The Austin-Healey 100S is undoubtedly the most prized model of the marque, with prices far exceeding any other model. While Healey prices have risen significantly in the past few years, the 100S remains clearly in the lead. The 100S was the result of a project undertaken by the Donald Healey Motor Company with financing from Austin. The goal was to develop Austin-Healeys for racing and record-breaking purposes, and though outwardly similar to the 100 and 100M, each 100S was hand-built. Not counting prototypes, 50 were made in five batches of ten during 1955. As with the standard 100 model, Jensen built and trimmed the bodies, but these 50 bodies were then delivered directly to the tiny Donald Healey Motor Company in the English Midlands town of Warwick. Assembled in WWII Quonset huts without automation or even adequate heating, the 100S differed from the 100 and 100M in many ways. The body and substructure were aluminum (only the front and rear shrouds were aluminum on production Austin-Healeys), there were Dunlop disc brakes all around (the 100 and 100M had drum brakes), trim was minimal (no bumpers), and there was no "weather equipment"-the nomenclature used to describe the pitiful folding top and side curtains of the other 100s. The 100S was promoted as "Built for Racing, by Racing Specialists," and it wasn't just hype. The engine set the 100S apart. Retaining the basic Austin A-90 motor of the standard cars, the 100S had a unique Harry Weslake-designed cross-flow head with individual porting that placed the dual SU carburetors on the right side of the car, opposite that of the production cars. It also had a finned alloy combined oil cooler and filter, and unlike the standard 100 and 100M, all of which had a Laycock de Normanville overdrive, the 100S had a 2.92:1 axle ratio, making an overdrive superfluous. The 100S produced 132 hp, compared to 90 hp for the standard car and 110 hp for the 100M, giving the already-light car quick if not neck-snapping performance.

Of the 50 cars produced, 45 were blue and white

The signature color scheme of the 100S was American racing colors of white and blue, perhaps in an attempt to appeal to the American market. Of the 50 examples produced, 45 were painted Old English White and Lobelia Blue, with two cars painted red, one painted Spruce Green for actor Jackie Cooper, one painted black, and one produced in solid white with a wide blue stripe for Briggs Cunningham. All 100Ss were right-hand drive, even though half were exported to the U.S. and just six were sold in the U.K. The rest were sent worldwide, including one to Tanzania (then Tanganyika) and one to Madagascar. The Madagascar car is still unaccounted for. The 100S achieved many racing successes, but it was never a world-beater. It was built for affluent weekend racers, and perhaps its most notable achievement came in 1954 when one finished third overall in the 12 Hours of Sebring. From that race it got its name-the "S" in 100S stands for Sebring. Despite a distinguished racing career, by the 1960s the 100S was no longer competitive. Some disappeared and some were the victims of extensive modification and casual crash repair. However, that picture has now changed and today the cars that exist are well-documented and most often expertly restored.

Ask these guys before you write a check

Australian Joe Jarick has done much to preserve these cars. A 100S owner and leading historian, he made an in-depth study of these cars in the early 1970s while living in England. At that time, the Donald Healey Motor Company records were still intact and the 100S builders and racers were still around. Another dedicated 100S man is Ken Freese, formerly an owner, now keeper of the registry established by Jarick in 1970. Freese keeps up with ownership and identifies fakes. Perhaps the most notable restorer is Australian Steve Pike, who operates Marsh Classic Restorations in Australia. Pike has personally restored 17 100Ss and been involved with three others. He travels the world providing expertise and assistance. There are also two Americans with extensive 100S restoration experience. Tom Kovacs owns and operates the Fourintune Garage in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. He has restored four 100Ss, including the Jackie Cooper car. Craig Hillinger, a 100S owner himself, operates The Healey Werks in Lawton, Iowa, and is currently restoring one 100S and researching another. There is little these men do not know about the history, restoration, maintenance, and whereabouts of the 42 remaining 100S cars (of the 50 made, three are still missing and five are known to have been written off). Anyone contemplating a 100S would be wise to ask their assistance before writing a check.

100S Healeys rarely make it to auction

Prices for the 100S have paced the overall rise in Austin-Healey values, and 100Ss rarely make it to auction. Jarick paid $500 for his first 100S (chassis 3701) in 1970, and the same car was sold in 2008-by the fourth subsequent owner-for the Australian equivalent of $563,000. As a shorter-term investment, recent years have been equally kind, as demonstrated by the purchase just two years ago of one of the non-Works cars (chassis 3603) for $235,000, and its sale in March 2008 for $472,000. It was offered by its American owner, and the English buyer was found within 48 hours. Other notable 100S sales include two of the few remaining unrestored examples. In the past year, Craig Hillinger both bought and sold the second one built (chassis 3502) for $500,000. Last year Hillinger bought another unrestored car (chassis 3804) from a private estate for $400,000. Although the car is in need of a total restoration, it has a particularly interesting history, and with prices headed upwards, it would be difficult to say that he paid too much, perhaps just bought too soon. Hillinger is also restoring chassis 3706 for a customer. Jarick has always maintained that the 100S is undervalued. He comments, "Where else can you find a Works-built, limited-production sports racing car that successfully ran in World Sports Car Championship events for that type of money? Compare the price of a 100S with that of a D-type or C-type Jaguar, and think of a 100S coming in close on the heels of these cars. Why is a 100S a fraction of their cost? Consider that in its day, a well-driven 100S would lap at the same speed as an Aston Martin DB3S. As the prices of 100Ss have increased, they have moved out of the reach of enthusiasts and are now owned by more wealthy collectors who suspect the car is potentially worth a lot more than they paid for it."

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