Alongside a career in the furnishing trade, Oliver Heal's other abiding interest has always been vintage motor cars, and in particular the Sunbeam cars with which he grew up. He continues to maintain the archive on Sunbeam Racing Cars, but this biography of Louis Coatalen has been given extra depth and colour through access to Coatalen family documents. The outcome of some twenty years research, the book contains many previously unseen photographs and background information. Oliver Heal continues to enjoy motoring in vintage Sunbeams at home and abroad. He is married to Annik, one of Louis Coatalen's granddaughters, and has three step-daughters and a son.
'From his modest background in Brittany, Coatalen became one of the most significant automobile engineers of his era. He was a fearless and successful racing driver and, as a manufacturer, his Sunbeam, Talbot and Talbot-Darracq cars achieved success in Grand Prix Races and set numerous Land Speed Records; his aero engines contributed to allied success in WW I. As a businessman and engineer, he turned around the fortunes of Humber and Sunbeam whose cars became known for their refinement and quality. In his later years he was much involved in developing patents on a wide range of automotive elements yet still found time to develop the KLG and Lockheed companies. As a human being he was complex, at times being kind and generous and an excellent recruiter of talent yet he could be difficult, even with close friends, as exemplified by his four marriages. His judgement on personal financial matters was suspect but he nevertheless maintained a lavish lifestyle to the end. His story has many twists and surprising turnings and these make this book essential reading.' Ben Yates, Sunbeam Archivist of the Sunbeam Talbot Darracq Register 'Many in the motoring world will know of the technical achievements of Louis Coatalen. This book goes beyond these to bring to life the man himself in a most interesting and readable way. It delves into his perhaps eccentric personal life as a wonderful background to the ups and downs of his public life in motor racing, design and management. Warts 'n' all. A great read.' Stephen Lally, Talbot Archivist of the Sunbeam Talbot Darracq Register 'This comprehensive, scholarly account of Louis Coatalen's life would not have been possible without a shared passion and interest within the Heal family for over half a century. Oliver Heal has unearthed decades of amazing details behind the talented and driven man, with an historical accounting of his personal and professional life. While reading, I was drawn into the life of Coatalen and constantly reminded that without the existence of the Heal and Coatalen family archives, such rich historical and personal details would not exist. As a representative from an automotive studies institution, dedicated to 'Preserving the Future of the Past', this effort reinforces the need and importance for the preservation of rich family archives and corporate heritage. Oliver has created something truly special through his years of research. I highly recommend this book as a welcome addition to any motoring library!' L. Scott George, Curator and Vice President, Revs Institute