Some Additional Comments About The Healey Silverstone and the Austin-Healey 100

Further to my recent posts about the Healey Silverstone and the Austin-Healey 100, I got some email messages from Evan Gamblin of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in which Evan shares some personal information about these cars.

Regarding the transmission in the Austin-Healey 100, I noted in my post that the initial transmission that was used in the Austin-Healey 100 was the truck-based four-speed transmission that originally was mated to the Austin engine.  First gear in that transmission was too low and it was discovered that the Austin-Healey 100 with its lighter weight would easily start in second gear.  I thought that the first gear had been removed, but Evan had some personal experience with this car as follows:

“I only drove a Austin-Healey 100 once, but as far as I can recall first gear remained in the box, just locked-out by a plate over the gate.  So the working first gear was where second is in a normal H-pattern 4-speed. It was the first car I’d driven that had overdrive, effective on second and third. On a really twisty road you could keep both hands on the wheel while shifting in/out of OD. On our roads, the 100’s big drawback was lack of ground clearance under the muffler. Railroad crossings were always challenging.”

Evan also offered some comments on the Healey Silverstone and its relationship to the Riley cars:

“The Healey Silverstone used the engine and rear axle from the Riley RM.  For the weekend racer in the UK, the Silverstone was an economical alternative to the XK-120. A couple named Charles and Ann Mortimer wrote quite an entertaining book about their experiences racing one.

Our family car for twelve years was a Riley 2.5 convertible that my Dad bought new in Ottawa, and then took to the UK when we were posted there. I learned to drive on it.”

It is interesting that Evan mentioned Charles and Ann Mortimer.  In the book “Healeys and Austin-Healeys” by Peter Browning and Les Needham I found a picture of Charles and Ann Mortimer with their Healey Silverstone.


Charles Mortimer With His Wife At The Wheel Of Their Healey Silverstone

In the background of the above photo, just behind the Mortimer’s Healey Silverstone, you can see a Frazer-Nash, which in several ways is similar to the Healey Silverstone.

In addition to the above photo of the Mortimer’s Healey Silverstone, I was looking through another book that I have, “British Sports Cars” by Rainer Schlegelmilch and Hartmut Lehbrink, when I noticed that they had some photos of a Healey Silverstone that had the same UK registration number as the Mortimer’s car shown in the above photo from the early 1950s.


Healey Silverstone



Healey Silverstone From Above



The Healey Silverstone Engine

Obviously the Healey Silverstone that was originally owned by the Mortimers is in great condition today.

Further, Evan Gamblin forwarded an image to me of the Riley engine that was used in the Healey Silverstone along with the following comment:

“Looking at the covers, most would assume it’s a twin overhead cam. It has two cams, but they’re high up in the block so the pushrods can be very short. That reduces valve train mass and simplifies removing the cylinder head.  Riley engines used this cam arrangement (and hemi combustion chambers) from the 1920s on.”

Evan’s forwarded image is shown below:


The Healey Silverstone Engine Could Be Confused For A Twin Overhead Camshaft Engine

Evan is quite knowledgable about the Riley engines that were used in the pre-war ERA race cars.  I have looked at the ERA race cars before and these cars do very well in historic open wheel racing.  Evan offered the following additional comments about the Riley engines:

“ERA engines were based on the prewar 6-cylinder Riley, rather than the RM 4 cylinder 2.5 litre engine Healey used.  The White Riley was the development test bed, but the ERA had a completely different bottom end, a vertical blower on the front and a different cylinder head with much higher effective compression ratio to allow burning methanol.  They also used a pre-selector gearbox which the White Riley (like many of the prewar Riley 9 and 12 sedans and some of the sports cars) also had. ERAs are pretty impressive to hear on track because like the MG K3 the upshifts are as fast as an automatic box.”

The more that I find out about the Riley engines and cars, I beginning to think that Riley might have been one of the most under-appreciated cars of all time.

Evan sent me some pictures of the White Riley which I will post on this website in the future.

I enjoy hearing from people who read this website and appreciate the information, clarifications, and corrections about the topics covered here.

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