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Thread: Healey ergonomics question

Forum to discuss Austin Healey Sports Cars

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    Jedi Knight nevets's Avatar
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    Healey ergonomics question

    I often wondered about the cramped cockpit of the Big Healey, especially the 4 cylinder 100. It was said that the reason why houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright all have small doors and low ceilings is because Frank Lloyd Wright was only about 5' tall. Is it possible that Donald Healey, who was also a rather compact guy, designed the Healey to meet his own comfort requirements? I can imagine him sitting in a mockup of the cockpit and telling his team "chaps this feels perfect, I've got heaps of room". Just wondering.

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    Luke Skywalker vette's Avatar
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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    I doubt it. He knew he was selling to the United States.
    About TV Shows-
    "...you really can't restore a car in 10 days. I don't want to watch a race where people have to restore it in a week. It's not going to drive, and those cars never work. In real life, it takes years to get it right. " Jay Leno.

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    1950s and 60s Vettes had a similar problem didn't they?
    Dale

    BJ7 frame up restoration of "the car that would not be restored"; began Dec. 2005, est. complete 2023

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    Jedi Warrior roscoe's Avatar
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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    I would have cried if the first time I sat in a big Healey my head stuck up above the windscreen. Being 5'7" ( well, maybe 5'6" now) has its advantages. I have some friends who are literally too big to offer a ride to. Not necessarily too heavy but simply too tall for it to be fun. I used to have a joke measuring stick I kept near the car that was labeled " You have to be less tall than this to go on this ride".
    Jon Robbins
    1956BN-2 (do it all yourself, you'll be glad you did)

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    Luke Skywalker vette's Avatar
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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    Quote Originally Posted by RestoreThemAll View Post
    1950s and 60s Vettes had a similar problem didn't they?
    The ones in the 50s were particularly bad. Not so much in width but the steering wheel was right in your chest.
    A few years back I restored a '56 Vette. I would rather use 'reconstructed' because when it was delivered to me it had a finished rolling chassis done by another shop but the body was just sitting on the frame, no wiring, no brake system, no fuel system, engine not completely assembled, etc. But also no interiour. As I was finishing the car and finished the interior having installed the steering column and steering wheel I sat in the car for the first time. Now I had never sat in a 50s era Vette before. When I climbed in I thought something must be wrong. With the steering wheel in my chest I thought I must have the wrong steering column installed. After doing more investigation and inquires on the internet I was proven that everything was right and that is just the way they were. I mentioned that I couldn't believe how tight the fit was in the cockpit. Upon which I was told that if you gain weight you sell the car.
    About TV Shows-
    "...you really can't restore a car in 10 days. I don't want to watch a race where people have to restore it in a week. It's not going to drive, and those cars never work. In real life, it takes years to get it right. " Jay Leno.

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    In the '50s the average height of an American male was around 5'-8". Plenty of sources online for that ballpark figure.

    FWIW - Wright next to his 63.8"* tall Mercedes 300c.

    screenshot.2115.jpg

    Source:
    https://www.carfolio.com/specificati...car/?car=61182
    Last edited by steveg; 03-17-2020 at 11:55 PM.
    Steve Gerow
    Altadena, CA, USA
    Maker of most complete Big Healey rear disc kit
    Check out my galleries:
    http://www.pbase.com/stevegerow


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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    Leg room and other space certainly is a bit limited in both the "big Healey" and the C1 Vettes. Many of us are reminded of this whenever getting into and exiting any of these cars. Once seated, it's not an issue. The Vette came with a very large diameter steering wheel; the Healey less so, although there still is not a lot of clearance between the seat and the small steering wheel. Both cars lack power steering and have fairly heavy engines; hence, the need for a large steering wheel. The low seating positions in both cars also add to the requirement for agility. As long as one has a good back and hips, a six footer may not have a problem with either car. I can see where someone taller might want to redesign the seat mounts. That is possible with most Healeys - although not as easy with a 100-4, BN6, or BN7 and even more difficult with a C1 Vette.

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    Yoda tahoe healey's Avatar
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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    I remember a bumper sticker from the 70's and 80's that said "no fat chicks". Maybe Don was helping us.(sorry, that was offensive)

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    Another, seen on the eye-level back bumper of a jacked-up truck:

    "It used to be wine, women and song - now it's beer, the old lady and TV"
    Steve Gerow
    Altadena, CA, USA
    Maker of most complete Big Healey rear disc kit
    Check out my galleries:
    http://www.pbase.com/stevegerow


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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    Manufacturing a larger vehicle takes more time and resources, all of which were in short supply in post-war Britain. Plus cars were really small (consider the MOdel T and A) earlier on, and grew over time. Manufacturers and purchasers had expectations as to size, and appearance as well as bigger costs more to build. A lot of influences: practical; cost; culture; you name it. Doug

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    Obi Wan
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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    I always wanted a Jag XK but I could never see over the steering wheel.

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    Im restoring a Healey based Fiberfab Jamaican. Sitting on the floor, my head is touching the roof. I cant drop the floor because chassis rails are under the seat. Looks like a Gurney bubble will be necessary

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    I will respectfully dissent and I find my car to relatively comfortable for my 5-9 190 pound frame. Though my head never quite touched the hood when it was erected the hardtop--which I leave on the car all the time--gives another 2-3" headroom and makes things look and feel snug rather than tight.

    I think it is important to have seat cushions that provide the right amount of "give" and thankfully mine do. Whereas some Healeys have given me the feeling that I was sitting ON the car I feel that I am sitting IN mine! If I were able to make a change in the driving position it would be to provide a lot more distance between me and the steering wheel, but I guess that is part of driving an LBC.

    Best--Michael Oritt
    1954 Austin-Healey 100 Le Mans
    1959 Elva MK IV Sports Racer
    1961 Ginetta G4

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    Thanks for the research steveg. The picture of FLW and the Benz is very telling. Still I think designers back then often tended to use themselves as a dimensional standard. Getting back to the Healey cockpit, I find the driver's seat, even at its most rearward position, to be way too close to the steering wheel, which also makes me wonder about the rather thin Healey seatback. My tiny Lotus Elan, which I regrettably sold, was more comfortable to drive than my Healey.

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    Hi Nevets, I find my BJ7 to be very comfortable. One of the reasons may be that when I restored it I put in new floors and of course being a forward thinking and well planned guy I never thought to save the location of the seat bolt holes in the floor. So when time came to remount the seats I just set them in the car moved them around a bit until I felt that I would be comfortable. Took advantage of moving them on the rack as well during this exercise. When I was happy that my legs and arms reach (and clutch operation) would be at the best, I bolted them down. You could relocate your seat a wee bit.
    About TV Shows-
    "...you really can't restore a car in 10 days. I don't want to watch a race where people have to restore it in a week. It's not going to drive, and those cars never work. In real life, it takes years to get it right. " Jay Leno.

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    Jedi Warrior HealeyPassion's Avatar
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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    I'm not tall... 5'9"... but have found that I can improve the ergonomics by doing a few fairly easy things. The accelerator pedal has an "J" loop that places the accelerator pad closer than I like... so cut it down 2"... nice improvement. Both the brake and clutch pads are bolted on their respective arms... they can be re-bolted over to gain about 3/8" side to side spacing. To me, these simple changes make pedal usage improved and relax my right leg on the accelerator (of course, I did add cruise control for longer drives). I also moved the seat mounting back a bit. All little changes but I find an overall improvement.

    Steve
    1963 Austin Healey 3000 BJ7 Works Rally Tribute w/EFI
    http://stevesaustinhealey.com

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    I did the same throttle pedal shortening that Steve describes. I don't remember for sure but I think I took 1 to 1 1/2" out of mine) and it makes a huge difference in comfort on long drives.

    I also located the drivers seat by the same method vette describes above.

    But the modification that helped my driving comfort the most was removing the seat adjusters to keep the whole seat as low as possible (no one but me drives it, so don't need adjustment) and mounting wood wedges where the adjusters would go. This raises the front edge a little more than 2" and reclines the upper seat back over 4". This makes a slightly reclined driving position much like an easy-chair and gives an additional 4+" of arm room so the steering wheel feels much more comfortable.
    A pic ( I haven't gotten to the interior yet)IMG_3049.jpg

    I'm 5'11" and shrinking and I did all of these changes a long time ago with no desire to revert to stock. Over the years I've done several 3-500 mile days when travelling and not felt tired at the end of the day.

    Dave

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    Quote Originally Posted by HealeyPassion View Post
    (of course, I did add cruise control for longer drives).
    Steve
    Steve, can you tell me what brand/model cruise control you installed and where you got it.

    Thanks, Dave.
    About TV Shows-
    "...you really can't restore a car in 10 days. I don't want to watch a race where people have to restore it in a week. It's not going to drive, and those cars never work. In real life, it takes years to get it right. " Jay Leno.

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    Quote Originally Posted by red57 View Post
    I did the same throttle pedal shortening that Steve describes. I don't remember for sure but I think I took 1 to 1 1/2" out of mine) and it makes a huge difference in comfort on long drives.

    I also located the drivers seat by the same method vette describes above.

    But the modification that helped my driving comfort the most was removing the seat adjusters to keep the whole seat as low as possible (no one but me drives it, so don't need adjustment) and mounting wood wedges where the adjusters would go. This raises the front edge a little more than 2" and reclines the upper seat back over 4". This makes a slightly reclined driving position much like an easy-chair and gives an additional 4+" of arm room so the steering wheel feels much more comfortable.
    A pic ( I haven't gotten to the interior yet)IMG_3049.jpg

    I'm 5'11" and shrinking and I did all of these changes a long time ago with no desire to revert to stock. Over the years I've done several 3-500 mile days when travelling and not felt tired at the end of the day.

    Dave
    Dave -

    Don't forgot the multi-hours of wheel to wheel competition high speed racing as well. You always look pretty fresh after the cool down lap.

    Dave vs. Richard.jpg
    Dougie
    '65 BJ8 3000 MKIII GN.29
    '57 100-SIX MM Vintage Racer GN.1 #414
    Team Healey PDX

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    Re: Healey ergonomics question

    The steering on these old cars is very heavy, not just Healeys. In order to be able to turn the wheel it has to be closer to your body in order to get leverage. The leg room is ok, in fact for some the pedals are too far away.

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