Gerry and his wife, Marion, are familiar faces to most Healey club members who have enjoyed meeting them over the years at AHCA and AHSTC meets. It was Gerry who designed the body of the Healey 100 and conceived the preliminary design of the Sprite.
Gerry was born in 1922 in England, and his design talent showed up early in life with childhood “doodles” of motorcars. He joined the Donald Healey Motor Company as Healey’s body engineer in 1950. His first job was to look after the Nash Healeys as they came from Panelcraft, the Nash Healey body makers.
Early on at the DHMC, Donald Healey challenged Gerry to show him a sports car design. He did just that, creating the body design for what would become the Austin-Healey 100. This timelessly beautiful sports car stole the show in October, 1952 when it debuted as the Healey Hundred at the London Motor Show at Earls Court.
Gerry also styled the Austin-Healey Streamliner (the “pretty one,” he says) that was driven to 192.7 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1954 while establishing records in speed and endurance. And just before moving on from the DHMC, Coker developed the preliminary body design for the forthcoming Austin-Healey Sprite, which made its very successful first appearance in 1958. (Budget considerations caused the Sprite’s final design to be altered considerably. This early design did not include the unique headlamps which caused the first Sprites to be called “Bugeye” in North America and “Frogeye” in Great Britain.)
In 1957, the Coker’s left England for life in America. Gerry worked at the Chrysler Corporation for about five years before a move to the Ford Motor Company, where he worked until 1987, when he retired as a Senior Product Design engineer. It was Gerry who designed the famous dual action tailgate for station wagons; he and Ford hold a patent on his ingenious design.
Currently the Coker’s reside in Sarasota, Florida and remain active at local and regional Austin-Healey gatherings.