Mr. Gerry Coker, 98, passed away on November 13, 2020. He was responsible for the design of the world-famous British sports car, the Austin-Healey 100.
Gerry was employed by Donald Healey in 1950 and conceived the “Healey 100,” which would be built in Healey’s Warwick factory. The projected production was five cars per week!
In 1952 the prototype Healey 100 was presented to the public at the London Earls Court International Car Show, placed behind a column to hide the trapezoidal shaped grille that Donald Healey reportedly was not thrilled with.
The four-cylinder 2666cc engine/drivetrain was taken (stroked) from the earlier Austin Atlantic model, obviously linking the Healey company with Austin, one of the largest car manufacturers in Britain.
When the boss of Austin, Mr. (later Sir) Leonard Lord saw the Healey he was more than impressed. Following a very successful exhibition launch he persuaded Donald Healey to transfer production of the 100 to Austin’s plant — and the car was immediately badged as an “Austin-Healey.”
Over 4,000 100/4 series cars were manufactured between 1952 and 1956, with 80% being exported to America.
Gerry left the company in 1957, moving to the USA to take a job with the Chrysler Corporation, followed by Ford, and on retirement moved to Sarasota, Fla., and became a member of the Tampa Bay Austin-Healey club.
I owned a 100M from 1991 through 2020 and have to thank Gerry for many happy motoring miles, mainly around Florida. My 1956 100M Healey always caused a lot of interest at various British car shows, which included the annual Tampa Bay club’s Safety Harbor event. In 2013 I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Coker, who was gracious enough to award my Healey a 2nd in the Healey class!
I sold my Healey last year and it now resides in St. Tropez, France (see photo).
Thank you, Gerry, for designing such a classic sports car and for the years of enjoyment given to Healey enthusiasts around the world. Rest in peace.
I bought my first GT6 for $800 around 1995. The rear hatch window was shattered due to the previous owners’ son bouncing a basketball on it one too many times. My plan was to restore the car and use it as a daily driver. A parts car was purchased from Paul Tsikuris and stripped for all usable parts, including a rear window.
The GT6 was a 1972 MkIII with a rust-free body and totally stock. The restoration took over two years and fought me all the way, especially the front and rear suspension. The engine was rebuilt and the car was repainted the original Pimento Red.
I had about enough of the GT6 by the time the restoration was complete but tried hard to learn to have fun with it. Mary and I trailered the GT6 to the Vintage Triumph Register’s regional event in Lake City, Fla., and promptly broke the transmission input shaft during the autocross event. After repairing the tranny, electrical gremlins began driving me crazy. I sold the car to a local guy, and the last I saw it was in an auto repair shop.
My next GT6 was a racecar that I purchased from a former club member in 2009. This car was built as a tribute to the Group 44 MkIII GT6, and Bob Tullius had given the car his blessing.
The previous owner had complained about overheating issues and poor braking, so I had to spend some time sorting things out. Overheating was corrected by backing off the total ignition timing, which was too high, and the brakes were fixed by going to a different brake pad compound.
I really enjoyed racing this car after competing with my MkI Spitfire. The rear suspension and engine lower end were built by Rick Cline. The cylinder head had been race prepped by someone with the name Fat Larry (I never found out anything about him). Twin 1 3/4-inch SU carbs supplied fuel. Front brakes were Toyota Land Cruiser four-pot calipers and the transmission was a Toyota four-speed. I eventually replaced the tranny with a Ford T9 five-speed.
My GT6 consistently qualified at the upper end of the grid and I raced the car for ten years with SCCA and HSR at Sebring, Homestead, Daytona and Road Atlanta. My favorite race was the 2012 Kastner Cup Race at Road Atlanta, where I finished 16th out of 33 quality drivers.
My last event was the 2018 Put-in-Bay vintage race at South Bass Island, Ohio. I was having difficulty breathing due to COPD and hoped the cooler weather would help. It did not. As it happened, we had dinner with a fellow whom I had raced with in the past. He said his son might be interested in the car, so I made contact and brought the car to his shop in northern Ohio. We made a deal and the GT6 now belongs Jason Sukey in Amherst, Ohio — and continues to be raced. —Bill Newman
FT. MYERS, Fla. — The meeting was called to order by President Cecil Carter at 6:30 p.m.
The Treasurer, Larry McCartt, gave the Treasurer’s report.
The minutes of the previous meeting are on the website and in British Marque.
The November Breakfast event was held at Skillets Restaurant in Ft. Myers. The event had 12 members in attendance and a potential new member who brought his Sunbeam Tiger. There would not be a December Breakfast event due to the Holidays.
Vice President Ken Taylor discussed his racing effort at Sebring with SCCA this year. Ken won the GT2 class and will receive an award for his efforts. Bill and Mary Newman spoke about attending the Historic Sports Car (HSR) event at Road Atlanta in November.
Cynthia Mahoney reported on the Car Parade for the Children’s Hospital. There were 150 cars of various makes and models.
Member Cy Ling discussed Formula 1 racing and his interest with the Series.
Cars on Fifth in Naples — February 6th.
BIG (British, Italian, German) Show — March 7th.
President Cecil Carter announced a slate of new officers. A motion to accept was made by Cy Ling and seconded by Gary Maue. The motion carried. The new officers are as follows: President, Mary Newman, Vice President, Cecil Carter, Secretary, Bill Newman, Treasurer, Larry McCartt.
Cecil Carter gave the Participation Award to Bill and Mary Newman. The runners-up were Marcia and Larry McCartt and the Engleharts.
Cecil gave the incoming President, Mary Newman, the Club Awards from the Port Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club Show.
Member John Sargent told about his adventure in driving his TR3 on a 3,200-mile trip in 12 days.
Bill Newman gave awards to outgoing President Cecil and Vice President Ken Taylor for their service as officers.
The meeting then adjourned.
Penny’s Restaurant has become a favorite gathering place for members of the British Car Club of Southwest Florida. Twelve club members enjoyed another breakfast gathering there on Saturday, October 31st.
Appropriate for the day, Penny and her staff were attired in Halloween costumes as they served up delicious breakfasts to all. As usual, the camaraderie was great.
Although the club is committed to rotating the venues for this event, in all probability we will be returning soon.
FT. MYERS, Fla. — The British Car Club of Southwest Florida met on Tuesday, October 13th, at Famous Dave’s Restaurant in Ft. Myers. President Cecil Carter called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m.
New member Craig Higdon was welcomed to the club. Craig is the owner of a beautiful supercharged Jaguar. He spoke briefly about his background and his car.
Treasurer Tom Brewsaugh gave the monthly financial report. The club members again thanked Tom for his many years of outstanding service to the club. Cecil presented him with a gift from the club in appreciation. Cecil also announced that Larry McCartt would be taking over the position of Club Treasurer.
Past events were discussed. The September breakfast gathering was on Saturday, September 26th, at the House of Omelets in Cape Coral. Members who attended spoke favorably about the morning.
The October Saturday breakfast gathering would be held at Penny’s Restaurant in Punta Gorda (see Cecil’s report above), beginning at 8:30 a.m., with breakfast at 9 a.m.
Cecil announced two upcoming events. “Cars on Fifth” will be held Saturday, February 6, 2021, in Naples, Fla. The BIG (British, Italian, German) Show will be held Sunday, March 7, 2021, in Cape Coral, Fla.
The BCCSWF Holiday Party was discussed. Marcia and Larry McCartt will be hosting it at their home on December 12th, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
[Contrib. Ed. note: Since the meeting it was decided the Holiday Party would not be held. —CC]
Cecil reminded club members that elections for new officers would take place at the November meeting. He charged a Nominating Committee, consisting of Peter Sales, Pam Sales, and Marcia McCartt, with bringing a slate of nominees to the November meeting.
There were no October birthdays celebrated.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned. —Ken Taylor