Jonathan Everard, known around the world for his restoration work on classic Austin Healey sports cars, had died while on holiday in Spain. He was 63.
Mr Everard, whose highly successful Austin Healey restoration firm JME Healeys in Warwick restored the famous quintessentially British sports cars for international clients, was on holiday with his wife Alison when he died suddenly.
He started as an apprentice at The Donald Healey Motor Company at the Cape in Warwick in 1962 and went on to spend more than 40 years restoring, maintaining and rallying the ‘Big Healeys’.
Two years ago he bought part of the old Healey factory in The Cape and moved his operation there from his former premises in Leamington Spa.
It was an historic moment; the first time that Austin Healey cars had been at the site since the Donald Healey Motor Company moved its manufacturing base from there to Coten End, Warwick, in 1963.
Mr Everard, who lived in Kineton, launched JME Healeys in 1978 in Wise Terrace, Leamington, having previously worked for Everick Panels, owned by his father Harold, who had also worked for the Donald Healey Motor Company.
When Donald Healeys closed in the early 1970s, he bought some of the tooling and began rebuilding cars that were sent to him from all over the world. The business took off in 1978 when he started advertising in the newly-launched Classic Car magazine and was soon carrying out full restorations of cars.
Commenting on his move to Warwick in 2008, he was reported as saying: “It is very exciting, going back to where it all started for me. They were amazing days, a time when the Austin Healey name was made famous around the world with the rallying exploits of the likes of Pat Moss.”
And it is the Healey’s rallying capabilities that created much of the original projects – specialising in ex-works rally cars and preparing them for long distance competitions.
Over the years he restored some of the most illustrious of the great Healey works rally cars, including the ex-Moss SMO 745, ex-Aaltonen BMO 93B (winner of the 1964 Liege) and the greatest of them all, URX 727, with which the late Pat Moss-Carlsson won her epic victory in the 1960 Liege.
Often driving Pat Moss’s legendary car SMO 745, Jon was himself a successful rally driver, winning the British Historic Rally Championship in ‘SMO’ in 1992, the British Stage Rally Championship in 1993 and the Pirelli Classic Marathon in 1994. He had only just returned from Italy having competed successfully in the Mille Miglia in EVV106, the famous Healey 100S known as ‘The Green Car’.
His lifelong friend and co-driver Adrian Robinson from Moreton Morrell – together they won the British National Historic Rally Championship in 1992 – said: “Jon was one of the nicest chaps you could ever wish to meet. He never had an unkind word to say about anyone and was a perfect gentleman.
‘‘His expertise in his chosen field was second to none and he will be greatly missed, not only by his family and friends but by the larger family of Austin Healey owners around the world.”
Mike Ward, secretary of the Austin Healey Owners Club, said: “Jonathan’s knowledge of Austin Healeys was unrivalled and his enthusiasm and advice has been of immense value to the members of the Club over many years.
“His recent return to The Cape in Warwick and the setting up of JME Healeys in the old ancestral home of Austin Healey was an emotional experience for many of us who attended his opening event,” he said.
Mr Everard is also survived by his daughter Charlotte and three sons Alex, Christopher and Daniel – the last two of whom both work for the company.
Mr Everard will be buried in the Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground near Tysoe, followed by a Service of Remembrance at Kineton Parish Church.
Anyone requiring information should contact the funeral directors, R Locke & Sons, on 01608 685274