Holbay Engineering

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Holbay Engineering was a small family run British engineering company specializing in engine modifications and race tuning. Although they enjoyed much success during the 1960s and 1970s with their competition race engines, they are best remembered today for their work on the Rootes 1725cc OHV engines as used in the Hillman Hunter GLS and Sunbeam Rapier H120.


The company was founded by John Read between 1958-1959 together with his older brother Roger Dunnell and was initially run from the family home in Sheffield *.

{* I cannot understand why 'Holbay' would have been formed in Sheffield, though I do not dispute whether an engineering company was formed by the brothers there. I knew of Holbay only as THE 1000cc Ford based engine to have in F3 towards the end of the 60's but after I moved to Suffolk I used Holbay Engineering Ltd to fit and ream new valve guides in a Lotus 912 head in 1987 when they were at 4, Betts Avenue, Martlesham Heath, near Ipswich. I spent time chatting to a long term employee who told me they were originally formed in Hollesley, associated with Hollesley Bay Young Offenders Prison, hence the chosen name Hol'Bay. The prison had various organisations supporting re-training of young offenders, one was for breeding and maintaining the Suffolk Punch breed of horses and Holbay was to provide engineering and workshop training for those of that inclination and I have seen Holbay engine plates showing 'Hollesley, Woodbridge, Suffolk' as the Holbay Co. address. Hand polishing of rockers, con rods, crankshafts and engine assembly was undertaken by these young persons who gained great self esteem from seeing the results of their work.}

The company moved into larger premises at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk in 1964 and went into liquidation in 1992 after the untimely death of its founder John Read in an unusual aircraft accident.

The tools and machinery of the original company were sold at auction and the company re-opened as Holbay Classics under new ownership and management in the nearby village of Grundisburgh. Holbay Classics only operated as a car sales and servicing establishment and although it had kept the Holbay Name, there was very little in common with the original Holbay Engineering. Holbay Classics folded in 2002 was bought out by former employee Richard Coles who then began trading as Coltec Racing Engines.

Coltec re-established the race tuning business and moved back into the original Holbay Engineering Martlesham Heath premises. Coltec does not trade under the Holbay name, but currently owns the Internet Domain 'Holbay.co.uk' which will link directly back to the Coltec Racing Engines web Site.

List of Holbay Engines[edit]

  • Type number unknown - Holbay tuned Ford Anglia engine, a popular choice with British Formula Junior racing car constructors [1]
  • S65 - based on a Ford Cortina block and using a Holbay cylinder head.[2]
  • H120 (As supplied to the Rootes Group for their Hunter GLS and Rapier H120 Models)


External links[edit]