Serving Healey Enthusiasts Since 1961
From its beginnings in 1961, the AHCA has grown to become the largest Austin-Healey club in the world. It is dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and enjoyment of the Austin-Healey marque. As the AHCA has grown in the past 50+ years, added emphasis has been given to the “people” aspect of club activity, both in AHCA’s 46 regions and nationally.
The AHCA was born out of a Healey club based in Bethesda, MD. The Maryland club ceased operation in 1961, and the members from the Midwest Region (Chicago, Illinois) assumed the leadership role of the organization.
With 29 charter members, the first official club meeting was held on May 8, 1961. The first newsletter, CHATTER, was introduced; it was expanded in 1974, encouraging a growth in membership from outside the Midwest. The club continued to grow and became more dedicated to marque preservation.
As area clubs (regions) of the AHCA were formed around the country, the club adopted its present name, Austin-Healey Club of America, which currently includes 46 regions in the United States and Canada.
Conclave, the first national meet, was held in Bloomington, Indiana, on July 17, 1976 with 76 Austin-Healeys and 250 enthusiasts attending. Conclave, and the publicity it generated, helped the national club to increase by more than 50%; dramatic growth began of regional clubs all over the country.
An important visit took place on August 31, 1976, when Donald M. Healey C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire), 1898-1988, the creator of the Austin-Healey in 1952, paid his first call on the Austin-Healey Club of America at a testimonial dinner hosted by the Midwest Region.
The governing structure of the AHCA, a volunteer organization, is handled by delegates, one elected by each region and one appointed for the national members not affiliated with a region. The officers are volunteers elected by the delegates; there are two yearly Delegates’ Meetings.
The AHCA has joined with other Healey clubs to celebrate major anniversaries of the debut of the Austin-Healey in 1952. Healey International events included Snowmass, Colorado in 1982, Breckenridge, Colorado in 1992, and Park City, Utah in 1997. The 50th anniversary was celebrated at Healey International Open Roads in 2002 at Lake Tahoe and drew more than 600 cars and nearly 1,500 participants from the world over.
The annual Conclave event, usually lasting four to five days, features a variety of activities for participants: gymkhana (driving skills around cones); funkhana (team effort of fun and tasks performed); rally (tour and/or TSD run); arts and crafts display; tech sessions; events for children; and the popular car show. Tours lasting several days in the Conclave area are often offered either before or after the event for those who enjoy traveling with a group.
To further serve its membership, the AHCA established a Web site, www.healeyclub.org in 1997. The CHATTER magazine was redesigned and renamed Healey Marque in 1999. Currently, AHCA members receive 11 issues of the full-color, 40-page Healey Marque plus a colorful Healey-themed calendar each year. Members also receive a membership directory. Healey Sports Boats and “Nasty Boys” (modified Healeys) were included as chapters of the AHCA in 1999, in an effort to represent all of Donald Healey’s interests.
The AHCA, with 3,200+ members in 46 regions, provides a venue for club activities on a local, regional, national, and international basis. In addition to Conclave, a number of regional clubs of a given area of the country join yearly to present regional events, based on the Conclave structure but on a smaller scale, such as Southeastern Classic, California Healey Week, Texas Healey Roundup, and Summit (New England and Canada).
In addition to serving its members, the AHCA has been instrumental in honoring Donald Mitchell Healey. Shortly after his death in 1988, the AHCA began a drive to “Remember a Friend” and created the Donald M. Healey Memorial Fund. From around the world, individuals and Austin-Healey clubs contributed to the fund to honor DMH. A stained-glass window in his honor was installed in St. Michael’s Church in DMH’s home town of Perranporth, Cornwall in May, 1993. Currently the DMH Fund awards annual grants to students from the Cornwall area in memory of Donald Healey.
In 1995, the AHCA initiated the nomination of Donald M. Healey to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama. DMH was inducted posthumously in 1996; his son Brian (Bic) Healey received the award from Carroll Shelby, race car driver and friend of DMH.
Donald Healey was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, in 2004. This honor was achieved through the support of the AHCA during the nomination process. Bic accepted this award as well for his late father.
Thanks in large part to the AHCA’s continuing promotional efforts for the marque and its creator, not only has Donald Healey achieved recognition over the years, but also the Austin-Healey itself. The sleek lines of the Austin-Healey have been seen in many advertisements, movies, and at the racing venue of the Formula 1 Grand Prix Drivers’ Parade in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Since 2000, the Austin-Healey has been the car chosen to chauffeur the F1 drivers prior to that race, to the cheers of over 100,000 spectators.
The story of the AHCA continues as members new and old “maximize their Healey experience” by enjoying Healeys with others in the AHCA. It has become a standard saying in the club that “it’s the cars that bring you here, and the people who bring you back.” The legacy begun by the creative vision of Donald M. Healey lives on as new generations of automotive aficianados become acquainted with this singular British sports car and its many followers.