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Chimera Vs Big Healy

Beat of the hairy chest brigade Published: 2nd Dec 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Chimera Vs Big Healy

What The Experts Say...

As you’d expect from being a major TVR specialist, Mike Luck of David Gerald TVR favours the Chimaera, which he feels takes the Healey experience a stage further. Mike says that an increasing number of cars now require a signifi cant amount of work but owners are fi nally beginning to appreciate what they own. In fact, such is the growing interest in Chimeras (and M models) from abroad that it has developed left-hand drive conversions to satisfy demand. What will happen feels Mike is that the pool of good, honest UK cars will diminish and their values will rise as a result.

Chimera Vs Big Healy
Chimera Vs Big Healy

Models In Depth...

Chimera Vs Big Healy
Chimera Vs Big Healy
Chimera Vs Big Healy
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If these two typical iconic hairychested British sports cars had been on the market at the same time they would have competed directly, particularly if British Leyland had taken the plunge and fi tted the Buick V8 to the Healey, a unit that was available in its parts bin. As it is, they are separated by 30 years. Was the Healey in the mind of then TVR boss Peter Wheeler when he created the Chimaera? Who knows, he certainly never admitted it! There is no doubt, however, that in many cases Chimaeras were and are driven by older enthusiasts who either owned or lusted after Healeys in their youth.

The Healey and Chimaera were both produced by true enthusiasts who would probably have got on well if, or when, they met. In the 1940s and 50s Healey built expensive touring cars with the odd sports car and developed the original Healey 100-4 to exploit the post-war US market desperate for British sports cars. He had been using expensive Riley engines and asked Leonard Lord at Austin to supply much cheaper Austin A90 power trains. Once Lord saw the prototype 100-4 he was smitten and the two teamed up to create the now famous Austin- Healey brand.

Forty years later Peter Wheeler was looking to replace the ageing S-Series and his engineer, who doubled up as stylist, was creating a full size model, one side of which was his preferred design, the other Peter Wheeler’s. After much debate it was the engineer’s side which won the day and became the Griffith.

Peter was to get his way, though, and the design on the other side of the model became the Chimaera which fulfi lled Wheeler’s desire for a softer more practical sports car. The Chimaera was two inches longer than the ‘Griff’ with a much larger boot and went on to become the most successful TVR of all time. The Griffi th and Chimaera were to have the S–series running gear but Wheeler wasn’t happy with the handling and incorporated many of the modifi cations of the Tuscan race car, which explains the wonderful dynamics of the Chimaera.

If the Griff is a cut price Cobra then the Chimaera is really the modern equivalent of the Big Healey. Granted, because they’re from different eras, it’s impossible to pick a winner but if you’re in the market for a hairy-chested old school type of sports car, what’s the right one for you?

Which one to buy

It’s all down to era and image

This is a very interesting question and, at the moment, may be dictated by budget, as a decent late Healey 3000 will cost about £45,000 and a similar condition Chimaera about £12,000. It could be that in 20 years the prices will be much closer,in view of there being far more Healey 3000s out there than Chimaeras. At that point the TVR would surely be the one to choose, being so much nicer to drive and so much more practical to own.

In the meantime the Healey has the greater cachet as a true classic whereas currently the TVR, however desirable, is just a second-hand sports car. The Healey is a ride for high days and holidays but the TVR Chimaera, if properly maintained, is almost an everyday car. While the Healey is the more prolifi c there is no shortage of TVRs for sale so rarity won’t be a problem with either – it’s fi nding the good ones…

Having decided to buy one or other there is still the choice of which version, as the Healey 3000 came in several iterations with engines ranging from 124bhp to 150bhp and increasing cockpit opulence in the seven year life, culminating in wooden dashboards and leather upholstery. The Chimaera also evolved over its 10 year run with engines ranging from the 240bhp 4-litre through 4.3 and 4.5-litre up to a full 5-litres with a claimed 325bhp and Ferrarispanking performance.

The last Healey 3000 Mk 111 BJ8 is arguably the best Healey to own and, apart from special versions like the 100M and 100S, the most expensive. While the Chimaera 500 has the attraction of race car performance, the basic 4.0 is probably the best overall choice and will still despatch most Porsches and Ferraris.

What floats your particular boat is likely to be a personal choice. The TVR comes over as being more brash and fl ash (although not half as bad as later TVRs) which you may or may not like, whereas in a Healey you’re almost universally loved and admired. Also, most Healey enthusiasts grew up with the car and just stepping into one ‘cold’ would leave many younger classic drivers pretty shocked by the experience. It’s not a criticism but a result of their different eras

What’s the best to drive?

So near yet so far….
Thanks to rear wheel drive and power over grip these cars, despite the 30 year age difference, do have handling similarity – they both oversteer given the chance and can be hairy in the wet, although the much higher speed of which the TVR is capable is more likely to get the unwary in to trouble.

In all other respects they are worlds apart and, provided the TVR is fi tted with power steering, it is state of the art in comparison with the rather soggy old Healey which, thanks to sloppy cam and peg steering, was not even a particularly good drive when new. Now, 45 years on,it has a very ‘vintage’ feel which will suit some potential buyers but not those interested in precise handling and steering. Both cars’ seats lack support, which can give rise to back ache, but the Healey also suffers from excess engine heat in the footwells, making long journeys in anything but Arctic conditions very wearing. The hood is also rather rudimentary against the part hard top, part rag top Chimaera roof which gives coupé-like comfort. Thanks to much more power and higher gearing the TVR will cruise fairly quietly at much higher speeds. Overdrive on any A-H is essential.

Owning and running

Healey all the way
The demise of the TVR factory has changed this dynamic somewhat, as parts are probably now more diffi cult to fi nd than those for the much older Healey 3000. Unusually, the older car here is probably cheaper and easier to maintain as it is, in essence, little more than a much more powerful Morris 1000 convertible esign-wise with mechanics simple enough for DIY maintenance or the local garage! You certainly wouldn’t want to entrust a Chimaera to a local garage though as it has a relatively high level of complexity and does benefi t from specialist attention, which is fortunately available from many ex-TVR dealers, but this does not come cheap. Also specialist, Fernhurst of Sussex told us that as many as 80 per cent of Chimeras it sees are in poor state and need a fair bit of expensive repair work before they are good enough to retail.

And The Winner Is...

Neither – or both depending upon your point of view, If there were no speed limits in our sceptred isle the TVR would surely win this contest, thanks to its practicality, performance, comfort, handling and steering. At 70 mph even the 4-litre TVR is using just 45 per cent of its prodigious maximum speed potential. The Healey is no slouch but on the twisty bits there is no contest and the Chimaera is so much more satisfying and useable – as you’d expect a modern to be. However, it’s the Big Healey that will put the biggest smile on your face during that gentler Sunday drive and one that’d turn the most heads…

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