearance of the Healey sticks with tradition. The shiny chrome grille and driving lights create that unmistakable European flair. Its bumpers look the part, but they’re trimmed slightly to accommodate the flares and larger tires. The hood is a 1-year-only design found on the Healey 100-6 and has a unique vane down the center that is continued on the deck lid. The chrome trim around the scoop is from a European aftermarket supplier, and the taillights are replica Healey. Fortunately, there are several companies in the U.K. that produce reproduction Healey parts. Topping off the finish of this recreated classic is a stunning shade of PPG Deep Cherry Red Crystal.

The interior of this car is unique, with several customer-driven requests. A far cry from the Spartan original, this convertible is loaded with creature comforts, beginning with power windows, air conditioning, and a stereo — options unheard of when the car first rolled off the assembly line.

The cockpit is clad in tan leather with slim bucket seats, appropriate for the period. Between the seats, the armrest lid opens to reveal the hidden handbrake, and a factory shifter on the console controls the automatic transmission. Using solid mahogany, the dash features a collection of Dolphin white-face gauges that keep tabs on engine activities. For the passenger’s peace of mind at speed, the chrome grab handle is bolted solidly to the frame. In turn, the driver stays in close touch thanks to the authentic Moto-Lita wheel. Like the original, this 2+2 has a small amount of room in the back for kids or groceries.

Candido’s shop, Cavaliere Roadsters, offers turnkey options and builder packages for the Healey and other classic recreations. Whichever you choose, it’s a multinational medley that harmonizes beautifully, creating a whole new level of tune.