Timing is everything and it’s something that British motor industry veteran Donald Healey knew quite a bit about. This was a man who had won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1931 driving an Invicta but failed to finish in 1935 after his Triumph Dolomite straight-eight collided with a train. Following World War II, Healey began building high-quality sporting cars using existing engines and running gear from companies including Riley, Alvis, and Nash. These were moderately expensive cars that could be driven to work and rallied or raced on the weekends, and he gained a loyal following of enthusiastic owners.
The ambitious Healey wanted a car that could be built in larger numbers, was suitable for export, and would sell for less money than his prior cars. Using the four-cylinder 2.6-liter Austin A-90 engine and transmission, as well as other components from the parts bin of newly-formed BMC (a merger of the Austin and Nuffield/Morris companies), Healey produced a lovely prototype styled by Gerry Coker. The resulting “Healey Hundred” was shown at the 1952 Earls Court Motor Show in the UK and caught the eye of visiting BMC boss Leonard Lord – undoubtedly a carefully timed and executed encounter!
Lord selected Healey’s car over a new MG prototype, thus delaying the replacement of the old-fashioned MG TD, which was also in the BMC family. When it went on sale in 1953, the beautiful Austin-Healey 100 cost less than $3,000 in the United States and was clocked at more than 110 mph. Those first cars, designated BN1, used the 90 bhp Austin engine, a three-speed transmission with overdrive and were happily received in the United States, which took most of the 10,688 cars produced.
The improved Austin-Healey 100 BN2 followed in the summer of 1955. A few details visually differentiated the BN2 from its predecessor, but the most important changes were a new four-speed transmission with overdrive, a new rear axle from the BMC parts bin, and brake drums with shoes offering greater braking surface. It is estimated that that 4,600 BN2s were built before production ceased in 1956. Including the 50 high performance 100S competition versions, there were 14,634 Austin-Healey 100s built. Beginning in 1955, a high-performance Le Mans or M version of the BN2 was offered, including a louvred hood with leather bonnet straps, Le Mans engine kit—including an airbox—that increased power to 110 bhp, heaver front anti-roll bar and revised shock absorbers. There were 640 factory-built M models built, but an additional 500 or so kits were offered for dealer or owner installation – often on existing BN1 models.
At some point, this stunning BN2 was converted to 110-hp Le Mans specifications, including the airbox and louvered hood, believed to be a dealer-installed kit. Finished in a gorgeous combination of dark blue with a cream interior piped in blue, it sports a Moto-Lita steering wheel and chrome wire wheels, while Lucas Flame-Thrower headlamps are fitted to complete the marvelously sporty package.
This gorgeous example benefits from a well maintained and detailed restoration, with high quality paintwork, excellent chrome, and a lovely, inviting cockpit. An original left-drive USA-Spec car, it was completed in February 1956 and equipped with laminated windscreen, MPH speedometer, and heater. It is believed the Le Mans pack was dealer-installed, though it is not clear if this was before or after delivery to its first owner. The car retains its original numbers-matching engine, per the BMIHT Certificate.
To many collectors and enthusiasts, the Austin-Healey 100's are the purest of the big Healeys. They’re sleek, gorgeous, and have that big, torquey engine. And though a good example like this one is ideal for carving up deserted back roads, it can also keep up with modern traffic. One drive in a well-sorted 100/4 like this car is enough to see why there is ever-increasing demand for these marvelous early Austin-Healeys.
Offers welcome and trades considered
Stock number 7533
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