The British motor industry has produced many fascinating characters over the years. From Jaguar’s William Lyons to Lotus’ Colin Chapman, British designers have greatly influenced the history of the automobile. Counted among those colorful personalities is Donald Healey. A former RAF pilot in WWI, he ran a successful garage business and made a name for himself as a highly accomplished rally driver and relentless self-promoter. Beginning in 1945, Healey entering the manufacturing ranks with a line of Riley-powered sports cars and saloons. The Healey Silverstone and Elliot were expensive and focused, yet they were among the fastest cars of the era. Supplies of the Riley engine dwindled late in the 1940s, so Donald Healey went in search of a new partner in hopes of realizing his dreams of a volume produced sports car. After a brief foray with Nash in America, he made a bold move at the 1952 London Motor Show when he unveiled a prototype roadster, based on common Austin A90 mechanicals. Healey’s goal was to impress Lord Nuffield, chief of the newly formed BMC so that he could land the partnership of a lifetime. Luckily, Nuffield was duly impressed with the car, and a deal was struck to assemble the new Austin-Healey 100 sports car at the famed Longbridge assembly plant alongside the Austin A90.
Mr. Healey was a savvy promoter and knew the value of motorsport in selling his cars. A stunning 3rd overall finish in the 1954 Sebring 12-hour race cemented the new 100’s reputation in the all-important American market. In response to demand, a factory high-performance option was offered to satisfy serious sporting buyers. The 100M of 1955 appealed to those who wanted to use their new Healey in competition, particularly in the burgeoning American club-racing scene. Based on the 2nd series BN2 chassis, the 100M offered a comprehensive performance package comprising of the reinforced front suspension, larger S.U. carburetors, airbox intake, new 8.1:1 high compression pistons and a revised cam, raising output from 90 to 110 horsepower. The body featured a louvered hood to expel heat and a leather bonnet strap for safety at speed. Initially, the 100M was a factory-only option, with 640 vehicles built at Longbridge. Later, customers could order the 100M performance parts as the Le Mans Engine Modification Kit through BMC dealers and have the parts retrofit to existing cars or fitted prior to delivery. However, it is the original 640 factory-built cars that command the most attention from collectors and given their popularity with racers in the period, genuine examples are scarce, and documentation is critically important.
Presented in brilliant Reno Red over a black interior, this 1956 Austin-Healey 100 is a highly desirable, factory-built M "Le Mans", documented by both a British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Certificate as well as the Austin Healey 100M Le Mans Registry. This is a matching-numbers car, complete with photographic documentation of the matching body numbers found on the cockpit trim, boot lid support, and bonnet. In addition, the hand engraved numbers on the carburetor bodies are still visible and the car retains its original matching-numbers engine, as verified by the BMIHT Certificate.
This is an original US market car, which was acquired in 2006 by the respected marque expert Harold Brandner of BMC Classics in Florida. Mr. Brandner purchased the vehicle from long-term owner Mr. Gerry Giroux of Maine who had owned the car since the early 1990s. While it required a full restoration, it was remarkably complete as-found, confirmed by the high number of matching original parts. Brandner sold the car a year later to Donald Redlinger of New Jersey, with the agreement that BMC Classics fully restore the car before delivery.
The project is documented from start to finish, as the car was carefully disassembled, media blasted and placed in a rotisserie before being meticulously rebuilt from the ground up. The restoration encompassed every component and system on the car, including complete engine and gearbox rebuilds, as well as verification of the numbers and components for inclusion in the Worldwide 100M Le Mans Registry. It presents in striking bright red over a black interior, exquisitely restored with gorgeous paintwork. Bumpers, brightwork and exterior trim pieces are similarly outstanding, and accessories include a set of rare Marchal fog/driving lamps, badge bar, headlamp stone guards, and chrome wire wheels. It includes original tools and jack, as well as a correct vinyl soft top and boot.
Lifting the original louvered bonnet reveals the fully restored, numbers-matching engine, painted in correct Healey green and topped with a polished alloy rocker cover. The carbs are verified original units, beautifully restored and capped off with the original 100M-specific airbox. Paired with the engine is a rebuilt four-speed gearbox with Laycock A-Type overdrive. Correct finishes and fittings feature throughout the engine bay, with plumbing and ancillaries kept tidy order with proper hose clamps, fasteners, and hardware. The same fastidious attention was bestowed upon the undercarriage, which is fully painted, clean and meticulously detailed.
With this, as with any Healey 100M, the joy is in the raw, pure driving experience. With the trademark folding windscreen lowered, this 100M exemplifies the wind-in-the-hair British sports car experience. Occupants ride in black leather bucket seats trimmed with red piping, which appear fresh and taut. The fine black carpets protected with original-style rubber floor mats. Restored original instruments reside in the body-color fascia and a period-correct Heuer stopwatch mounts in front of the passenger seat for rally co-driving duties. The fit and finish are exemplary of a specialist restoration, with correct-style materials and detailing.
This highly desirable 100M benefits from meticulous care, and it continues to impress, even a decade after its restoration. The high-quality work by a respected specialist ensures it is true to factory specification, and that the critical components that set the 100M apart are fully-documented and preserved. A fabulous driver’s sports car, this Healey is ideal for rallies, road events, and concours, and it represents a rare opportunity to acquire a documented and authenticated factory-built 100M.