Many of the older club members will remember Kenny Derringer, a member of our club back in the 1980s-2010s. Kenny was an avid Healey fan and an exceptionally gifted mechanic and fabricator of cars of all types. He grew up in the post-war Hot Rod era in the LA area, where young men experimented with building custom cars and “hopping them up” with engine changes and custom body enhancements. Kenny decided that his retirement project was to build the “Ultimate Healey”...and he proceeded to do just that.
Kenny was the second employee and chief fabricator for the famous All American Racing company run by world class race driver Dan Gurney. There he was responsible for building many of Gruney’s famous race cars, which raced at Riverside, Indianapolis, NASCAR and many Grand Prix races, including several generations of the iconic American Eagle.
Kenny also restored and maintained classic cars for many collectors, including several for General Lyon of the Lyons Air Museum at the Orange County Airport.
In the early 1990s, Kenny was looking for a retirement project and decided to build an “Ultimate Healey” for his wife Jeanne. He started by acquiring a derelict BN1 Healey for a few hundred dollars, which he found in a deserted dirt lot in Costa Mesa. He towed this piece of junk back to his house nearby and set about planning and building what many people believe is one of, if not the best, Healeys ever constructed. When Jerry Coker (the designer of the Healey 100 in 1952) saw this car at Conclave in San Diego in 2008, he said that this would be similar to the next generation of Healeys if the company had stayed in business. Kenny finished the build of this Healey in that late 1990s and it became a local favorite and show winner, including many California Healey Week awards, and many others.
When Kenny passed away in 2011, his wife Jeanne decided to sell the car. It ended up in a collection in Boston and Maine until recently, when it appeared for sale on the Bring-A-Trailer auction site. I should note at this point that this was ALWAYS my favorite Healey and I probably would have bought it back in 2011 if I had the opportunity. In early December, I was recovering from surgery in Hoag Hospital when during the hours of boredom, I checked my email on my cell phone. A message flashed across the screen from Steve Heck to Peter Roses, that I was copied on, about this beautiful Healey that was for sale on Bring-A-Trailer. Once I looked at the site I immediately recognized the Healey and began plotting how I could prevail in this auction and become it’s new owner and bring it back to SoCal. I spent several hours discussing this with Phil Caliva, and together, we developed a strategy for success.
The auction was due to conclude at 11:15 AM on Monday, December 19th. I was released from the hospital on December 18th and was close by my computers at home as the final hours and minutes ticked off. There were about 6 active bidders in the final minutes of the auction, but as the final minutes ticked off, they fell by the wayside and I was the very fortunate winner.
Many thanks to Phil for his invaluable assistance! Although I am the new owner, we in the club are all winners, since we will be able to enjoy the Ultimate Healey on the roads and shows in SoCal for, hopefully, for many years to come. Stay tuned to next month’s issue of Healey Motor News, where we’ll go into much more detail on this iconic Healey.